29 February 2012

Two Focacce: With Rosemary and With Cherry Tomatoes & Oregano


This weekend had been extremely clamorous in our household.  My daughter was interminably getting the attention of his brother to play with him to no avail.  He couldn't because we had a pact.  He goes out only after the schoolwork.  It was time to catch up on a whole load of homework and lessons that he missed the past weeks that he had been away from school.  There were continued outbursts of protests to sit down and study the syllables and numbers.  Who can blame him?  At the other side of the window, there was a paradise of freedom, a magnificent blue sky, shining sun and the warmest temperature winter could offer.  A weather meant for kids to take advantage of.  If I am not looking at the calender, I would say that spring has already started.  He was imprisoned indoors confronted by his nemeses, the evil syllables and numbers.   Any kid has the right to go out and play with this kind of weather, as he pointed out to us.  How do you respond to that?  Kid won, parents lost.  So both brother and sister went out and played until the focacce (plural of focaccia) were on the table. 

28 February 2012

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca with Tuna and Castello Odescalchi of Bracciano


Spaghetti alla puttanesca is not a household name for a pasta dish, however good it is.  People are aware of it but don't prepare it.  I knew this pasta fairly well before moving to Italy.  When asked about what kind of pasta I would like to have, one of my immediate responses was spaghetti alla puttanesca.  I was confounded when I was greeted with a round of chuckles.  Didn't I pronounce it correctly?  Then I was told what it meant.  It means "the prostitute's way" because puttanesca is derived from puttana, a colloquial term for prostitute.   Interesting.  One of my favorite pasta dishes is done the prostitute's way. 

27 February 2012

Strawberry & Ricotta Trifle with Pistachio Brittle & Vermouth Strawberries


Saturday is market day.  The whole stretch of the main road is closed to traffic and fully-covered with vans selling everything you can imagine.   It's a long walk and can get quite tight at times but you forget all these while you are immersed in the middle of the hub.  Browsing around is always a rewarding treat for me.  I'm not speaking about the myriad stalls of clothes or shoes or anything wearable.  The only thing that rivets my attention is the rows of fruits, vegetables, hams, cheeses, bread & herbal plants.  I am referring to the edible part. 

25 February 2012

Two Simple Cakes: Torta Paradiso & Yogurt Cake with Pears


Two basic Italian cakes, Torta Paradiso and Torta di Yogurt con Pera (Yogurt Cake with Pears).   Their simplicity and healthy aspect make them ideal cakes for breakfast & snack for kids (and adults)

With the help of my new kitchen companion, Il Cucchiaino d'Argento Cookbook (The version of cooking for kids of Il Cucchiaio d'Argento.), I was able to whip up cakes good for a battalion of 20 kids.  I forgot that I only have two.  Okay, I'm guilty.  So I baked too many cakes for a family of four with two kids as main targets.  In fact, when I stopped and took a breather, I had a good look at my creations and  I was astounded at the accumulation of cakes on the kitchen table and counter.  Not to mention the whole nine yards of MESS I created.  The beauty and the ugly sides of cooking were evident everywhere.  

23 February 2012

Veal Stew with Chorizo and Chickpeas with Bay Leaf Rice


I thought graduating from flipping pages made of paper to flipping digital pages was stepping forward and coming to terms with modernity.   I even dove deeper when I rummaged through the virtual selection of books and started buying.   I cannot negate its convenience and accessibility.  The world is literally at my fingertips.   With a credit card or bank account connecting the umbilical cord between me and the mothership of consumerism. 

22 February 2012

Turnip, Kiwi & Pomegranate Salad with Honey Vinegar


Silence.  I can hear the pages turning.
Silence.  I can hear my thoughts.
Silence.  I can see the pictures and read some lines in the books I'm holding.
Silence.  I can finally taste my food. 

Being cooped up in the house with two kids for days frazzled everything in me.  Chicken pox and fever required at least two weeks of confinement at home.  Our son, Riccardo has it and we are waiting for the second round on our daughter, Sofia.  The kids are getting antsy being confined indoors and the fighting and crying are intensifying.  There are the perks of being a parent and there are also these moments when you feel like crawling inside a very quiet hole.   Silence.  

21 February 2012

Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (Seafood Risotto)


I live by the sea.  When the sun is up and you see that it is a Saturday or Sunday, throngs of people arrive to eat seafood in the rows of restaurants lined up by the beach and in the town.  In some mornings, it's a treat to walk at the long port watching the fishermen unload their catch of the day, men with their fishing rods sitting on the other side of the water waiting patiently what their baits can get, people leisurely walking at the long stretch of the port or just sitting at the benches staring at the sea.  This place is not bad after all. 

20 February 2012

Arancini


When I think of Sicily, I think of the arancini and when I think of the arancini, I think of Gli Arancini di Montalbano (Montalbano's Croquettes) and then I think of the rest.  I lost you there, didn't I?   I will explain what Gli Arancini di Montalbano is. 

17 February 2012

Sfingi, Sicilian Puff Pastry Fritters

 

When you notice that everywhere you step on outside your house seems to have developed colored spots, it doesn't mean that the cleaners left on a holiday altogether nor there's a new city-wide fad of polka-dotted flooring.   It just means that Carnevale (Carnival or Mardi Gras) is just around the corner.  

Stuffed Cremini Mushrooms


My ambivalence with mushrooms leads me to a continual search for the perfect way to cook it.  I generally love mushrooms but sometimes, I confuse myself why I refuse to have them on my pizza or eat them at all.  Other times, I can't stop myself from eating a whole plate.  I love them especially when they're simply sauteed with garlic, oil, a bit of butter & parsley.    

15 February 2012

Tapioca with Rum Caramel Sauce & Almond Jelly (Guinomis)


From kindergarten until the age when we were writing with other things other than crayons, St. Valentine's Day in school was a time for making greeting cards with big red hearts saying "I love yous" in big bold letters which at the beginning were sometimes mispelled.  We then take home these elaborate handmade greeting cards and give them to our parents.  We did this year after year until the school smartened up and decided that it was time to move on and buy our own greeting cards.  I never really thought once about those cards anymore after I gave them.  But my Mom did.

13 February 2012

Lemony Prawn & Chorizo Rice Pot


It's 11:45 PM, both kids are sleeping and I'm in front of the TV.  My right hand is inside a bag of vinegar potato chips with a tall glass of cold Coca Cola in front of me that my hand will grab next after it goes out of the potato chip bag.   Ahhhh, the pleasures of junk food in front of the TV is the champion of champions.

12 February 2012

Affogato al Caffe'


What am I doing?  It' freezing outside and I am cooling myself more with ice cream?   Our ice cream consumption is not seasonal at home.  Even if it is below zero outside, my kids still clamor for some ice cream.  It's contagious.  My husband and I can't help ourselves from grabbing our own bowls too.   The secret society of winter ice cream consumers convene. 

11 February 2012

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Tomatoes, Olives & Capers


Pure white powder is covering everything again outside.  It's so still, clean and peaceful.  It's 11 o'clock in the evening and the kids, my husband and I are all watching the snow fall excitedly.   Finally.  The kids had been waiting for the ground to turn white all afternoon but the snowflakes had been melting as soon as they fell on the ground.   There was no white carpet to play on this afternoon.  

When I wish for more snow, I feel so guilty.  All over the country, snow had been falling ceaselessly that it had and still is causing serious problems.   Fresh food is not as available as it should be.  I was in a big supermarket the other day to stock up on supplies for this coming weekend, when I looked at amazement at the rows of half-empty and completely empty baskets of fruits and vegetables.    Whatever was left was not so fresh-looking anymore but I didn't have a choice, just like the other shoppers.  We all grabbed what we needed.    And I hurriedly hoarded different kinds of tomatoes.  I cannot run out of them.  My kitchen feels empty without a single one of them around.

10 February 2012

Dried Fava Bean Soup (Zuppa di Fave Secche)


When I learned that my husband loves this soup, I thought of making it to surprise him on his birthday along with his other favorite dishes.  However, my thoughtful plan did not materialize because so many things happened.  We went to a restaurant instead to celebrate.  Too many things to do and so little time.  Isn't that how our lives are nowadays?  We're always running and spending less time staring at the walls.  I meant relaxing. 

09 February 2012

Green Tea & Chocolate Heart Pancakes with Pistachios & Chocolate


Green tea pancakes had been in my mind for a long time but they just keep on getting sidestepped in favor of other recipes in my long list of recipes to try.  Even if I had been cooking like a madwoman, my list never diminishes in number.  In fact, I think it keeps on growing and growing.  There are just too many delicious inspirations everywhere I turn.  Even my daughter's Teletubbies & the grass with the snow on it inspired me to cook.  I think it's an urgent call for relaxation.

