Friday, May 30, 2008
This morning I received an email from Bee and Jai, which is always a pleasure. But this time, their message was quite different from usual. They were letting me know about a special initiative that they are launching for a special food blogger, Briana Brownlow from Figs With Bri. Briana is fighting Stage IV cancer, which came back two years after she had a mastectomy, chemoterapy. During these two years she was in relatively good health, which allowed her to start writing her wonderful blog. You can read more about her story here.
Briana is now going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills. So, a few food bloggers including Bee and Jai have launched a fund raising initiative in her favor. The goal is to raise $12,000, which would cover about one year of treatments. If you want to contribute, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site. There’s even a raffle with exciting prizes on offer.
This fund raising is linked to next month's Click event, themed on 'yellow', which is the color of hope and of the fight against cancer. This edition of the photo contest also has some prizes. Details here
I personally think this initiative shows once again how wonderful the blogger community is. I was really touched by it, and by reading Bri's blog and feeling her strength through her words. Bri, my best wishes and prayers go to you and your family.
Jai and Bee's wonderful event 'Click' is at its monthly deadline, and hopefully I can squeeze in my entry even though it's already past midnight, on Eastern time! The theme was 'Beans and lentils', although for some reason I thought only beans were involved, and so I chose to use only them as a subject... so, here is my picture!
Beans (and indeed also lentils) are one of my favorite foods, especially since I started being almost vegetarian. I love them in any way they're cooked. I particularly like garbanzo beans, and I recently discovered mung beans. While the former are commonly used also in Italian cuisine, the latter aren't. I love both of them, and I think a combination of them is delightful in soups especially.
In this case, though, I just wanted to taste them as naturally as possible. So I just boiled them. I boiled separately the chickpeas in one pot (soaked in water overnight at first, of course), and the mung beans and rice in another pot. Since I wanted to use whole wheat rice, which takes a little longer to cook, I started the rice and only after ~10 min of cooking I added the mung beans. When both types of beans and rice were cooked, I drained the water and mixed them together, and added some olive oil and herbs (finely minced oregano and thyme). I simply love these flavors together. It's the simplest dish ever, but it allows to clearly taste the delight of these legumes. You can eat it as a side or main dish, warm, or you can also add small pieces of tomatoes to it, and have it cold as a salad.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Unfortunately we didn't have internet connection at home last week, so I couldn't finish to post my story about Germany. I will do so soon, but first, I want to write at least a few posts with some recipes, as I realize I'm missing almost all the food blog events I usually love to take part to! I guess I'm still readjusting from the move+trip.. So, let's not waste any more time, and let's start with a cardamom-centered invention of mine, prepared for the 'Think Spice' event, started by Sunita, and hosted this month at 'Simple Indian Food'! I love the smell and flavor of cardamom, and I thought I could use it in a special rice pudding that I prepared. It was ready before the deadline of the event, but now I'm past it.. we'll see if it's still accepted. :)
I prepared this pudding based on a Mexican recipe, although in the original there's no cardamom or wine, and raisins are added at the end.
Budino di riso al vino con cardamomo, in tre vesti diverse / Rice pudding with wine and cardamom, three styles
To make the basic version, cook one cup of long grain rice in 3 cups of water, with 1 stick of cinnamon, grated zest of one lemon, and a pinch of salt. Cook covered until almost all the water has been absorbed. Then, remove the cinnamon stick, and add 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of red wine, and ~1 cup of sugar (more or less, to taste). Add 2 tsp ground cardamom, and cook until it thickens. This little amount of rice produced a huge volume of pudding, as it absorbs all the liquid you add. So, there is enough to divide into three parts for fun! To one part, I just added strawberries (when it was cold). To a second part, I added dark, bitter, chocolate pieces. To a third part, I added a teaspoon of heavy cream. I struggled to decide which taste I preferred. I think the one with strawberries, but all of them were an absolute delight. Highly recommended!
Looking forward to reading all the other entries for the 'Think spice, think cardamom' event!
Monday, May 26, 2008
This past week I was in Germany, which explains why I haven’t replied to any comment or posted anything. I went to Mainz, close to Frankfurt, for a conference, from Monday to Wednesday. Then, instead of coming back on Thursday night, I decided to take one day off and go back on Sunday instead. This turned out to be a very good idea: I had never been to Germany before, and I really enjoyed it. The conference was also interesting, and it allowed me to meet scientists from both the US and Europe, which was very good. In the next few posts I will show you pictures and write a few things about the trip - Warning: I wrote these posts offline when I was at the airport and had lots of time, so they're pretty long!
