Archive for ‘Blogsphere favourites’

December 2, 2011

Late autumn dinner: pear and almond galette

Pear and almond galette

I feel much better, although I’m not sure how long it is going to last. Add to this that the season is just perfect for baking: it is not yet cold outside, not really, and I don’t keep the heating on that much, but a warm oven is definitely welcome for the little heat it produces. So here I am, in the middle of a baking frenzy.

I am becoming friends with the new oven. I still need to dig out the instructions for it, because it is of a type I never had before. It is made of two smaller ovens stacked one on top of the other, both gas fuelled. The top one seems to have a broiler and some sort of ventilation going on, but I don’t really get it. The bottom one seems more conventional. In Italy I always had gas ovens but they were larger – the monster being my mum’s 90 cm large oven, spectacular in its early days, when you could bake a roast, potatoes, bread and a cake, if you could make the temperatures somehow work together, or you could bake half a kilo of biscotti for our Christmas production in one go. This oven collapsed a few months ago, and was recently replaced with an equally sized beast, after a long agony where making it work involved a complicated process with a protective metal plate and some mountaineering ropes. I hope the new one will do as well as the old one, although I feel it is a bit oversized.

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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 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.

July 26, 2011

Nibbling roasted chickpeas

Roasted chickpeas

Summer is gone astray here. It rains and rains and rains. There are no chances to enjoy my favourite activities at home, which are two. I have a shared garden that nobody else uses, where we can have barbecues. We had no opportunity for a barbecue since last month. And then, I have a terrace above my head. I rarely go there, surely not in winter when it is covered with snow. But the views are great and it faces west, so sitting there in the evening with one of the excellent German beers and something to nibble on is a great way to unwind after a working day. There are a couple of challenges involved though:  making sure the bare wood on the floor is not wet or humid, which requires this rain to stop for at least a couple of days; trying to convince the cats not to jump down from the roof; and managing to climb the very steep ladder down even after a beer. Which makes the snacking part vital. The food must be easy to carry (you need at least one hand to climb up that ladder, so one trip for the beer and one for the snack), it must be tasty, it must be healthy because I can’t keep on putting on weight, and then you have to have some dinner, right?

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May 9, 2011

Zum Grillen

Barbecued mushrooms

It is again that time of the year where white signals of smoke dot the valley.

Germans love grilling. Even at Christmas markets there is always a grill stand, with a spectacular round grill hanging from the ceiling, suspended over glimmering charcoals. They grill the much-loved Wursts in all varieties, but also Frikadellen (the über-fatty original of hamburgers), and pre-marinade steaks, mainly pork. There was a recent article on the  local newspaper about how local political representatives decided to volunteer for grilling for charity – the CDU, the right-wing, conservative party, has decided to take care of the Würstchen, while the SPD, the more left-wing party, is going to barbecue pork steaks. Whether the Greens were offering a vegetarian option was not reported, but highly unlikely in my opinion. It was specified however that in order to simplify the organisation, the public should bring the drinks – that is, beer. Both parties are quite moderate in their positions anyway, and the newspaper made it clear that no political connotation would be given to food choice. Here is the picture appearing on the original article:

Another different grilling contribution is given by the numerous Gastarbeitern (guest workers) of Turkish origin who live here. I recently read a book written by a German-Turkish journalist, who grew up in Duisburg, a stone’s throw away from where I live. The title is sweet – “Einmal Hans mit sharfer Soβe”,  Hans being  the archetypical German boy. The title can be translated as : ‘A Hans served with hot sauce, please’. A phrase you’d use to order a kebab. Such a pretty way to capture the author’s torn identity between being German and Turkish, especially when it comes to finding the right man. She herself does not cook, but devotes pages and pages to her mom’s epic cooking and her dad’s equally epic barbecues. Allegedly in Berlin the Turkish habit of grilling in all spaces of public green, particularly in front of the Parliament, has caused some initial grumbles among the Germans, who, after an adjustment period,  have actually joined the Turks in their grilling frenzy.

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December 10, 2010

Panini and Burgers

pane e panelle

Pane e panelle

When you see a queue in front of a food shop, it is usually a good sign. It is even better, if you can sneak a peek into what other people are coming out with  from that shop – brown paper bags in which they bite with gusto. You know you can’t miss it, when the rest of the town is pretty much deserted.

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October 28, 2010

The patient art of loving vegetables

Pea dumplings

I am not a vegetarian. Why? Mixture of things – laziness, difficulty in planning, a hectic lifestyle so environmentally unfriendly that honestly I don’t think the amount of meat I eat makes much difference. I should stop catching all those planes first. And in general, I am not too keen on giving up on anything completely.

Anyway, I am quite aware that mass-produced meat is not good for the environment. I eat as little as I can, which usually means I have meat once or twice a week. This is something I am not very proud of, because it does not stem from any considerable effort: it is  natural to me because I just love vegetables. Vegetables are the sexiest things ever.

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August 23, 2010

Warning: addictive!

There are so many wonderful blogs out there. I read most of them because I like to have a chance to confront with people whom I share a passion with – food. After a while you get the feeling you know them, even if all the direct contact you have had is maybe an email exchange.

Many blogs are also a constant source of inspiration for cooking, of course: this is why I started reading food blogs in the first place. Maybe the author has a different background than mine, and is familiar with ingredients or techniques I am not. There is so much I have learned this way, new ingredients I have explored, new combinations, new cookbooks. In many cases, the author is also an inspiring chef.

For other blogs, the main reason for reading them is  just the constant aesthetical bliss. They are beautiful. The author is a really talented designer, photographer or writer, and more often than not, all these things together. I tend to fall into Stendhal syndrome mode then, and just gorge on the pictures and read the writing as if it were the latest chapter of my favourite book. I am so totally captivated, I just forget sometimes we are talking about food, in the end. I know, how is it ever possible!? forgetting about food?

However this did happen, with one of my favourite blogs. What did I miss! Luckily, I recently remembered there are recipes on it as well. I am sure you are all already familiar with La Tartine Gourmande by Bea, and I do hope you did not make my mistake.

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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.

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