Sunday, May 30, 2010

what i miss #5

PJ Clarke's. Scottie just sent me this article which was on the front of the NYTimes. my favorite local new york bar and my buddy doug, written about by frank bruni. bravo.

now i want a cheeseburger with smoothered onions.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

dumpster diving in my fridge. again.

we're leaving for our second study trip crete! this not only means a week in beautiful, sunny greece learning lots about the culture and eating tons of delicious food (emphasis on sun and food, oh, and beautiful and culture too) but it means time to clean out the fridge. here are some "recipes" i threw together with what i had, trying to be healthy, seasonal, creative, and tasty. i guess the point is: don't waste food.

Creamy Tomato Gorgonzola Soup

what i had/used:
extra virgin olive oil
a carton of cherry tomatoes
4 medium size tomatoes, off the vine, cut into quarters
half a red onion, cut into large chunks
4 cloves of garlic
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
1 white onion, finely sliced
2 tins of tomato
whole peperoncinos, sprinkled by hand (and hands immediately washed afterwards b/c yes, you will rub your eyes and yes, it burns a lot).
dried basil

what i bought:

what i did:
turn the oven on high and put the cherry tomatoes and larger tomatoes with the halved red onion and garlic into an oven proof pan. coat with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. cook until tender, about 20 minutes. meanwhile, in a large pot, heat a couple glugs of olive oil and add the white onion and carrot and cook until soft then add the two tins of tomato plus one tin of water (or i suppose broth if you have it) and simmer while the other tomatoes are cooking in the oven. when they are done, take them out of the oven, smash them a little (should be easy and squishable) and add them to the pot. stir it around a little and then blend until smooth with a handheld immersion blender (best thing ever). back on the stove, add the gorgonzola bit by bit until it is all melted evenly and is smoothly creamy. season to taste, add some dried basil, stir in some sprinkled peperoncinos, and poof! very easy soup.

No picture.

Springish Veggie Pasta.

what i had/used:
3 smallish courgettes, cut on an angle, 1/4inch thick
1 red onion, sliced into narrow strips
half a container of sliced mushrooms, snapped in half
spoonful of capers, drained
one medium sized tomato, cut into chunks
2 egg-pasta lasagne sheets cut into pappardelle sized noodles
fresh parsley.

what i did: 
add the cut pasta sheets to a pot of salted boiling water and cook until al-dente - not very long. in a large pan, heat up a couple glugs of olive oil and add the onion and cook until soft. add the mushrooms until they absorb the oil and change that lovely shiny brown color. add the courgettes and cook until they soften but still have crunch enough that they aren't mushy. add the tomato. add the capers. season with salt and pepper. drain the pasta and add to the pot of veggies. throw in some fresh parsley leaves. mix all together. sprinkle with grated parmesan. yum. pretend that you tell yourself that you are only going to eat half because you have cleared out your fridge and will have nothing to eat the next day. eat it all.


what i had/used:
6 eggs
1 small red onion
3 cloves of garlic
fresh parsley

what i bought:
1 bunch of asparagus
1 packet of whole fava beans.

what i did:
start with boiling a pot of salted water. break off the asparagus where it snaps and take the fava beans out of the pods. while this is boiling, add the onion and garlic to a pan with olive oil and gently warm until they soften. then, add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until bright green, about 3 minutes and then add the fava beans and cook for another minute. drain the asparagus and fava beans and add them back to the pot filled with cold water. then peel the fava beans and pop the little green bit right out. add them to the pan with the onion and garlic. then cut up the asparagus and add to the pan of vegs. while these are heating slowly together, whisk the eggs with some grated parmesan, milk (just b/c i won't have time to have my swimming pool mug of instant coffee in the morn) salt, pepper, hot paprika and fresh parsley in a bowl. add the egg mixture to the pan and i dont know, scrape it along the sides until the egg sets and is no longer runny in the middle. flip it over if you can. it's not the prettiest looking, and i've never cooked with fava beans before, but it tasted pretty ok and i know that i have half a frittata to eat on the way to the airport tomorrow.

it may seem like a lot of food that i had to use up, but we really do our shopping for our meals daily - buying just what we need or want to eat that night/day. of course you can't always eat that entire packet/bundle of produce by yourself at once and may not use it the next day so things add up. but we're good at not wasting food. and i am my mother's daughter - my mum is the queen of using up leftovers - or the freezer! the only problem is now....we come back next sunday and all the stores will be closed. stroopwaffles anyone?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"She did as she felt, and she felt a great deal." The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton.