The trip started in Mainz, where the conference was, and which I toured around on Sunday with Vardha and a colleague of his, Daniel. Mainz is a small town, mostly a college town, with some quite nice squares and an extremely beautiful cathedral. Here you can see the exterior of it:
Mainz (Magonza, in Italiano) is famous because of Gutenberg, who was born here. There is a museum dedicated to him and to the invention of printing machines, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit it.
On the second day of the conference, the organizers brought us to do a wonderful trip on the Rhine. This was really memorable: I had never seen such sceneries before, with beautiful green hills surrounding a river, and small fairy-like towns on the borders.
It was amazing. Also, every other hill, we could see a castle, which in Medieval times was protecting the village below it.
Moving along, the hills became higher and higher. In the picture below, on the right side, you can see what’s apparently the most photographed rock in Germany. It’s actually just a big rock, but there is a legend about it! The rock's name is Loralie, because of a beautiful lady who committed suicide by throwing herself in the river, in despair because of her faithless lover. She was then transformed into a siren, and sing from this rock, thus causing all the sailors to shipwreck when they passed by! When the boat stopped, we climbed on a hill and went inside one of these castles. I have been in castles before, in Italy and France, but I had never seen such an old castle in such good conditions. There were still lots of parts, which survived the cannon balls of the French in the XIV century. This is an example of what you see from the main tower: the castle itself, surrounded by beautiful hills:
And wonderful scenery, with another castle on the opposite side of the river:
I will finish this part of the story with a picture of Vardha and of our tour guide.
The guide was a very interesting person, who sang a medieval German song at every stop of the trip. However, when we arrived on the top of the highest tower, he started singing a Gospel song, and asked us to sing and snap our fingers with him. So, you can understand what Vardha is doing with his hands.. It was a strange and beautiful experience: sing a Gospel song on top of a Medieval German castle, with a bunch of scientists from all over the world and a tour guide with a pirate-like bandage on one eye..
The conference ended on Wednesday early afternoon, and after saying goodbye to at least a few of the people that I wanted to say goodbye to, I took a train and went South, to Constance, to meet Michael, a friend of my friend Eleanor. Eleanor introduced me to Michael when I sent out a last-minute email asking if somebody wanted to join me in Germany for a few days. Michael nicely invited me to visit him in Constance, and so I did. The idea of being on a beautiful lake immersed in the nature was very appealing, and in fact Michael and I spent a very nice day together. We took a boat ride to the island of Reichenau. Here you can see a picture of me on the boat:
And here is Michael:
Unfortunately the weather was quite overcast. Still, the lake was very beautiful and had a particular charm, which I tried to capture for example in this picture:
This place is the paradise of birdwatchers. The singing of the birds is very loud in some places. Swans swim beautifully on the lake:
The island of Richenau is famous for three monasteries, built before the X century. The day we arrived was a particular holiday, and there were floral mosaics on the floor at the entrance of one of the sanctuaries. I particularly liked this:
Isn’t this amazing? It’s made only with flower petals.
Back from the island, we visited a little of Constance. Constance has a few really strange statues. One of them is the new symbol of the city, a gigantic statue that rotates and is situated on the border of the lake. It represents a courtesan, holding a king and a bishop on the palms of her hands.... Mm.. guess what it's referring to..
There are also some really weird statues in two fountains. These are strange mixtures of fish, rabbits and humans:
And here is a chimp staring at the butt of a huge naked young lady, who’s also surrounded by sleazily-looking old men with the body of pigs (I’ll spare you the pictures of them):
I’m not exactly sure why this artwork was in the streets of the town, but I must admit, it’s pretty impressive and provocative.. Before the day was over, Michael and I still had some time to relax on the river of the lake. The melancholic atmosphere given by the weather was particularly beautiful in the evening:
Our last adventure was entering the garden-island of Mainau after sunset (theoretically forbidden, but no one seemed to mind too much). Apparently this island is among the most renowned places to visit in all Europe, and Michael told me that during the day there are hundreds of tourists from all over the world going there. Given this description, I was expecting to see an impressive array of flowers. Instead, it was mostly like a beautiful park, with some beautiful flowers here and there. Unfortunately it was too dark to capture their gorgeous colors, but you can go to Wikipedia if you want to have an idea of what we have seen. This is it for this first post. In the next posts, I will talk about my visit to Cologne and of the food in Germany!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Interestingly enough, I've been tagged again! This time, by Amit. The questions are quite interesting, so I'll start answering right away... and there are a lot!!
