It took me some days to think of what to prepare for today's post. I thought of making a cake or something sweet and original to mark my blog's 1st year anniversary. I took up some ideas, disregarded them, thought of others and the chain goes on. In a nutshell, my mind was a juggling mess. Until I came up with this idea like a lightbulb shining over my head. For the first time in my blogging life, after 222 posts, I took a pen and a sheet of paper and wrote down every single bruschetta I would be doing alongside another piece of paper with the grocery list. If you know me well, I'm not a disciplined planner. I am the type of person who thinks of a recipe while staring at my fridge or cupboard. Try as I might, no ideas come out if I am not staring at the ingredients themselves just like I can never write a post without staring at the photo of the food I am writing about. Food gives me inspiration.
31 January 2012
28 January 2012
What do you do when something you had been hoping to have for so long suddenly materializes in front of you? I stuttered, I blinked so many times and re-checked if I read right. In short, I made a clown out of myself. Chorizo Iberico. There, right there in front of me, tucked amongst its Italian salami cousins, was half a chorizo. It's so timely because just a few weeks ago, I had been searching for recipes of huevos al plato, a Spanish egg dish with chorizo, tomato sauce & vegetables. I was on the verge of desperation in getting myself a chorizo and I was already thinking of ordering it online. I don't really know so much about cooking this egg dish just that it was one of my favorite dishes when I was young and I used to order it from a Spanish restaurant my family used to frequent.
27 January 2012
If you don't go through your kitchen cupboards, you won't really know what you have hidden way at the back. The old jars, cans & bottles never see the light of the day because they are always pushed back when you buy something new. Unless you keep a list of what you have at the cupboard door. But that's already a higher level of being organized. Well, maybe. Being a Virgo with prevalent characteristic traits of being a perfectionist & excessively organized, it won't be a surprise if I start making lists of my cupboard contents.
26 January 2012
The first time I ever had a genuine Italian pizza was when I passed through Venice in 1999 during my backpacking trip around Europe. I was already on my fourth Italian city and was about to end my month and a half long trip when I realized that I still haven't had a taste of the celebrated legitimate dish. It's like going to Brussels and not seeing the Manneken-Pis. Guilty! Okay, I was young then and my point in that trip was to detach myself from reality and spend time with myself. To do touristy things was secondary.
All that said, it became a turning point in my life because that was when I met my husband. We were both backpacking around Europe by rail. Our whole story evolved around the European rail. We met at a train station, traveled together all over Europe by train and said our goodbyes in a train station. If you watched the 1995 movie of Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy entitled Before Sunrise, our story was like that but longer than a night because ours lasted for a month and a half. I'm not a romantic type but I have to admit that we did have a good start in our relationship.
Before I start becoming soppy all of a sudden, let's go back to the pizze (pizzas).
23 January 2012
It's Sunday. A rather lazy one. A slightly gray one. A very chilly one. It's a day when we are subjected to stay indoors. Yesterday had been an outdoors day with the full splendor of the sun shining down on us on the grass, picnicking on some frittata di spaghetti mixed with some dirt (not my ingredient!) from a rather premature spring gardening of the kids. Today, there's a slight chill that confined us somewhere with four walls and a roof. So we went to see The Days of Dinosaur in Fiera di Roma (Fair of Rome).
22 January 2012
All of us encounter big issues of what to do with leftover pasta. When the pasta has already lost its prime, it usually loses its drawing factor. And you question yourself, was that just the pasta I was raving about last night? Reheated pasta can still be good or it can hardly be called appealing after a long time. If it's baked pasta, then there's no quibble about it.
It's not the best feeling to let good food slide into the bin even if its not habitual. And it's not something that the kids should pick up on. I do try to reanimate what's left in the fridge most of the time and for the pasta, this is one of the best ways to give it a new look and taste.
20 January 2012
I have been in the middle of the breakfast hype when I just realized that I completely forgot about the most fundamental of all. But first, grab a chair, a plate of tapsilog and a glass of spremuta (freshly squeezed orange juice) and join me for breakfast. Today, we will deviate from the typical Italian breakfast of cornetto & cappuccino and move to a place close to my heart, the Philippines. I will explain to you what this plate is all about.
Hello morning! If I am greeted with a plate as appetizing as this waiting for me on the table every morning, I would be up before the sun rises. Lately, I had been quite obsessed with breakfasts. This came into fruition after a sleepless night, when at around 4 in the morning, I was undecided whether to give in to my grumbling stomach and my whirring brain thinking of what to cook for breakfast.... or just sleep it all off. I eventually gave up.
