Saturday, July 31, 2010

About love affairs, Asian-style chicken salad and guilt-free potato chips

Dear F,
I don't know how to tell you this, but I have fallen in love. It happened by accident, we met in a little old store on my way home from the office. I saw him and looked the other way, feigned interest for something on display. I promise you, I tried to leave and not turn back. But I couldn't help it, I could not control my urges. I turned and he was still there. Sleek and sharp looking...I couldn't resist...I left the store with him. We hit it off immediately. I did things with him I had never dreamed of doing before, I suddenly became adventurous, I wanted to try more. I couldn't help myself. Forgive me F, I have fallen for Kyocera, my new Japanese love.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fifteen-minute cold, rice-stuffed tomatoes

These days my cooking solely involves opening and closing the fridge door and a lot of chopping. I barely glance towards my old friend the oven and even the stove has seen better days. I love you both dearly, I do, but I just can't get myself to add heat to heat. And so yes, I present you with yet another summer dish, with the promise of many roasts, soups and pies to come.

This is a 15-minute recipe because that is how long it takes the rice to cook. I did the prepping, chopping and mixing while feeding the baby, checking up every couple of minutes on my pre-schooler in the tub and setting the table. So it is extremely quick and easy, which is what I like and what this blog is all about. Ideas for dinner on a crazy week day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whole grain couscous tabouleh style and roast duck breast

In one of my first posts I mentioned a whole grain cous cous I had just discovered and promised to let you know the outcome once I had tried it. Well, I did and I recommend it. It has a more complex, slightly nuttier flavor that will make any dish more interesting.

I made this a couple of weeks ago, at the height of the heat wave, in my quest for refreshing, refrigerated foods.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A taste of Valtellina: Pizzoccheri and Polenta taragna o concia. Mountain food not to be taken lightly.

Bresaola, the local cured specialty

We just got back from a week end in the mountains and after a fortnight of scortchingly hot weather it was a relief to have to wear fleeces and socks for two days and still be cold. It also required lots of hearty food and wine, so who's complaining?
The minute we approached C and R's, they started cooking up a feast and the marathon eating began. A real butter, pork and cheese fest, I'm telling you.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vitello tonnato, summer pot luck and other digressions

Remember how a few weeks ago I mentioned in one of my posts that tuna salad is not a staple summer dish here? In Italy, whose Mediterranean waters are renown for tuna fishing? Come on, I kept thinking, there has to be a summer dish with tuna in it...

That got me thinking about summer recipes in general and how they often differ from country to country. The concept of eating foods according to the seasons has never disappeared here (it is obvious why prosciutto&melon/figs and tomato & mozzarella are eaten in the summer). But a close Brazilian friend of mine and I are amused that there are some dishes Italians only eat certain times of the year, and God forbid you order them, make them or serve them at any other time!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

YM's green beans in cream

Yesterday I came home to a pretty empty fridge. So I did what I rarely do (unless I am making a pasta dish): I cooked an entirely vegetarian meal inspired by some recipes I had seen on the web and that I just happened to have the ingedients for. Yummy Mummy posted an interesting piece yesterday about recipe ownership and she mentioned an old recipe from her childhood, yellow beans and cream. I just happened to have a bunch of green beans in my fridge and decided to try out this unusual combination. I also made this chickpea recipe I had been thinking about for days to eat along with or in this soupy vegetable dish.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chickpeas to die for

The minute I read this recipe on Veggie Num Num's blog I knew I had to try them.
I love nibbling, I love salty, I love spicy, who doesn't? I could go through a bag of potato chips as fast as you can read up to here but I only allow myself to do so on rare occasions. So when I saw this healthy and flavorful alternative, I pulled out my mortar and went straight to work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Il Gelato, Milan

It seems like all I have been doing these days is writing about salads and gelato, but what else can you do in this heat?
Last week end we decided to try the latest new gelateria that F had read about a while back on specialized blogs, Il Gelato. What sets them apart from all other gelaterie is they boast 100 flavors. Probably an exaggeration but it piqued our curiosity.

