Hey!!! 'An Italian in the US' just passed the 1000 visits!!!!!
(image from elsewhere.org)
Monday, October 30, 2006
Hey!!! 'An Italian in the US' just passed the 1000 visits!!!!!
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Our italian/spanish dinner this week was hosted by Crissy, and a new nationality was represented: Peru, thanks to David :)
We're getting better and better and this time we spoke Spanish almost all the time, and Luisa tried to read the Italian cookbook that I brought. We exchanged sayings too .. for example: how do you say 'to be extremely tired' in a colorful way? Lucas, Crissy and I couldn't come out with an American or Italian saying, whereas we found out that in Mexico they say
'cansado como una cucaracha fumigada' (tired as a fumigated cockcroach, stanco come uno scarafaggio spruzzato con l'insetticida) :) :)
And in Peru they say
'cansado como el caballo de los bandidos' (tired as the horse of the bandits, stanco come il cavallo dei banditi) .
So if some readers want to help.. can you find an Italian/American saying for this?!?
The dinner had a 'Halloween' theme, since we are so close to October 31st. So here is our guest Crissy holding the bleeding skull:
More pictures and some recipes below.
For the dinner we were supposed to bring food typical of our countries. So I took the book that my Dad gave me: 'Cucina di tradizione del Piemonte, Ricettario a Fumetti' by Alberto Calosso and Piero Gallarino (e' bellissimo! Chiunque si interessa di cucina dovrebbe prendere questo libro, e' davveri simpatico, c'e' un pazzo cuoco-cartone che produce ottimi piatti e li illustra :) ). It's a book about cooking from Piemonte, my region. I took a recipe for a soup, because I thought there would be too much other food to make a pasta.
It was really good, so I share the recipe with you (slightly cut down on the butter).
Zuppa di cipolle (Onion soup)
Cut very finely 2 kg onions (~5 medium/big onions). In a pan, put 50g (1/4 stick) of butter and melt it, add the onions and cook very gently for ~20 min. In the meanwhile, melt 30 g (~2 tbs) butter in another pan, add a spoon of flour, and ~ 1 l vegetable broth (I added this much as the recipe said, but I think it's too much, so I had to cook it for a while later to evaporate some liquid) and salt. After the onions are done, blend them to obtain a sort of mousse. Add to the broth. Bring to boil and cook until it's of the thickness you like. Then, add 3 tbsp sour cream (panna da cucina, se ce l'avete a disposizione), mix, and serve hot with crostini (pieces of bread cut and toasted in a pan where some butter (~1/2 tbsp) was melted previously).
Also Lucas cooked! He made cornbread, the style that his grandmother used to make it:
Lucas's grandma's cornbread
Mix 1 lb cornmeal, 1 broccoli bunch cut into pieces, salt, 1 small onion sautee, 1/4 lb melted butter, 12 oz cottage cheese, 4 eggs beaten. Put in a pan, so that it's about 1 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 400 F for 30 min. It was very good!!!
Luisa made a chinese dish, which she explained is commonly cooked in Mexican households of her region, due to the strong influence of Chinese immigrants.
It was very good, but I can't remember the name!
Mariana made the 'Sopa de gato' (soup of the cat), which is neither a soup nor does it contain cat meat :) - but it's a stir fry of tortilla, chorizo and cream. Very yummy :)
(sorry, the picture is blurry).
And Crissy made a wonderful 'Italian roast', which was beef and vegetables slowly cooked in a crockpot with tomatoes and spices for 10 hours. It was delicious.
The dessert was a mixed cheesecake (we didn't make it though) :)
Very good, I couldn't resist trying transparent slices of 3 of the 4 flavors.
I also made another dessert, taken from the Piemontese cookbook, but since I transformed it into a Halloween dessert, I'll describe it in another post.
I just wanted to post a few pictures of the guests of this dinner:
Crissy and David
Luisa and Jorge
Mariana and Trino
Marta and Lucas
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I just found out that a wonderful website about Torino is one of the most voted travel websites in Pixelawards.com.. It's a collective effort to show really nice pictures of Turin, organized in itineraries. There is also a blog with more wonderful pictures.
I really liked it and if you do too, you can still vote for it!