1. Last movie you saw in a theater?
An Italian movie called 'Una vita davanti' ('A life ahead, literally) about people working in a call-center. Really good, eye-opening on the reality of those types of super-temporary jobs, plus, it was fun and had very interesting life stories that I really enjoyed.
2. What book are you reading?
'Conosci la strada dell'amore?' (I'm reading it in Italian, but it's actually English: 'Unconditional love', by John Powell). Now, I am not sure why I am reading this book about love in this moment, but it is a good and interesting one.
3. Favorite board game?
4. Favorite magazine?
Not a big connoisseur. I receive Newsweek and I like it.
5. Favorite smells?
Bread being baked in the oven. Or also a cake being baked. Or when they just come out of the oven. Smell of newborn babies. The sea.
6. Favorite sounds?
Waterfalls. Or wind in the trees. Or human voices singing a cappella in a rose garden (I just had this amazing experience, the singers came out of nowhere, it was really touching).
7. Worst feeling in the world?
Somebody you love making you understand he/she doesn't love you anymore.
8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?
9. Favorite fast food place?
I don't like fast food. I guess the only sort of fast food place I go is a sandwich place that makes good grilled sandwiches on campus.
10. Future child’s name?
Too far away to have any idea. :)
11. Finish this statement. “If I had lot of money I’d….?
Go for a trip around the world, and figure out what's the best way I could use it to improve the life of people. Maybe I would then change my life and go live in this place of the world where I'd decide to invest my money in order to build something that can be useful. For example, it would be pretty cool to use it to build a research center, and places where people could eat and be healed and sleep, and feel at home and in peace. Like a wonderful community where people's needs would be addressed, and at the same time, new things could be discovered through science, and bright people could work at these discoveries.
12. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
I must admit: I recently started to.
13. Storms - cool or scary?
14. Favorite drinks?
A glass of really good red wine.
15. Finish this statement, “If I had the time I would….”?
Read more, spend more time with friends, travel more, visit my family and friends who are far away, play guitar and piano more seriously.
16. Do you eat the stems on broccoli?
Of course, who would be so crazy not to??
17. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice?
Somebody told me I should try 'lowlights' - I had never heard of that term before, but I guess at some point I'll try just for fun.
18. Name all the different cities/towns you’ve lived in?
Torino (Italy), Gainesville (Florida), Raleigh (North Carolina), Berkeley (California)
19. Favorite sports to watch?
I hate watching sports. I fell asleep during the final soccer match when Italy won the world cup a few years ago. I guess I can watch some of the winter sports like figure skating during the Olympics.
20. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you?
He writes two really cool blogs: a very thoughtful one, and one with a lot of interesting movie reviews. And he nicely gave me a list of his favorite Bollywood movies!
21. What’s under your bed?
22. Would you like to be born as yourself again?
Of course. As long as I didn't know what was going to happen.
23. Morning person, or night owl?
I used to prefer mornings. Since I'm in this new apartment, I became more and more of a night owl, but I'd like to go back to an earlier schedule - let's say, start work at 9 instead of 10.... :)
24. Over easy, or sunny side up?
Sunny side up.
25. Favorite places to relax?
The rose park in Berkeley, the balcony of the new apartment, the marina. More in general: parks, and places close to the water.
26. Favorite pie?
I prefer sweet tarts to sweet pies. So I guess I'll choose a savory pie, something with cheese and any type of vegetables in it.
27. Favorite ice cream flavor?
This is too hard! Maybe a really good strawberry ice cream.
28. Of all the people you tagged this to, who’s most likely to respond first?
Not sure.. we shall see. :)
So here are the lucky tagged people: Simona, Amanda, Maryann, and Nupur! I hope you all have fun! Amit, I must admit it was fun for me :)
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I promised I would put more pictures of the new apartment online. So, here they are for everybody to enjoy! Here is our dining 'subroom' - the big mirror came with the apartment, and at first I thought it was very weird to have it in the dining room-kitchen. Now I started liking it.