Gelateria Ronchi, Milan

It looks like gelaterie following Grom's philosophy (using seasonal, high-quality ingredients and showcasing ice cream as if they were boutiques) are sprouting like mushrooms this year in Milan. A few days after visiting Rivareno I heard about Ronchi, so off I went with my family to taste their product.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Grapefruit salad and Antonella's roast chicken

The heat wave is subsiding but it is still hot enough to really only want to eat salads and fruit.
So I offer you yet another salad that is as simple as can be but full of character.

Ladurée Milan

Ladurée, the renowned Parisian macaron maison, opened in Milan in the spring.
I do not have a sweet tooth, as much as I love anything chocolate, that involves ice cream or pies. So I first happened in the store out of curiousity and to get a little something for a friend I knew would really appreciate the experience. On the way out I picked up a caramel with salted butter macaron for myself, a pistachio one for F and a chocolate one for M. I must admit they were a revelation, even to my husband, who was eyeing them suspiciously. They are truly sweet, chewy morsels of heaven bursting with flavor. The second time we were in the area we had a close encounter with coffee, raspberry and vanilla. Another love affair. So on Friday I decided to drop in to get a gift for some close friends we were visiting on the week end who do not live in Milan and thought I would bring along my camera to share the experience.
I snapped a few pictures of the store's windows and then went in to buy a sample box with each and every flavor in it. While it was being filled I looked around the empty (except for a couple that was sampling) shop and asked if I could take a few pictures. The sales girl curtly said "No". I explained I was not a journalist, just a girl with a food blog. I was told I would have to make an appointment. When I declined and thanked them with a smile I was told I was welcome to take more pictures of the windows.
I almost wanted to suggest they eat some of their macarons to sweeten their day. So I am sorry I cannot post a picture of these sweets in all of their colorful loveliness. You will have to go try one yourself!
Anyhow, the display is beautiful, the product delightful if overpriced and they have a vast array of beautiful gift boxes.

Flavours that are permanently available (from their website):

Chocolate - Bitter Chocolate - Vanilla - Coffee - Rose - Pistachio - Raspberry - Blackcurrant Violet - Caramel with salted butter - Red Fruits - Orange Blossom - Liquorice - Lemon

Seasonal flavours:

Coconut - Mint - Amande - Spice and soft fruits - Chesnuts - Praline - Lemon Cedrat - Fig & Date

Price per macaron (not including gift boxes of any sort): €1,60

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mediterranean octopus salad

In my quest of making things that are refreshing in this heat and inspired by the many jokes about Paul the Octopus after Germany was kicked out of the World Cup last week I came across another recipe from my mother in law: a Mediterranean octopus salad that is usually served warm but that can also be served chilled. It is delicious, so don't let the idea of octopus put you off. If cooked well, it is extremely tender and it is very subtle in taste.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuna salad. Variations on a theme

I know, tuna salad is not a recipe. But it is still too hot to cook around here and I am trying to come up with new ways to make an old recipe more interesting. I mean, there are only so many times you can make a Caprese or a Greek salad in a week right?
A tuna salad is not a staple summer dish/sandwich here like it is in the States. You cannot buy it ready made in stores and I don't think I have ever seen anybody make it at home. So when my visiting nephew came over on the spur of the moment that is what I made. At least in its simplicity it would be more enticing than the expected last minute tomato&mozzarella or prosciutto&melon.
As I was mixing the tuna and mayo I realized I did not have any celery, so I chopped up some German pickles (Gewurzgurken) and tomatoes instead. I also added some curry powder with the pepper and salt and let me tell you, it was good! Serve with sliced tomatoes and fresh, crunchy ciabatta bread and you will have a winner!

The next time I will try to substitute the pickles with a Granny Smith apple. Crunchy, cool and a little sour: should be perfect with curry.

What do you like to make/eat on a scorching hot summer day?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Smitten Kitchen's Mango slaw with cashews and mint

I have been reading Smitten Kitchen for years and I love pretty much anything Deb posts, from her fantastic baked goods recipes to the photos of adorable little J (yes, I am partial, we had baby boys just around the same time).

