Once I was blog-surfing and I found a wonderful looking pyramid of bread rolls made with cream cheese and dill, on the really nice blog 'My kitchen: my laboratory'. So, as soon as I happened to have some dill at home, I prepared similar rolls with cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. The result was really delicious.
Panini con formaggio tipo jocca e aneto / Cottage cheese and dill rolls
Ingredients (if you compare with Angie's recipe, there are a few variations, but not too much)
2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
4 cups flour
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 red onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp olive oil
Let the yeast dissolve in the water for a few minutes. In the meanwhile, finely chop the onion and add to the cottage cheese. Add the yeast and water mixture to the flour, then add the egg (beat it a little), the cheese/onion mixture, the olive oil, the dill, and a bit of salt (I put ~1 tbsp). Stir with a wooden spoon. You can add some flour if it's too sticky. Angie suggests kneading it, but I found it impossible unless I added a lot of flour, so I decided to just stir vigorously with the wooden spoon, like I did with my other cheese bread. I mixed for ~ 120 turns with the wooden spoon, then, quite tired, I left the dough and myself rest for about 1 hour. Then, I deflated it and let it raise again for ~ 10 minutes. Then I divided it in 12 rolls and placed them in a baking pan (I wasn't able to make the nice pyramid that Angie made :) ), added some flour on them, and baked them for ~45 min.
The result was something amazingly good, soft and moist, and a bit crusty on the outside... needs to be repeated!
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Once I was blog-surfing and I found a wonderful looking pyramid of bread rolls made with cream cheese and dill, on the really nice blog 'My kitchen: my laboratory'. So, as soon as I happened to have some dill at home, I prepared similar rolls with cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. The result was really delicious.
I made this salad already three times after I made it up the first time, with few variations. It's a big success every time, and Lucas and I still haven't got tired of it. So I decided it was worth publishing it, and also, it's going to be an entry for the 'salad stravaganza' event hosted at 'La mia cucina'!
Insalata di cavolo rosso, peperoni, mango, avocado e mandorle / Red cabbage, peppers, mango, avocado and almonds salad
Cut half of a red cabbage in thin and small pieces, cut 3 small bell peppers (or 2 big ones) into small pieces, mix them up in a bowl, add salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar and stir well. Finely cut one big avocado (or two small ones), and place the pieces on top, in the center, of the salad. Slice mango into small pieces and arrange the pieces as a crown around the avocado. Grind roughly a handful of almonds and put them on top of the avocado. Add lemon juice and salt on the avocado/almond mixture. Serve with some good bread. For example, the dill and cottage cheese bread was _wonderful_ with this salad.
Suggestions: I find that Manila mangoes (the smaller and yellow mangoes) are the best type. Also, you could add olives on top, or cucumbers in the cabbage/pepper base.
The roundup for salad stravaganza is up! Check it out, it's amazing! Almost fifty different salad recipes. :)
Sunday, May 27, 2007
This month's event 'Waiter there's something in my...' is themed 'stuffed vegetables or fruit'. So I decided that I will post the recipe for the Turkish stuffed eggplants that I helped Elif to prepare at our Turkish dinner. Elif told me that the exact name for it is Imam Bayildi, which literally means 'The Imam passed out'!!! She thinks it's becuase they're so good. :)
Imam Bayildi / Turkish Stuffed Eggplants
Six eggplants. Buy the small, elongated ones.
Six garlic cloves
Four big tomatoes
1 large red onion
3 small 'Italian' peppers
parseley, sugar, salt
Peel the eggplants 'in stripes' (leave one stripe of skin and one stripe with no skin, for a total of 2 stripes with and 2 stripes without skin). Make a deep incision in them on one of the unskinned stripes, along the length (to open up a pouch to stuff them). Spread some salt on them, included inside the incision, add water on them, and set aside. Cut the tomatoes, the onions, and the garlic. Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil, and add tomatoes, a little sugar and salt. Add a few leaves of cut parseley. Remove from stove when finished sauteing. After ~ 30 min, drain the eggplants, and stir fry them, whole, in olive oil, for ~ 10 min, turning them often. Cut the eggplants along one of the skinless 'stripes', making a dip incision. With a spoon, remove the pulp. Mix the pulp with the sauteed tomatoes. Place the eggplants on a baking pan and fill them with the tomato/eggplant mixture:
Cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, and put them in the oven preheated at 350 F. Cook for ~40 minutes. In the meanwhile, stir fry the peppers, cut into halves. When the eggplants are ready, cover each of them with half pepper.