The kitchen: lots of light coming in from the window you see in the picture, another window on the left side, and a skylight which illuminates also the dining table!
Not to speak about the light that comes in from the balcony, which one can enter from the same kitchen-dining room.
Here is our 'girly bathroom', which we like a lot. Melynda actually made the cute curtain.
These windows are part of our living room. It's such a bright, relaxing and enjoyable room. The view from this room, which you have seen in this post, is maybe the main reason I fell in love with this apartment.
And this is the study room! It's really cute, all in wood, and you can see the beautiful view (the Campanile is also there, although not visible from this picture). Now do you understand why I prefer to work from home, now? :)
And to finish off this series, a narcissistic picture of myself in the funny huge mirror in the kitchen :)
About two months ago, I received a gift from a food blogger friend. I was so amazed and happy! Bee from Jugalbandi sent me a little packet containing a wonderfully cute key holder, a chocolate bar from Scharffenberger, peanut chikki (a delicious Indian version of peanut brittle) and.. a secret ingredient!
You can see it in this picture, together with the key holder:
This packet was part of a sort of 'food blogger chain', where people receive a secret ingredient from a food blogger, and in turn send another ingredient to three more food bloggers. What Bee sent me is a spice mix called 'Kootu Podi'. She explains how to use podi in this post, together with a recipe for the spice mix itself.
I loved the smell of the powder, when I opened the packet. But I didn't get to cook with it until very recently, when I finally got my own new apartment. Since then, I already made it twice, in two variations. The beauty of Kootu Podi (the dish) is that you can make it with any sort of vegetable, and apparently, even different types of dal, and various seeds or nuts. So, in my understanding, almost anything could go with Kootu Podi :)
Here you can see my two versions:
In this case, I used green lentils instead of toor dal, bok choi and mushrooms as vegetables and sunflower seeds instead of peanuts.
Whereas in this case, I used split yellow peas (probably not exactly split pigeon peas, but I didn't have enough time to actually go to an Indian store and buy the toor dal), red cabbage, broccoli and zucchini as vegetables, and again sunflower seeds.
I tried the first version with Melynda (my housemate) and the second with Simona. We liked both of them! Simona was so happy about it that I gave her part of my mix, so she will try to cook with it too :)
And I was so happy with this exchange, that I followed the chain by sending my secret ingredients to Meeta, Simona, and actually.. my mom. :) I then proceeded to buy a fourth batch for myself, as these ingredients can be found only in Italy, and I still have to try to make the secret recipe with them.. so, Meeta and Simona, be patient and hopefully soon enough you'll find on this blog the recipe to use the ingredients with!
Monday, May 05, 2008
I've been tagged for a meme! How neat, thanks Simona! I'm supposed to write six random things about myself. As Simona pointed out, it's kind of hard to just write 'random things'.. I guess I'll try :)
1) I love both wild nature and human-made buildings, streets and parks. I choose where to go for a walk depending on my mood: sometimes I prefer the quiet and meditation that nature allows for, other times I want to see the colors and noises and confusion that go together with the smiles of the people strolling downtown.
2) When I was a child, I wanted to become a novelist, a painter and a biker. I still like to write and do it often, to bike, but do it very rarely, whereas I haven't painted or drawn anything in years!
3) I'm really not a good Italian: I hate fashion, buying shoes, and really don't care about soccer!
4) My favorite color is definitely blue. I knew this since I was a child, then at some point I thought I would try to expand my horizons.. but now that I recently had to choose colors of new blankets, earrings, clothing and so, I noticed that I have always chosen blue!
5) Part of me thinks that sleeping is a pleasure, but in the end, I hate having to sleep. If I could, I'd sleep 5 hours a night. But if I do that, I cannot function.. so I settle down on 6 to 8 during weekdays, and if I'm very tired, I'll try to sleep a little longer on Saturdays.
6) I hate television! I haven't watched television as my decision in years. I watch only movies that I rent or borrow. Vice versa, I love NPR (National Public Radio), and try to listen to it whenever I can, so that I can still know what happens in the world..