Anyhow, on Friday I was sitting at my desk dreading the trip home in the sweltering heatwave that seems to have hit both sides of the Atlantic. I came across the Mango slaw with cashews and mint recipe and fell instantly in love. Just the thought of Thai food is enough to start my mouth watering and seeing Deb's beautiful photos convinced me I had to have some of that all for myself.

Whole wheat spaghetti with red mullet ragout

I admit it, I am a sucker for pretty things and the other day the beautiful red, pink pearliness of these red mullet filets caught my eye. I just threw them into my cart without a second thought, until I saw them again on Friday and wondered what to do with them.

Friday, July 9, 2010

End-of-the-week (not-so-Greek) tart

By the end of the week, my fridge gets empty. Veeeeery empty.

This is of course greatly reduces my cooking options but it also: a) allows me to find ingredients previously hiding in the back of the fridge; b) forces me to use up things that are no longer at their prime; and 3) it ultimately sometimes helps me to stumble across great new ideas. Not always I admit. Sometimes the results are less than stellar, but last night they made an easy and filling summer week-night meal. And office lunch for me today!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Capesante 'a modo mio' - Scallops my way

The other day I was walking by the fresh fish counter at my local supermarket and saw these beautiful scallops just sitting there on the ice and I could almost hear them calling out my name. I just could not resist.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer cous cous salad

In my last post I mentioned a cous cous salad that is often a part of our summer meals. There really isn't a recipe to follow and there is no fixed list of ingredients. It really is all about finding a balance of flavors and textures. This is probably the most basic version I make, but you can really add pretty much anything that strikes your fantasy or that you need to use up in your fridge.

The three ingredients that are a must in my book are cous cous (of course), tomatoes and cucmbers. The markets are full of great tasting, sweet tomatoes these days and I just can't seem to get enough of them, in any shape or size. Cucumbers add that perfect touch of cool and crunch to the whole ensemble.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pecan pie for the 4th of July

This year Americans all over the world got to have their 4th of July BBQ since it was on a Sunday and my family and I spent the day on the Lake of Monate, that is less than an hour from Milan and a really picturesque area. The lake is a great place to swim in when the heat in the city is as sweltering as it was here yesterday (over 35°C and extremely humid) and after a nice dip in the cool water three half Italian-half American families went to a friends' home to grill some burgers, meat and shrimp. I was asked to bring a side dish, a cous cous salad I often make in the summer that I will write about very soon. But I felt I also wanted to make something really American. It had to be quick and easy given I had two kids running/crawling around the apartment calling for attention and it was so hot I wanted to get out of the kitchen asap. I also had a bag of pecans sitting in the cupboard I had been avoiding for quite some time that I knew I had to use up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Gelato Rivareno - Milan

TGIF! To celebrate, a few of us from the office headed over to a new gelateria, Rivareno, to try their gelato, and what a good idea that was! Especially after walking over in over 30°C.

Like many of the new places opening here these days, it pretty much imitates Grom's philosophy (and decor: minimalist, old-fashioned dipping wells etc.): fresh, seasonal, top quality, all-natural ingredients and artisanal methods. Rivareno has two stores here in Milan and several more around Italy.

What really captured our interest were the flavors, an assortment of interesting combinations like almond gelato with caramelized almonds and amaretti (Contessa), zabaione chocolate with dark chocolate and coffee cake (Otello), saffron with toasted and caramelized sesame seeds (Zafferano al sesamo), mascarpone gelato with gianduja sauce (Alice) and many more.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Not another food blog???

If you by chance happened to come across this blog and you are actually reading this post, you are also probably wondering why anybody would want to start yet another food-related blog. Come on! I mean I'm not Alice Waters or Gordon Ramsay and cooking (or writing by the way) is not my profession. So why even try? There are a million fantastic, inspired food blogs out there and I read at least 500,000 of them, and they are already doing a great job inspiring so many of us. Some are so funny they make me laugh tears. Others are so beautiful I gasp every time I click onto their homepage. Others are just like a good old friend, a familiar place to go to and forget about my troubles for a while. Many keep me connected to my hometown, others tell me about places I have never been to.
So, back to my question, what makes me think I can do a better job than all of these passionate writers and cooks? Nothing, dear reader. I just love food, I love cooking, I love thinking about what to make for dinner and planning meals for friends and family.