At last I have time to post on the very anticipated Gara delle frappe! Well, today it's Mardi Gras.. so at least I'm still on time before Lent starts.
The party was a blast for both children and adults... mostly, children played all the time and adults ate all the time! :)
Before showing the frappe, I'll talk a bit about Carnival in Italy, which is quite interesting. Carnevale in Italy is very popular, and every region has its own peculiarities. There are regional masks, related to some particular character, like Arlecchino (a poor guy obliged to make his own cloths with many pieces of clothes, since he doesn't have money to buy a whole one.. with a very colorful and marry result. It's typical of Bergamo.), or Pulcinella (a sad guy all dressed in white, with a tear on his face, typical of Naples). I found a nice website in English about them, if you're interested. It's quite cool, imo. There are shows for kids with these characters being moved around on a stage, like little puppets. And there are also shows for adults, like you'll see if you go to Venice for Carnival, where everyone is masked with gorgeous masks.
Carnevale is supposed to be the moment when you do things that you are not supposed to do during normal times of the year.. that's why people were originally masked. :)
Also, still nowadays, some particular towns have some strange tradition, where all the people in the town throw objects at each other, like in Ivrea, where they throw rotten oranges.. This website has also an Englih version, if you want to see these crazy people. Ivrea is quite close to Turin, but I've always been scared to go see the Carnevale over there. :)
Moreover, every region has its own specific desserts for Carnival. The basic is fried dough for all of them, but the shapes, consistency and taste can vary. This was the orgin of our party la gara delle frappe, as I probably already mentioned earlier.. everyone was supposed to bring a Carnival dessert typical of their region and we were supposed to vote for the best one.
At the party, there were lots of kids, masked, running around throwing coriandoli and stelle filanti at each other. Coriandoli are a version of what in English is called 'confetti' (little round pieces of paper), although I believe the Italian ones are smaller and more colorful.
Stelle filanti are stripes of paper that you blow to have them making nice helixes in the air, as you can see in this commercial:So, while the kids were busy having fun running around and playing little trumpets, the adults were busy eating the sweets. :)
..and here they are:
Frappe alle mandorle (qualcuno mi sa dire il vero nome?)
This type of frappe was absolutely delicious. The dough was made with almonds, so they were very different from the usual ones. They were a bit thick, and crunchy but not crispy. I really liked them.
Bugie e castagnole
These are some of the frappe (bugie in Piemonte, my region) that I prepared. On the left, bugie al forno - ie, the recipe for bugie that I published earlier (this time with real white wine instead of orange juice), but the bugie were cooked in the oven and I added a little butter in this part of the dough, since I knew I was going to cook them without any grease. In the center, bugie fritte - ie, fried bugie. On the right, castagnole fritte - fried castagnole, see recipe before. This time, I had rum instead of whiskey. I shouldn't be the one saying it, but they were all good. The bugie made in the oven had a great success.. if I had known that, I would have made more of this type and less fried.
Castagnole al miele
I made these too. They were the same dough of castagnole, but I cooked them in the oven for a few minutes (400 F, rolling them after the first 3 minutes). Then, I covered them with honey instead of powdered sugar. I liked them quite a lot! :)
These frappe come from Milan, and their name is chiacchiere instead of frappe. 'Chiacchiere' means chats, literally.. another mistery, similar to the origin of 'bugie'. :) The dough and the taste is very similar to that of bugie, although they are slightly thicker, and the shape is different (they are smaller and they roll upon themselves). They were delicious.
Castagnole and Frittelle
The round ones are another version of castagnole, less soft than mine inside. These came from a recipe from Rome, so I guess that's why. The flat dessert on the left are frittelle, lit=small fried things, and they were really good. They are much thicker than all the other frappe, and they are soft, sweet and warm.. really wonderful.
(sorry for the blurry picture)
This is the Tuscan version of frappe, again, the name is cenci instead of frappe. Cenci means pieces of cloths (vero?!?), I guess from the shape of the sweets.
The taste was similar to bugie and chiacchiere, but they were thicker, and with some vanilla in it. They tasted less of fried, maybe because they were thicker. I really loved them.
So, as you can imagine, in the end, the prize was not assigned.. all the frappe were delicious! There were many leftovers, which were appreciated by lucky people that happened to be around the day after. :)
Grazie ad Antonella e Marco per avere ospitato questa fantastica festa a casa loro.. e per avere contribuito con alcune delle foto mostrate in questo blog. :)
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
At last I have time to post on the very anticipated Gara delle frappe! Well, today it's Mardi Gras.. so at least I'm still on time before Lent starts.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
My friends don't send me any pictures about Olympic Turin.. but I found this wonderful collection of albums by Mauro. Thanks, Mauro!
As I mentioned, I decided I would use my choir mates as guinea pigs for another type of Mardi Gras dessert: le castagnole (lit=little chestnuts) :). This dessert shares a similar recipe with all Mardi Gras desserts, like bugie, if you remember.. you make a dough, cut it into pieces, fry it and pour powdered sugar on top. In this case, the dough is more greasy than for bugie: it calls for butter instead of olive oil, and there is a larger amount of it.
