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31 March 2012

Risotto with Wild Asparagus & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Did my Cooking Economics 101 on the subject of wild asparagus in the form of frittata and risotto as my professors in the supermarket suggested to me.  If you haven't read the frittata post yet, they are the supermarket employee and nice lady who gave me a crash course in dealing with wild asparagus.   I think I may have passed the test because in pure honesty, this risotto came out very well (as well as the frittata!) which, if not for Angela of Sapori dei Sassi's brilliant idea of adding sun-dried tomatoes to the usual wild asparagus, it wouldn't have come out extra good. 

29 March 2012

Wild Asparagus & Pine Nut Frittata and Villa Torlonia in Rome

I love asparagus in every way it's cooked.  For me, it's the first indicator that spring has arrived.  And spring it was!  I had been stalking the vegetable stands for days to see if they are already out.  And I always come out empty handed.

At the beginning of March, I saw some bunches but as I drew closer and saw the price, I was crestfallen.  8 Euros a kilo was too much and clearly means that the ones I am looking at were from the head of the pack.  I decided to wait.  Next occasion I saw some, they were priced at around 4 Euros but underneath the price was written its origin.  Imported.  Sigh.  Asparagus season was starting rather late and I was getting antsy.

28 March 2012

Mango Rice Pudding with Chocolate Flakes

The rest of the mangoes I intended to use for the cake went to this wonderful dessert.  Mangoes give me fond memories and transport me back to my past.  My sentimental side breaks out.  It's my little flaw.  How many people do you know get teary-eyed over a fruit?  One in a million and that should be me.   

27 March 2012

Green Mango Salad

I had been dreaming of the taste of mango cake the past days that it had become too insistent.  I took a step forward and finally bought  some mangoes.  Only the mangoes are the wrong kind, for that I was hesitant.  The only cultivar available in Italy is the one that is perfect for salads and passable for drinks, but for cakes?  I really don't know.  Then a friend from the U.S. posted a picture of her delicious-looking mango mousse cake using Mexican mangoes that resemble the ones in the Philippines.  The ones that are used for cakes.  The right kind.  It reminded me that I had the wrong ones. 

25 March 2012

Zuppa di Fagioli e Orzo (Borlotti Beans & Barley Soup)

I knew both kids wouldn't be able to resist going to the kitchen and take a peek inside the saucepan (with my help of course). The smell has permeated the whole kitchen and wafted all over the house after cooking for two hours.  The house smells like a country home. 

After the smell of baking bread and cakes, soups with beans and cereals cooking for long hours is one of my favorite home scents during the cold days. Just the fragrance makes you feel well, like it embraces you, and you get even more when you have the first spoonful. 

23 March 2012

Tomato & Chorizo Salad and Abbazia di Novacella (Novacella Abbey)

Jamie Oliver dubbed this as the "Best Chorizo and Tomato Salad in the World".  I totally agree with him.  If he didn't dub this as such, I would have stamped this as the world's best anyway.  I like tomato salads, but I wouldn't say I am crazy about them.   In my lifetime, I could only say that I loved a tomato salad once.  That was when I had the cuori di bue (beefsteak) tomatoes simply prepared with extra virgin olive oil and salt in a friend's house in Calabria.  It's not the preparation that made it very good because as you can see, the ingredients were minimal and basic.  It was the quality of the tomatoes that jolted me to appreciate tomato salads more.  I never thought tomatoes can actually be sweet.

21 March 2012

Bronte Pistachio Cake

What would you do if your husband points at a picture of a beautiful cake at the computer and tells you that that may be the next cake that you should be making?   

I looked at the picture he was showing me.  I gulped.  

"That's a LOT of Bronte pistachios in there."

"Yup", he affirmed but really didn't understand my uneasiness. 

As I read the quantity of the pistachios, I gulped again.  A little bit more than half a kilo of pistachios.  From Bronte.  I really don't know if I have that much in stock or better yet, I don't know if I would be willing to use that much of my pistachios.  I only get them from Sicily and the last time I went there, I took home some and my stock was replenished by my husband's relatives who went there and back to Rome.  They were my treasures in the cupboard. 

20 March 2012

Mango, Cinnamon & Basil Smoothie

I had my fun concocting smoothies these past days and for the time being, this is my last.   I think I am already covered for those hurried mornings for quick breakfasts.  Other recipes are calling my attention and I can't wait to cook and share what new things I have discovered. 

19 March 2012

Salmon and Stracchino Rolls

Saturday was market day again and as much as we wanted to be there before the stalls roll away, we, as always, managed to arrive when the vans were starting to pack up their wares. 

I had been looking forward to buying some vegetables and fruits in season especially asparagus and fava beans but I only saw them while racing through the whole stretch of the market. 

16 March 2012

Chamomile, Strawberry & Quinoa Smoothie

I need to stop and smell the flowers.

I need to do nothing and think of nothing for the next hour.

When I am frazzled and stressed, I grab our jar of dried chamomile flowers and and make myself a good cup of chamomile tea.  Then I take it to bed with me and close myself away from the outside noises for an hour.  That's what I need sometimes to get a grip of myself and for my brain and body to reach the right balance again. 