every day, my ideas for what to do over our 6 week summer holiday change. i think i will start keeping track. the latest one was inspired from a bike ride around the outskirts of colorno, on my own, on a gorgeous blue skied warm spring day.  the thought of cycling all around italy at my own pace and on my own time, surrounded by the scenery of vast italian landscape, passing through quaint villages, on little roads only taken up by occasional speeding cars, fat tractors, and every so often a shirtless leathery-skinned man who smiles as he goes by and then the cowy-farm/hay/floral smell suddenly catches a whiff of sweaty BO...sounds extremely pleasant. rod stewart, scissor sisters, fleetwood mac were my trip's soundtrack today as well as a new song introduced to me by arina which made the trip that much more exhilarating. it was a little challenging at times with occasional "steep" hills (emilia romagna is so flat, i don't think i'd make it around the mountains of calabria), keeping up when the wind was blowing the opposite direction, competing for space and not swerving into the ditch on gravely one lane roads, and not always knowing whether left, right or straight will bring you closer to home or not, but for those 3 hours, i was perfectly content, smiling "ciao" at the farmers, and loved the freedom, the beauty and the peace of it all.

other summer ideas so far:
1. arina suggested biking to santiago de compostela - our own pilgrimage
2. diana invited me to travel around the south of italy with her and her friends
3. visit kim in shanghai  - would be a definite yes to take advantage if the flight wasn't so expensive
4. live in our house in donegal and work there
5. take some culinary courses somewhere - county cork, england?
6. hang out on the porsmouth decks.
7. get a job in the hospitality industry at some summer resort - south of italy?
8. woof-ing on a farm somewhere.
9. greece: open up a healthy/organic food stand on the beach or work on ari's goat farm.
10. today's latest not necessarily greatest: biking around italy. c'mon nora, let's go!

Let’s just be fabulously where we are and who we are. Love, Stargirl-Jerry Spinelli

after writing that last post, i noticed that "take it slow" had also updated her blog. i completely agree with her thoughts on life in europe, so i wanted to share it too. they just get it.

what i Miss #4

my family. this probably should have been "what i miss #1."

to be completely honest, i'm perfectly content and don't even remember what "what i miss #1" is...but...

i talk to my parents a couple times every day (although it might not be clear who i'm talking to since they have joint accounts of everything) via email, aim, video chat. despite their "busy" (yes in quotations) schedules, i would love them to come visit (remember when you asked me when i wanted you to visit and you suggested: may, june, july, august, september, october, november, and december ? hasn't happened yet!) my brother recently got engaged (congrats!) but i feel far away from helping to plan or be part of the celebrations. mother's day isn't quite the same when you can't express your love through hugs or a home-made meal but instead through a someecard and wait for mum to call internationally instead of the other way around. i love it when my sister calls me, despite the 9-hour time zone differences - i miss the easiness of texting nationally any random thought at any time of the day. i'm soo excited to go to california for her graduation in 20 days, even if it's just for one day (literally, one full day there - the rest is travel time), it's definitely going to be totally worth it to see everyone. since she told me she would literally never talk to me again if i wasn't there, i am fortunate enough to be going at all.

i haven't really felt homesick while being here - a couple times yes - but "homesickness" means more to me as i don't picture myself anywhere else. as much as i absolutely loved living in portsmouth and new york, i can't see myself jumping on a plane right now and moving back there. and as much as i've tried to hint at the fact that i might not want to move back to america, nobody really believes me or takes me seriously. europe makes me happy.
i am though, reminded of "homesickness" as i am constantly thinking that i wish i could share these experiences with my family, making mental notes in my head of places i've been to so that i can remind them to visit (for example: tell chris and beth to honeymoon in corfu, to tell my parents to buy another summer home in lake garda, they must stay at pallavicina when they visit; i want to share everything i've learned with them and for them to taste everything i've tried...) I have a little pile of things i've collected that constantly remind me that i will one day share them with my family - if they haven't expired ha. i know that they would love it all too, i know they would appreciate it as much as i do - but sometimes i wish we could just do it together.

ps this post was inspired by the latest modern family episode - family portrait. amazingly hysterical. brilliant.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ciao. Ciao. Bene.