These are the doses, taken again from Comida's weblog (this is one of her mom's recipes):
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup rum
2/3 cup butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
I made half of this dough, and also, I decreased the amount of butter (I used about half of what said), and since I didn't have rum I used whiskey :)
To make the dough, beat eggs and sugar until you get a creamy consistency, then add the other ingredients, knead for 10 minutes. Roll it into long 'snakes' as thick as your thumb, and cut the snakes into little pieces. Roll the pieces in order to make them spherical. The final size should be similar to hazelnuts.
Here is a moment of the preparation:Once all your dough is transformed into little balls...You can fry the castagnole, a few at a time, in quite a bit of good frying oil (peanut oil is suggested). I had to change the oil after I cooked half of the castagnole, since it was getting dark. Take the castagnole off the oil when they are brown outside, and put them on some paper towel to drain the excess oil.
Pour powdered sugar on top of them, and serve them warm..
Here is my final result:Lucas and I enjoyed a few of them already.. :) It's really hard to stop yourself from eating them.. they're perfectly bite-size, and so good! But I need to bring them tomorrow to the choir practice :) We'll see if there are some left after.. :)
Monday, February 20, 2006
Once per month I meet a group of Italian women, or women who live in the Triangle Area and who speak Italian. This group was founded some years ago by a few women, and now, whenever they meet some new Italian woman who seems nice, they invite them to the meetings.
I really enjoy them, I began to attend more frequently only recently. It's really nice for many reasons. One, is that we speak Italian. :) Then, we all share a similar experience - being foreign in the US. Often, the women are married to non Italian people, so it's always interesting to hear their experience, and for example an interesting topic is always what language they speak to their children and between each other.. There are all possible varieties. Sometimes the kids don't speak Italian at all, especially if only one parent is Italian, but other times they speak it to the Italian parent, even if the other spouse doesn't speak Italian at all!
We also have some American women in the group, either married to Italians, or who have lived in Italy for quite a bit, and who speak Italian perfectly, with amazing little accent.
Mostly, all the people are very nice so it's always a pleasure to meet them.
Moreover, each time we try a different restaurant, and we try to explore all types of cuisines. Last time it was Greek. Actually, I suggested the place, since I had been there a few times for lunch and it had always been very nice. For the people who may happen around here and want to try it, the place is called 'Spartacus' and it's actually in Cary. I had always gone when the buffet was there, and to be honest, I think it's better than the actual meal 'a la carte' like we had on Saturday. Also because looking at the menu you realize that it's a bit of a mixture, with some mispelling both of the Greek food and of some Italian food that they make (ehm.. notate la bruchetta :) ). But anyway, the appetizers (that are similar to what you find in the buffet) were really good, and I wanted to show them here:
From the top left (the pinkish thing), you're looking at taramosalata - a fish spread, then on the right melitzanasalata - eggplant/garlic spread, then hummus - with chickpeas, and at last scordalia -a garlic/walnut spread, with feta cheese, tomatoes, peppers and vine leaf rolls in between. In the center, tzadziki (yogurt and cucumber). It was actually very good, served with warm pita bread.
The other appetizer that we had was also very good, and the idea was quite nice, so I think I may try to reproduce it: feta and mozzarella cheese, mixed together and baked, with some hot spices on top and some alcoholic liquid that they lit on fire when they brought it to our table. They extinguished the fire by squeezing lemons on top. The taste was very intersting and the presentation was quite scenic. Unfortunately I wasn't ready and I didn't take pictures of the firing moment. :)
Per i miei lettori italiani.. mia mamma e mia sorella, per pura coincidenza, mi hanno appena mandato la ricetta della taramosalata.. se volete avventurarvi a provarla, eccola:
Ingredienti per 6 persone
Uova di pesce (bottarga) g 100 – 5 fette di pancarrè ammollate nell’acqua – limone – olio extravergine d’oliva
Raccogliete nel frullatore le fette di pane ammollate e non strizzate, circa 100 g d’olio, la bottarga privata della pellicola di rivestimento e tagliata a fettine, il succo di un limone. Frullate a bassa velocità fino a ottenere una salsina omogenea.
Sembra facilissima, ma dubito che io trovero' la bottarga qui negli States. :)
Blogs made by women! A huge collection - very good and less good ones, but still interesting.
Wonderful blog with mp3s ranging from Bach to Siberian folk music to modern jazz. Thanks!
Wonderful pictures with natural and landscape subjects.
At last: quite amazing blog about lunch boxes made of vegan food. Check it out.. themes from Halloween to Valentine day in a lunch box. :)
Sunday, February 19, 2006
A few days ago my Italian friend Marco and I were speaking about some food-related topic, and since we couldn't really agree on something, he invited me to an interesting competition: 'La gara delle frappe'. Now, if you want to look for the meaning of the single words, you can use this very useful dictionary. But I doubt you'll find 'frappe'.. My mom didn't know about it either!! In fact, frappe is a type of sweet that people from Rome make for Mardi Gras. In Piemonte, my region, we call something very similar with another name: 'bugie'. Basically, this dessert is made all throughout Italy, but is called in many different ways. Bugie, frappe, fritole, chiacchiere, grostoi.. a lot of names for a similar concept - but obviously, with slight variations that were the reason of the 'competition'. Next Saturday, before Lent starts, we will bring this dessert to a party at his house. Everyone will try to make those typical of their own region, and we should establish which type is the best. :)
Unfortunately, I never made bugie before. So, I asked for help to my blog-friend Comida, that you already know by now. She wrote for me three different recipes, of bugie, grostoi, and castagnole, that are variations on the theme, and belong to her mother's or friend's tradition. If you can read Italian, here they are.
