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31 December 2012

Pomegranate Spumante

We have finished the last chapter of 2012 and starting a new one again, with aspirations for a continuation of good life, more happy times and maybe, an accomplishment of something we have always wanted to do in the past.   I had a fruitful and memorable 2012 and I am stashing all the fond memories I had in my 2012 book to go back to again and again to remind me of how wonderful life had been.  With a new and shiny book for 2013, I am looking forward to filling up the pages with more beautiful memories, happiness and good health for me and my family.  

Thank you for being there, for listening, for writing and being very supportive!

Let's drink to the new year!

29 December 2012

Mozzarella with Anchovies, Lemon & Basil

Time had been ticking so fast that I actually forgot to prepare for New Year's Eve! This morning, we all sat down and decided on our menu together. I posed my initial question to my family.  Seafood or meat?  I am more partial to seafood, my son to meat, my husband to vegetables and my daughter to bread and rice.  Our choices actually comprise a complete dinner.  All things considered, we came up with a menu adapted for my family but will probably get a thumbs down from any restaurant. I am mixing both meat and seafood throughout the courses.  That way, everyone's happy.

28 December 2012

Potato Cream Cheese & Smoked Salmon Bites

Yesterday, we went to Ikea to buy a new kitchen faucet.  My old one, which served me for 13 years decided to die right on the only day when it shouldn't. The day when all the shops are  closed for the Christmas holiday.  I had already mapped out how my 24th, 25th and 26th were going to be.  I managed to schedule my cooking and the Christmas dinner and lunch at the houses of my in-laws without so much free time to spare because yesterday, the 26th, we had a lunch to host at home with our friends.  Until 18:30 struck on the 24th of December when the problems started.

27 December 2012

Brunch: Rosemary Sausage Skewers, Potato Chorizo Salad and Soft Boiled Egg with Piment d'Espelette & Chives

I guess you are all stuffed by now like me.  I had been eating non-stop from the 23rd until today.  I can go on like this for days but if I find myself on the weighing scale right now, which I refuse to do so, I wouldn't like what I am going to see.  But Christmas happens only once a year.  This holiday is about filling up our homes with decors & trees, remembering the fundamental meaning of Christmas, exchanging gifts, cooking and enjoying the whole stretch of the holiday season with family and friends. 

24 December 2012

Buon Natale!

Auguri di Buone Feste 
a tutti voi 
e alle vostre famiglie!

23 December 2012

Pandoro Farcito con Crema alle Clementine (Pandoro with Clementine Cream)

It's December. Multitudes of big colored boxes of pandoro and panettone line the supermarket aisles, food shops and pasticcerie (pastry shops).  It's unimaginable not to have a box or two of these sweet bread at home waiting under the Christmas tree alongside the gifts.  Because of their overwhelming size, they take long to finish.  They are THE DESSERT for the whole month of December but they are also THE BREAKFAST best enjoyed with a glass of milk or a steaming cup of hot tea or chocolate.   

22 December 2012

Almond Panna Cotta with Clementine Sauce

Clementines, mandarins and oranges.  I love these citrus fruits when winter comes.  They're like the sunshine that's rarely present during these cold months.  They give color and life to the table.  And for that, I use them a lot in my dishes, whether they are savory or sweet.  However strange it might sound, I like my food looking bright and lively because I like feasting with my eyes first.

21 December 2012

Baked Scotch Eggs

Although I value my quiet time in the morning at home while doing the chores, cooking, writing or photographing, I cannot say no to a child who fixes me with a pleading stare that she doesn't want to go to school that morning because she doesn't feel so great.  Conferring with my husband, we ride her through the whole nine yards of "medical check-up" which we knew anyway would come out negative of anything.  What can I say?  Kids learn fast.

20 December 2012

Veal Piccata al Marsala and Lemon Mashed Potato Quenelles

"Who's sick this time?" is the guessing game we have at home when the sun rises.  Because of this, I lost kitchen control over the past days.  If you are curious to know, I was the winner in the number of sick days alternating with my small daughter then her big brother.  I had been in bed again, with a temperature.  I was able to prepare our lunch the other morning complete with a freshly baked bread then when afternoon came., zing!  I was waving the white flag from the bed, under 3 thick wool blankets and still shivering.  Sigh.  Hello fever, missed me much?