"it means absolutely nothing but i used to say it all the time when i lived in italy. ciao ciao bene." - jess. xo.

Peeing Green.

if our food photography and styling class wasn't canceled due to volcanic ash, this picture could have been a lot prettier. i swear. 

i made asparagus soup on sunday with random ingredients found in the fridge. the chicken broth flavor was a little too strong, it wasn't asparagusy enough and didn't taste as good to when i actually followed a recipe (due to lack of ingredients - only one onion, no leeks, included carrots, and powdered chicken broth instead of veggie). so the next day i bought another bunch of asparagus to add to it. let's just say, i had enough asparagus soup to feed all of colorno. i just finished it yesterday (thursday). it was good cold. it was good with some parmesan cheese grated over it. it was good with a couple quick squirts of lemon. it was good eaten with the ladle straight from the pot. it was good with just a little hot green pepper mixed in. it was good with each spoonful reminding you of spring and how good it is to eat fresh in-season produce. it was especially good with a runny-yolk egg added on top.

according to our nutrition professor, people tend to minimize their egg intake to avoid raising cholesterol blood levels, however, eating foods that are high in cholesterol is not the problem - it is saturated fats that are bad. eggs are often associated with breakfast which (in america) includes bacon and sausage (aka high saturated fat content). but eggs alone and with a whole food, high fiber (aka asparagus) diet is good for you! 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

complete happiness.

for some reason, i have been craving, thinking, and talking about making fresh tagliatelli or papparadelle with mixed wild mushrooms. luckily, jules can whip up anything so seemingly effortlessly, easily, and delectably deliciously. sliced mushrooms, fresh parsley, a splash of lemon (a critical ingredient always with mushrooms, according to jules), a sprinkled of crushed red pepper (a critical ingredient always with everything, according to me), a dash of arina's homemade garlic-red pepper marinated extra virgin olive oil,  grated parmesan cheese from our fridge-staple chunk, and hand cut strips of pasta from sheets of lasagna. italians never cut their pasta with a knife while eating, so just pile it onto the fork, and stick it in. 
now i can shut up and be happy.

Meatless Mondays.

i'm going to implement it. even though i don't eat that much meat in italy (with the exception of an overabundance of cured meat) it's going to convey a compelling, ascertainable meaning. discombobulate that.

Jules' First Blog Post.

Missing home is one thing missing the food at home is another, or isn’t it? Maybe home is food and food is home.  Great chefs always talk about food linked to memories or better to childhood memories.  A  great French chef said:  incorporating  ‘cette petite emotion’ in a dish is important. 
 I never used to understand it or I thought I understood but I didn’t really thought it was that big a deal. A part of these childhood memories are the memories of mothers or grandmothers cuisine. I don’t really have much of these memories. My mother doesn’t really like to cook, it was  more a job to feed four children. So where does my passion for food and cooking with beautiful products come from?   
Well I had a revelation a couple of days ago. It all started with going to the fruit and vegetable store and arriving home with some nice tomatoes on the vine and other  vegetables to make a salsa for apperitivo.  I start getting ready to chop up the tomatoes and while I pulled  the first tomato off the vine, time stood  still and I got shifted back in time to my grandfathers greenhouse, I’m getting goose bubs while  writing it. I never thought about this experience for one second although it was in my head the whole time. I can smell the tomatoes in the greenhouse, my grandfather sitting at the end of the little pat in the middle looking at me like:’ what are you doing in my kingdom of tomatoes.’
 I had a food memory  and I didn’t just thought about it I felt it trough my entire body, I relived it, it was beautiful.  Nothing to do with ‘cette petite emotion’ but more like a big emotion. I have to come to Italy and buy tomatoes here to experience  it. Thinking about it now, I realize that the fact I had this experience while studying in Italy had something to do with it. When you’re abroad for a long period of time you picture your home as a utopia , you appreciate all the small things that usually you don’t think about. In that way being ‘homesick’ is good to feed your brain with memories.  
I’m not saying that this one experience made my understand my passion for food but it made me realize my head is full of these memories and I’m getting to know myself and my history through  memories about food. 
I’m convinced that everyone has memories like these, your mother or grandmother doesn’t have to be a great cook, you don’t have to be brought up in a restaurant a brewery or a bakery.  
It’s about those little things that take you straight home “cette petite emotion”!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Milan. Lake Garda.