19 January 2012
And here is the last of the three recipes I was able to scrape off from my supply of almond milk. Honestly, these three concoctions gave me an extensive satisfaction. I loved every single one of them. I don't think these recipes would stop here until the next time I get hold of another brick of Sicilian almond paste. I can just use the ones lined up at the supermarkets, the bottled ready-to-drink almond milk. They're not as tasty but they will do when a big craving arrives.
Now let me introduce you to something I just discovered and fell in love with immediately. Horchata. It is a traditional Mexican drink made with rice, flavored with cinnamon & lime and sweetened with sugar. Originally from Egypt in the ancient times, it made its way to Spain where chufa nuts were used. When the Spaniards brought the drink to Mexico, the natives modified it. I read that when almonds are used as substitute for chufa, it tastes a tad closer to the Spanish one. If only I knew about horchata before, I would have drowned myself with it in Spain. Sigh.
18 January 2012
Panna cotta literally means cooked cream. It is originally from Piedmont, the northern part of Italy and it gained popularity all over the country. It is such a typical Italian dessert that it is always in the menu of the restaurants alternating with tiramisu'.
I tried it once when I just moved here but I was completely taken aback by its milky taste. Never again did I try it, even if I was mesmerized by the beautiful frutti di bosco (mixed berries), strawberries or chocolate served on top of them. I was convinced that it was not for me.
17 January 2012
Un panetto di pasta di mandorla. A brick of almond paste. This Sicilian compact brick-shaped almond paste gave me a chance to enjoy some desserts & drinks these past days that I never thought I would ever try. Diluted in water, this brick turns into almond milk, lactose free & cholesterol free but over everything, there is no taste or smell of milk derived from animals. It's one of my flaws. I cannot stand the smell & taste of cow's milk ever since I was a child. I remember how traumatic it was for me and my Mom at the age when I was obliged to drink milk because kids need calcium to grow well. Oh well. Now that I am an adult, my husband pushes me to eat a chunk of parmigiano reggiano (not to be confused with parmesan cheese produced anywhere else outside Italy) a day. That aged cheese is rich in calcium.
15 January 2012
You will be shocked that it's 4 in the morning and my 2-year old daughter and I are still up, side by side, on our bed. She's looking at the pictures of this salad and telling me noisily that they are gnam-gnam (yum yum) while I tap away with the keys. I was already going to call it a
night morning a few minutes ago when she called from her bed. When I checked to see what she wanted, I was greeted with two big eyes staring back at me with a set of white teeth shining in the semi-darkness. Uh-oh. That means only one thing. I am wide awake Mommy and I have decided to stay in the middle of you and Pappy.
Food photographs have a strong capacity to compel me to cook so I can arrive to my main goal - to eat, or in this case, drink. Some late night net surfing introduced me to a whole range of recipes I would like to go back to when time really permits. All with one helpful "favorite" button of food sites I frequent. I don't remember what pictures I clicked and set aside for future references but I do remember one drink that I was completely motivated to do. The champagne cocktail full of sun of Un Dejeuner Soleil was too sunny and delicious-looking to pass up.
14 January 2012
After doing the amatriciana bianca or gricia, this other classic pasta dish was just waiting to be fixed in my kitchen. Both gricia and spaghetti alla carbonara are very similar to each other because of the use of guanciale and pancetta but the latter has eggs and a lot of pepper because carbonara refers to charcoal.
13 January 2012
In some dinners or lunches among friends and families, it's quite normal for everyone to take something unless the hosts insist on embarking on a cooking marathon resulting in a permanent two-day post at the kitchen, cooking everything from appetizer to dessert. I usually insist in cooking everything but usually lose the battle because I have two kids. The key in not lifting a finger in the kitchen is when you have little ones to take care of. I try not to get
pampered used to it but when my mother-in-law and her sisters arrive with their big packages (half of the amount is meant to be eaten and half is meant to stay in our fridge) of indescribably delicious home-cooked food from appetizers to desserts (notice the plural to each course), I don't even think of uttering a word, not even exhaling. Hush! I was about to be indulged in the excellence of cooking by Sicilian women. You see, I have this deep respect for Sicilian women who cook. Anyone who knows a Sicilian woman reigning in the kitchen knows what I am writing about. I have big hopes for Sofia for she is half-Sicilian. Maybe one day, my daughter will take charge in whipping up something in the kitchen rather than wiping out the food in the kitchen. Well it's a start. There is the common interest - food. She still has a lifetime ahead of her to "discover" cooking anyway. She's only two.