18 December 2012

Baked Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Sausage & Bechamel Sauce and Tide Pod Promo

I can't believe that we have exactly 9 days left before Christmas.  Have you done your tree yet? Are your Christmas presents all accounted for? You didn't leave anyone behind, did you? Are your Christmas menus planned well and ready to be executed for the big day? For the first time, I got everything covered in time.  My tree is usually up late, really late. The latest we did was on the night of 21st of December last year and the last gifts on the 24th before the shops' closing time.  I promised to be better this year.  I don't want my kids to think that I am related to Scrooge.

15 December 2012

Clementine Pork Adobo with Sautéed Green Pea Rice

Being Asian in origin, I feel like I have the responsibility to expose my kids to half of their heritage.  But how do you go about it without suffocating them of all things Asian just like what I see with other families of other cultures?  I want my kids to grow up feeling free to follow what they want to but just to be aware of how things are done with my side of the world.   First and foremost in my husband's and my line of rearing the children is freedom.  Freedom to choose and deciding on their own.

13 December 2012

Crocchette di Patate (Potato Croquettes)

Kids get very antsy when they have to sit still through long meals.  For that reason, I go around with Ipods and Ipads (if my bag is big enough) to entertain both children.  I already lost the battle of antagonizing my initial opinion the first time I saw a child playing with a computer game in a restaurant years ago.  A friend commented that we will have to do the same thing to go through dinners.  I was vehement in my opinion about it.  "No way!"  I ate my words a long time ago.  

12 December 2012

Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate) and Milano Part 2

I was in Milano, sitting on a comfortable armchair beside my husband, inside a warm herbal shop while outside it was freezing cold and dark.  I don't remember any other time when I really enjoyed a steaming (or rather boiling) cup of cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) on a very cold winter night than that time. 

10 December 2012

Zuppa di Farro e Fagioli (Farro & Borlotti Bean Soup) and Milano

I was looking up at the spectacular glass dome of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Milano when the first few snowflakes started to fall.  Along with the Christmas balls dangling from the dome, the snowflakes added to the festive touch.   Christmas is just around the corner.  I could smell it, I could see it and most of all, I could feel it. 

05 December 2012

Risotto al Radicchio e Taleggio

Sono Rodin. 
No!  Io sono Rodin.
No!  Non tu!  Io!   Io sono Auguste Rodin!

From the kitchen, while I was cooking this risotto, I could hear the two kids arguing who Rodin should be.  The only Rodin I know is the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and I didn't expect them to be discussing about the same person!  How can a 3-year old and 7-year old even be aware of the artist's name?  I asked them and they said that they watched it in TV.  Well, what do you know, Rodin beats Spongebob hands down!

01 December 2012

Baked Potatoes With Bechamel, Guanciale and Chives

There is something about revisiting the past and discovering something new that gives me a feeling of accomplishment.  I had been out of the loop with my photography club for an embarrassingly long time so when I received a message about a meeting, I made sure I was there.   Ignoring the fever that had been keeping me in bed the whole week, I was bundled up until the ears with a thick scarf, thick coat and everything thick underneath, walking in the cold towards the pizzeria for our very first Friday night pizza meeting.   

30 November 2012

Lasagne al Ragù

From my limited knowledge in Italian cuisine when I moved here in 1999, learning how to make the proper lasagne was imperative.   It was one of the dishes I immediately tried when I first visited the country a few months prior to moving.   I liked how the pasta actually melts in your mouth and the taste of the ragù with bechamel and parmigiano reggiano was purely delectable. 

28 November 2012

Fruit & Flower Salad With Limoncello

Because it's autumn, the leaves are falling, the sky is sometimes a sad gray and the flowers are mostly gone.  Some of my plants are already preparing for winter and all my basil plants are producing their last leaves before they die.  Autumn is a long sleep of nature that continues throughout winter.  For that I cannot wait for spring, when everything wakes up again.

27 November 2012

Insalata Caprese

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can stand between a freshly made, big ball of mozzarella di bufala from Campania and an Italian man.  