As soon as I read them, I felt the need to try at least one recipe :) - I chose the recipe of Mrs. Clara's bugie.. This recipe calls for
500 gr. farina = about one pound of flour
30 gr. olio oliva = 2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tuorli = 2 egg yolks
1 bicchiere vino bianco secco = 1 glass of dry white wine
2 cucchiai zucchero a velo vanigliato = 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
2 pizzichi sale = 2 pinches of salt
1 bustina lievito = 1 tbsp baking powder
Basically, you mix together all the ingredients and you have your dough. Then you have to make it into really thin sheets, cut it into sort of rectangular shapes, and fry the pieces in a good oil, like peanut oil.
My problem was that I didn't have white wine, but still, I really wanted to make them that night!! So, I opted for a mixture of whiskey and the juice of a fresh orange. The consistency seemed fine, so I left the dough rest for half an hour (this was suggested in another version of the reciipe) and then began to work it.
This was really interesting.. to make thin sheets, you need to use a pasta machine. My mom gave me one last time I was in Italy ('I never use it, maybe you will, have it..'). So I tried it! This machine belonged to my mom's grandmother :) :)
So, I was very excited about this piece of history in my hands..
The whole thing was more complicated than I expected, because the machine needs to be clamped, and you need a table with a corner to be able to do that, or otherwise, you need some stable piece of wood or something to clamp between the machine and the table.. In fact, for some reason, the handle is longer than the height of the whole machine, and you need to have it on a corner in order to be able to turn it.. I'm not sure if modern machines have this problem, but this turned out to be a serious issue for my bugie attempt. :)
In fact, at first I tried with some books. This didn't work.. The books moved away very quickly. The final solution I could came out with was this one:
Basically, I clamped it to the handle of a chair. This turned out to be actually quite comfortable, because I could sit while I was making the bugie. :)
Using 'La Novecento Torino' (not sure if the name refers to the fact that it was made in 1900.. :) ) was actually a lot of fun, after I figured out a few details.. like how I should begin with some larger thickness, then turn a little screw and made the dough pass through a thinner and thinner space, to make it really thin, in the end.
My pieces of dough had all sort of funny shapes, but I guess it was good as a first attempt with la Novecento :)
Then, the next fun part: frying. Unfortunately, I didn't have peanut oil. I had some canola oil, that I heard is good for frying. Since I had no idea about what canola was (we don't use it in Italy at all), I went to look for it. This website has some information. Looks like the seed was created in the 1970s! To be honest, the smell of peanut oil is much better than canola oil, so I think next time I'll make bugie, I'll use the real peanut oil.
Anyway, after a few trials, I found out the optimal temperatures and timing for cooking (high and fast, respectively. :) ). After frying them, you have to cover the bugie in powdered sugar.
Here is an example of what came out - bad picture, but I always cook at night.. there's never enough light:
They looked nicer than in this picture, but anyway, they were really good! I ate quite a few of them while I was making them... I thought maybe that's the origin of the name 'bugie' (which means 'lies'): you will lie after making them, saying that you prepared only the amount that you actually presented to your guests.. and not mentioning the half that you ate already. :) (qualcuno ha qualche altra idea sull'origine del nome??)
After making two pans of them, I was impressed by the amount of oil that they were sucking, so I decided I would try to bake the rest of them. In fact, I remembered that I had some very good baked bugie.
After burning a few of them, I found out that the best temperature was very high (450), but the time was even shorter than for frying them (about one-two minutes for the first side and 30 sec-1 min after flipping them).
These are some of the baked bugie:
The taste was very nice. You could actually taste a little orange in them, whereas you couldn't in the fried ones. They were a bit too dry, though. I think next time I bake them, I'll make a special dough for them and I'll either add more oil or put some butter in it.
Anyway, it was really nice to make them, I had a lot of fun and I was impressed at the idea that I used la Novecento for the first time, and that I could make something so cool by frying (I never do). I brought the bugie to Lucas's parents and sister the day after.. they were finished in a few minutes, even though we just had had a humongous lunch. :)
Next time, I'll try to make some of them filled with jam (that's a possible variation), and some castagnole. I think my next guinea-pigs will be the girls from the choir that I meet next Thursday.. I need still one experiment before the competition!! :) :)
Monday, February 13, 2006
As I mentioned, I wanted to try little by little all those really interesting vegetables that they have at the Farmers' Market.. so, I'll show you here two recipes that I created with Collard Greens and Bok Choi and two different types of meat.
The 'philosophy' under these recipes is similar - you'll notice that I like a lot to put yogurt with meat. I think it gives a nice taste and texture to it.
Maiale piccante con collard greens (spicy pork with collard greens)
You'll prepare the pork and the vegetables separately. The preparation of the collards is very easy: wash them and put them in a pot with a little water on the bottom, cover, and let cook basically by steaming. Turn them from time to time, so the leaves on the bottom don't get overcooked by the water. When they're done (soft but not too much), cut them and toss with some olive oil, salt and if you like a little balsamic vinegar.