Serve them hot. They're absolutely amazing.
Check back on this post, I'll let you know when the roundup for the 'Waiter there's something in my...' is up!
One week ago, Elif was the chef of a wonderful dinner that we hosted at our place. She prepared all Turkish food, so I had the pleasure of seeing her and helping her a bit!
This is what she made:
Salad with navy beans (she boiled them on a side), tomatoes, red onions, black olives, and green bell peppers, seasoned simply with olive oil, red vinegar, salt, and parseley.
Fava beans with red onions and yogurt/garlic sauce, sprinkled with dill. We washed the fava beans, removed the ends and the strings, cut them in half. Then we sauteed some red onions in olive oil, and added the fava beans. We sauteed the beans for ~10 minutes, and then we sprinkled them with quite a bit of lemon juice and a little flour. Then we added enough water to cover them, and let them simmer for almost an hour. Then we drained them, cooled them down, and served with a sauce made with greek yogur diluted with a little water, and finely cut garlic, sprinkled with dill. Delicious!
There was also some rice with pinenuts, very nice and creamy, and the most wonderful thing were these stuffed eggplants:
I will give the recipe for this in the next post.
In general, I was really surprised to see how close Italian and Turkish cuisines are. They're both based on olive oil, onion, garlic, vegetables, tomatoes. The spices are also quite similar (basil, parseley, red vinegar, lemon). I was really happy about this dinner!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I haven't posted a movie review in a long time, although I've seen some very good movies recently. Anyway, this is at least one. It's an Itaian movie, directed by the great Vittorio de Sica. 'Umberto D.' is set in the post second world war period. It's really well made, and it makes you understand very well what the main character is feeling. It's the story of an old man, alone, retired. He has to live on his pension, which is not enough to pay the rent and the food, even though it's the pension from a lifetime of work. His only friend is his dog, and the only person who sees him as a valuable human being is the young made who lives in the same house where he rents his room. It's an extremely sad movie. The poor man has to sell out all his dear memories to pay his rent, and he's completely alone. He even considers suicide. There's no super happy ending, but it's at least open to possibilities.. After watching this movie, I cried for one hour (I was in a nostalgic mood already). It's so realistic. I know too many old people who could live a situation like Umberto D. Still, if you're not in a sad evening, it's a very good movie to watch, which opens your mind.
(Image from this website)
This is going to be my weekly pasta entry for 'Presto Pasta nights' hosted by Ruth at Once upon a feast. I made it tonight and it was really good, so I thought it would be the best one to share for the week.
Insalata di pasta tiepida con verdure e ananas alla griglia (Warm pasta salad with grilled vegetables and pineapple)
(The doses I will refer to are for 2 people). Prepare ~1/3 lb rotelle pasta, cooked al dente (remember to put salt in the boiling water before throwing the pasta!). Drain, add a little olive oil and mix up (to prevent sticking). Let cool down. In the meanwhile, cut one eggplant in slices and grill it. Cut 2 small green zucchinis in slices and grill them too. Cut three slices of pineapple and grill those too. Cut two small tomatoes in halves and grill the halves too. Once everything is grilled, cut in smaller pieces (the pineapple and the eggplant slices in quarters, the tomato halves and the zucchini slices in half). Mix up with the pasta. Add small cubes of a hard cheese (for example, I love ricotta salata) and mix again. Season with a sauce made with olive oil, lemon and finely cut garlic, then add salt, oregano and pepper to taste... serve warm or cold... DELICIOUS!
Meeta at What's for lunch, Honey? proposed 'Birthday Bang' for her 'Monthly mingle', since her birthday is coming up! So, I know I am a traditionalist, but if it's someone's birthday, I want to give them a cake! So this is a piece of cake for you, Meeta!
Torta al limone e uvetta con crema al whiskey! (Lemon and raisin cake with whiskey cream)
I got this recipe from cooker.net... grazie, Elisewin75! .
1/2 lb flour
1/2 lb sugar (I used less, about 1/4 lb probably)
2 sticks of butter (I used one)
1 cup raisin, soaked in brandy (I used whiskey)
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk (I used about 1.5 cups to compensate the missing liquid from the butter)
6 eggwhites, beaten till firm.
