Posts tagged ‘Vegan’

April 22, 2011

La pasta e fagioli

Pasta e fagioli

Mare o montagna?

“Seaside or mountains?”

A common conversation topic, from an era where cheap air travel was not available and exotic destinations were out of reach.

In Italy we are spoiled: we have a huge choice of breathtaking landscapes and touristic destinations, to suit any taste. Seaside or mountains was a serious question, more of a lifestyle choice than a mere preference. Both had renewed health advantages and sought-after entertainment options, both had shortfalls and limitations. I’m pretty sure that the famed Italian TG1 (the leading news on TV) still airs a couple of times every summer an innovative service over the advantages of spending your holidays in one place as opposed to the other. Year after year the same footage, the same phrases: I can see them neatly folded, ready to be taken out of the archives at the appropriate time, together with ‘the festivity diet’, ‘heat wave alarm’, ‘Arctic frost alarm’, ‘la Maturita’ this year’ (high school diploma), and ‘Internet will make your child sick’.   Reassuring, in a way.

March 20, 2011

Mung beans, and the curry

Mung beans, coconut and spices for a curry

I have to admit it. I am a serial spice buyer. I need to have them all. I cannot read about a spice and not have it. I want spices with the avidity of a collector.

There is a childish pleasure in rummaging through the messy closet that contains them all, in their unappealing plastic bags. At my mum’s home spices dwell in a neat, dedicated part of a drawer. Each of them is stored in a tiny tin or glass jar, collected over the years. Many spices have been there for ages, literally. I know my mum shares my fascination for spices, but quite frankly there is not that much room for spices in an Italian kitchen, so she buys them and they stay there until they grow tasteless. They have to fight for space with dried herbs, which my parents not only like, but also enjoy foraging themselves: one year I counted eight  types of dried oregano, then there are wild juniper berries, myrtus, rosemary, sage, and let us not even start with caraway (which nobody likes, but is real fun to pick up). Now and again my mother will venture in a spiced recipe, with mixed outcomes: I still remember a vegetable strudel with coriander seeds she had read about somewhere. The coriander was whole, and it was the only spice, and it was a lot. I thought I hated coriander for years, and wondered how people could eat it. I did however like curry. I did not even know that curry was not ‘one’ spice. It came in jars, sometimes it was more pungent, others a bit bland, and it had the brightest colour. There was one dish we made with it: a Talismano dish with chicken and prawns cooked in coconut milk (we always used real coconut because you could not find canned coconut milk) and curry, served with ‘Indian rice’, o ‘riso all’indiana’ – which I was convinced referred to native Americans, for some reason, when I was a child.

March 17, 2011

Thinking of Japan

Sesame and spinach

A constant thought, in these days. I hope Japan will be able to recover soon. And we will be thinking about  its fabulous food, cinema, literature, design, technological innovations again, when we think of Japan.

Hourensou no gomaae (Spinach with sesame sauce)

Presentation from this restaurant, recipe from Just Bento

Ingredients: (serves two)

two big bunch of spinach (about 300 grams)

equipment: a sushi mat

Sauce:

2 tablespoon white sesame seeds

2-3 teaspoon tamari

1/2 tablespoon mirin

2 teaspoon sugar

Method: Remove the roots from the spinach but keep all the stalk, and keep them in bundle form as much as possible. Wash in cold water until no grit is left. Bring a wide pan of water to the boil, drop in the spinach, blanch for about a minute and drain. Cool under cold, running water. Squeeze gently with your hand. Have a sushi mat ready. Arrange the spinach neatly on it, with all the stalks on one side. Fold the tips so that the ends will be more even. Roll the sushi mat, press gently with your fingers to get a squarish log. Press well and leave for a while slightly inclined so that the water can run away. When water is no longer dripping off it, put the roll within its sushi mat in the fridge until needed.

For the sauce: if not toasted, toast your sesame seeds: heat a small heavy pan, add the sesame seeds and gently roll the pan until they start to pop. Take care because at this stage they go from toasted to burned in a second.