Cut some deboned pork chops into bite-size pieces and put them in a pan where you will have heated some olive oil. Stir for a while under high heat, until they are white on the exterior. At this point you can add salt and some sauces: a little barbecue sauce, some red curry paste and some yogurt (two tablespoons). This mixture will give a nice spicy strong taste to the meat, and the yogurt will tenderize it. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until the meat is nearly done. Then, add some cornstarch to thicken the sauce, and add some more yogurt to make a nice smooth cream that will taste of meat juices and spicy sauce. Turn off the heat about 30 seconds after you added the yogurt (four tablespoons), otherwise this will melt.
Serve combined with the vegetables on a side, with some good bread.
Pollo con cavolo cinese, miele e arachidi (chicken with bok choi, honey and peanuts)
Wash the bock choi and cut it into pieces. Finely slice an onion and saute it with some olive oil, and add the bok choi to it. Add salt and pepper and cover the pan.
While the vegetables are cooking, cut some boneless and skinless chicken thighs into bite-size pieces. Add to the vegetables. Add a little more salt and some red curry paste if you want this dish to be spicy (I do. :) ). Saute for a while under high heat until the chicken is white and cooked from the outside. Then, stir in some yogurt. At this point, I tasted the sauce: it was good, but a bit bitter. The bok choi is much more bitter than all the other types of vegetables that I tried so far.. so, I decided that I would add some honey to compensate. I added about two tablespoons of honey (for about one pound of vegetables and one pound of meat). After this, the sauce was not bitter anymore. It was actually very good. :)
Let cook for about twenty minutes, or until the chicken is done. Taste and add salt, pepper, honey and/or red pepper according to your desires. :)
Serve on top of steamed/boiled rice, and sprinkle some chopped peanuts on top.
The result was very good. Lucas could not taste the honey in it, which I guess is good, because it compensated the bitterness of the bok choi without overwhelming its taste. :)
Per chi non lo sapesse, il brunch domenicale e' un'usanza molto comune tra gli Americani. Viene servito tra le 10 del mattino e le due del pomeriggio, e secondo me e' un'idea carinissima: come dice la parola, e' una combinazione del cibo tipico della colazione (breakfast) e del pranzo (lunch).
In generale, quindi, un brunch comprende uova, bacon (non e' proprio come la nostra pancetta, ha piu' grasso), patate, e cose dolci come pancakes (non proprio frittelle.. sono molto piu' lievitate delle frittelle tipiche italiane, e meno fritte. Proprio come dice la parola: torte da padella :) ), waffles (non ho idea della traduzione in italiano: sono anche chiamati gauffres in francese, se aiuta), e vari tipi di torte, e in piu' qualsiasi cosa che uno possa immaginare per pranzo - quindi carne, pesce, pasta..
Cosi', domenica scorsa, abbiamo deciso di andare a mangiare un brunch! Era un po' per cambiare, dato che non l'avevamo mai fatto veramente. E cosi'...
We tried the Sunday brunch at Tir Na Nog, as suggested by a friend of mine who sang with me during the Mass. Tir Na Nog is an Irish-inspired pub, where we went in the past just for some beer after dinner. But apparently, they have a really good brunch buffet on Sunday!
- three different types of salad (pasta, fruit, chicken)
- two types of potatoes (roasted, or with eggs and tomatoes)
- a sort of bread pudding that Lucas couldn't remember the name of (quite good, though! a soft bread and cinnamon)
- green and black beans
- rice and pasta
- grits (dicono che siano fatti con farina di mais come la polenta.. ma hanno un gusto molto diverso dalla polenta, secondo me)
- oatmeal (questa e' una cosa tipica della colazione americana.. oat=avena, e' una specie di pastone tiepido fatto con fiocchi di avena, e di solito speziato alla cannella.. non eccezionale, secondo me :) )
- bacon and scrambled eggs
- sausage (una specie di polpettone fatto con carne tritata)
- waffles (plain and with chocolate chips), served with whipped cream and berries
- milk and cereals
- poundcake (una torta burrosissima), chocolate cake, lemon cake and some other cakes
It was so good! I tried quite a lot of things :) - to be honest, my favorite thing was the waffles with cream and berries, which I had twice.. :) But the whole idea was so nice.. I think I love buffets in general, and here in particular the atmosphere was merry and friendly. I'd definitely recommend this place if you ever happen to be in Raleigh on a Sunday.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Mmm.. I see that my old post didn't have a lot of success. :) So, I'll go back to more normal posts :)
Did you watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics? I obviously did, how could I miss Turin on American TV?
So, here are my thougths about it:
1) SOOOBBBBB :( :( - I got so homesick when I watched it! I don't realize I miss it so much until I really see it.
2) Turin is really pretty. They put up some wonderful lights, too.
3) AARGHH.. they showed some cafes, and the hot chocolate, and il bicerin.. I was still craving it the morning after.