Melt the butter. Grate the lemon peel and squeeze the lemon juice. In a bowl, mix the flour with baking powder and sugar, then add milk, butter, lemon juice and zest. Drain the raisin from the liquor you used and mix it to the batter. I actually added some of the whiskey in the cake too. Last, add the eggwhites. Bake at 350 F for 45 min. The author suggested to serve it with a cream prepared using the egg yolks.. and so I did: I added ~ 4 tbsp powdered sugar to the 6 egg yolks, then I poured all the whiskey from the raisin (~1/2 cup) in it, and added ~ 2 tbsp flour. I added the lemon pulp too, cut into big pieces (I hate throwing away things! So why not use also the pulp of that nice big lemon I had?). Then slowly I stirred in ~2 cups milk. I cooked on low heat for ~15 min, stirring every once in a while to prevent sticking and clumping. Then I served it cold with the cake. This cream, I must say, was _really_ delicious. The day after I had the cake for breakfast with my tea, and the cream with the strawberries for dinner............ So good!!!!
So, happy birthday Meeta! A hundred of these years and of wonderful food to try and friends to meet! The round-up has been posted.
Also, doesn't this lemon-containing recipe inspire you to participate to the 'Fresh produce of the month' event with lemon theme that I just launched? ;) :) Please send in your great lemon-centered recipes!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I already mentioned I have so many lemons to use.. so I decided I would try and make 'marmellata di limoni', i.e. lemon jelly! It's something really typical from Sicily, and it's delicious.. It's sweet and sour at the same time, and I don't think it's easy to find it in the US.. This of course will be an entry for the 'Fresh Produce of the month' event with lemon theme that I just launched! Please participate!
Marmellata di limoni
2.5 lb lemons
2 lb sugar
Remove the yellow part of the peel of the lemons (you may decide not to use all of it - I had only 3 lemons that I used for this purpose) and keep it aside. Remove the rest of the peel (the white part) and toss it. Cut the lemon pulp in pieces and put it in a bowl, together with the juice that came out during the cutting operation. Remove all the seeds, and pour the sugar on the pulp and juice mixuture. Let it rest for 24 hours. Cut into small pieces the yellow part of the skin that you saved. Bring a little bit of water to boil (just enough to cover these pieces), add the yellow skin pieces and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and let it sit for 24 hours. Once the 24 hours are passed, put the pulp/juice/sugar mixture on a stove, add the yellow skin pieces (they should have almost soaked up all the water, so whatever is left is fine) and let it simmer on low heat for about one hour, on unless the jelly thickned. Can and rest for at least 24 hours before eating.
It's really good. In the following picture it's on a piece of oat/rye bread that I made.. delicious combination!
Saturday, May 19, 2007
I was looking for a recipe of thanother type of cookies to serve with fruit salads, and I found the perfect one on my 'Cookies and Crackers' cookbook, from the same series of the 'Bread' cookbook that I usually use, simply called 'The Good Cook', published in 1982! The book collects recipes from all over the world, and this was Italian. I never had something exactly like this, although I had something similar... These cookies are made with cornflour and lemon zest. So this was perfect: I just bought some cornflour, and I had all the lemons from my LA trip (see previous post). These cookies are delicious. Also, they are made with cornflour and for once I really followed a recipe from a cookbook, so they are the perfect entry for the 'Weekend Coobook Challenge' of this month, which is hosted by Ani at Foodie Chickie and has 'cornmeal' as theme.
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal (I used cornflour)
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp crushed ammonium bicarbonate (I used baking soda)
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup superfine sugar (I used powdered sugar)
2 tsp grated lemon peel
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 cup dried currants (I used 1/2 cup raisins, I didn't want that much fruit in them).
Soak the raisins/currants in warm water. Mix the flours, the salt and the baking soda. Beat the egg yolks and add the sugar in them. Add the lemon peel and the butter. Beat in the flour mixture. 'The mixture should be firm but not stiff': this is what the recipe said. It also said that depending on the cornmeal you may have to add some water to it. In my case, I definitely had to. I guess cornflour is finer than 'fine cornmeal' and thus adsorbs more liquid.. Add the raisins, after draining them.
Drop the dough with the help of some tablespoons on a buttered and floured baking pan. Leave 2 inches between the cookies. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for about 15 min. Cool down on wireracks. Supposedly, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving them (I forgot to do this).
These cookies are soft and the taste is delicious, and reminded me of 'paste di meliga' (traditional cookies with lemon zest and cornflour, typical of my region).