Raspberry & Blueberry Mousse

It's officially spring.  There's no doubt about it.  

It's beautiful.  It's warmer.  There's more life.

Flower and leaf buds are peeking out from the branches, the animals are in full activity, daylight is longer and nature is starting to color .  And this raspberry and blueberry mousse is my tribute to the most beautiful season of the year.  After the cold, heaviness and grayness of winter, here we are, standing outside again, witnessing nature's wake up call. 

14 March 2012

Not So Eton Mess with Matcha Green Tea & Frutti di Bosco

I didn't really know what to call this dessert because it's not really your conventional Eton Mess because of the Matcha green tea addition and the choice of fruit but the basic ingredients and method are the same.  So the most fitting name I could give it is Not So Eton Mess with Matcha Green Tea & Frutti di Bosco.  Don't you agree?

12 March 2012

Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

There is something about me and baking that doesn't connect sometimes.  But I am not one who gives up easily, so persistence is my choice of weapon.  If you read my previous post about the two cakes I baked, Torta Paradiso and Yogurt Cake with Pears, I encountered problems in baking them.  Being  a novice baker, I'm sure it's normal and some of you could have gone through frustrating moments too before arriving to the perfect cakes. 

11 March 2012

Olive Oil & Orange Cake with Pistachios

When your kitchen is replete with one kind of fresh fruit that you know is humanly impossible to deplete even if you have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even ask your neighbors to join in, the only thing to do is to get those pots and jars ready for a marathon of fruit preserving.  I do that when our apricot and quince trees are fully laden with fruits.  Since we never spray anything on them and just rely on the good, old natural help of ladybirds,  they don't last long when harvested.  And that means only one thing.  My fruit preserving marathon days are on. 

09 March 2012

Orzotto (Barley) with Agretti, Shrimp & Oranges

Risotti, orzotti & farrotti.

Rice, barley and emmer wheat cooked in broth to a creamy consistency.   I have yet to familiarize myself with the latter two and there are a lot of ingredients to put together to come up with recipes.  I'm putting aside risotto dishes for a while and focus on orzotti using orzo (barley) and farrotti using farro (emmer wheat), an example of which, farro with pancetta and salsiccia is here.  

Barley and emmer wheat are both very old, I mean ancient, going back to archeological evidences from around 8,500 B.C.

"All the way to the dinosaur age", I fibbed to my son.  

"Really?"   "Really!"  

That got him eating his orzotto.  I know it's a lame excuse to make your child eat and that he would hate me when he finds out the truth.  But for now Mom still wins. 

08 March 2012

Frutti di Bosco, Oat & Almond Smoothie

I know that just a few days ago I came out with the banana, oat & almond smoothie.  This frutti di bosco (or mixed berries) smoothie is actually the same as that one, using different fruits.  I bought some little trays of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries the other day and for some strange reason, the kids didn't deplete them completely.  They usually can't get enough of them and however much I buy, they always disappear fast.   So leftovers are a rarity.

06 March 2012

Wild Strawberries in Prosecco Jelly with Elderflower Syrup


Little strawberries?  Where?   What?   How?

My husband and I were in the middle of a walking trail in Champoussin, Switzerland and I couldn't understand where the strawberries could possibly come from.  At 1,600 meters high and in the middle of a walking trail, we were undeniably away from anything bearing strawberries nor any shop selling them. 

Then I saw minute red dots hidden among the vegetation on the inclined right side of the mountain.  Can those be the strawberries he got all excited about?  They're too small to be strawberries.  But, hold on.  He did say fragol-ine.  Any Italian word attached with the suffixes ine, ini, ina or ino means on a smaller scale.  Strawberries are fragole.  

05 March 2012

Wine and Lemon Artichokes and A Day at The Roman Ghetto

"She can already go out."  Those were the sweetest words that I heard last week.  After a check-up of my daughter's chicken pox, her pediatrician proclaimed her noncontagious and free to join the general population again.  We can finally go out again as a whole family.  Two kids who had chicken pox one after the other confined us at home for almost a month.  And with the weather so wonderful, what is better than going out to take in the sun and celebrate with good food?  Our destination?  Il Ghetto di Roma (The Roman Ghetto).

03 March 2012

Friar's Beard (Agretti) Salad with Anchovy & Lemon Dressing

My first thought when I was shown a bunch of agretti prior to being cooked for lunch was, "Oh God, they eat grass in Italy."  

Like so many new vegetables and fruits I encountered in this country, agretti are one of those that made me feel quite "uninformed" in the subject.   I gape, I ask and I learn about the best preparation of a vegetable, stories attached to it, what season they are eaten, and the conversations continue.   In a country that treats a vegetable as a conversation piece, it's an endless journey anywhere, anytime and with anyone about learning the genuine gastronomy from the local people.  

01 March 2012

Banana, Oat & Almond Smoothie

I know I should be sleeping but I would like you to wake up tomorrow morning with something to put together for a hurried morning.  Put everything together in your blender and in a couple of minutes, you have your breakfast, in a glass.