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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. 

14 September 2012

Pasta in Bianco

The big day finally came and went.  It was the day we had been anxiously waiting and preparing for.  Il primo giorno di scuola! (The first day of school!)

There was a sea of parents holding kids of all ages & sizes in their color-coded grembiuli (school aprons - uniforms), backpacks bigger than the owners, a big vehicular traffic and an incredible noise of excited voices.  With our little troop of 1st year pre-schooler clad in pink gingham grembiule and 2nd grader elementary clad in dark blue grembiule, we managed to go through the chaos of the morning. 

12 September 2012

Hazelnut Pancakes with Roasted Figs & Reduced Marsala Sauce and Hallstatt, Austria

There's a question that has been bugging us for years.  Should we take it down or not? 

We have a full-grown fig tree that is too close to the garage wall that we share with our neighbor.  When we moved in to our house, it had already been big and had been yielding a lot of figs in summer.  I love figs so I am against taking it down.  My husband will save anything that lives so he is also against cutting it.  

10 September 2012

Melon (Cantaloupe) Juice and Gourdon of Alpes-Maritimes, France

Three days to go and school starts in this side of the world too.  I had been looking at numerous photos of my friends' children on their first day of school in the U.S. the past month and I had been thinking that my kids still have a lot of time left in their summer vacation.  I was taking it easy.  There was still a full month to go.  Then three weeks, two, one and now, three days.  In three short days, I have a lot of scheduled stuff crammed.  My son's first sleepover with a friend in our house, two birthdays to put together and organizing my kids' school essentials. 

07 September 2012

Watermelon Pearls in Limoncello

August has gone by quite fast and September came creeping up behind me before I realized that it's already there.  Summer is almost arriving to its conclusion.  Don't we always say that?   I always complain about the heat but I don't know if I am actually ready to let go and face the next season.  But I know that when I see the autumn produce at the markets, I know I will actually forget I even said that. 

06 September 2012

Fregula con Arselle (Sardinian Pasta with Clams) & Sardegna

My eyes have been lingering at the gray skies the past three days.  The rain won't let up and the temperature dropped by 10 degrees at the least.  The sweltering heat with blue skies and unrelenting sun suddenly paved way to a fierce weather of continuous rain, gray skies and heavy clouds.  The weather forecast says that it was going to be a week of a prelude to autumn then we will go back to summer again.  TODAY.

04 September 2012

Cold Pasta with Burrata & Slow Roasted Tomatoes and the Ancient Town of Matera

Burrata had been in my mind  for days and I couldn't shake it away.

So I went out and started looking for one.  It's not like mozzarella that you can find everywhere.  It's like a mushroom that pops out in the shops at random times.  And like a good mushroom, it's hard not to pick it and take it home.  This time though, I was hunting for it.  After three supermarkets, I hit the jackpot and took home my small bundle of joy.

02 September 2012

Crispy Pork Belly in Shrimp Paste (Pork Binagoongan)

My son was very curious about the bottle of shrimp (krill) paste (bagoong alamang in Philippine language) I took out from the cupboard that was doubly wrapped in ziplock.  A lot of questions ensued while I was unwrapping it with great care on the kitchen counter. 

Che cos'è?  It's shrimp paste.  It is properly called bagoong alamang in the Philippines.  
Perchè e' dentro la busta?  Because its oil leaked.  It's smelly and it stains.
Che cos'è shrimp paste?  Sono piccoli gamberi?   Yes, they are very small shrimp that are called krill.  They are fermented, meaning left in large earthen jars for some time with salt for that they are smelly.  They are eaten in Asia and is known with different names per country but it's not eaten in Italy nor the rest of Europe.  Do you know that krills are eaten by whales too?  
Davvero (accompanied with big eyes)?  Yes! But not all whales.  Only the ones with the curtain of brush-like teeth called baleen, hence these whales are called baleen whales.  They go down to the bottom of the ocean, gulp the water and with the use of the baleen, they filter the krill and loosen them with their tongue then finally eat them.