I decided I'll try to launch a foodblog event. There are lots of really nice blog events dedicated to a variety of exciting themes (herbs, cookbooks, desserts, special ingredients..). My idea is that for this event we will cook something prepared with an ingredient (fruit, vegetable or nut) which is at its peak season. Thus, the name of the event will be 'Fresh produce of the month'! What I like about this idea is that 1) It pushes people who want to propose a theme and to participate to go to farmers' markets, local produce sellers, and find the freshest produces of the moment, and 2) It may help and give some inspiration for recipes to people who grow gardens and suddenly have a ton of fruits and vegetables of the same type and don't really know what to do with them!
Actually, this is the reason I started to think about this event. When Lucas and I went to Los Angeles, we came back with a ton of lemons. The people who were hosting us had a lemon tree which was producing a huge amount of these delicious and great looking fruits, which were just rottening on the tree because no one knew what to do with so many of them! So of course I decided to get about 12 of them (they are as big as apples) and do as many things as I could with them..
OK, you have probably already guessed the theme of this first month: Lemons! Aren't lemons gorgeous fruits?
The smell of the flowers is amazing, and invites you to imagine the great flavor you can give to your dishes if you use lemons to prepare them.
So, this is the challenge: come up with tons of recipes involving lemon as a fundamental ingredient. Of course many things come to my mind, so I'm very curious to see what great dishes will other food bloggers think of!
So if you want to participate, please follow these simple rules:
1) Put a post on your blog with a recipe involving lemon. Add a link to this post on my blog and mention that it's an entry for the 'Fresh produce of the month' event. If you like it, feel free to place the logo of the event on your post.
2) Send me an email with a link to your post, your blog homepage and your name. My email address is chemcookitATgmailDOTcom. Specify 'Fresh produce of the month' as subject.
3) If you don't have a blog just send me an email with your recipe and if you have a picture of the food you made, that's even better. I will add it to the round-up as well.
The deadline for this first event will be in about one month, Sunday June 17th. I will post the round-up the weekend after. I'm looking forward to your entries!!
This month's logo:
Last Sunday I went with Nicola and Luisa to visit a park closeby: Redwood Regional Park, in Oakland. You can get there either on the highway or on the hills, with a scenic drive vith wonderful views on the bay. The park is really beautiful. There is a great variety of trees, ranging from Eucaliptus to Hazelnuts to, of course, Redwoods. The part with the Redwoods reminded me of Muir Woods, although the trees are smaller. Still, the atmosphere is really great in this park, and I liked it better than Muir Woods, to be honest (it's also a lot less crowded).
There are some parts with a magic 'aura'..
And there is also an 8-mile trail which is bikable. It's really nice:
I'd like to do it sometime.
And not only there is a wonderful variety of trees, but also the wild flowers are so pretty:
The park is really big and it's a pleasure to hike in it. I would just recommend to be prepared to a lot of ups and downs, unless you want to follow the bike trail.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Since I started baking my own bread, I also stopped buying morning cereals, in order to switch to a more home-made breakfast and free myself from the slavery of choosing which cereals to buy every week and spending ridiculous amounts of money on what's really just crunchy bread!!!!
So I started eating bread and apple butter (made by Lucas's mom). When the apple butter was done, I decided I had to start making my own jam-kind-of-things. At first I tried to reproduce the apple butter. I obtained something more similar to apple sauce, which was good anyway, but not exactly what I wanted. So I decided to change fruit, and try something that you can never find in a jam style, in general.. bananas!
This is the result: a wonderful banana 'butter' :
To prepare it, cut 5 ripe bananas into pieces, and put them in a pan with ~ 1 cup water and 3 tbsp sugar, plus some cinnamon and grated ginger as flavors. Let simmer, covered, for ~ 1 hour, checking every once in a while that the water didn't evaporate. Then, blend with an immersion blender, let the banana butter cool down and refrigerate it. It was enough for more or less one jar. I loved to eat this on my oat-whole-wheat bread, toasted!
A few days ago I talked to my friend Maia, who's from Sicily, and she showed me some pictures of food they cooked. I was very interested in some type of pasta that I saw, which had some white pieces in it, and some raisins and pinenuts clearly visible. I asked what it was, and she said it was pasta with broccoli Sicilian style. I couldn't see anything green in it, so I asked her where the broccoli were... and she explained to me that broccoli in Sicilian language are cauliflower! The problem is that 'broccoli' in Italian refers to the same vegetable that you know in English.. so, it's a bit confusing, but very intriguing. :) Thus, I looked for a recipe online for this pasta, and I prepared it for Giovanna, Vardha (and of course Lucas and I :) ) last Saturday.