Per i miei amici italiani e torinesi: leggendo alcuni itinerari ho scoperto cose interessanti che non ho mai visitato, per esempio la magica cartoleria Bonino nel quadrilatero romano.. Torino ha sempre qualcosa di nuovo da mostrare!
Monday, October 23, 2006
Lucas's mom gave me a wonderful book titled 'Bread alone', with a huge amount of bread recipes. I am very curious and want to try a lot of them! So I decided to start from the first one, which was called 'Classic country style hearth loaf'. It takes a while but the result is very good.
Some more pictures and the recipe below.
This bread starts with a 'poolish', i.e. a small amount of flour, yeast and water that start the fermentation of the whole bread-to-be. To make it, mix 1/2 cup water at RT with 1/2 tsp yeast, let stand for 1 min, stir until yeast is dissolved, and add 3/4 cup whole weat flour. Cover with moist towel and let rest for 2 hours at RT or overnight in the fridge (that's what I did).
Then, add 2 1/2 cups of water to the poolish, mix, add 1/2 tsp yeast, mix, and start adding flour (I added a mixture of whole weat and regular flour). Add 1 tbsp salt before you finish adding the flour. You should add flour and stir until it becomes solid enough to be workable with your hands. Once it's solid enough start working on it with your hands and add flour until it's not too sticky. They say you should add a total of 5-6 cups of flour but I think I added more than that. Knead for at least 15 minutes (this is a hard thing to do!! you can use a machine, if you want). At the end of the kneading the dough must be elastic, such that if you pull or poak on it it should go back to the original shape. If it doesn't, keep kneading. I did it for 20 minutes..
Then, make the dough into a ball, lightly grease the exterior part with oil or butter (I used oil) and cover with a moist towel. Let rest 2-3 hours (supposedly at 78 F. I think my room temperature was much lower, and I let it rest for a bit longer).
This picture shows how much it raised after that time..I was impressed!
After that time, deflate the dough by punching it in the center, form again into a ball and rest for another 30 minutes.
Deflate the dough again and knead it briefly. Cut into 2 pieces, flatten them and eliminate any air bubbles by squishing them with the palms of your hands. Reshape into balls, and set in bowls covered with towels that you will have floured. Cover and let rest for 1.5-2 hours (proofing). This is how one of them looked like after the proofing.
Preheat the oven and a baking stone in it to 450F (according to the book the preheating should last 45 min. I did it for 20 min only).
Transfer the bread loaves on a floured board, cut them with quick shallow cuts on their surface, and slide them into the oven. Spray the inner walls and the bottom of the oven with water, and immediately close the oven not to lose the water vapors. According to the book, you should then repeat this operation after 3 minutes. Since it seemed like a dangerous operation to me, I didn't repeat it. Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400F and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Cool the loaves on racks.
The bread was very good, and I think it really came out how it was supposed to, as you can see from this picture that shows the inside of it:
It was a bit different from how I was imagining it would have been, since a 'country bread' in my mind has a much thicker crust and a denser inside, with bubbles of air that are larger, but the dough is denser. So I think this bread is more American counry style bread, whereas the recipe that I used before and posted here was more Italian-style. Both are very good, anyway, although I'm biased towards the Italian version :)
Btw: this is my 100th post!!
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Gisela will leave Raleigh next week to go to Columbia, and then Cesar will join her and they'll have their honeymoon in Brasil, before moving to New Castle, UK, where Cesar was hired as a professor.. congratulations! This is really nice, and makes me hope that Lucas and I will sometime be able to find something in Europe.
Anyway, so we decided to have them for dinner one last time, to say goodbye. It was a really nice evening. We stayed up talking until 1.30 am, and we had a lot of extremely interesting discussions, ranging from the history of guerrilla movements in Columbia to the minorities in the US, to movies..
People liked the food, and the wines that our guests brought were awesome.
Here are Cesar, Vlasta, Filipe and Gisela before leaving. I'll put below pictures of food and recipes, if someone is interested in them.
I prepared two appetizers:
Insalata autunnale (Fall salad)
This is one of the infinite variations of my typical salads: the basis is cabbage, finely cut, then I added slices of apple, almonds in pieces, and olives. I seasoned it with a sauce made by mixing approximatively 6 tbsp yogurt and 1 tbsp olive oil, plus I added a bit of oregano and celery salt.