i met arina on march 7th. on may 11th she left me for holland. that's over 2 months of spending every single day together, doing almost every activity together (walking to and from class, sitting next to each other in class, traveling abroad for 2 weeks while only knowing each other for 3, cooking and eating every meal together, crossing roommate bathroom boundaries, "learning" each other english, dutch & italian, sleeping next to each other in beds/couches/ferry floors, laughing, gossiping, commiserating...) all these experiences together to 6 whole days in a row of being separated.

catherine and diana

cool chandelier.
so when diana, "the italian," invited me to milan for the weekend, i enthusiastically accepted such an offer. i was not only excited to get away for the weekend, but to experience milan with someone who used to live there, to meet her italian friends (it was one of their bday's), as well as embrace the opportunity to get to know diana and catherine better. we drove straight to the wine bar where we had some delicious prosecco and met her girl friends. the birthday party was packed and fun, but let's just say, a 5 minute nap might sound like a good idea when you are trying to assimilate into milanese night-life lifestyle where staying out till 5 in the morning is the norm, but our overextendedallnight nap led us to feel as though we had to redeem our coolness and possibly legitimatize our friendship with diana. the boys in the apartment, regardless of whether or not they knew who we were or remembered that we were at the party the night before, graced us with their italian hospitality and took us out to breakfast, where we saw THE MOST famous italian journalist and then gave us a walking tour around some of the milan neighborhoods. humor is hard to translate, but i couldn't help but laugh the entire morning.

Milan. Touristy.

wandering around and being toured by the italians.

later, we drove to Lake Garda to diana's friend's family's house. we parked along the street and had to walk up the car-less village of tiny cobblestone streets to where the house sat amongst her other family members houses. it seemed surreal and the pictures don't even capture it. the house was gorgeous and walking into the living room with the impressive panoramic view of the lake was jaw-dropping. even with the overcast misty weather. the house was old and preserved as though you stepped right into the past - the epitome of what you would think of an italian home in the 40's. we walked around the downtown of salo, had an aperol aperativo by the waterside, went to a local brewery and a cocktail lounge of absolutely obscure mixes of ingredients - mine was a blend of lavender vodka, lime, rosemary strawberry and blueberry - delicious, but i was ooooozing body wash. everyone had something different - good and bad, hot and cold, bitter and sweet. her friends were all incredibly gracious, hospitable, generous, incredibly funny, and tried their best to include us in their conversations. their english was fantastic and i could catch glimpses of conversations - more so when they talked slowly, but it was like chef mike counting to 100 in a second and they all understood completely. smile and nod, smile and nod.

despite all the looming, sudden homework we had ahead of us, it was really nice to get out of colorno for the weekend, to meet new people and see diana in her element, to have the opportunity to see new parts of italy, to have first/new experiences with catherine...the homework will be there regardless, it will get done eventually, but these experiences and opportunities (or lack there of if you want to include the sleeping-through-the-disco part) were definitely worth taking advantage of and i hope to have more of them.
the view from the house.

zoom out.

the patio. on the right. ha.

lounging in the sun. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

dumpster diving in my fridge.

when going away for the weekend, it is important to clean out your fridge and use what you have as to make sure not to waste any food. well, i never think food should be wasted, which often leads me to eating excessively just so it's in a stomach rather than a garbage. i scrounged up an elaborate cheese plate (scamorza, aged pecorino, brie) with prosciutto di parma (i'm not sick of it yet) and a rabbit salad made from jules' leftover rabbit stew (yes, he butchered the entire rabbit himself. yes, i have impressive friends.)

taking into account my available kitchen ingredients, i decided to make caponata. 

heat up a couple glugs of olive oil in a large pan and add the chopped up eggplant and sprinkle with oregano. allow the eggplant to soak up the olive oil until it has become a golden colour, adding more olive oil if needed. add finely chopped red onion and some garlic cut as small as you can cut it without a garlic press. include capers, green olives and parsley. add a couple splashes of red wine vinegar and when that has pretty much evaporated, add some chopped up tomatoes - i used the remaining cherry tomatoes i had - and allow the flavors to aromatize and the ingredients to simmer. of course, season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. this was inspired partly by my fridge, jamie oliver for some slight methodological instructions, which clearly i don't follow anything too specifically and by the italian ALMA kids who were horrified by the use of eggplant and lentils together. i don't know if they, being sicilian, would approve again, but with some toasted bread to soak up the juices, i quite enjoyed it. 