Yeah, I wrote six things! Hopefully they were of some interest. :) Now, I have to tag 6 more bloggers!! Here are the names: Amit at '..for the first time', Katie at 'Thyme for cooking', Asha at Aroma!, Rosa at 'Rosa's Yummy Yums', Amanda at Mrs. W's kitchen, and Sunita at 'Sunita's world'! Looking forward to reading some more random things :)
Well, to conclude this post, I decided I'd add a completely random picture. Here is myself with a bunch of people at the social dinner of a conference that I attended in Sardinia something like 6 years ago. Do you recognize me? I look like a baby!
Sunday, May 04, 2008
As I promised, the Fresh Produce of the Month event is back! After a period of ..rest, it's more alive than ever. :) And I'm really excited to finally put together the roundup of the event dedicated to Oranges! There are lots of delicious recipes here that will satisfy everybody's tastes.
Happy Cook from 'My kitchen treasures' sends us a delicious fruit salad called 'Meli Mello', recipe from a French magazine. The sauce that goes on the fruit salad is prepared by infusion of spices such as vanilla and star anise simmered in grape juice!
Kalai at 'Samaithu Paarkalaam' presents a delicious tea snack that she prepared for her husband (lucky him!): 'Mini orange scones', with a hint of ginger in the orangy dough!
Deeba's 'Orange and Olive Oil Cake' just makes me feel nostalgic.. doesn't the combination of orange and olive oil just make you think immediately about the Mediterranean shores and hills? And she has a wonderful citation from 'Bella Tuscany', which I loved: "Anytime the perfume of orange and lemon groves wafts in the window, the human body has to feel suffused with a languorous well-being." Frances Mayes, Bella Tuscany. Thanks, Deeba!
Another really interesting fruit salad comes from Asha at 'Aroma!': Fruit Chaat, an Indian recipe that combines fresh fruit with Chaat powder, pepper and mint leaves! I love the combination of fruits with spicy spices.. Looking forward to trying it!
Latha at Masalamagic brings a slice of 'Amish Friedship Chain and Orange Bread' to our roundup! Such a nice idea: I also took part to the same chain, although I was given a slightly different recipe. It is really cool to prepare a bread using a starter dough that has been transferred from friend to friend from who knows when! And I can testify that the result is delicious.
Simona at Briciole introduces us to a wonderful 'Ciambella all'arancia'. According to her own words, 'eating una fetta (a slice) of this ciambella is like being on vacation', as it combines orange, ginger, pecans, chocolate chips, dried fruits, in a dough that is made with Greek yogurt! What else could one ask for?
My own entry was an 'Insalata di arance', avery basic and Mediterranean salad indeed, made only of orange slices, olives and onion. It reminds me of my grandmother and it's a delicious and unusual salad.
Dhivya at Culinary Bazaar presents her 'Orange Givrees', which look so beautiful! It's a healthy and delicious dessert, composed of orange sorbet served in orange casing!
Another amazingly beautiful dessert is Meeta's 'Orange cake', which was her favorite among the delicious sweets that her mom used to bake. Just looking at this cake makes you feel the 'citrussy' aroma of it in the air and cheers your spirit!
Last but not least, Bee at Jugalbandi sends us a taste of her 'Orange-raspberry jam', made with blood oranges. As she explains, with the help of beautiful pictures, these oranges are considered typical of Sicilian cuisine, and they are sweeter and less acidic than other oranges. I never tried them in a jam, and the pairing with raspberry just seems like a wonderful idea.
So, my dear readers, this is our roundup! I hope you're as satisfied and happy as I am. Also, I really hope I haven't forgotten anybody, but given how late this summary is coming, I feel like it may be unfortunately possible.. please let me know if it happened! Thanks to everybody who took part to the event, and for giving such inspiring ideas! If you enjoyed this event, here is the announcement for the next: the coming 'Fresh Produce of the Month' will be centered on... Asparagus!
(this beautiful image was adapted from a picture found on Wikipedia)
The peak season of this vegetable is late April to end of May, and I believe it's the perfect candidate for our fresh produce series! Interestingly, I never met anyone who felt 'mildly' about it: you either really like it or not! I hope the recipes we'll collect will help everybody to become passionate about it!
If you'd like to participate, follow these simple rules:
1) Put a post on your blog with a recipe involving asparagus. 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 asparagus-centered 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: Asparagus' 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 event will be June 6th.