Posts tagged ‘Basics’

June 15, 2011

When I miss home – blede e patate

Blede - potatoes and swiss chard

It is easy to be carried away by memories, especially when they are connected to food. So bear with me. I know this recipe is simple, but this little side dish, blede con patate, chard and potatoes,  is a symbol of what I want to carry with me.

I probably tasted it the very first day I moved out. I was going to live on my own, finally, something I’ve always wanted so badly. And now that was happening, me armed with a big, heavy suitcase, on a train heading east. The phone beeped, a message. The guy I’d met at the hostel the other time, he came from Milan like me, the mathematician with funny glasses. Would I meet him for lunch? Well, why not. It sounded good. A great start for making new friends in my new town, actually.

We met on  a rainy night. It was not the first night for me in Trieste. I had already been there a few years before, and I remembered the landscape, the city gleaming over the water from the pier right below the hostel at Miramare. The pier, a great place where to sit and think, where I took all of the hardest decisions in my life. But that was yet to come: that night, it rained, and I was yet so much of a child. I came with a friend to take a test for a job. We were both nervous and depressed by the heavy rain. It was dinner time and we needed food, so we just crossed the piazza from the station and headed to the first bar. I have never returned to that bar for some reason, but it did surprise me. The food was good, fresh, something you don’t expect from the anonymous place right in front of the station. Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and fresh sardine. Fresh and good as they can be, and this can happen only at sea. We caught the bus to the hostel, the last one. It had stopped raining, and we walked in the scented air, a scent of rain and sea. And then we sat on the main room at the hostel , and it was full of young people like us, and we started chatting. Somehow the topic turned to food and  I launched into one of my monologues that would eventually evolve into this blog – on gubana, a typical pastry filled with dried fruit and made with a brioche like dough (at least the version I was more familiar with from Friuli, but things change wildly here in a few kilometers) and how you should eat it with some slivovitz  (prune spirit) to keep it moist. I noticed the guy with the funny glasses looking at me, his eyes gleaming with interest. I did not know it, but I had already conquered an ally for my culinary obsessions.

June 2, 2011

Fail proof roast recipe for emergencies

pork roast with milk

I know there is something going on in my life when my ‘draft’ count for new posts reaches unmanageable heights. I often just jot down  any recipe I like and then delete it if I find out I don’t like it that much, or keep and add a story to it if I really like it. The process usually works quite well. I can be a very organised person, as much as I can be a total mess when I don’t care about something. I always care about cooking and blogging, so I am organised in it. But my life has been such an emotional rollercoaster lately that I can’t think of a reasonable, consequential  way of cooking, or presenting ideas, or styling and taking pictures, or clearing my mind in whatever way.

I am in a frenzy of energy, but I’m less busy than usual, which means I end up shuffling things around and not getting anything done. Horrible feeling: I deeply dislike finding myself in this state. I think I should really be doing things and seeing people and making phone calls and then spend hours doing totally useless things. This reflects into the kitchen: I bookmark items and shop for random ingredients and then at dinnertime find not a single one of the ingredients I need.

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March 5, 2011

Sprouted chickpea falafel: spring is in the air

Sprouted chickpea falafel

Have you ever tried sprouting beans? I hadn’t until about a month ago. I was intimidated, with all the times I had forgotten beans into their soaking water and they fermented, by the expensive and complicated looking sprouting kits at the organic store, and, last but not least, by the fact that some sprouts are poisonous. I have never understood how sprouting works, other than it is an incredibly complex process, involving structural changes in the biochemistry of a seed, which means that what you eat is going to be different. In most cases, better.

February 28, 2011

Luxury choux from Ladurée


Eclair

I had not picked up all of my Christmas presents yet: I finally managed to see my sister, and her gift was this lovely book:

Laduree book

a collection of sweet recipes as prepared at la Maison Ladurée, possibly where all the craze about macarons started. It is a book of beauty, with delicate pictures and alluring desserts, where the recurrent colours and flavours, somehow a signature of the maison, form a pattern through the whole book. Pale green and pistachio, vivid pink and raspberry, pale pink and rose. There are plenty of  classic recipes, and for my first dessert out of this book I chose the most classic of classics, possibly: éclair à la vanille. The reason for that – if you ever need a reason for wanting to make éclair à la vanille! – is that the recipe started with making a vanilla pâte sablée. On top of each éclair, there is a thin layer of pâte sablée. When you cook them, the sablée melts into the choux and gets mostly incorporated. Mostly: a thin layer stays on top, so you get a perfect éclair, with a thin crunchy layer on top, and a more pronounced butter and vanilla flavour. Pure genius. This is something I would not have thought about, and even when tasting them, I probably would not have guessed, because the layer is so thin. When you bite into them, they are classic éclairs, with a boost.