Pasta con 'broccoli' alla siciliana ('Broccoli' pasta Sicilian style)
1 1/2 lb cauliflower
1 lb short pasta (e.g. maccheroni)
1/2 cup pinenuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp saffron
basil leaves and bread crumbs (optional)
pecorino (romano), grated
Soak raisins in warm water. Cut cauliflower in small pieces. Bring a large amount of water to boil. Add salt (N.B. I usually add ~ 1 tbsp for quart of water, more or less). Throw the pasta in the boiling water. In the meanwhile, sautee the onion, add the pinenuts and the raisins, drained from their water, and the saffron, previously dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water taken from the pasta water. Cook for a few minutes. Five minutes before the pasta is done, throw the cauliflower pieces in the water with the pasta. Drain the pasta and the cauliflower when the pasta is done (if you timed it right, the cauliflower should be done too). Stir the pasta and cauliflower in the pinenut/raisin sauce. Add grated cheese, ground black pepper before serving. You can also add basil leaves roughly cut and bread crumbs, quickly roasted in the oven, before serving. I didn't use almost any basil and no bread crumbs, this time. The pasta was wonderful!
Also, this was a vegeterian version. For non-vegetarian, add 6 anchovies to the raisin/pinenut sauce, let them cook with it before stirring the pasta in.
The day after, a great way to eat this pasta is to reheat it in the oven, after covering its surface with a bit more grated cheese and bread crumbs. When it's warm, just turn on the broil for 2 minutes. The pasta will have a wonderful crust on top!
I decided I will give this recipe as my first entry to 'Presto Pasta' night, that I recently found out. It's a weekly event hosted by nice Ruth at Once upon a Feast. That's such a nice idea! And I make some sort of pasta definitely every week, so I may contribute often :)
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Argh. I thought today it was the twelve... Instead I'm one day past the deadline for 'The weekend Coobook Challenge' :( :( ! Anyway, I'll post my recipe here and tell Sara about it.. let's see what she says.. I had thought about the theme quite a bit, because it was so intriguing: 'Something new'. So I decided I would go to the 'Berkeley Bowl', the wonderful grocery store in Berkeley that sells every possible vegetable and fruit you can ever imagine, and just try something that I had no idea what it was!
So I got a few special fruits. My idea was to make a fruit salad to eat together with 'Ventagli'. These are special cookies that I already had in the past, but I never tried to make. So this would also have been something new for me: try to make the famous 'Ventagli' :).... And here is the result:
Macedonia di frutta esotica con crema al limone, panna montata e ventagli (Exotic fruit salad with lemon cream, whipped cream and ventagli).
1) Choose the fruit that is in season and that looks more interesting: I had strawberries, mango and kumquats. A wonderful mix of colors. Cut it in pieces, and add lemon juice on it. Let it infuse for a few hours.
\2) Prepare the lemon cream: mix two eggs with 2 tbsp flour and ~2 tbsp sugar, add ~2 cups of milk slowly, to avoid clump formation. Add pieces of lemon peel (big, you will have to remove them in the end). Bring to boil, keep stirring. Boil for ~3 min, then let it cool down and remove the lemon peel. Refrigerate until you're ready to use it.
3) Whip the heavy cream with some powder sugar (sweeten to taste). Add the lemon cream and the whipped cream on the fruit, right before serving.
4) If you're lucky and you have something like Berkeley Bowl closeby, you can now add something fancy on the top. I bought this really nice fruit, I had _no_ idea how it would taste and what it would be like inside. It's called star fruit.
What's really amazing is how it is inside:
So cool!! I loved the colors. So I cut a slice of it and I added it on the macedonia:
The taste is hard to describe. It's between a banana and grapes. Nothing like a lemon or so, that you would expect after seeing the green and seedy interior. The consistency reminds of pomegranate. It's very nice, especially on this sweet fruit salad.
Serve it with ventagli (recipe follows).
This recipe is dedicated to Zinnur, who asked me for it. I found it on two different internet websites (here and here), in Italian. So this is a version taken from the two of them, blended together.
