Posts tagged ‘Vegetarian’

January 13, 2012

Tortelli di zucca

Tortelli di zucca

I always feel a bit disappointed when January comes and spring is not already here. The days are still grey, the nights are still deep and long, vegetables are still cabbage and roots, and I’ve already had my fair share, thank you: I’m ready for spring. Not that it is cold, not here, and not that I expect spring or summer to be any less rainy – if anything, I know from experience they will be more.

Christmas day this year was just like that. A grey, overcast day, warm, short. We woke up suitably late, opened our presents, had pancakes for breakfast, and then we got to work. Our family was in Italy, we were here all by ourselves. It felt unusually quiet and intimate. We spent the morning making roasted squash tortelli. We ate them for lunch, and they were like little pockets of sunshine.

January 6, 2012

A brand new year, and a few festive bits

Sea in Plymouth

.. It’s been quite quiet around here lately, hasn’t it? I have barely opened my computer – any computer – in the last two weeks. I needed time, I’ve been needing it for quite a long time: time off, simple as that.

It’s been two long weeks of taking time. I stayed here in my new home or quite close by, alone or with my partner, or with some friends. I’ve been missing my family, an inevitable feeling at Christmas. But all in all, it was a great time. I had time to talk it over and to think about what I want to do: although I have not taken any decision yet, I feel more confident and in control. I had time to explore the surroundings with the leisurely lazy pace of the local, not the frantic-holidaymaker-who-ticks-all-the-boxes pace I usually have. I had time to sleep, to start taking care of my garden, to read books.

December 16, 2011

Buckwheat obsession: pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri

Do you ever get periods when you are obsessed with some ingredient or flavour? Whenever I imagine to cook something right now, I think it would taste better if it contained some buckwheat. I am not sure what triggered it. It is a grain I’ve always found rich and complex and I’ve always been fond of.  In the mountains around Milan, where I grew up, it is a common fare. It is a hardy, resistant crop able to grow in poor soils, and it actually likes the cool and rainy summers in the mountains. It does not need as much sun as ordinary wheat, a grain with which buckwheat bears no connection whatsoever, other than  the name.

November 23, 2011

Apple strudel

Apple strudel

A while ago, Sigrid asked her readers to share a grandmother’s recipe for an apple cake or pie. Adding the link, I realized it was quite a while ago, much longer than what I intended; on the other hand, this is just the best period ever for making apple cakes. I actually have two of those recipes that are part of my tradition; they both are recipes my mother regularly made for me. One of them is a simple, moist apple cake, perfect for dunking in milk. I think the recipe comes from my grandmother, but who knows where she took it.

The other recipe is a more challenging and ‘grown up’ dessert: strudel di mele. Strudel is a thin layer of dough rolled with something in it; it can be savoury, or more often sweet. Most people are accustomed to the variety made with puff pastry, quite greasy and sugary, which I don’t particularly like. The original has a thinner, less fat dough, quite common in the (also) German-speaking part of Italy and in Austria. In the regions where Austria met the Balkans, like Slovenia, an even thinner version is wide-spread, with almost no fat in it: actually, given that Wikipedia traces the origin of strudel to Levantine pastries like baklava, this is probably the most faithful version. The recipe we use in my family definitely belongs to the latter group; it comes straight from a lady who ran from the occupied Istria to Italy at some point. She was Italian – or rather, she spoke Italian as a first language, but her hair was blonde, almost white, and her eyes were blue; I’m not sure whether she would have considered herself being Italian, since these otherwise straightforward adjectives can be quite unaccurate and very dangerous  when applied to some sensitive parts of the world.  Her granddaughter is my mom’s best friend. She too is blond, in a way very few Italians are.

November 16, 2011

Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup

This is not exactly the post I had in mind when I decided I had to share this soup with you. While living with my parents I was not cooking much at all,  and I was not cooking the type of food I crave daily. That food, after a few days of feasting on cheese, was essentially one: soup, loaded with vegetables, legumes, fibers, spices, herbs, chillies, hot, filling, easy to digest. I am addicted to that feeling of a warm and full, but not overloaded,  belly. I then decided that to celebrate the control I was going to regain in my kitchen and my life, I’d share a lot of soup recipes, whether from blogs, books, or my own fantasy. We all need more soup in our life.

So when I made this soup whose recipe I found in Smitten Kitchen, and it exactly what I had been craving for: hot, filling, spicy, comforting, great leftovers… I thought I finally was starting to get it. I had the first soup of a long series of soups to share.

October 11, 2011

Tagliatelle al basilico

Tagliatelle al basilico

Sunday evening. We’ve been packing all weekend, and then fixing the last few things in the house: filling holes in the wall with plaster and painting them (my plastering skills are something I am so proud of, one of the few things for which I am apparently a natural). Then a tour of the apartment, to double check what is left for packing.  I went through the kitchen cupboard and realized I had not packed my pasta machine yet.

Of course there is a box where it could sit. It should.

Well. I’ve always wanted to try a twist on pasta, and there is some basil sitting on the fridge so.. . so here I am making home-made pasta in the middle of a removal. And you know what? I totally recommend it.

September 26, 2011

A bookmarked recipe: creamy wax beans

Serbian wax beans

My bookmarks clearly reveal my food obsessions, much more than what I actually end up cooking or posting about. I have an unthinkable amount of brioches, yeast based cakes and breads recipes of all kinds, from skillet bread to sourdough. I don’t cook my way through them much, though. I try not to eat this kind of food that often, but it is my favourite food in the world, both to eat and to cook: it all started from here with cooking, for me. I have some favourite recipes I prepare maybe once or twice a year, but I’m always dreaming to take a day off and spend it in some 12-hours super complex brioche dough.