4) American pronunciation is funny :) -probably as mine in English, though :)
5) As for the ceremony: some parts were really cool. I liked in particular the skier made by a lot of people who were moving around on the stage! Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video of it :(
I only found a video of the 'heart of passion'. Let me know if you find a video of the skier!!
6) The worst part were the commercials.. I think American TV is even worse than the Italian one for this aspect. They interrupt the show every five minutes with two minute of commercials...
In general, I like that we are hosting the Olympics.
I must point out, though, that in Italy there have been lots of protests about it. The main points were environment related. It looks like instead of using some pre-existing structures, they built a lot of huge new ones, destroying some precious landscapes. Obviously, some of these will never be used again by normal people (not many people do luge and similar..). Also, some of these constructions seemed to be not only ugly but also dangerous for the hydrogeology of the places.
Other points were more political: many of the fundings came by companies supporting war and builduing weapons, or doing immoral actions against their worker (such as Coca Cola). Obviously, this is against the spirit of the Olympics..
At last, some of the protests occurred to show disagreements with the people who arrived: many protesters showed up against Laura Bush, for example, to show disagreement with Bush's politics.
These protests were so strong (or scary to the organizers..) that the Olympic torch arrived to the stadium through a path that was different from the one that was decided at the beginning, just to avoid them.
I think they have some good points, although, I wouldn't like it if they interfered too much with the Olympics... It's still a nice event, with such a long history behind.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
With this post I would like to start a series of discussions on some philosophical/literary/scientific/social/musical subjects.. The goal would be to have people post their opinions on the subject, so that in the end we have a sort of 'conference' on the chosen topic, which hopefully will be interesting for us and other people to read.
Feel free to post either in Italian or in English. The discussion will develop through the 'comments' section, at least at the beginning. If I see that it becomes too messy, I'll summarize the comments in some posts, and I'll translate at least parts of the Italian ones into English, so that all the people can understand.
Ok, so, the first topic came to my mind thanks to an email that my dad sent me recently. He was discussing about the similarities between chemistry and mathematics, and in particular, how both sciences deal with transformation: chemistry transforms elements, matter, into other matter - and mathematics transforms theorems into theorems. So, he went on with the theme of transformation in general..
Well, also in my opinion, this is quite an interesting theme.
I've always loved to see how things transform. Cooking is a good example: isn't it unbelievable that starting from some flour, yeast, and water, one can produce a dough, and this can raise just under the action of the heat in the oven? And depending on how you work the dough, how much water/flour you put, you obtain completely different things.. I still remember when I first tried to make the ciabatta bread according to the recipe found on Comida's blog.. I was really amazed that I actually obtained something so crunchy outside and soft inside. I would have never thought it would happen.. Usually, I had always obtained a soft crust..
This is just a tiny example. Heat, kneeding, yeast, produces something so different from the starting ingredients.
Transformation is the object of many myths (Zeus transforming into all sorts of animals, girls transforming into statues of salt, or into stars..) and modern stories (did you watch the cartoon 'Spirited away'? It was really good). It has always fascinated humans.
It's a fundamental concept in many religious themes, and since I'm Christian, I will mention a few from the Bible: according to John, the first of Jesus' miracles was the transformation of water into wine.. somewhere else, God tells Israelites: I will transform your heart made of rock into a heart made of flesh.
We are transformed into something different every moment that passes by, and it's impossible for us to identify ourselves in a specific self of the past. We also desire to transform ourselves into something better than what we are now.
So.. the subject of this discussion is transformation in all its possible meanings. Is there any aspect of it that you would like to meditate together? Any particular example that you would like to share, taken from any field that you're interested in? Any episode from your life that shows how you or someone has been transformed?
On NPR (National Public Radio, the only good source of information that I've found here in the US), they have a weekly show called 'This American Life', where they choose a theme, and they tell three true stories related to the theme.
This discussion could be something similar, just, we can have much more than three stories, and we can mix together facts and ideas, reality and thoughts. :)
I hope you'll join me.. or you can also suggest some other themes for the future, if this doesn't appeal your imagination.
Chathamgirl sent me this interesting link that explains better what seitan is, how to make it - ehm, I think I'll continue to buy it pre-made, though.. :) - and gives a few recipes.
Monday, February 06, 2006
After posting on this blog about the spaghetti squash, I decided I really wanted to cook something with it again. So, I decided I would prepare a 'cena spaghettosa', that is, a dinner with a lot of different types of spaghetti. Obviously, I invented the recipes, and I decided it would be a completely vegetarian dinner, since one of my expected guests was vegetarian.
This was the menu:
Appetizer: Refreshing spaghetti squash salad/insalata rinfrescante di zucca-spaghetti
Entree: Combination of whole-weat spaghetti with gorgonzola cheese and pecans, egg noodles with vegetarian ragu and rice noodles with kale, white radish, anchovies and yogurt / tris di spaghetti integrali con gorgo e noci pecans, tagliatelle con ragu vegetariano e spaghettini di riso con cavolo cappuccio, rafano, acciughe e yogurt.
Dessert: Soy noodles with ice-cream/spaghetti di soia con gelato
And here are some more pictures, the recipes and some comments.