Either prepare or buy frozen puff pastry (I confess I chose the second option, I didn't have time to make it myself :( ). Take a 1/2 lb sheet, and knead 2 tbsp sugar with it. Spread it thin on the table, with a rectangular shape. From both sides, fold the dough inward twice, so that in the end the two sides touch themselves:
(sorry, I realize now this picture is not really clear.. anyway, you have two small rolls on both sides, basically). Now fold this roll in the center, inward again, and start cutting slices ~ 1 cm thick (~ 1/3 of an inch). You will see a sort of ventagli shape in the slices, once cut. Butter a baking pan, spread some sugar with a spatula on both sides of the ventagli and place them on the pan, leaving ~ 2 inches of room between one ventaglio and the other one. Refrigerate for 30 min (this is an important step! Otherwise they will lose their shape when baking). Bake at 430 F for ~ 5 min, then flip the ventagli and bake them on the other side, until golden.
In the end it's really easy to make them, and they come out exactly like the ones you buy :)
Anyway, the roundup for the WCC is already up! Give a look at it.
Monday, May 07, 2007
The great bread roundup is up! Check it out over here. There are so many recipes! I already tried the oatmeal bread, which turned out good. I will try the beer bread for sure, and a lot more!!!!!
In the past few weeks I bought some typical springtime products: asparagus and artchokes. So I decided I will post the recipes of the really simple dishes I made with them as my entry for the Springtime-themed Monthly Mingle hosted by Meeta! Actually, I just checked her website, and she also posted an asparagus recipe! :) Well, asparagus _is_ the typical spring vegetable.. :) Anyway, her post to see lots of interesting properties of this food.
Asparagi sempilci (Simple asparagus)
This is close to a typical Italian recipe for asparagus, except I added the cilantro and had lime on a side instead of lemon in the sauce.
Boil or steam (I opted for steaming, it's easier not to overcook them) one bunch of asparagus. Hard boil two eggs. Prepare a sauce with the hard yolks, smashed with a fork with ~2 tbsp olive oil, salt and a little bit of finely cut cilantro leaves. Mix up well, and spread on the center of the asparagus. Sprinkle olive oil, a little salt and lime or lemon juice on the rest of the asparagus not covered by the sauce. I made this plate for four people, thinking there would be some left. They were all gone in a few minutes :)
Carciofi ancora piu' semplici (Even simpler artchokes)
This is a typical Italian way of eating artchokes, and it's really simple and good and Americans are usually surprised because they never had them before this way :) :) So, just clean the artchokes, slice them thin, add olive oil and salt on them, then thin slices of parmigiano (not too many, in my opinion), and grind some pepper on top. That's it! If the artchokes are good, like in this moment of the year in California, it's a really good dish.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
I haven't posted in a while because we weren't home last weekend.. we left to visit Alberto and Franca, some dear friends from Italy, who have been living in LA for almost one year. They were getting ready to go back to Italy, and I wanted to see them before they left. This was the best moment because they were house sitting for their boss, who has one of those wonderful houses on the ocean that LA coast is well-known for..
And in fact, it was really true that the house was amazing.. just to give you a glimpse of the outside:
And the inside was at the same level: I don't think I entered such a nice house ever before!
Before getting there, though, I must describe our trip through California to arrive. It was one of the best parts of the trip, as for sightseeing. Alberto and Franca suggested that we take Highway 1 and we go slowly to admire the wonderful coast, and the 'Big Sur' in particular.
So, we left in the morning (ehm, I cannot say early: it was 10 am :) ) and we went all the way down from Berkeley to Santa Cruz, where the Highway 1 starts coasting the ocean. We stopped before the Big Sur, at Carmel, for lunch. A nice little town, but unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the convent of the Carmel, which I would have liked to see. Anyway, this is not too far from Berkeley so once we'll just go there for the weekend.
After the Carmel, 'Big Sur' starts. Big Sur is a river, and also the name of a town, but it's mostly known as the part of Highway 1 that is really close to the ocean, and swirls around going up and down the rocks. The landscape is amazing. There are plenty of sightseeing points where one can stop the car to admire. I'll show here a few of the images, but there are more here.
This is one of the many bridges we crossed:
And this was called 'hurricane point' - the wind was blowing so strongly that it threw Lucas's glasses off his ears and on the ground!
The highway is full with natural parks. We had time to stop only at one of them, Julia Pfeiffer's State Park, which is well-known because one can see this wonderful waterfall falling down right onto the beach.