i also made an asparagus salad with roasted red and yellow bell peppers - inspired by a Thomas Keller recipe, but again, up to my make-shift culinary skills and judgements. 

heat the oven (just onto high since i don't know celsius temperatures yet) and add halved red and yellow peppers - two of each - cut side down and lightly covered in olive oil. meanwhile, boil salted water to which asparagus (stalky ends removed and the spears cut in half) will be added and boiled for about 4 minutes, until bright green. the roasted peppers are done when the skins are slightly charred. removed from the oven, the skins are supposed to be removed according to the recipe, but i didn't. cut them into strips, similarly sized to the asparagus, and add them back to the baking dish. add the drained asparagus and roast the vegetables with some garlic for 15 minutes. after, add to a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with some good balsamic vinegar. the colours are gorgeous together and it tastes not only healthy but full of spring. 

for as much as i like food photography, these pictures are horrible. oh well. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

alberto: just call me bob. bob the builder.

spring's agreeable, or not, transitional weather is full of temperamental uncertainty. as we are figuring out our apartment's heating, or lack of, we are trying to find a balance between warm rooms, the upcoming summer temperatures, spring's cold rainy days, and overall pleasant living conditions as well as have hot water for showers and hot water for washing dishes (everyone knows you can't wash dishes in cold water, right?). summer, we are warned, will be incredibly hot and humid so we don't want to have to turn on the heat just to have a couple minutes of enjoyable showers. anyways, in the meantime, with our cold apartment and the outside much warmer, we have been sleeping in humid, moist, moldy-like-calabria-almost beds - nothing that can be good for my asthma, eczema or allergies....but recently, this week, i woke up in the middle of the night trying to pull down my sweatshirt sleeve for more warmth, and instead, my sleepy arm whacked me in the face and now i have a bruised, swollen lip. great. and i cut myself on a broken glass as i was trying to wash dishes (my first of arina's many). and we have an ant family. seriously. what else?

the little things.

one thing that i noticed about emilia romagna and all of it's flatness, (flatness especially appreciated after our trip to calabria) is the fantastic vast sky. i am constantly impressed, taken aback and in awe of it's beauty. yesterday, for example, on my way back from the grocery store, i spotted this magnificent cloud formation in which i had to take a slight detour to stop to inspect and snap some pictures (still improving my simultaneous bike riding-photography skills). the different shapes, layers, fluffiness of the clouds are so dramatic and diverse. nimbus, cirrus, stratawhaaat. i feel stupid and insignificant. but here are some recent local photos i'd like to share.
how are there so many types of clouds in one sky?
emilia romagna. italian countryside.
the photo's really don't give it justice.
my detour...
up closer...
school and colorno at dusk.

and as i'm walking home from class today, surprised, i feel drops on my arms. i look up and see no clouds - only birds - and am immediately suspicious about what just landed on me. i look down and see drops of rain scattered on the sidewalk. cars drive by with their windshield wipers flapping. but as i look up towards the sky, it's just clear, bright, and blue. typical. italian.

"i only have yeast at home." "you could eat it, let it ferment in your stomach and live off that for a week."

usually, going to the local A&O grocery store you can get a good amount of food for not a lot of money. entire bottles of wine average around maayybe 3 euro's - and that's splurging. whole bags of oranges for 1 euro. litres of water (frizzante of course) are only 37 cents.  but when you have a nutrition class talking about food for the last 2 hours, constantly thinking about upcoming lunch (and the lingering toast and cheese breakfast in your stomach absorbing into your fat cells) you run to the A&O during the class's 10 minute break with whatever money you have. when i could only scrounge up 1 euro and 20 cents from my seemingly-endless book-bag, and trying to satisfy the appetites of both jules and myself, the A&O seems very expensive.  my apple cost 50 cents. that left jules with 70 cents. the integrale biscuits looked disgusting. a bag of crisps was 1 euro. debating between an apple and something more carb-y, jules settles on a bag of breadsticks with sesame seeds. ruh roh. 72 cents. but we played stupid dumb foreigners and were still allowed to purchase. a little buyer's remorse, only 7 sesame seeds on a stick, slight satisfaction to last another hour until lunch, but a lot of perspective.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

go chiasso or go home.