26 November 2012

Canarino (Lemon & Bay Leaf Tisane) and The Town of Cibiana di Cadore, Italy

When we moved in to our house, we surrounded our house with plants and little trees to make it more homey. We have a big planter filled with three tall alloro (bay trees / bay laurel) fronting our bedroom window to give us a bit of cover from the parking area of our neighbors.  The owner of the plant shop we bought it from suggested that these evergreen plants serve as perfect divisions.  The foliage never fall off and they are always lush and very green all year round.   It was definitely the plant we were looking for.    Besides, a bay leaf or two in cooking is always needed.  I looked at him with doubt in my mind.  I was never really fond of bay leaves when I was growing up.  

23 November 2012

Persimmon and Yogurt Marsala Dessert and Villa Farnese of Caprarola, Italy

As the seasons change, the produce also change.  And there are some vegetables and fruits that I cannot wait to have again, after a whole year of waiting.   One of them is cachi/kaki (persimmons)It's one of the things that my husband and I agree on without uttering a word.  We both enjoy scooping out the sweet, soft, orange pulp.  Really, it's one of the best that autumn can give. 

22 November 2012

Crostini e Panini con Robiola, Noci, Menta e Mortadella

The very first thing I learned about the Italian language is the alphabet. Uuhhhm.  I'm lying.  It's the second thing.  I don't need to say that I learned the bad words first, like every single person learning a new language.  I sang the alphabet to help me remember it fast, remnants of the style of memorization when I was a kid.  The song is the translated version of the English alphabet so I breezed through the whole thing. I just stall at the 5 missing English letters at the Italian alphabet.  Do you know that there are only 21 letters to the Italian alphabet as opposed to the 26 letters of its English counterpart?   There are no J, K, W, X and Y 

21 November 2012

Risotto alla Crema di Scampi

For the second time, with different sets of American friends, there was a slight confusion about the word scampi when they saw it on the restaurant menu. What is scampi?  Isn't it the way shrimp are cooked using garlic butter sauce?  My husband and I explained that they are langoustines.  They are also known as Norway lobsters or Dublin Bay prawns.  To be more specific, it carries the scientific name of Nephrops norvegicus. The plural form is scampi and singular is scampo. So I guess in the Italian-American restaurants in the U.S., scampi is referred to as the method of preparation of shrimp using garlic and butter rather than the ingredient itself.  On the other hand, shrimp are gamberi in Italian.

20 November 2012

Hugo Cocktail and South Tyrol, Italy

A fragrant and refreshing cocktail in hand, relaxing and enjoying what is to come.  That is how I discovered this really delicious drink from Trentino-Alto Adige (South Tyrol/Südtirol) or better known as the part of Italy where the Dolomite Mountains are.  There were a lot of reasons to give each other a toast  for celebratory moments.  My husband and I celebrated another year together and for a milestone that Apron and Sneakers reached in Facebook.  One thousand likes and the counter is still turning.  Thank you my friends!

18 November 2012

Chicken, Spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano Balls With Sautéed Tomatoes

A day with two very active kids is already strenuous but that doesn't compare to having one meal with them.  If I am preparing a dish that's a little bit out of the ordinary, or has one of the many ingredients, a hint of a flavor or even color that both kids don't like, expect a rollercoaster ride through dinner. 

16 November 2012

Ciambellone al Cioccolato and Milk with Mint and Chocolate

A simple, classic, homemade Italian breakfast.  

That's what I decided to prepare the day after I saw Laura Ravaioli's show at Gambero Rosso where she was demonstrating how to make a ciambellone al ciocolato like how her mother used to and a glass of milk with mint syrup and chocolate.  Aside from the whole country who wouldn't say no to a breakfast like this, there is one person I wanted to prepare it for.  My other half. 

14 November 2012

Pasta Arraganata (Baked Pasta With San Marzano Tomatoes) and the Amalfi Coast

After having a blood exam one early morning, I walked into the nextdoor bar to have my breakfast.   When I walked inside, I could already hear loud female voices disagreeing about something that was being shown in the television.  For that time in the morning, I found it unnerving but my tummy was already growling and I had a pending headache so I just continued and went inside. 