Antipasto caldo autunnale (Fall warm appetizer)
I took the idea for this recipe from cooker.net (Italian wonderful cooking website), but added my touch to it (the gorgonzola sauce). So here is my version of it. Slice 5 red potatoes and grill the slices on an anti-sticking pan (no oil was necessary), until tender and slightly colored on both sides. Add salt to them. Then slice a packet of fresh mushrooms and sautee them in olive oil with some garlic and salt. Cut into small pieces three red onions. Cook them in a pot with 1 tbsp vinegar and 4 tbsp water (you can increase the vinegar/water ratio, but I didn't want to in this case), and 2 tbsp sugar. Taste it after a while and keep checking on them. You need to cook them until they're almost completely mushy.
Prepare a salsa di gorgonzola (gorgonzola sauce) by mixing in a pot ~ 2 tbsps flour and ~1 1/2 cup milk and ~ 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese into pieces. In particular, first put the flour in the pot and add the milk a little at a time so that it incorporates the flour without making clumps. Start the heat once the flour is mixed with part of the milk. After you heat up for a few minutes you can add the cheese. Add salt to taste. Mix occasionally to break clumps that may form. You will have to start mixing all the time once it starts boiling, or it will stick to the pan. Stop heating once it's thickened enough (not too much or you won't be able to spread it). You can use this sauce for a variety of purposes, including good pasta dishes.
For the antipasto: layer the grilled potato slices, the onions, the mushrooms and the cheese sauce, and keep layering until you run out of ingredients or space in the pan. Before serving it, warm in the oven for ~10 minutes at 350F.
I forgot to take a picture of the layered serving dish, unfortunately, so you see only what was in my plate :) . I was very happy of this appetizer and it's good also a few days after. You can serve more of it and have it as part of an entree if you want.
Then I made a pasta:
Linguine con pesto di peperoni e pesce (Linguine with pepper pesto and fish)
I forgot to take a picture of the main dish, so again you see only what was in my plate :) )
I took the idea for this pasta reading a few recipes from cooker.net, again. I wanted a sauce a bit different from the usual, again using fall ingredients, and which did not contain tomatoes. So I chose to use peppers and fish. I roasted 5 sweet banana peppers (red and green) in the oven at 350F for ~1/2 hour, turning them occasionally.
Then I removed the seeds and peeled them (only what was easy to peel got removed :) ). Then I cut them and blended them with 2 garlic cloves, a handful of walnuts and 3 chunks of parmesan cheese, as if I wanted to make pesto, but using peppers instead of basil. I also added some salt.
In a pan slightly greased with olive oil I cooked a Mackarel fillet (~5 min per side). I removed the skin after cooking it and cut it into pieces. When we were almost ready to eat the pasta, I cooked the linguine al dente (for my American readers who may not know: please remember to add at least 1.5 tbsp of coarse salt in the pan where you cook the pasta, and have a large pan with a large amount of water in it, which must be boiling before you throw the pasta in!!!!). Then I drained them and stir them in the pan where I had the fish, and added the pepper pesto sauce. I mixed everything up and the fish was tender enough to get divided into tiny pieces during this operation. Serve hot.
The dessert was a cake that had been suggested to me by my aunt Carla.
Torta Milano (Milano cake)
Ingredients for the dough:
300 g flour (2.5 cups)
50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract in 1 tbsp of water
1 pinch of salt
grated zest of 1 lime or lemon
110 g butter, melted (1 stick)
Mix the flour, the sugar, the salt and the lemon. Add the butter and the egg, beaten. Mix with your hands quickly and shape into a ball. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 1.2 hour. This is very similar to the dough we make for 'crostata' cakes, that I described in earlier posts.
Ingredients for the filling:
200 g ground almonds (~ 1.5 cups)
50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
50 g corn starch or potato starch (1/3 cup)
strawberry or raspberry or orange jam
1 pinch of salt
50 g sliced almonds (1/3 cup)
Mix the almonds, sugar and starch and salt. Beat the yolks in a bowl and add the almond mixture to it. Beat the eggwhites until firm. Add them to the other ingredients (this actually obliged me to kind of destroy the firmness of the eggwhites, because the egg/nut mixture was sturdy).