Going down, there are a few other places where it's really 'compulsory' to stop, and one is 'elefant seal' beach. It's a beach where elefant seals and sea lions rest most part of the year. We arrived there when they were molting (cambiavano pelle, in italiano). The amount of elefant seals that were there was stunning. They were just lying there, and one could have thought that they were dead, if it wasn't for some occasional movement of the head to make their funny verses. Also, some of them were throwing some sand on themselves! I guess that helped molting?
Anyway, it was an amazing spectacle.
To conclude this section, some cute daisies we saw at Julia Pfeiffer's state park:
We arrived in LA at 10 pm, after stopping in Santa Barbara for a quick dinner. Also Santa Barbara seemed like a nice town, but we didn't have time to visit it.
Visiting Alberto and Franca (and their friend Sasha) was the best part of the trip. Unfortunately, I don't know how this was possible, but I forgot to take a picture of us together :( - anyway, I have pictures of some of the food that we made together, so I'll post that in a later post.
Lucas and I visited Santa Monica and Venice the first morning. The beaches are wonderful.
We weren't as impressed by the towns. Just a small promenade with restaurants and expensive shops, in Santa Monica, and a long promenade with turistic little stores and fast food in Venice. I guess it would have been more 'folkloristic' to see on weekend days.
Later on we went to visit the Getty Museum. Lucas had been there already and he really liked it, so we decided to go there again. It's a wonderful museum, with masterpieces from the XV to the XXI century. And the architecture is amazing.
It's on the top of a hill, with wonderful views on LA.
There is a superb garden, too.
A detail of the garden:
The day after, we went to visit downtown. LA is a gigantic city. It expands like a monster of asfalt with highways full of cars as veins. Still, there are a few nice areas to visit. It's a pain to get from one to the other, since the roads are so big and full of cars, that it's not pleasant at all to walk on the sidewalks.
These are a few oases, which we visited:
A garden in front of the public library
The majestic, henormous, modern Catholic cathedral.
With a wonderful organ that we heard being played by chance.
I'd say the cathedral is in the style of the city: gigantic.
The Disney Concert Hall (we saw it from outside):
It's built on the style of the Guggenheim museum of Bilbao.
One of the nicest parts was 'el pueblo', where there was the first mission that was the starting point of this gigantic city. It's now a completely Mexican zone, and we had some really good mexican food for lunch here. This is the commercial street, with lots of stands for tourists.
We actually saw a commercial being shot here.. LA is the city of movies and such, and it's very common to find yourself on the set of some movie or similar.
Last nice thing: a square on the other side of the public library, another one of those oases in the asphalt desert:
It's actually a quiet and cool spot on the other side of the library. We enjoyed resting here for a bit.
The day after, Alberto and Franca brought us to see the Campus and their place. They have a very nice apartment, very close to campus. This day, there was a Book Fest on campus, so we saw a lot of people walking around.. I really liked the campus. There are big lawns, and the buildings are huge, in good proportion with the rest of the city, but their style is very nice. Red bricks, with wonderful decorations. Here are some examples:
There is also a wonderful statue garden. Here are a few that I liked very much, and on my other picture website you can find more.
At last, we saw a cooking show. I was quite interested, being a 'food blogger'. The cook was Ted Allen, apparently a well-know chef in the USA.
Of course I had no idea of who he was or who were the people he was making fun of during the show, so I guess I missed part of it because of that. But to be honest, I was quite disappointed. He's a good showman, for sure, he's funny and such, but as for the cooking part.. he was all excited about a cole slaw made with blue cheese sauce (prebought!!) and a 'lamburger' to eat with a yogurt and mint sauce. I was hoping to see something more interesting.. Ok, maybe I'm also biased because I read how they kill lambs and I decided I will never eat lamb again and in general I stopped cooking meat..
Anyway, the Book fest was interesting, lots of very small publishing companies and lots of people around.
Unfortunately we had to leave on Sunday.. so we just had time to watch a movie that we had been wanting to watch for the whole time we were there ('Amarcord', I will write about it later), and have a nice 'last lunch' together before hitting the road.. :( It was a bit sad to leave. Who know when I will see Alberto and Franca again? Anyway, I really enjoyed this trip.
As last pictures, I'll show you a view from highway 5, which we took on the way back to get home faster.
Highway 5 basically goes through a desertic, flat region for hours! These were the cool hills that we saw at the beginning, before the boring part started: