Like clockwork every Holiday season, one of my kids is sick, running with fever, cough, colds and sore throat. Last year, it was my daughter. This time, it's my son. Just a few days ago, my husband and I were almost going to hit the "Book Now" button for our little New Year's Eve family escape in Tuscany but since our son had been coughing continuously, we waited for another day and check with his pediatrician first. Right on the dot, his temp soared up the following day. That means it's home for us folks. That also means I am cooking our New Year's Eve dinner.
31 December 2014
29 December 2014
I'm a very picky person when it comes to jams. I don't like them too sweet and we all know that most commercially bottled jams are usually overly sweet! That's because sugar serves as the preservative of the jam. The recommended ratio is always 1:1 with fruit and sugar. So a kilo of fruit would be needing a kilo of sugar too. And that amount of sugar sends me running away from the sweetness.
So whenever my fruit trees yield a good amount of fruits, I make my own jams at home. I have an annual appointment in the kitchen with my quince harvest. It is a peculiar kind of fruit because it is not pleasant to eat raw like what you do with its cousins, the apples and pears.
It took me years before I discovered that there is an Asian market right in the heart of Rome. Exactly 13 years if I can be precise. All those years, my cravings for the Philippine dishes I grew up with had to be completely ignored because I had no other choice but to get on with life without looking back. I looked forward and that was where I had a total immersion with Italian food. It's what my family eats and it is what I prepare at home. Sometimes, I push it substituting ingredients that I find at the supermarkets but it's never the same.
27 December 2014
I think I just gained 50 kilos with all the amazing food I have been eating and drinking (non-stop mind you). Christmas is wonderful with all the incredible food and excellent wines thrown together, all packed in a 2-3 day ultimate gastronomic hype. It's the only time of the year when extra special once-a-year-only dishes make grand appearances on the table. And the diets? Does that word even exist during the holiday season? No one even whispers that word around until after New Year. That's the only time when we start having good looks of ourselves at the mirror and notice the added inches in the waistline. But since we still have the New Year's Eve celebration just around the corner, I will not say the d-word yet.
24 December 2014
I won't make this long because I know that all of you are busy attending to last minute things before the eve and (maybe already for Christmas day if you are in Asia and Australia). I, myself, have a few minutes to spare before I gather my kids and get us all ready for our Christmas Eve celebration tonight.
It had been a splendid year for myself, my family and for Apron and Sneakers. There had been a lot of projects, new places that I photographed and a whole load of food and wine tastings. And you have been a big part of it because if you have not been following me around, Apron and Sneakers wouldn't still be around. So Thank you with all my heart! Great experiences and new friendships as I can sum up my year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you my dear friends!
Yesterday, after a morning of running to bake the food I had to write and photograph, barely making it on time to pick up my daughter in school, photographing the food then running back to the school again to pick up my son, only ending up in the wrong gate to pick him up, I was ready to buckle up and nurse my tired self. There are days like this when things, unbelievably, pile up one after the other.
At about 10 minutes past 14:00, I walked back to the car with my son's heavy backpack on one shoulder. The kids were behind me, skipping towards the car and chatting excitedly. School was going to be out for exactly 15 days. After spending the past days going up and down for their Christmas recitals, frantic gift buying (we couldn't find our son's gift anywhere!), putting up our tree, fighting off our dog from eating all the decors and the tree itself, we were on time and ready for Christmas.
21 December 2014
The uglier they are, the better they taste. That's what my husband always reminds me about persimmons. I Love persimmons with a capital L. Truly. It is also one of the fruits that I can't wait for the season to arrive. It has a ephemeral season here so when they are out, I wait for a few days to pass to get to the real season then I scramble to stuff myself and my husband with the really ripe, squashed and quite ugly persimmons. I love eating persimmons that I chill in the fridge first, cut them in half and scoop out the soft flesh with a teaspoon. I don't really know what variety we get in Italy but if you see the orange-skinned delicate-looking ones that look like they are ready to explode, then that is the kind that I am speaking about. I did make a Persimmon and Yogurt Marsala Dessert once and it came out delicious but after that, I just concentrated on my persimmon scooping activity to enjoy the fruit without any other ingredients involved.
20 December 2014
What constitutes an awesome party? Heaps of great food and alcohol (if the guests are more than 18) and wonderful people. I have always loved giving parties ever since I was young, I mean really young. When I was given the green light to drink (I started earlier than 18), I spent the birthday money I received from my parents in giving parties instead of buying something material for my birthday. Sometimes, a little bit still remains that I get to buy a nice shirt or something. My Mom would always try to convince me to go for something I really wanted like clothes or electronics which I also love but parties win on my priorities hands down.
19 December 2014
Some vegetables are just meant to be tossed fast in a wok or saucepan with a few basic ingredients to attain that Asian touch. I had some garlic, soy sauce and sesame seeds to give the bok choy that Asian flavor that I had been longing to have. As much as I love Italian cuisine, the need to touch base with Asian food is a must sometimes. With bok choy fresh from the Asian market, the only way I cook them is a quick sautè with my basic Asian stash in the cupboard.
16 December 2014
If there is a dish from my childhood that I would like to keep on recreating, it has to be adobo. I love the contrast between the saltiness and tartness of the soy sauce and lemons with the unmistakable presence of garlic. It is the national dish of the Philippines and it has every reason to be everyone's favorite because it is just good. In fact, among all the Filipino dishes that I have introduced to my family, adobo always comes out the winner. No one says no to it and however much I put on the table, it always ends up wiped out especially when I cook the rice with the sauce.
15 December 2014
I was not impressed with myself with my first trial in cooking with couscous a few years ago. It became a soft mass of unidentifiable object. Surely, I did something wrong so I gave it another try but the outcome was the same after following the instructions to the dot. Cooking instant couscous doesn't really require so much cooking skills because you just soak it in boiling water and it swells on its own a after a few minutes. What I did find out is that I should use the one with good quality. With its history in mind, I knew I would find the right one eventually because couscous is widely used in Sicilian cuisine, especially in area of Trapani (western part) because its history is intertwined with a couple of North African countries namely Libya and Tunisia. For that, couscous is not a foreign ingredient in Italy. After knocking down another pack, I finally found the brand that I liked in the only shop where I can get good quality tapioca.
13 December 2014
Depending on how you look at it, you may cringe at the amount of bacon I used here or you may actually love it. I was 50-50. I don't shy away from using pancetta (Italy's answer to bacon) in my cooking because it never fails to give a kick of added flavor to dishes. But I think that this is the first recipe I ever made with a whole load of pancetta wrapped snuggly around the meatloaf.
12 December 2014
It's mid-morning and the kitchen smells heavenly. Why shouldn't it, with the oven roaring hot with bananas mixed with chocolate, rum and cinnamon baking inside. Can you imagine the smell emanating from that heat? It's one of those baking scents that makes the house feel homey like a waft of coziness embracing you. That is how I always imagined my house to be, where the kitchen stars as the heart of the house, where the family gathers and stay together.
11 December 2014
For someone who is not into fresh cheese and cream, you will be surprised if I say that I love burrata. I find the mozzarella and cream oozing out from its mozzarella shell purely irresistible. And my husband knows that because when he encounters some fresh products from Puglia (the Italian region where they are made), he buys a ball or two for me and mozzarella for himself. Between mozzarella and burrata, yes, I have a weakness for the latter which I love to eat with extra virgin olive oil drizzled over it and some tomatoes and basil if available. That, for me is a grand salad to be enjoyed with every bite. And I have 3 more recipes here that are reminiscent of 3 neighboring countries known for their Mediterranean diets. Greece, Spain and of course, Italy.
07 December 2014
The weather is such a downer these past days. I wake up to very gray skies, the sun sometimes comes out for a fraction of the morning then continuous drizzling comes to along with ugly dark skies. Sun, rain, wind, lightnings, these alternate themselves throughout the day. Sigh, I never saw so much rain in autumn before. I wonder when all these dark heavy clouds will leave the sky and finally clear up to the usual beautiful blue skies of Rome. The Mediterranean winter seems to be far from arriving from how the weather has been lately. It keeps giving me a reason to tuck everyone inside and stay away from the howling winds and from getting wet and cold. Even our dog understands that because he spends more time lying down in front of the heaters.
05 December 2014
The other day, I overheard my daughter ask my husband what carnivores are. It was a big word for a child of 4 (by the way, she turned 5 yesterday) so both my husband and I were proud and surprised at such a grown-up question. After my husband explained to her what it means, she then proceeded by saying that we are omnivores then like our dog because we eat both vegetables and meat. Stunned, I heard my husband exploding with shouts of Brava! She loves enriching her vocabulary in both Italian and English. Words keep her company in the afternoons she spends in front of the TV, Ipad and her drawings and she loves to associate the words she knows with examples in real life.
02 December 2014
Today, I had two slices of red velvet cake adorned with Smarties. It's my son's friend's birthday and his mom made him a lovely and delicious cake for the special occasion. Because I loved it, I went back to her for my second slice and I didn't listen to the calorie counter buzzing. In two days instead, my daughter is turning 5. That means that in two days time, I will be eating slices of chocolate millefoglie (mille feuille) birthday cake with the Paw Patrol dogs staring at me. Chocolate is her choice of flavor while millefoglie is my husband's choice of birthday cake. The two combined together in choosing the birthday cake can be dangerous to the calorie level. But birthdays only come once a year and to be around, perfectly healthy, is a very good reason to celebrate it.
01 December 2014
Roma Food and Wine Festival. I marked the date in my calendar. I wish I can mark all three days but I can only choose one day. I went for the opening day at lunch time with my husband while the kids remained with their grandaunt for the day. While they had their grandaunt's polpettine al pomodoro (meatballs in tomato sauce) which they love to high heavens, we had instead, an excellent lunch of food and wine pairings of Italy's best.