To assemble: spread the dough on a buttered and floured pan, covering the bottom and the borders of the pan. Spread a good amount of jam on it, until completely covered. Add the filling on top. Bake at 400F for ~20 min then take out, add the sliced almonds and finish cooking (~10 min). Check on it, because in my oven it was quicker than in the original recipe.
It's a very nice cake, very good to eat with a glass of Port wine or a cup of coffee. :)
During the whole meal, we enjoyed a new type of bread that I prepared. I was happy of it and I will make a separate post to describe this recipe.
Maia and I wanted to go for a trip today, but unfortunately it rained almost all day. So we decided to go see an exposition that just opened at the NC Arts Museum, in Raleigh. The title of the exposition is 'Monet in Normandy'.
This specific painting is not at the exposition, but there are many as famous and as wonderful as this one.
I really really enjoyed seeing this exposition, even though there were way too many people (rainy Sunday, and the exposition started very recently). I love Monet and I can lose myself watching his paintings. Moreover, it brought up so many memories from the past: my trips with my parents and my aunt and uncle to France and to the towns of Monet, my love for art and paintings, the many expositions that I saw when I was in Turin and in Italy.. this was an almost unique event here in Raleigh. So, I was really happy and I'll go back with Lucas once he's done with his thesis.
Moreover, Maia and I took the occasion to visit also some of the Museum permanent collections. I already visited it, but it's a really wonderful museum, showing ancient art from Egypt, Rome, Greece, South and Central America, Africa, paintings from Europe and America of the XVII, XVIII, XIX, and XX century and modern and contemporary art. I'd recommend visiting this museum to everyone who happens to be in Raleigh.
Visit their wonderful website to have a more detailed idea.
Gisela and Cesar are two dear friends from Brasil and Columbia, respectively, who just fot married and had their wedding party two weeks ago - I still didn't write anything of this nice event..
So here are the newlyweds:
Look at what Gisela has in her hand.. this can let you understand the quantity of alcohol that was flowing at the party :)
Other than alcoholic beverages, the party was a lot of music and dancing and food, as every respectable party :)
This is just a memory of the 'Italian mafia' - as we were called :)
Maia (on the left) had just arrived from Palermo and Ross (on the right) recently came back from Pavia, as I mentioned somewhere else.
Last saturday Antonella and Danila organized the first Italian Pic-nic of the Triangle! It was a very nice idea. We met at Lake Crabtree, which is a wonderful place very close to Raleigh. Funny, I had never been there in these two years. The lake is beautiful and there are lots of trails.
There were a lot of people and food...
There were a lot of savory cakes (torte rustiche) and rice salads (insalate di riso), which are the typical Italian pic-nic food. But barbecues are everywhere in the US, so we obviously took advantage of it, and tons and tons of meat were cooked :)
Lucas and I went for a short walk around the lake and I took a few pictures. I'll put here this sort of goodbye picture, hoping to go back to this wonderful place soon.
Lucas and I watched this long movie (or miniseries) about one week ago and I've been wanting to write about that since then.
It's an Italian production by Marco Tullio Giordana (english title: The best of youth).
It's the story of the lives of two brothers who are young in Rome in the Sixties/Seventies, and grow and live in different parts of Italy. Their personal stories are intertwined with the historical events taking place in Italy from the Sixties to 2004. So it starts with the story of the Sixty-eight movement, the fights between 'i sessantottini' e 'i celerini' (the young people occupying universities and the police), and it's actually very nice because it shows a bit of both sides, as the two brothers are on different positions. Then the movies goes on, and the history of Italian society too.. so there is the Brigate Rosse (a sort of terroristic movement that started at the end of the Seventies).. and other social issues are discussed, together with life romances and sufferings. It's a wonderful movie, I'd recommend it to everyone.. even just if you want to see some of Italy and of Turin in particular: a lot of the movie is set in Turin. It made me quite homesick, in fact, especially now that I don't know what will happen of my life in general..