07 February 2012

Jasmine Rice with Avocado, Mint & Black Sesame Seeds


It's still snowing heavily all over Italy and it already reached the southernmost point of the country (except Sicily).  Places that almost never experience snow and boast of beautiful, warm winters are now snowed in, some with even 2 meters of snow.  It's chaotic in the roads, some towns don't have electricity and means of heating system, no water, meager supplies of food in the shops (if they are even open), zero visibility in the roads making the trucks delivering supplies stranded in the roads.  When I watch the news, it doesn't seem like Italy.  It seems like another country I don't know. 

With all these confusion and state of emergency all over the country, I look outside the window and wonder if this is happening just around me.  There is not a single snowflake around, the sun is out and the day is beautiful as always.  Only, I don't need to go out to feel the difference of this winter from the others we went through.  It is freezing outside.  The temperature refuses to go up.  We are always at 3 degrees Celcius in the middle of the day and below zero when nighttime arrives.

06 February 2012

Dutch Baby Pancake with Frutti di Bosco Sauce




When I opened our window yesterday to take a peek at how the morning looks like with my eyes barely open, I saw everything in WHITE.  It seemed like someone took a rubber eraser and erased the familiar framed world that I look at every single morning from my window.   There was no other color except pristine white.  It shook the morning cobwebs away from my head and my usual coffee that my husband takes to me was forgotten on the bedside table.  I knew that snow was coming but to see it right infront of my eyes is just beautiful!   Rome just received its first heavy snowfall after 26 years.  We live at the outskirt of the city in the beach area so we didn't get the full impact but we got a fair share to enjoy.  If you live in a place where you regularly get snow, I think your perspective about it is different from mine.  I can imagine how you dread to look out your window every morning to see how much snow you have to shovel after your morning coffee. 

05 February 2012

Tuna Sandwich with Fava Beans


A tuna sandwich within my reach is dangerous.  My mouth becomes seriously uncontrollable.  I can polish off sandwich after sandwich without stopping even taking time to breathe.  I grew up having a love-hate relationship with it.  Like with dairy products, I avoid any food touched with mayonnaise.  I don't like these limitations because they impede my liberty to enjoy a lot of food.  In some cases, I get to find my way through delicious alternatives.  Other times, I get to relish a few bites before I remember that I don't like anything dairy or mayonnaisey.  See, it's psychological. 

04 February 2012

Rice Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Chicken


Purple, red, green and yellow.   Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-laa and Po invaded my bed with their very invasive playmate, Sofia.  It's one of those nights when she wants to stay up longer than usual.  When I told her that it's sleeping time, she immediately stopped playing, grabbed her Teletubbies stuff toys and their adopted dog, all wrapped around her short arms that you can barely see her face and dumped the whole family on our bed.  One by one, each of her toys were tucked in with barely any space left for herself and definitely no space for anyone else. 

03 February 2012

Spaghetti with Vongole, Lemon & Pine Nuts


Oh finally I had some vongole (clams) sizzling in my saucepan.   After I watched a cooking  demonstration of this recipe in Gambero Rosso, an Italian cooking channel, my quest to prepare this recipe intensified because I couldn't find the vongole.  Where were they all off to these past weeks?   I didn't even think to find out if they are seasonal.  Are they?

02 February 2012

Cannoli Siciliani


No one doesn't know the cannoli especially after they appeared in some scenes in Godfather.  I watched all three so I was excited when I found out that my Sicilian mother-in-law and her sisters can make them.  It was one of the first things that I asked for when I arrived in Italy.

All three sisters used to make the cannoli shells themselves but over the years, there have been very good empty shells from Sicily that can bought in specialty shops in Rome so they also took shortcuts and just made the fillings.  After all, it always depends on the quality of the ricotta di pecora (ricotta from ewe's milk) that you use.  There are different kinds of ricotta but only this is advised to be used.  Advise is a milder version of getting an answer from Sicilians when you ask them which kind of ricotta (there are different types, watch out!) to use.  Di pecora! (from ewe's milk!) with a voice a tad higher, surprised look that you even cared to ask and a slight gesticulation of the hands to emphasize it.  I get it.   Outside Italy, this kind of ricotta should be very hard to find so ricotta made from cow's milk can be substituted but there's always a long debate about it.