12 November 2012

Panino con Fettine di Bistecca e Peperoni ( Beefsteak Slices & Pepper Sandwich)

Planning meals for a family of four with different tastes is difficult.  Adults are flexible but kids can become too choosy and can easily break into tantrums.  For this reason, our family dinners are frequently chaotic, never silent and often concluded with teary-eyed faces. Care to join us for dinner? 

08 November 2012

Castagnaccio and The Town of Tagliacozzo in Abruzzo

It was only a couple of years ago when I discovered this chestnut cake in Tuscany.  I was in front of a really long buffet table of traditional Tuscan food in San Giovanni d'Asso when this cake caught my attention.   I looked at the alarmingly growing mountain of food on my plate and I have not even reached the middle of the buffet table yet.  I was doing everything wrong.   I was the epitome of a person not knowing her manners.  I knew I should have just given up my post and picked up where I left off after I empty my plate.   Isn't that what basic buffet table etiquette says?  BUT.  Being confronted with the "task" of exploring the plethora of Tuscan food, I was excused, wasn't I? 

06 November 2012

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake and The Church of Sant' Agnese Fuori le Mura in Rome

I have been hiding this triple chocolate cheesecake in my archives for days and I just can't make it stay at the bottom of the pile anymore.  Nothing this good should be hidden for long and it's about time I shared it with you.  Thanks to Lorraine Pascale's baking and cooking talent, I am able to make some pretty impressive looking and delicious cakes.  This is her second cake recipe that I followed.  I loved every single detail about it just like the first one, the Strawberry & Mascarpone Swiss Roll

04 November 2012

Philippine Meatball Sauté With Peas & Potatoes

Growing up, it means only one thing when this dish is served on the table.  We need to stock up on food!  The freezer is empty and we need to go to the market immediately.   The ground meat is the last of the last that is extracted from the gigantic freezer in my parents' house.   Potatoes last forever so there is always a supply around, just like rice.  Sautéing staples to Philippine cooking are tomatoes, onions & garlic and my Mom's kitchen never ran out of them. The green peas are my personal addition.

01 November 2012

Torta di Uva Fragola & Ricotta (Ricotta & Concord Grape Cake)

Uva fragola (concord grapes or strawberry grapes) come and go fast, in September and sometimes they stay until October.  I baked this cake in the middle of October after chancing upon baskets of uva fragola at the farmers' market.  The producer only asked for 1 Euro for a 500 gram basket!  What a steal!  They are not as common as the regular grapes at the markets where I live but they are more common in Tuscany. 

30 October 2012

Fried Scamorza Cheese & Chive Sandwich (Scamorza in Carrozza) and The Town of Veroli

I love lunches and dinners but breakfasts have a special hold on me.  I sometimes skip it with just a cup of espresso to jerk me awake before hurrying to do the morning things.  I always forget that breakfast is more important than anything else.  When I do give myself time to sit down and nourish myself to start the day, I get a glass of spremuta (freshly squeezed orange juice), season permitting, a bomba con la crema (doughnut stuffed with cream) if I don't feel too guilty about what I am eating or a cornetto (croissant) if I want to lighten up and a cup of espresso. 

26 October 2012

Savory & Sweet Breakfast: Ricotta & Almond Pancakes with Caramelized Grapes in Port & Balsamic Vinegar and A Plate of Sautéed Savory Breakfast

It's late Thursday night and I am hastening this post in time for the weekend.  I even leapt through all my other planned blog posts just to share this one with you.  Let me tell you why.  I had been fixated with big breakfasts lately.  My mind starts whirring very late at night, every night, thinking of the contents of my fridge & cupboards and what I can put together the following morning.  Lately, it's me, myself and I whipping up breakfasts in the silence of the mornings. It's a luxury, I'm telling you and I am truly enjoying my "me" time.

24 October 2012

Conchiglioni con Frutti di Mare al Cognac (Shell Pasta with Seafood & Cognac) & A Day Around the Pantheon Area

Going around the city with the cameras around our necks, my husband and I continuously click on the monuments that we've been taking pictures of over the years, each time with a better camera from the last.  I can see the chain we are going through.  In a few years again, better equipment, still the same route, to the city's most photographed monuments.  I showed you some shots of the Colosseo and its confines in the previous post.  Now, let me show you the Pantheon and its surrounding area. 