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Our last Spanish-Italian dinner had an Indian theme at it was hosted at Luisa's and Jorge's house. There was a lot of food, and I have a sample of everything on my plate:
From the top: spicy shrimp, samosas, aromatic rice, rice with lentils, fish kofta, naan bread and pakora (in the center).
The shrimp and the rice with lentils were made by Luisa, the samosas by Crissy, the pakora by Mariana, and the aromatic rice, the fish and the bread by me. The food was very good. There were also desserts.. I can give real Indian names and recipes of the dishes that I made below. Btw, I took all the recipes from this wonderful cook book that my Aunt Carla gave me some time ago. It's called 'Cooking glass Indian', from the 'Women's weekly cookbooks', and it's really nice. Any recipe I tried from that book turned out wonderful! Grazie mille, zia :)
Boil some water, add salt and throw pieces of white fish fillets in it (1 1/3 lb=700 g), until cooked. Strain fish and reserve 2 cups of broth. Blend fish with 1 onion (cut into pieces), 2 spicy peppers (red in the recipe, I used green ones), and 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (I used ginger instead). Shape the mixture into elongated cilinders:
Heat 1/2 tbsp butter (ghee in the original recipe) in a non-sticking pan, and grill the fish kofta until browned on each side.
Heat 1/2 tbsp butter (ghee) in a pan, add one minced onion, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, 2 tsps ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, 2 sticks of cinnamon and sautee for a few minutes. Add 3 tomatoes (I used a big can of diced tomatoes), cook until tomatoes are soft, add the fish liquid, and simmer uncovered until sauce thickens. Add fish kofta gently and let them adsorb the liquid for about 5 min. Serve sprinkling with fresh coriander leaves.
It's really really good. It's a bit laborious to prepare, though, I must say: it's hard to grill the kofta without breaking them.
This is the aromatic rice I made. It's extremely easy to make and the taste is wonderful, really indian. So, to make it, heat 1 tbsp butter (ghee) in a pan, stir in 2 small onions (minced), 3 cloves of garlic (crushed), 3 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsps black mustard seeds, 4 cardamom pods, 2 bay leaves (I didn't have these so I didn't add them), 1/2 cup (75 g) shelled pistachios. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups (300 g) basmati rice, previously washed and drained. Stir for a few minutes and add 2 3/4 cups (680 ml) chicken stock. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with fork and stand for 10 minutes covered before serving.
Naan is one of the best Indian bread. It's originally from the north of India, and it's cooked in a Tandoor oven. In its absence, a grill or a heavy-base pan on a very hot stove can do.
Add 1 tsp dry yeast and 1 tsp sugar to 2/3 cup of warm water. Mix and let stand for 10 min in a warm place. Mix 2 cups (300 g) plain flour and 1 tsp salt in a bowl. Add yeast mixture, 2 tbsps melted butter (ghee), 2 tbsp yogurt. Mix until you have a soft dough. In my case I thought I needed some more flour, so be aware of this. Kneed on a floured surface for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is elastic. Let stand in warm place, in a lightly greased container for 1 1/2 hour or at least dough doubled its volume (1 hour for me). Then, knead dough for another 5 minutes and divide into 6 balls. Flatten with a rolling pin until you obtain round 20 cm (~8 inch) Naan.
The best way to cook this would be to have a small grill that you can place directly on your stoves, so it gets really hot. I looked for it but couldn't find it. So, I lightly buttered a non-sticking pan and placed it on High heat on the stove. Once the pan is very hot, place one round disk, grill for about 2 min each side or until puffed and browned. Sprinkle with onion seed (I didn't do this) and grill for further 30 sec.Rebutter the pan in between each Naan. Keep Naan warm before serving it. It's really delicious (and Crissy just told me that Naan bought at the grocery store costs $9 for 2 disks!!!!).
As I mentioned earlier, we also had desserts! (Yes, we had a lot of food :) )
Luisa made this delicious Mango mousse:
And I made a semolina pudding.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar (1 cup in the original recipe! But to our taste, this sweetness was perfect), 1 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp ground cardamom in a pan and heat stirring until sugar is dissolved. Heat 4 tbsps butter in a pan and add 1 cup (160 g) semolina. Stir for about 1 min until all semolina is covered with butter. Add water mixture and cook stirring until the mixture thickens and detaches from the borders of the pan. Add 2 tbsps raisins and 2 tbsps slivered almonds. Spread mixture in pre-greased rectangular 19 cm x 29 cm pan, and add whole almonds on top, dividing the dough into diamond shapes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. After this time, the dessert should be firm enough to be cut and divided. Mine wasn't :( - the taste was still good, but it was more like a real pudding. I think I didn't evaporate enough of the water/milk mixture.
