Archive for September, 2011

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.

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September 18, 2011

Bread, tomato and olive oil

Bread crumb filled tomatoesI did not have the opportunity to enjoy this summer much. I grew to love summer over the years; it probably helps that I don’t have to endure any more  the tropical heat and humidity in Milan, usually lasting about four months. It is difficult to resist the feeling of ripeness that pervades everything, the abundance of light in the sky  and produce in the markets. But this year I was just too focussed and busy; it did not feel right. I have a sort of  wiring, you see: summer needs to involve at least some holidays and laziness and outdoors. This particular summer was just full of events and fresh starts, worries and planning, and making sure everything goes smoothly. Not enough barbecues, not enough swims, not enough singing sitting around a campfire.

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September 11, 2011

A trail from the past

Licorice sticks

I think Italians inevitably have a strongly felt relationship with the past. We see traces of it everywhere. Our particularly grand past left  not only works of arts: it is quite common to walk on carriage tracks on a stone paved Roman highway, or that the basis of our modern water system actually follows a Roman aqueduct. These traces don’t have much to do with the hours of history at school, although an illuminated teacher may bring you to see otherwise. When I was a child I loved reading about the past, about archeology and lost civilizations; what I hated were the hours of memorizing dates and  names of kings and generals and battles. I just could not see what a devastating impact those now boring and sterile events had had on the daily lives of those who lived at that time, how they had changed their world, as well as, in the end, shaped mine.

Now I am a little wiser  but not much more learned, unfortunately. At least, I do recognize the vital role of kings and battles, and anyway this is often all we know. Normal people, people like us, just don’t leave a trail that will be visible after more than a few generations.  Do you have an idea of many generations it is, 5000 years? I certainly don’t. I can’t imagine such a remote past, beyond the few facts historians are able to tell us.

And yet. Laura Kelley, the talented author and learned scholar behind The Silk Road Gourmet, is challenging everyone to get in touch quite intimately with possibly one of the first civilizations in history, the one on chapter 1 of book 1 of a history manual: the Mesopotamians. She has selected a number of recipes of Mesopotamian origin, adding new interpretations to the difficult and controversial translations. Of course the recipes are sketchy at best – but anyway, did you ever try to ask an Italian nonna for a recipe? I gave a try to ‘Meat with licorice’, one of the oldest recipes in the challenge and probably also in history,  which I translated into a fancy looking  gastro-pub style pork tendeloin with licorice sauce. It was delicious. If you have never thought of using licorice with savoury dishes, you should give it a try (I’m not talking about licorice candy, the black sweet strings or rolls, I’m talking about licorice root here – I’ve seen recipes using the black industrial stuff when researching this dish, but the idea really freaks me out). There are already many more interpretations of other dishes there if you want to have a look, from stews to pilafs to dessert, even. And even more dishes waiting for a modern eye revision. Head over to Laura’s and see if anything inspires you. There is a lot to discover.

September 1, 2011

Ten things I hate when moving

1. The impression I will never ever settle.

2. The horrible houses we saw when house hunting. I don’t mean to judge other people’s lifestyle, but I wonder how some people can survive with so much clutter around.

3. I can’t find anything of the things I have brought with me.

4. Maybe point 3 is  because some of the things I did bring with me are not useful, while what I actually needed is packed in one of my hundred (a bit more actually) boxes, which at the moment are sitting more than a thousand kilometers away. And then I judge other people’s clutter.

5. I brought no spices. I don’t want to buy rubbish, stale supermarket ones,  just to find myself with doubles. The ones I have missed the most? Chili. Cumin. Paprika. I have given up and bought chili today.

6. I have no natural light to photograph dishes. But this does not matter because my big, awesome DSRL is sitting at more than a thousand kilometers away. Anyway, this does not matter. I am cooking survival food, and it already feels like an ordeal. Anybody needs a recipe for pasta al pomodoro with tasteless tinned tomatoes?

7. Why oh why do British people have to be surrounded by carpet, of all things?

8. I have no coffee machine. This could be included in number 4, but hey, my blog is called La caffettiera rosa, in case you have not noticed. No caffettiera!

9. I have six mobile phones at the moment lined up on the desk close to me. Six. I wonder how on Earth this became my life. And I even know most of their numbers by heart. And they all need to be charged and working, in case there is some emergency in one of the corners of the world we’re related to.

10. I had to leave my cats behind for the moment and even though I’m going to see them soon, I really miss having them around. They break tension so much when you need it.

Ok, I admit it. I am moaning. Here are ten things I am very happy about/ deeply grateful for:

1. The sea. And the number of sailing boats in it.

2. Sunshine in the UK. You can’t help loving it.

3. Working internet connection on the temporary accommodation. A million problems solved in one go.

4. Being able to speak English, instead of having to make do with my stuttering German. I don’t mind my accent on English. At least I can express what I want to say. And the people here have probably the clearest accent in history.

5. The English countryside.

6. When driving here we passed yet another hill and Stonehenge appeared. Breathtaking.

7. I already have a job, which I’ve kept all the time through the moves. It does makes things more tiring because I have to worry about work now, but at least there is no added pressure from not having an income in this moment.  I should never forget how lucky I am.

8. I did bring my German knife. And a chopping board. And my pressure cooker. And my olive oil and dried tomatoes. They make cooking bearable.

9. The place we moved to, Plymouth, is actually very nice. Tons of things to do, places to discover… If only we had a little time. And people are so friendly, you could make friends with anyone. The guy on one of the houses we saw yesterday spent ten minutes showing off his home-made wine, 26% volume. Eek. Thankfully he did not offer a taste.

10. And of course, the person I’m sharing this adventure with. I would and could not do it without him.

Disclaimer: random order here. I’m too tired to think of ordering, but I already feel much better by writing it all down. I still have  a couple of positive or at least ‘not negative’ to add ( I really don’t mind driving on the other side of the road, after the initial panic; garden peas, how sweet can they be?). And now that I think about it, maybe another negative or two – the bread, how chemical can it taste?

I will survive. I hope.