19 October 2012

Dutch Baby Pancake with Caramelized Plums in Brandy, Cinnamon & Lemon Zest

Our house has grumpy little people when the sun rises in the morning.  Each little person hides deeper under the covers when we call out. 

"Rise & shine kids!"  Grunts.  
"Breakfast is ready!"  Grunts.
I draw the curtains to let the morning light come in.  More grunts.
"You will be late for school!"  Grunts.
My older son stands up but sports the grumpiest morning expression in his face.  
My younger daughter unites herself with the bed.  When she does that, it only means one thing.  It's a quiet declaration of a difficult morning.  Whereas if she stands up and takes her breakfast, then it's a promise of a smooth morning.  

17 October 2012

Hazelnut & Cocoa Truffles with Piment d'Espelette

Mistakes happen and we get over them soon enough.  BUT.  Sometimes, mistakes are stepping stones for learning.  Have we heard that too often?  And that is precisely how my life is inside the kitchen.  I take trial and error cooking episodes as ways to build a stronger foundation for my cooking because that is the time when I extract the cause of the problem and ruminate about the whole thing.  What did I do wrong after I followed the recipe letter by letter?  I think I have complained about these redundant episodes in my kitchen more than enough.  You see those brown beauties piled up together?  They were supposed to come out as hazelnut & cocoa cream, a homemade version of Nutella. They happen when you leave the mixture too long at the blender.  But I wouldn't have enjoyed them if not for my mistake.

15 October 2012

Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms & Datterini Tomatoes with Truffle Oil

There it goes!  The thermometer says 19 degrees Celcius today and I am feeling the first few quivers of the autumn cold.  Summer is still trapped in my closet.  It's that part of the season when it's too early to pack up the summer stuff and take out the autumn clothes.  I surrender my open shoes for warmer ones though.  I had popsicle toes the other night when I grabbed the warmest looking high heeled summer shoes I have.  I guess I was wrong.  

Taglietalle di Farro con Ricotta & Salsa di Pomodoro (Farro Tagliatelle with Ricotta & Tomato Sauce)

The country is bracing again for another bad weather.  Rome and the rest of central Italy will be hit from the afternoon until night time.  After the very bad snowstorm that hit the country and the capital last winter, weather predictions are being taken seriously.  I didn't even realize how serious today will be until I saw the news asking the people to stay home if there's no need to go out.  And yesterday, some surrounding towns of Rome were stacking up on sacks of sand to protect themselves from overflowing water.  Towns that we frequent and around us. One of the canals of the Tiber River is running just a few hundred meters from our house and we are on ground level. Even if my husband continuously calms me down that it will not overflow, I still fidget and it's becoming more and more imminent when I see the news.  Where is that ladder?

11 October 2012

Clam & Corn Soup with Moringa Leaves and a Day Around the Palatine Hill & Colosseum

As much as I would like to enjoy the warm autumn weather of Rome, I suffer the consequence of returning home very tired and my sore throat still throbbing after spending a day out taking photographs.  On the positive side, I get to enjoy the pictures I took while I rest in bed.  I sometimes wonder until how far I would go just to get a good shot.  I have seen some people balancing themselves on places they shouldn't be standing on just to satisfy their need to go up a few centimeters higher to get a better angle.   

08 October 2012

Sponge Gourd Soup with Misua, Shrimp & Saffron

I can sometimes be mistaken as the autumn party pooper because of my reluctance to enter the season.  There is one thing that I absolutely hate about it.  It's the beginning without end of sicknesses at home.  With both kids in school, not only do they take home homeworks or dirty table linens that they use for snacking, but they also take home something that I'd rather interfere with using a big red stoplight before it steps inside our house.  If only I could

05 October 2012

Easy Shrimp Sauté

Less is better.   

I find myself betwixt and between the state of being a minimalist and immoderate.  I am in the habit of accumulating things but I hate clutter.  It's a lifelong personal predicament I live with and cannot shake off.  Fortunately, my cooking did not inherit this side of me. I love minimizing my cooking to the least possible ingredients.  I learned that in Italian cooking.  The less ingredients you put, the better the food will taste and the healthier it will come out. 