During the dinner, we spoke a lot of English!! Shame on us :) - but actually after the dinner Luisa and I spent a long time speaking in Spanish about pretty serious issues. :)
I forgot to take pictures of ourselves at this dinner! I'll do better next time.
I had been thinking about adding the 'read more' feature to my blog, but it took me a while, also because Ramani from Hackosphere said that it was complicated, so I was a bit scared. Still, it seems to work wonderfully! Now only a short start of the post will show on the main page of the blog. If you think it's interesting, you can click on 'read more'...
And have the rest of the post appear! I modified my last posts so that this feature works for them. If you want to apply the same feature to your blog, go here.
Please let me know if you like it in my blog! I think it's nice, because people will have a general view of many posts, instead of having to scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Last Sunday, Lucas's parents and sister came to visit us, as a late happy birthday to Lucas. So we had the pleasure to have them at our place for lunch.
I made a mixed Japanese-Italian lunch. I wanted them to try the Sushi, since I was almost sure they would never try it in a restaurant by themselves. :) I was very pleased by the fact that they liked it! Except for the fact that I remembered late that Lucas's mom is allergic to crab.. but anyway, most of the sushi I made was gone :) I also prepared the pesto-shrimp pasta that I already wrote about in a previous post, since I knew they liked both shrimp and pesto.. and in the end, a really good cake that I will show here.
Torta di papaya e cocco (Papaya-coconut cake)
This cake was inspired by the cake described by Fiordizucca here (NB it's in Italian). I modified the type of exotic fruit to use (instead of maracuja, papaya), and I modified a bit the doses of the rest of the ingredients, so here is my final version:
90 g grated dry coconut (~ 3/4 cup)
150 g sugar (3/4 cup)
75 g flour (2/3 cup)
300 ml milk (1 and 1/4 cup)
125 g butter (1 stick)
500 g papaya (1 pound)
1/2 lime juice
2 cubes baker's chocolate (70 gr) and a bit of milk to melt it + 2 tbsps sugar.
Mix the flour and the sugar and the coconut, then add slightly beaten eggs, melted butter, blended papaya, milk, lime juice. This is what I did, although I believe that even with these doses it was still too liquid. Next time I make it I will reduce the amount of milk. Pour the mixture in a baking pan and cook at 400F for one hour and 15 minutes, more or less (apparently in the original recipe it was said 45 minutes, but it was really too liquid..). To decorate and add a twist to the taste, I prepared a chocolate sauce with just melted chocolate and milk and sugar, and added on top, and served right away. It was very good. The taste of the coconut, the lime and the chocolate were very nice together, and it was moist and soft. The papaya gave a really nice color to the cake.
After lunch, we brought Lucas's parents to Raleigh farmers' market, to buy a large amount of apples that Lucas's mom wants to use to make some sauce (I believe). It was a very nice day (if we don't consider my boss's phone call at home on a Sunday afternoon!!!). I was so happy that all of them could come, and I really enjoyed their company. I'm looking forward to seeing them again.
I've been again struggling with work issues and did not have time to write about all the nice things that I took part to during these last few weeks.
So, starting from the oldest event, here is the second Italian/Spanish learning dinner!
This time, we decided that the theme would have been Japanese cuisine, according to what Mariana suggested, and also inspired by the fact that Trino bought some Sake that we didn't drink yet :)
Lucas and I prepared some salmon-cream cheese and some crab meat-veggies sushi. I like this picture of myself at work making Wasabi sauce :)
And here is our sushi:
Are you curious to know how we made it? It's actually really easy. You have to buy the Nori (the black algae that rolls up the sushi) and it's better if you also buy a bambu-mattress that helps the rolling operation. Then you have to prepare sushi rice: wash the rice until the water runs clear, then leave the rice soaking in water for half an hour. Add rice and water in the rice cooker, or in the steamer, or in a pot. The proportion depends on how you're cooking it. I used a steamer and used the usual proportion that I use for any other type of rice. When it's cooked, add a few drops of rice vinegar to it and stir through.