Insalata rinfrescante di zucca-spaghetti
Bake the spaghetti squash in the oven at 400F for about 40 minutes. Cut them in half and scoop out the pulp with a fork:
Isn't this squash amazing? The pulp really comes out in little strings, and in the end, you get a bowl full of something that really looks like spaghetti:
(This is what I obtained with three spaghetti squash of the size that you can see in the picture).
Let the pulp cool down and begin to add the rest of the ingredients that your fantasy suggests. In this case, I decided I would add some grated carrots, sliced white mushrooms, green olives cut in a half, finely cut cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and.. the final secret touch: orange juice, freshly squeezed. In the end, I also added small pieces of another orange.
Mix everything together, and spoon back inside the squash halves. Garnish with olives and cilantro.
Believe me, it was delicious. I was very happy. In fact, the squash by itself has a very delicate, slightly bitter taste, and in this combination it was wonderful.
Spaghetti integrali con gorgo e noci pecans
This is the recipe that most resembles some sort of Italian-style dish. In Italy, the combination of nuts with gorgonzola cheese is very common. We don't use pecans, though, since we don't have them. Walnuts are used instead.
Per gli Italiani che non conoscono le pecans: sono delle noci un po' piu' piccole di quelle che noi chiamiamo 'noci', hanno un guscio striato, e sono molto saporite, con un gusto simile alle nostre noci, ma piu' deciso. Sono tipiche del sud degli States, e parte integrante della loro tradizione culinaria, soprattutto in dolci tipo il 'pecan pie' che si mangia a Natale e a Thanksgiving. Ho trovato un sito di fondamentalisti vegetariani :) che fa vedere una foto e da' tutto il contenuto nutrizionale delle pecans... impressionante. :)
To prepare the sauce, warm in a pan a packet of heavy cream (find a packet without sugar!!)- actually, the best would be what I used: 'panna da cucina', it's the Italian version of it, it's less fatty and has a more delicate taste. I found it in an Italian store here in Raleigh.
Then, add some gorgonzola cheese. I prefer the sweet type, but I guess you could use the stronger type that you find in crumbs here in some grocery stores. Let it melt, then add the walnuts that you will have crushed beforehand. Keep the sauce warm.
In the meanwhile, boil the spaghetti in some salted water (NB: Americans don't always know that you need to add salt in the water where you boil the pasta! The best is to use kasher salt, and you will need about one-two tablespoons for quart of water, more or less. Taste the spaghetti while they cook, they must be tasty, otherwise add more salt!)
Whole weat spaghetti take a bit longer than normal ones, but remove them when they're still al dente, and mix them up with the sauce. Decide how many spaghetti vs. sauce you want depending on how 'saucy' you want them :).
Tagliatelle con ragu vegetariano
This 'vegetarian ragu' is made with seitan instead of ground beef and pork, like you should use if you want to make a real ragu. Nevertheless, I cooked it for quite a long time, like you're supposed to do with a real ragu.. this made the seitan absorb the tomato juice, and gave a nice taste and texture to the sauce. The result is obviously different from a real ragu, it's much lighter, but quite good with the tagliatelle.
To make the sauce, saute one onion in some extra-virgin olive oil, then add two cans of diced tomates, salt, red pepper and 8 oz of seitan cut into pieces, with some of its juice. Cover and let boil for one hour. Taste from time to time to check salt and pepper. In the meanwhile, boil a pound of tagliatelle (egg noodles), again in salted water, and when they're al dente, drain the water and mix them with the sauce.
Spaghettini di riso con cavolo cappuccio, rafano, aggiughe e yogurt
I used the rice noodles like I learnt when I made the Pad-Thai noodles for the Thai dinner, but I changed all the ingredients added to the noodles. In particular, I decided I wanted to use some of the funny vegetables that I didn't know at the Farmers' market: kale and white radish. I found a very nice description of what kale and collards are with a picture of the same variety of kale leaves that I used. It looks like these types of cabbages are 'primitive plants'! :)
The white radish that I used, instead, seems to be the same thing that in Italian is called 'rafano'. Still, to me, rafano tastes more strongly than this radish, which is also know as chinese radish.
Soak the rice noodles (one pound) in cold water while you prepare the vegetables. Saute one onion in extra-virgin olive oil, and add a bunch of kale (probably about one pound?) cut in small pieces. Cover with a lid and let the kale lose some water and decrease in volume. Cut half of the radish and add the pieces to the kale. Add some yogurt to moisturize and give a slightly bitter taste. Add a few pieces of anchovies (a total of four anchovies). If you add such a little amount, you will just give a nice flavor to the whole dish, without actually tasting the anchovies. Cook for a few minutes until the anchovies are melted. Then, add the rice noodles, after draining the water. Saute altogether. Try to stir altogether. This is the hardest part, since the rice noodles are really tangled!
Cover with a lid and let cook for about 10-15 min.
Spaghetti di soia con gelato
This idea came to my mind as a memory of my childhood, when in some cafes I saw some spaghetti gelato type of ice-cream (and that I never tried, for some reason :) ). The real recipe is made with vanilla gelato, which is passed through some instrument that has holes, so that you create some 'spaghetti' made with ice-cream. Then, you put some strawberry jam on top of them, to resemble tomato sauce, and in the end, a leaflet of mint, to resemble basil.
