Archive for November, 2010

November 30, 2010

Entusiasmo del principiante

Several eggnog bottles

On Saturday I celebrated my first Thanksgiving ever! Thanksgiving is a bit of a mystery for Europeans – you don’t really think about it until you meet and become friends with some American, and then you realize that our cousins on the other side of the pond have an extra Christmas we just don’t know anything about, and it is not even religious. No  stressful and compulsive shopping required, as well. Just the sheer pleasure of staying together with family and eating. I kind of like it!

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November 22, 2010

Biscotti gialli


I can’t cook much in these days, and to be fair, I cannot even eat much. But this is not stopping me from being obsessed with food.  I am particularly in the mood for baking, or better, I’d be, if I could stand with free hands :). In the end, baking is where it all started, for me at least. New, delicious recipes pop up every day and I just realized how many things I have not tried so far – I want to make a Christmas Pudding and age it for a couple of months; I have never baked a pudding though I have a whole cookbook on them; I have not even tried a fruit cake, and here I find the most delicious dried fruits at the market; I have never made a Black Forest Gateaux and here they make it so good that I changed my mind on its old-fashioned charms. But if I could have my leg back for a couple of hours, I’d probably go for cookies. It’s been ages since I last baked some because of health considerations etc., and now it is just the right moment for them. They are in season.

Going through my archives I found a picture of these biscotti. I remember this batch was not the best one ever because I could not find the right flour type, so they ended up being a little dry. They are maybe the first recipe I learned, a family recipe which at least my grandmother made for sure. I have eaten them for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it is good to bake something so familiar, instead of experimenting.

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November 15, 2010


A few nights ago a weird thing happened. Tens of butterflies decided that they wanted to die looking into my living room. The window glasses were covered with them for hours. My cat seemed to be very happy with it but I found it spooky.

Things are changing.

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November 5, 2010

Squash, Autumn-Winter collection 2010

Sweetcorn, pepper and squash soup

This week is probably the most beautiful one here. The woods, which are dark and green and gloomy in summer, and dark and bare and gloomy in winter, turn into a festive array of yellow, red and green. They manage to bring a little joy to the overcast days.

I am no fan of autumn. I never understood its charms when living in Italy: to us it is just the rain season. It can rain for weeks, with no breaks (this is happening  right now in Italy. Looks like someone up there wants to wipe out all the dirt, which sounds like a good idea, actually; but the ones who get wiped away are never the right ones). In a place like the UK, where it rains most of the summer, autumn can be much sunnier than summer itself. It is a beautiful period. I still remember one poem by Emily Dickinson, which I happen to remember by heart: ‘The morns are meeker than they were.. ‘. I have good reasons for remembering it. When our English teacher made us analyse it for a test, the whole class, 30 reasonably well learned students, concluded it was about spring. How can you say something positive at all about autumn? Take 30 random Italian guys:  we won’t understand a thing about autumn charms. The poem is very clear, but we were all so sure no one could  speak about it in such terms, that we happily ignored all evidences.

With time, I have learned to appreciate this season’s subtleties. Every autumn I also rediscover squash, one of my favourite ingredients ever. The farmers market is bursting with beautiful squashes, but the famous butternut is not the best one around. The winner here is the small Hokkaido, bright orange, together with  a very dense and sweet one with a thick and dark green peel, not unlike Kabocha. Also pumpkins are quite flavourful.

I try new recipes when I am so inclined, but I like squash so much that every time I develop a series of simple go-to favourites, which are  what I cook most times, on a daily basis. I had years where most of the pumpkins would go in pasta (I love gratin pasta with savoy cabbage and pumpkin) or just  mashed with garlic or shallots and some herbs. This year I often go for soups and roasted squash.

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