Cut the veggies that you want to use (e.g: carrots, cucumbers, avocados) in thin stripes. Cut the fish meat in stripes.
For the assembly: place a Seran wrap foil on the sushi rolling mattress, then place the nori on it with the shiny side up. Moist your finger tips with rice vinegar. Spread a thin layer of rice on top of the nori, leaving about 1/2 inch uncovered on one of the horizontal ends. Put some pieces of the veggies on top of the other end of the nori, in one long stripe across, in the horizontal direction, together with some of the fish (and of cream cheese if you like). Then, roll tightly the nori on itself helping yourself with the mattress. Stick the end of the nori that wasn't covered with rice to the rest of the nori, to seal.
Once you make a few rolls, cut them altogether in 6/8 pieces each. Serve with Soy sauce and wasabi sauce and ginger.
Maybe next time I make it I'll take pictures of the various phases of the assembly, so it's easier to understand.
Mariana is an expert Japanese cook. She prepared these wonderful dishes:
Tamago - the rice is put on top of a sort of 'omelette', which is a bit sweet, and is folded many times. It's really delicious.
She did not remember the name of this :) It was a sort of sushi sandwich, with cream cheese and some veggies inside :)
Luisa made this wonderful tempura. It was amazing.
And Jorge prepared this really wonderful salmon Teriaki! On a bed of Bok-choi, which was delicious:
I was really surprised about how good this Japanese food was, even though prepared by Mexicans and Italians!
And I feel like I'm really improving my Spanish, now I can almost understand full speed and I'm learning a lot of words. I'm really really happy. And this is just a last picture as a memory of the dinner.. unfortunately Mariana and Jorge are not in the picture, but I'll try to catch them at the next dinner!
From left to right: Ross, me, Lucas, Luisa and Trino. Ross recently came back from Italy to go to work in Duke! and she was very happy to be again at Trino's and Mariana's. :)
Monday, October 09, 2006
Mariana and I started to teach Spanish and Italian to each other a few weeks ago. We met a few times, and I'm actually learning a lot! Soy muy contenta!
Recently, our meetings have been open to more people: together with us, there have been Lucas and Trino, also Luisa and Jorge, Crissy and Ross. Also, we started from just informal coffees together and now we organized some real Italo-Spanish speaking dinners.
The first dinner was at our place, and I suggested that everyone brought a tapas and we would all share food and language :)
It's been a great idea. We really spoke about half of the dinner in Spanish and half in English, and only a few words were in Italian. But Mariana and Luisa have started to learn Italian only recently, so we need to go a bit slow, although, they seem to be doing great. It was a bit confusing for Lucas and Crissy, from time to time, because it was hard for them to distinguish sometime if we were speaking Italian or Spanish. Poor them! Anyway, for their sake (and also in order to talk faster about some 'involving' issues), we ended up speaking for the second half of the night in English, as I said.
You will find below some pictures and recipes.
Blue tortilla chips con salsa y rollos de tortilla
This was brought by Crissy. The tortilla rolls were filled with cream cheese, and peppers. They were very good!
Per gli Italiani: forse penserete che le tortilla chips blu siano colorate artificialmente.. ebbene, vi sbagliate! Io non ci credevo, ma esiste davvero un tipo di mais che ha i chicchi blu!! Guardate qui e questo se non mi credete:
Tortilla de papas
This was made by Luisa and it's a typical Mexican/Spanish dish, similar to an Italian frittata but thicker. It's usually filled with potatoes (like in this case), but it can be filled with anything.
These wonderful bocadillos with avocado, cheese and ajillo (garlic sauce), or olives, were brought by Mariana and Trino.
Fagottini al formaggio con miele e noci
I made these 'fagottini'. They were made with a piece of fillo dough, and filled with pieces of cheese (cacio di Roma) and a little tiny piece of butter. I tied them with cilantro. I cooked them for about 5 minutes in the oven and then sprinkled honey on them, and nuts around them. Honey and cheese is a typical italian combination. The idea for this appetizer was given to me by Fiordizucca. They are really delicious and easy and fun to make.