Put the toasted sesame seeds in a mortar and crush them with a circular movement. Add sugar and crush a bit more;  add mirin and soy sauce; taste and adjust the flavours to your liking. It should be definitely sweet, definitely salty and very flavorful. To serve, arrange some sauce on a small dish, cut the spinach log using a sharp knife in two – three pieces,  discarding the extremities if they are not neat, and arrange on top of the sauce.

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 20, 2011

How to make carrots interesting

Spicy carrot salat

There is always some vegetable that even the most hard-core vegetable lover dislikes. I count myself as a hard-core vegetable lover: I can rant for hours about the secret pleasures of artichokes or the juicy consistency of asparagus. I eat vegetables because they are good-for-you, sure, but mainly I eat them because I want to eat them. I want to cook with them. Whenever I go to the market, I have to stop myself from buying too much. I am a compulsive vegetable shopper, I admit it, and nothing excites me more than a good-looking (and better tasting!) fruit and veggies stall. My vegetable love has always been one of the distinctive tract of my personality: my sister is the one who eats only meat, I am the one who eats only vegs. We are a team, when it comes to eating.

January 11, 2011

Winter here

Orange fennel salad

To me, winter was fog. When I was a child fog was thicker, especially in town. Fog has a distinctive smell; it dampens sound; it reveals architectural details that otherwise would go unnoticed, hiding the ugliness of the whole; it is beautiful on flat rice fields, where you could be in a lost, far away world, and the farmer’s house could be a witch’s den. I find fog very charming and I miss it sometimes.

December 4, 2010

Just a few ingredients

Mashed squash with tomatoes

I am slowly going back to the kitchen. Which is all I want to do, really, with the ice and snow and dark out there.

My body has gone in hibernation mode, like nature out there. Since I cannot move, it has kindly switched off hunger, so that eating less is much easier. I never managed to diet successfully: actually, just the word ‘diet’ gives me sweaty palms. I am not thin and I think you might have a sneaky suspicion that I kind of like eating at this point, but  I have always managed to keep my weight more or less stable. Now I know I have some internal regulator to thank for. Certainly not my iron will to resist temptations…

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.

June 9, 2010

Green dips

Wasabi and avocado dip

This is a tasty and quick dip I ate at a Japanese friend’s house. She mixed it with a little mayo and served it with tomato and lettuce salad; I omitted the mayo and went for carrots. Both ways, it is a pleasant change if you like wasabi (which I do) and if you have had enough Guacamole (which I don’t). It is probably not as good as Guacamole, then, but it is still quite good.

I also give you the recipe of guacamole as I prepare it. A friend of mine taught it to me, when she came back after a long stay  in South America.  I did not like avocado that much then, and Guacamole was an eye-opener. She was my best friend when we were children, and we have lost and found each other a million times since then. She now lives in South America again, and I don’t have much chances for contact. We occasionally exchange news, because, twenty years later, our mothers  – who  still live next door to each other – became close friends. Still,  I miss her. She’ll always have the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.

Avocado and Wasabi dip

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado, peeled and stoned
few drops of lemon juice
salt
1 scant teaspoon wasabi (start with a little less if you don’t like hot food)

Method: Mix everything using a food processor or a fork. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately, or it will turn black.

Guacamole

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado, peeled and stoned
juice of one lime
at least one fresh red hot chilli pepper, or more to taste
2  spring onions, most of the green part removed
salt

Method:  I prefer it a little chunky, so I use a fork to smash the avocado and chop chilli and onions. When I don’t have time I just use a food processor. Mix together, add lime juice and salt, taste and add more according to taste. Serve immediately.

June 1, 2010

Gelatine 2.0

Strawberry and wine jelly

The traditional everyday desserts at my grandparent’s home were two. In winter, it was pears, or apples, with some dried prunes, cooked with a little wine, sugar and spices; in summer, it was fresh fruit marinated in wine: strawberries in spring, peaches in summer, various berries when we picked them up in the mountains. My father still retains a passion for these desserts. My mother hates them. I have a kind of mixed feeling for them.

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