11 January 2012
I just realized that I have so many chicken thighs in the freezer. My husband came home from the butcher the other day, loaded with chicken thighs, drumsticks and wings fit for an army. I looked at him questioningly because I just asked him to buy some wings for the chicken lollipops I was preparing. No army to feed, just two little mouths. He wanted to be sure that he gets everything covered so he bought everything before the shops closed again. He's scared that I might send him stealing live chickens in the neighborhood if he comes home with the wrong parts. Again. Sigh. My husband and chicken are really worlds apart. We always confuse the terms in Italian and English when we speak about chicken parts and he usually ends up buying what I didn't mean. I think we need to study the chicken parts diagram together in both languages to put our acts well.
10 January 2012
Let's strip down to the most basic of the basics. Three ingredients and we have one of the most delicious and healthiest salad. Oranges, extra virgin olive oil and salt. This is one of the first dishes I learned from my in-laws while I was living with them when I arrived in Italy. Italian-English dictionaries pushed aside, no sign languages and no frantic phone calls to my then fiance'
husband in the office for immediate translation. I was offered this salad after a two-course seafood lunch. The ingredients were just shown to me and I understood immediately. Then there was a fourth one that they were unsure of showing me. A solitary onion. They know how their son despises the smell so it was up to me. I could eat it if I am willing to stay mute when my fiance' comes home from work. I risked to stay mute and loved every single bite!
08 January 2012
Even if I whisper the name, my kids' ears would perk up anyway and pick it up with ultrasonic ability. "Did we hear Mommy right? Did she just say lollipops?"
Just barely a couple of days before cooking up a full 5-course seafood dinner, Riccardo requested for a meat-based dinner. I asked him countless times if he's sure, even enticing him with spaghetti con le vongole which he can never resist. "No Mommy, I want meat." I spent a day hurriedly browsing cookbooks, magazines and the internet for ideas. I ended up with simple meat dishes that he loves and abandoned the idea of whipping up new elaborate dishes. Just this one deserves to be introduced. I loved it when I was a kid and would always request my Mom to prepare it on parties.
Surprise was my first reaction after I tried the celebrated chocolates of Modica, Sicily. They taste exactly the same as the Philippine tablea chocolates that I used to steal from the jars my Mom kept for making champorado (chocolate rice porridge) or hot chocolate drink. And that grainy texture is unmistakably familiar. I had an inkling that the history of both chocolates are intertwined together especially after I learned that they both originated from the Aztecs that the Spaniards took with them. Both the Philippines and Sicily were under Spanish rule around the 16th century. Everything fell into places.
06 January 2012
A nine-year gap between the first and the second time is a lot for something that was very good. While I was browsing for a dessert idea for New Year's Eve, I chanced upon my La Cucina Italiana December 2002 issue full of handwritten tabs. Exactly 9 years ago, I prepared this dessert for myself and my husband at home on our New Year's Eve dinner. That was a lifetime ago. No Riccardo yet, no Sofia yet. There was just me, my husband and our dog.
I have a growing collection of recipes to share but I bypassed all of them as soon as I had these toast cups. I had to share it with anyone who's listening to try these for breakfast. I cooked them twice this week. They were that good.
A few days ago, my browsing casually passed by the page of Kayotic Kitchen's egg & bacon toast cups. From then on, I couldn't stop thinking about them. Shame on me after all the calories I had put on during the holidays. And I had to invite my husband along, who just proclaimed his new resolution that he will go on a diet. Eggs, cheese and anything related to bacon are his worst enemies.
03 January 2012
The clock is almost striking midnight and my father, in his ridiculous light blue shirt with white polka dots hurries around the house opening closet doors and switching on all the lights in every room. We all wait for him to come back outside to continue celebrating New Year's Eve with us while my brothers light the fireworks one after the other as the female members of the family watch from a safe distance. There are all sorts of vehicles dragging empty tin cans and continuously blowing their horns. The noise is deafening, the smoke makes us all teary-eyed while we all hug and kiss each other for another year has passed and there's a new one to look forward to. These are fond memories I replay in my mind over and over again. I am now thousands of miles away but when I close my eyes, I feel like I am right there with familiar faces surrounding me, in our old house, in the Philippines.
02 January 2012
The big question playing in my brain was how do I keep the kids seated until dessert and interest them in eating their pandoro? A Christmas or New Year meal is not complete without any of them. It didn't take enough researching to reach this now common idea to stuff the cakes with gelato or different kinds of cream.
Giving them a mini pandoro each is a waste because I know that they will not finish the whole cake but well, it's New Year. It's okay to waste just this once as long as they are happy. But, uhhmmm, I was wrong. They both ate their cakes and just left some crumbs.