I also prepared some shrimps with honey and sesame, but I already posted both the picture and the recipe of this in the past.
Pan de aceitunas
This was also brought by Luisa. It was really particular and delicious. It was a sweet-savory bread with olives, it had the same consistency of a cake, and some sugar was in it, which contrasted wonderfully with the saltiness of olives. She said it's a traditional Mexican bread.
Luisa also brought some absolutely delicious pork with prunes, but my pictures of that did not come out well.
Torta di banane, noccioline e cioccolato con crema di uva ConcordThe recipe for this cake that I prepared as dessert was inspired to me by Fiordizucca again. Still, I modified it quite a bit. If you want to make it, you need to mix together 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp yeast, 1/2 tsp cinnamom powder, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 cup ground peanuts, 2 eggs, 1/2 to 1 cup sugar to taste, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa. Then, blend 2 bananas with 1 cup milk and add 1/2 cup vegetable oil to it, and 1 tbsp vanilla extract. Add this mixture to the rest and cook for ~45 minutes at 350 F.
My sauce was prepared with Concord grapes, which are in season and locally grown. To make it, I blended ~ 2 cups grapes with ~ 1 1/2 cups yogurt and ~ 1/2 cup sugar. You should check the taste and the consistency while you make it.
Serve the cake warm, with the cream cold on a side (unfortunately I found out it was better to serve the cake warm only the day after the dinner, when I took the cake out of the fridge and heated it up for me and Lucas to eat). The warm cake was like eating one of those chocolates that have nuts and good spices in them, and the cream that went with it was really good. So I was happy of it.
And this is just one of the happy moments/cultural exchanges of the dinner: Lucas reciting the 'bumble bee' song :)
Thursday, October 05, 2006
And now some meat recipes. They have in common the fact that I cooked them with wine.
The first one will be chicken and the second one pork.
Pollo ubriaco (Drunk chicken)
These chicken drums were bought in the farmer's market, so I was sure they would be good. I removed the skin, then sauteed them together with small pieces of garlic in olive oil, until they were starting to get brown on the outside. Then I added salt, ~1 cup red wine (it was a good wine, but we had the bottle open too long so it wasn't as good to drink, but that's when it's perfect to cook) and some of the rosemary that I grow on our balcony. The house was smelling so good, with the wine/rosemary smell diffusing everywhere. Let cook covered, until the wine is almost all consumed (about 40 min). Lift the lid, taste and adjust the salt, and add a bit of cornstarch to thicken the sauce. The chicken becomes all purple! And it's so tender, juicy and tasty :).
I served this chicken with some mashed potatoes (everyone knows how to make them, right? I add a very small amount of butter to it, and then milk and pepper). I love it. :)
Arrosto di maiale al vino bianco e spezie (Pork roast with white wine and spices)
I bought already two other pork pieces from my friend at the Farmer's market (the goat cheese guy). His pork is just delicious. He has only humongous pieces, but it's ok, I make a roast and then freeze part of it so I have to cook only once and we can eat 4-6 meals over the course of two-three weeks, and we don't get bored of it.
First, I remove most of the fat that's on the outside of the meat (this was the shoulder but it was as fatty as the butt that I bought last time). I don't like too much fat but a little bit is ok. Then, I heat a little bit of olive oil and garlic pieces, add the meat, and with high heat I roll it in the pan until it's browned on all sides. Only after that I add the salt: if you add it before, it makes the meat juices come out and it's not good. So, I add some coarse salt on the meat. Then, in this case, I added 1 cup of white wine (again, some good white wine that had been open for too long) and lowered the heat. Then I added a lot of different spices: my goal was to spice up the meat surface and the wine. So I added some spices directly on the meat and some in the wine that was in the pan. I added a few cloves, thyme, a bit of mint, and oregano. Then I covered the pan and let cook for more than one hour, turning it from time to time to cook it evenly.
The result was amazingly good. I am happy to be learning how to make good roasts. I didn't like to cook big pieces of meat until I tried this meat from the farmer's market :). I always serve it with some veggies. In this case I made some zucchini sauteed with garlic and oregano, to match the spices.