Meno é meglio

04 October 2012

Prunes and Walnuts Wrapped with Lardo di Colonnata

I found this appetizer a bit strange when I first encountered it at a trattoria during a friend's birthday. There was an array of appetizers that could have already been a full dinner. I was enjoying every single antipasto. They were all the usual appetizers presented in more innovative ways until this tray was passed to me.  I had to take a good look at it and tried to imagine the taste of lardo, walnut & prune together.  It was coying to tickle my taste buds.

As soon as I popped it in my mouth, the saltiness of the lardo was prominent. Then as I bit into the prune, it became more interesting. Salty, slightly sweet, slightly sour and finally, the walnut flattened everything out to a nutty taste.  It was good.  I had a few and finally pushed away the tray in front of me, scared that I would finish the whole thing. My husband gave me a knowing look.  It won't be long until I make my own version at home.  

02 October 2012

Simple Chocolate Cake

I was (and still am) a chocolate cake fiend when I was a little girl.  Now that I am an adult, I have long abandoned my ideal birthday cake of chocolate goodness for more sophisticated varieties with names that twist the tongue but I still secretly wish for a good old moist chocolate cake all covered with chocolate icing.  I'm still a simple little girl at heart.

30 September 2012

Ricotta & Pear Cake

My husband's and my son's birthdays fall in September with a two-day gap in between them.  Being a Caesarian delivery, I had the liberty to choose the birthday of my son within a given time frame.  It coincided with the period of my husband's birthday.  I think the most natural choice was to set the birthdays of father and son on the same day.  But my husband was against it.  Our son has to have his own space, a special day of his own, however close it is to his father's.

26 September 2012

Pita Bread with Italian Tomato Meat Sauce & Salad and the Town of Isola del Liri

Pasta con ragu' is eternally welcomed with excitement on the table from the littlest person to the biggest and I'm always happy to see empty plates after the clanging of the forks on the plates.  It's one of those successful dinners that rubs off the tiredness of putting together a good, healthy dinner.  When I cook ragu' alla bolognese (tomato meat sauce), I make sure that it's more than what I need to pour on spaghetti for four.  I segregate the other half of the pot for something else, for the next meal. 

22 September 2012

Smoked Paprika Chicken with Haricot Tarbais & Chorizo

There is something unique about Italy and women's surnames.   We keep our surnames for life.  There's no need to be on the temporary position and wait for Mr. Right to arrive then erase the identity that we inherited from our fathers.  So, when Mr. Right arrives, there's no need to be Signora Right too.  I can be Signora What-Have-You like how my father passed on his last name to me.

At the beginning, I was not agreeable to it.  I felt lost in a sea of married women changing their surnames.  I felt like a solitary fish sticking out from the schools swimming around me.  What's my name?  I grew up knowing fully well that I would be assuming my husband's last name.   I didn't and I still remained with my maiden name until now.  My family thought that there is something wrong with our marriage.  My grandmother was convinced that we never got married.  After explaining to them a hundred times how the system works in Italy, I finally saw a light of comprehension when I showed my mother the intercom buttons and mailboxes in Italy.  Almost all of them have two surnames listed in each house.  Sometimes, show and tell works best.

20 September 2012

Chocolate Almond Cake with Caramelized Plums in Cognac

Can you actually believe that this is the first time I gave these fruit a long hard look and admitted to myself how stupid I was for not even trying to eat them after all these wasted years?  I must be the only person on earth who didn't eat them....until now.  And I want to rewind the years and eat my way back to the present.  It's actually good!  Whatever possessed me to think that they are not good? 

18 September 2012

Banana Spring Rolls (Turon)

Now that both kids are in school, I am often asked what I do in the mornings.  "Which mornings?",  I often reply.   School only started last Thursday and they are still on shortened schedules until the end of the month.   If these mornings signify the freed one hour and a half these past days, then I must admit that I almost don't feel it.  After fixing the beds, collecting the clothes and toys, cleaning up, emptying the dishwasher and washing machine, hanging the clothes, the whole morning is lost.  I wish I had THAT free morning that everyone seems to impose on me like a luxury that I never had.  Sometimes, stay-at-home moms are thought of as the freest people on earth.  We are not.