Since I didn't have a good instrument to make the ice-cream spaghetti, I decided to use some soy noodles instead. (Also because I wanted to use all types of spaghetti that I could find in the pasta department of the grocery store :) ).
I sauted the soy noodles in a pan with some maple syrup. I let them cool down, then I adjusted them on top of some ice-cream spooned in a bowl and I put the bowls in the freezer. When we were ready for dessert, I heated a sauce made with strauberry jelly and a little water in the microwave for a few seconds, and then I poured it warm on top of the spaghetti and ice-cream. To decorate, I added the mint leaf.
It was a nice ending to the dinner, and the taste was good.. It was a bit difficult to eat, though, since it was hard to pick up the spaghetti and the ice-cream with the same tool :)
Anyway, it was a really nice dinner. Everyone was happy, and we had some entertaining conversations on various subjects, a lot of them concerning aspects of the different cultures represented by the people who were at the dinner: Chinese, Mexican, Italian and American. I really loved it.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
A friend of mine sent me a note about this wonderful news.. Here is the paper in Italian, taken by the newspaper Repubblica.
ROMA - Berlusconi non si accontenta più di decidere quando andare in onda, dove andare in onda e con chi andare in onda. Non si accontenta più di portarsi dietro un truccatore personale, un consigliere-suggeritore e un "curatore dell'immagine" che dà istruzioni tassative sulle inquadrature consentite e su quelle vietate. No, adesso il presidente del Consiglio arriva in studio con il suo regista personale. Che non affianca il titolare della trasmissione, ma semplicemente lo sostituisce: prende il comando dello studio, dirige la puntata e poi va via insieme al Cavaliere.
Non era mai successo, nella storia della televisione italiana, che a un intervistato - per quanto eccellente - venisse concesso un simile privilegio. Non era mai successo fino a venerdì scorso, quando Silvio Berlusconi si è presentato allo studio 3 di Cinecittà per registrare la puntata de "L'incudine", la trasmissione di Claudio Martelli. Che si trattasse di una puntata speciale, la redazione del programma l'aveva già capito: mandata in onda da Italia Uno abitualmente il giovedì dopo la mezzanotte, grazie all'arrivo del premier la trasmissione veniva eccezionalmente collocata nella prima serata di sabato, al posto del film "Men in black" (e così velocemente da non lasciare neanche il tempo a "Tv Sorrisi e Canzoni" di aggiornare i programmi). Non solo, ma gli autori del programma - i più stretti collaboratori del conduttore nella preparazione delle interviste - erano stati insolitamente tenuti all'oscuro delle domande preparate da Martelli per il premier. "Il presidente arriverà con la sua squadra", aveva avvertito la segreteria di Berlusconi. Nessuno però aveva capito che in quella squadra ci sarebbe stato anche il regista: Maurizio Spagliardi, un professionista ingaggiato da Mediaset per "Il senso della vita" (che evidentemente deve aver conquistato la piena fiducia del premier con la puntata dedicata al suo amarcord familiare). Il fatto è che non l'aveva capito neanche il regista della trasmissione, Sergio Colabona (lo stesso di "Affari tuoi"), il quale stava arrivando a Cinecittà quando è stato fermato da una telefonata perentoria: "Non venire, non ce n'è bisogno". Gelo negli studi, grande imbarazzo in cabina di regia, mentre Martelli - lasciando fuori dalla porta gli autori, increduli e furenti - si chiudeva nel suo camerino con Giorgio Mulè, il vice di Mauro Crippa al vertice della piramide Mediaset dell'informazione. Poi è arrivato Berlusconi, con il resto della squadra (da Paolo Bonaiuti, che faceva sì-sì o no-no da dietro le quinte, a
seconda degli argomenti toccati da Martelli, a Roberto Gasparotti, il meticoloso curatore delle inquadrature presidenziali). E Spagliardi, il regista "ad personam" ha dato il via alla registrazione. Anche stavolta, come era già successo in tutte le altre trasmissioni che avevano ospitato il Cavaliere, era tassativamente proibito il primo piano: concesso, al massimo, qualche piano americano. E naturalmente nessun cameraman s'è azzardato a puntare la telecamera sulle scarpe dell'ospite (che hanno colpito tutti i presenti per l'altezza del tacco e lo spessore del rialzo interno).
La trasmissione poi è andata come è andata. Due ore e mezzo di interminabili sermoni berlusconiani, così pesanti che alla fine Mulè e il regista si sono guardati in faccia sconsolati, domandandosi se ci fosse un modo, magari col montaggio, di rendere un po' più commestibile quel diluvio di parole. Non c'era, purtroppo. Nonostante il dimezzamento delle interruzioni pubblicitarie - altra misura "ad personam", del tutto inusuale per una rete commerciale - l'indomani l'Auditel avrebbe registrato uno share del 7 per cento, che per gli addetti ai lavori significa, in prima serata, "flop spettacolare". In fondo, al regista "titolare" è andata bene: adesso è l'unico che può dire "io non c'ero". (31 gennaio 2006)
I'll summarize it here in English..