one of our favored professors (can i say that?) invited us to join him in attending a pil's pride beer fest near como. "a little and great beer festival," he says, "devoted to pilsner beer style, not enough appreciated among the italian craft microbreweries. The festival will be hosted in Birrificio Italiano (Lurago Marinone - Como), for sure one of the best italian microbreweries (, which won, some days ago, the golden medal at the Chicago world beer cup." of course, the seats on the bus fill up quickly, but luckily for us, popi has her car. with our porta-party picnic foods in newly bought ikea tupperware, we pile into her car. my buddy bryan from portsmouth, who is currently living in holland, was visiting italy to go "creeking" north of milan and stopped by colorno to visit me for the weekend. we meet up with the parma people where they are supposed to get on the hired bus and while we wait for it to arrive, on italian time, we discuss all the food everyone has prepared - yum, starving already. eventually....the bus arrives and we follow behind in popi's car. twenty minutes later, we stop. why? i don't know. bathroom break? the bus driver gets out of the bus and gives us the naasssttttyyy look - why are we following her? why are we parked behind the bus? we're together with the group, popi tries to explain from the car. she understands and is all smiles. everyone on the bus is drinking supersweet homemade vin santo. it burns holes on the inside. our professor tries to dictate directions, but we say no problem, we won't speed ahead, we'll just follow the bus. back on the road. tollbooth traffic. we lose the bus. no problem, we call jules, who is also following the bus with his visiting girlfriend celine in their rented smart car, and says that they have stopped again at the total gas station. 
little and great.
we drive on with no sight of a total gas station. we're unsure and hesitant on where to go - well, no, actually, we just wanted to drive around the outskirts of milan to show bryan what italy's like and get really familiar with italian highways. we learn all about the A1's, the A4's, the A8's and the A9's. we drive towards venice, the wrong direction. we drive towards switzerland, the right direction. we drive back to linate, the wrong direction. we drive towards como-chiasso, the right direction. follow the blue signs, not the green signs. eventually, somehow, we make it to the little town of lurago marinone. 
supersweet. gorgeous houses. now we just have to find the brewery. we get to the end of the road and we see signs that we are exiting the town already. we probably enter and exit it at least 4 times it is so small until eventually we find the red awning that says birrificio italiano and it's not a brewery like we expected at all, but more of a restaurant with an outdoor patio and the beer production facility looks more like a garage. 5 hours later.

there is a great assortment of food - luckily, going to a school to study food and drink where everyone is equally passionate about food, we all aim to please and eat well, so there's always enough food to feed the entire village. even if you walk down the street and around the block and that's the entire village....but still. we bought our beer tickets and souvenir glass and were able to sample all the different pilsners they had on tap. some were more bitter, more flavorful, more drinkable, more watery, more bubbly than others.
tutto birra. all beer.

 it was nice to sit outside, enjoy the beer, food, and company, but luckily, the ride back was not as long as the ride there. 
popi, celine, arina, me, jules.
life is delectable.

italy isn't known for it's microbreweries so it was nice to experience and nice to taste. the small tour of the facilities was so small that the pipes were running directly from the tanks in the back of the building to the taps in the restaurants. maybe not that directly. but it was VERy local. carlo petrini would be proud. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

melanzane e lenticcia. si chef si chef si chef!