Close to these far-fetched dreams of recipes, there is  a number of everyday’s recipes, most of them involving legumes and vegetables, which are going to be tried on a weekday for a twist on the usual favourites. I clean them with reasonable regularity; several have become favourites. Last but not least, in my bookmarks there is a vast array of recipes for studying: details on making custard tofu, a onigiri combination, a Thai salad… It is almost always Far Asian food I am exploring in this period, from Japanese to Chinese to Korean. A proper food obsession of mine.

August 19, 2011

Pantry cleaning: Seeded granola

Seeded Granola

I am cleaning my pantry.

Here are some embarrassing items I have found – embarrassing because I’m not going to use them before I leave:

1) A can of sweetened adzuki beans, bought with some vague Japanese dessert plan, and who left me wondering why exactly can’t I make it from real adzuki in case I wanted to. I still don’t have an answer to that, and anyway the chances of me trying my hand at doing adzuki paste filled mochi are getting thinner by the hour.

2) A small sachet of powdered ‘latte macchiato’, a promotional gift from a pharmacy. There are a lot of pharmacies in Germany and they try to buy you out by giving you little presents – these particular powders were awful, and I’m not sure of why I kept them – or maybe they were not that awful, it is just that I’m not into powdered drinks. I preferred the pharmacy where they gave you little paper blocks.

3) A bag of kamut, the oldest item to date, bought a few days after I moved to Germany in a moment of enthusiasm for all the organic supermarkets: I did not like it, I found it bland when compared to spelt or barley, and it takes ages to cook.

4) Three packets of powdered sugar. When I think I have finished something, I keep on buying it until I have a huge supply. Three packets of breadcrumbs, same logic.

5) A bar of agar agar, bought before I found where they sell the powder here, and mother to more than one culinary disaster – I’d like to know what was in the head of the supermarket’s buyer when he decided to stock solid agar agar as opposed to powder.

6) Some Vietnamese rice paper, and with ‘some’ I mean something like two hundred leaves: considering that four are plenty for a meal, and that I make little rice paper rolls – very cute! – maybe every two months, I wonder how long this stock could last me.

But there is plenty of interesting stuff as well: Italian Venere rice, pitch black, still vacuum packed; my mother’s candied tomatoes and some Calabrese sun-dried tomatoes in oil, both extremely useful for I’m-too-tired-from-packing-to-cook type of dinners.  

June 6, 2011

The secret to weight loss

Peach ginger muffin

I am quite happy with the way I eat (and cook). It served me well over the years not to gain any weight, and to have plenty of energy to carry on with my activities.  Of course there are (more than) occasional treats, but overall I’d say my diet is quite balanced. I am not thin, never have been,  but I still have the same size – actually, nearly the same weight – of ten years ago. It could not be any other way, because first, I hate feeling out of shape, and second, I can’t diet. Like in, follow a set diet to lose weight. The ‘d’ word itself gives me sweaty palms and an anxiety that can increase my hunger to epical amounts. I never eat as much and as badly as when I’m trying to follow a ‘diet’.

This is a personal problem however. My partner on the other hand has much more discipline, and a worse metabolism.

A couple of months ago I decided I needed a special treat and ordered myself a pile of cookbooks. Some of them were definitely health oriented (the excellent ‘Just bento cookbook‘, and Heidi’s first book). But for the first time, I had also ordered a book devoted to baking only. As I leafed through it, I admired the gorgeous, homely, intimate photography, and I could not wait to try the many enticing flavour combinations, the rich fruit compotes, the soft pillows of pancakes.. And my partner, drooling, was spying over my shoulder.

‘This book is going to be dangerous.’ I joked.

‘ Fair enough –  he answered – you’ll have it back when I have lost five kilos’

And snatched the book away.

May 19, 2011

As a starter a cappuccino, please

Asparagus cappuccino with cinnamon air

Would you start your dinner with a cappuccino? If you are Italian, of course you won’t even finish your dinner with a cappuccino, let alone have it as an amuse-bouche.

However, this is what I did tonight. And I can’t advise you strongly enough to do the same, asap.

It all started with a restaurant.

I have already told you about my favourite restaurant here. When I lived in Wales my favourite restaurant was exactly the opposite type: posh food, made only with local, seasonal  ingredients, run by local people, in a stunning location. The restaurant was renown to be among the ‘fine dining’ ones in the area, thus we waited quite a while before trying it: posh places ended up all too often in the same ol’ barely edible food and a double price tag.

When we did go there eventually, we were truly sorry for not having eaten there before. We were truly sorry for having previously wasted our money in other restaurants, posh or not. The dining room had just a few tables and was set in a stone cottage, immersed in an ”area of outstanding natural beauty”, in front of the ocean. Part of the charms was due to the cozy, homely atmosphere given by the huge stone fireplace in that tiny, dark room. We knew the food was different the moment we were served home-made bread of two types, both really good: finding good bread in Wales was harder than finding the Holy Grail. The menu was seasonal, local, well thought after, and cooked with skill . You see, eating out in Wales was an adrenaline sport: we tried a new place not much with the expectation of getting good food, but more with the hope of avoiding food poisoning. On the other hand, I have cooked some of my most amazing meals there: local produce was nothing short of stunning.

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