As an introduction, I should say that Berlusconi is the Italian prime minister, and that he really likes television. In fact, he owns 3 of the 4 national private TV channels, and being now the prime minister, he has also control over the 3 public ones. He recently decided that he wasn't showing up enough on TV (remember that in April we will have national elections in Italy), so he began a huge campaign, and he's been harassing Italians with his words and image appearing daily on their TV screens.
This article describes one of the many shows - this was put on air on Jan 31st.
Briefly, he was supposed to be interviewed by a journalist during the show. Usually, the show goes on air at midnight, but exceptionally this was anticipated at 9 pm, suddenly removing the movie that was supposed to be shown. The journalist who prepared the questions with Berlusconi refused to tell them to the other co-authors of the show, who were evidently quite pissed off that night. But the most amazing thing, was that Berlusconi arrived there with 'his team'. The team included obviously make-up artists and an 'image expert', who gave strict directions about what the cameramen could or could not show (for example, no close ups of Berlusconi's face, or of his shoes, which had a very high heel and thick soles - the guy is short). But the most important person of the 'team' was .. Berlusconi's personal director!!
The real director of the show was kindly given notice that he didn't need to come to work that night. And the show began.. two hours of B's monologues, interrupted by only half of the amount of commercials that are usually there.
The show was a total flop - only 7% of the share, which is terrible for a first evening show. In the end, the real director was lucky: he was the only one who could say: " I wasn't there"..
Ah, che tristezza.. almeno pero' il dato dello share da' qualche speranza per le prossime elezioni.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
I just found a few wonderful blogs. This way of communication is more and more interesting to me.
Check out Global Voices online. It's great - it posts summary of blogs from all over the world. You can read a lot of interesting news that the newspapers will never report. They are the news that are really important to people.
There are also cultural things and a bit of everything, like in any respectful blog :)
Also, I'd like you to look at MrDuffy's blog. It's in Italian, so many people will not understand the words, but the wonderful thing that filled me with joy is that Mr Duffy posts daily pictures from Turin, my home town. And he loves similar things that I love - nature, light, architecture.. So, if you'd like to look at Turin from a nice viewpoint, check out the blog. I was really happy to find it (actually, I have to thank again ComidaDeMama, since I found a mention about it on her blog :) )
Btw: MrDuffy just mentioned to me of another webpage with more pictures of Torino under the snow. They're great.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Another quick and nice recipe made up for tonight - we were hungry and a bit in a hurry.
Prepare some cous cous the way you prefer: in a pan, in the microwave, or in a steamer (this is the closest way to the real one that Arabs use to cook it, for what I understood). Tonight I made it on the stove, since it's quite fast (bring a cup of water to boil, add some salt, add the cous cous, take it off the stove, stir and let it rest for five minutes. The cous cous will expand and 'drink' all the water. I also like to add a little olive oil to it when it's done).
In the meanwhile, prepare this colourful sauce: sautee some onions, add some canned diced tomatoes, salt, red and black pepper according to your taste. Add some corn. For tonight, I had some wonderful sweet corn that Lucas's parents grew last year and that we picked, silked, quickly blanched (look at chathamgirl's comment for a thorough explanation :) ), cut and froze together. It tastes great. Anyway, if you don't have the really good stuff, some canned corn will work fine :). Then, add some finely cut cilantro. Let it cook altogether for about 10 minutes, taste again and adjust salt and pepper, and serve on cous cous, with some cilantro leaves to decorate.
It tastes good, it's healthy, and it's ready in a total time of 20 minutes. :)
This will be my first post related to politics/news from the world. In particular, I want to speak about something that is going on here in the US.
I'm not sure if the news about the accidents that occurred in West Virginia last January reached Italy, or the ears of all Americans. Well, last January, 14 people lost their lives in two coal mines in West Virginia, and more precisely, 12 in an explosion that occurred in one mine, and 2 because part of the mine suddenly collapsed. These tragic events are to be blamed not only to the companies that owned the mines (the company that owns the first mine had been already notified to improve their safety in the past), but also to Bush's government.
Recently, in fact, Bush passed a law that changed another law that was approved in the past (if I recall correctly, at least 50 years ago). The first law was meant to improve safety in coal mines, by obliging mining companies to build two different channels: one to take out the coal from the mine, and one for the people to go out. In fact, it's well known that coal burns easily (obvious consideration, since they mine it for that reason), and so the law was meant to protect miners' lives in case of fires - at least, they had another way out. For some I-don't-know-how-to-define-it reason, Bush's administration decided that this law was useless, and they actually changed it so that they made it legal to build mines with only one way out.
The consequence is now under our eyes - 12 people dead.
At the same time, we've been bombarded in the last few years by news concerning the danger of terroristic attacks in the US. This morning, we woke up with Bush's voice (sometimes I wonder why our radio alarm is set on NPR.. :) ) - who was saying that in the next few months he will check personally the plans for every big town in the US in case of major catastrophic events.. and of course, the first of these possible catastrophes is a terroristic attack. Otherwise, why would he be listening to our phone conversations and reading our emails??
Ok, so, now, just a small probability calculation: do you think that it's more likely that there is an accident in a coal mine, or that some terrorists attack the US? How many accidents in mines have there been in the past 100 years and how many terroristic attacks in the US?
I really don't understand why people support Bush's line of thought. They prefer to be taped, rather than worrying about real issues that occur in their own country.