arina and i opted out of eating at Alma for lunch during the school week. we hear about all the foods that the culinary students are practicing and can only imagine the deliciousness we are missing out on. but i like the hour of freedom to leave...(i want to say leave the campus, but it hardly is one) ...leave the school grounds to go home and eat what i want, do laundry, take a shower, sit on the balcony in the sun, lie down, whatever. so we were delighted when davide and lorenzo agreed to make us dinner. alma cooking skills in our own kitchen! they made us bucatini all'amatriciana: a typical italian dish. the boys were sweet and spoke english while we tested our italian as we shared wine tasting tips through blue plastic party glasses and heard stories of life in sunny sicily. they smuggly made fun of me because i asked a lot of questions and for wanting to take pictures. but really, i want to learn how to properly cut an onion, chop garlic quickly, when to salt the boiling water for pasta! arina and i teased them in return that if we were cooking for them, we would have made fresh tomato sauce - not from a jar - and we would have used real cuts of pancetta rather than packaged pre-cut bits. lorenzo countered that tomatoes aren't in season right now so that's why they make jarred tomato sauce. good point, but then make something in season, no? it was fun though and tasty. next time, ravioli aperto. si chef si chef si chef! 
so, today, knowing that we probably wouldn't be using the little bit of tomato sauce or the little baggie of cut up pancetta, i decided to make my own version with the leftovers. i cut up some onion, sauteed with the pancetta, then added the remaining tomato sauce with some freshly cut tomatoes to add a little chunky texture as well as some capers, basil, and of course, spice - some crumbled dried peperoncino's and some squirts of harissa sauce - my new sriracha spicy-satisfying subsitute. i don't know if it's because it was spicier, if it's because i love leftovers, if it's because i just love the thick, chewy texture of the bucatini, or if it's because they made fun of my eggplant and lentil salad combination i was going to make for the pils pride picnic that also relates to the fact that they don't think arina and i can cook very well, buttt, i think maaayyybeee i liked mine better :) si chef si chef si chef! 

buco means hole in italian.

did anyone else notice the link that the dish is also on the babbo menu? i swear i didn't copy it when i made my own version - i only was trying to see how amatriciana is spelled just now - to prove it, my recipe doesn't even match! capers?! 

i ate too much pasta today. cold, leftover pasta, straight from the pot. i couldn't help it. nom nom nom. 

colorno is a small town. it doesn't have everything you want. it doesn't have everything you need. yes, we are learning that we are supposed to eat locally. but parma is still local - even if it takes an hour to get there. biking is "green." it's good for our legs. the air allows us to become particularly acclimated to the cheese-characteristic known as "animal sensation." our baskets limit us only to buy and bring back what can fit in. our butts may never forgive us. and when we have a friday off from classes and we have a porta-party at a pils pride beer fest near como the next day, it calls for an excursion adventure - even if it's drizzling and the sky screams with dark clouds. even if alberto calls us crazy. 

i trust arina. even when she yells back to me "don't tell your mum!"

a couple hesitations ("let's just ride to conad and see how the weather is") a couple promising outlooks ("the sky is blue and cloudless over there") and we decided to continue on with our trip. we love a fun adventure, a good story, any quest for food, and of course, an opportunity to take some pictures.

we saw an otter. we saw the barilla factory. we saw ikea (ee-ke-yah). we crossed, and were on, the autostrada. and through the busy sidewalks of parma, we made it to esselunga - superstoreextraordinaire. it is huge. it's nice to have so many products and food varieties available, but it was a little overwhelming at the same time. too many options (but no sriracha). even as we stared at the aisle of olive oils, racking our brains to remember everything we learned about labels, bottle colors, regions, misleading words, stamps of guarantees, price was almost intimidating. how could i have learned and known so much yet draw a blank and know so little at the same time? 

happy with our somewhat-non-colorno-available-purchases-that-totally-made-this-trip-worthwhile, we strategically stuffed our baskets and headed to the second hand store where we couldn't possibly carry anything more home, let alone any fragile antique dishware that i ooh-ed and aah-ed at. "i knew i shouldn't have brought you here" arina said to me. we did make it back to colorno though, sans via autostrada, but with bike seats soaked from the rain and with unforgiving numb butts. 

taking pictures while biking is like texting while driving. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Whatever you do, make attention. and eat meat.

on wednesday, we had a free day. i wanted to take advantage and take a day trip somewhere - i thought it would be nice to have some alone time to explore the country. when i woke up though, it was rainy and catherine had sent me a message saying they were taking the 9:44 train to Bologna. so, with no other plans, off we, catherine, lauren, shannon and i, went on a culinary tour of bologna in the rain. our main mission was to find eataly, eat typical bolognese food (spaghetti bolognese does not exist in italy), and to have bologna's oldest (or best?) gelato.

we stumbled upon an indoor market with an overwhelming amount of fruit and vegetable stands - how are you supposed to choose which one to buy from?
what are these vegetables?

we walked by a pasticceria, gaberini, who's window of pastries and cakes enticed our eyes, stomachs, and hearts inside to an impressive display case with mini sandwiches, bite size snacks, little cakes...we were in love. of course, we treated ourselves.