January 4, 2011

Ragù, part two: la bolognese

Ragu' alla bologneseSometimes we just forget how good basics are, and this is why we have  holidays, that  give you the opportunity to review the classics. One year ago, roughly, I took my time to cook properly for the New Year’s Eve and made ragù alla napoletana, and sartù. This year I kept it even simpler: I made gulash and classic lasagne, with ragù alla bolognese. The original take on the famed bolognese sauce, yes. I came out with a new resolution: do more of this, the next year.

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October 21, 2010

Pasta for weekday entertainment

Pasta with oven roasted tomatoesI realized I have posted incredibly few pasta recipes, compared to how often I cook it. Often people ask me what common beliefs about Italians are true. One is that we move our hands a lot when we talk. Another one is that we eat a lot of pasta: we are ‘mangiaspaghetti’, and proudly so. Pasta is good, cheap and also healthy, depending on the sauce choice of course. I love pasta and cook it quite often, though maybe not every day.

October 18, 2010

Cooking rice

Risotto with wild mushrooms

Rice is a visual as much as a taste memory of my childhood.  In the flat part of  Northern Italy where I grew up, it is one of the most visible fields out in the landscape, together with corn and wine. Only, corn is easy to spot only in late summer, thanks to its sky-high (for a child) plants. Wines are naked and almost invisible in winter and often the wines are cut low. Rice is impossible to miss.  For a long period of time the fields are flooded and create a beautiful, haunting landscape of water reflecting the sky, where the only solid objects appear to be the few streets and the birds, often lost in the mist, with a few far away brick houses. Then the fields will explode in the most vivid green later, while sprouting, and then turn to darker colours and eventually to yellow.

May 3, 2010

A few of my favourite things

Bean pattiesThere exist millions of interesting  blogs out there. Billions of wonderful recipes. We can’t reasonably try them all. Of those that we do try,   just a few enter into the ‘all time favourite’ list. Others, you make a couple of time, and then you forget. Then a year goes by, and something reminds you of that great recipe that would just be perfect for the particular occasion.

Sometimes you remember it all: who where and when posted it. Maybe you made a bookmark or a clipping or whatever. Then you go there, and the blog is gone.

However, that is not what usually happens, for me at least. Most of the time what happens is that I simply forget where the recipe came from. Even if I did save the recipe in my ‘ to do ‘ list, well, the list is a bit too long to find it easily.

Sometimes I like the recipe so much, or I tweak it so much, that I like to actually rewrite the recipe here, in my space.

But sometimes the original post is so good and clear that there is really no need for that. So I thought that for me it is going to be useful to post a roundup of my favourite recipes, now and again. I also thought you might like me to share it, just to get a few new (at least double tested) ideas. I’ll start with a few recipes I’ve been collecting in the last months – I hope this becomes a regular habit.

March 26, 2010

That’s cheating

I previously mentioned how sometimes you can, and actually should, cut corners when cooking. I also previously mentioned how much I trust this blog. It is one of those blogs whose recipes have all the wow factor you may want or need, are clearly explained and are 100% reliable.

This blog recently posted a recipe for puff pastry. I tried it. Not only did it work, not only was it easy, indeed, drop dead easy, indeed, almost as easy as walking to the store and buying puff pastry. Not only all of these, but also, the result was better. I mean, not only better than store bought stuff, but better than the results you get when you don’t cut any corners at all. I am not scared of challenges, when it comes to cooking.  And I did try once or twice to make puff pastry, on very special occasions. I hated myself for my stubbornness and cried on broken pastry and butter everywhere in my kitchen. You know, just the regular puff pastry experience. After all that effort I was then of course ready to swear that my puff pastry was the best one in the whole world, and you know, it was not exactly  bad – the point is that in the end, all in all, puff pastry is definitely – let us face it – definitely not worth the effort.

February 28, 2010

Breakfast time

Can you think of a better way to start the day, other than eating? I love breakfast. I need something that will fill me up until lunch time, and possibly even later. My allocated time slot for breakfast is between five and six minutes, and besides, please don’t ask me to cook anything on a week day morning (on the other hand, I just love making pancakes on weekends).

I need coffee. Made with a caffettiera, of course – even though I admit mine is not pink, just a plain metal one :)

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