a wonderful amount of flavor combinations in such a tiny little bite! 

we came upon an open piazza with huge buildings, an opera house, a cathedral...snapped some photographs...but we were on a culinary mission - these were for exploring during the next visit to bologna. the little cobblestone streets were packed with little shops with fruits and vegetables pouring out - other americans commented as they walked by, "see, i'm not the only one that likes to take pictures of food." i fell in love with a store called la baita. all the fresh cheese, homemade and dried pastas, cured meats, balsamic vinegars ranging in prices up to hundreds of euro's, truffles in all shapes, sizes, oils, jars, mixes, olives, extra virgin olive oils, wines, and ready to eat prepared food....all the typical foods of emilia romagna of the highest quality. yummmmm. i love living in this food valley.
if i had the wallet or the stomach for it, i would buy and eat everything there (the latter a very plausible possibility...) we eventually stumbled upon eataly..which i have heard a lot about but am still not quite sure what it is. it seemed to us like a book store that sold gourmet food and had a couple cafes and restaurants. i definitely would like to check out the original in turino.
even italy loves jamie oliver. <3

wandering around all the food definitely made us hungry so we went with samara's suggestion to drogeheria della rosa. it was a little place filled with antiques on the wall, old ceramic plates and empty vases lined up on the shelves, bookshelves filled with culinary books - just full of stories. we were greeted with glasses of prosecco and we knew this would be a rip-off place with hidden costs. however, when we turned away a plate of proscuitto, culatello, and mozzarella, the owner immediately came over and after explaining that catherine is a vegetarian and that we eat a ton of cured meats at the university, he understood and came to sit with us, and his own bottle or two of prosecco for the remainder of the meal. he was definitely a highlight of the trip - asking us about the university, his thoughts on slow food and gelato - well, lack of thoughts - his business, his daughter, typical foods and and restaurants in city.

we were recited the menu of the day - each of the pasta plates he described sounded incredible so we each ordered one to share: two cheese tortelli with zucchini flowers, eggplant rollatini topped with tomato and basil, tagliatelli with ragu (aka bolognese sauce), lasagne, and a tagliatelli with wild mushrooms. he actually recommended the lasagne since we definitely wanted the tagliatelli with mushrooms, but brought out the tagliatelli ragu anyways. they were unbelievable. he decided that catherine needed to eat more since she didn't taste the meaty lasagna or ragu so he brought out a zucchini flan smothered with cheese as well as his bistec balsamico - hoping that she would try it. cruncy-almost on the outside, succulently juicy on the inside. perfectly rare. amazing. then he brought out a plate of pickled ramps, wild asparagus, and green tomatoes which were all in his mother's-made extra virgin olive oil from basilicata. we were completely spoiled and stuffed until we couldn't possibly eat anymore, despite his persistent insistency.
my plate of 5 pastas.
i loved the fact that emanuele went shopping everyday and the chef compiled the dishes with those daily ingredients. he bought his meat and fish from two markets on the street we were on earlier, he bought his vegetables from a woman he knew. i loved the fact that he said he didn't care if his 15 year old daughter didn't want to take over his restaurant of 16 years, that he only hoped that she would do what she wanted to do as long as she was good at it and worked hard at it. if she cleaned the streets, and was good at it, she is in a way showing her care for keeping the city clean. he told lauren to "make attention" at what she was doing as to not trip again, and for all of us to make attention at what we do, to enjoy our year here and to take advantage of it. he told catherine to try meat, just once. because she can, because she doesn't have an allergy to it, she shouldn't not eat it. we got hugs and kisses, an extremely discounted bill, and promised a return.
after - maybe - 3 hours of lunch, we left the restaurant to find the sun shining and revealing the city in a different light. i knew i liked bologna in the rain, but the sun confirmed it. it's full of culture, the buildings are beautiful and allude to an enchanting history i would love to learn more about, the old yet preserved surroundings were filled with the energy of plenty of young people, the shopping was certainly tempting and i hope to go back - especially to eat some more. we fulfilled the last of our mission - gelato. the place was filled with slow food presidia sweets and it wasn't as good as other gelato's i've had, but i appreciated the fun in the obscure flavors (i had fennel seed, squash and cinnamon, and sicilian cannoli - just found this article and david lebovitz had the same flavors!).