Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Glazed chorizo with tomato-cilantro sauce on rice...and farmer's markets

First of all the sausage I used in this recipe was not really chorizo; it was tasty, local sausage*. The reason I called it chorizo in the title was to convey the Latin American feel of the recipe: fresh zesty cilantro, sausage and rice. Second, I used basmati rice. Not really Latin, I know, but I find the aroma of basmati rice irresistible and can never get enough of it. So I threw together and mixed ingredients from all over the world and probably offended several food purists out there. Or, if I were a famous chef, I could call it fusion cooking. It doesn't really matter what you call it, if it works, and from the empty plates at the end of our meal I think it did.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spatchcocked Cornish game hens and roasted peppers in olive oil

I bet you think I am trying to be fancy with all this spatchcock and Cornish game hen talk in my title. The truth is it was a Thursday night. (This post was written on Friday). And what a Thursday night!

I had bought two Cornish game hens to roast for dinner, a nice change after all the fish we have been eating. It was a week night and I usually do not have time to roast a chicken, so I thought these little guys would do the trick (thus the choice of poultry). So there I am as usual on a work night, in octpus mode, making my young-un his baby meal, roasting the peppers, filling the bathtub and washing the kids. I realize it is getting later than expected and that I may actually not even have time to roast the hens if I want to fit in an early dinner so that my daughter gets back to a decent bedtime routine after the Spanish Italian hours she got accustomed to during our vacation. So I am thinking spatchcock. Yes, that is what I will do. These days more often than not I feel like the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, jumping around in a frenzy repeating "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!".

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good bye Elba!

We are home!

Yes, I miss the sunny beaches, the crystal clear waters, the good company and the fabulous food. I miss watching my childrens' toes wiggle in the sand, hearing their squeals of pure pleasure in the water. It makes me happy when I see them relishing in their new-found freedom, the absolute liberty to run around without clothes on, to get dirty and wet to their hearts' delight, to eat ripe peaches with sandy hands and not worry about the sweet juices running down their bare chests and dripping from their elbows. I loved kissing their warm, sun-kissed heads and tasting salt on my lips. I miss the beautiful evening light, the fresh fish and cool, creamy gelato we ate almost every day.

Fettucine with mussels, tomatoes, zucchini flowers and red peppers

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Elba part 8 - Lobster fest

We celebrated a few birthdays in the family this week. F was the first to turn a year older and I took him out for a very nice dinner (if I may say so myself) in Marciana Marina. We went to Affrichella, a fish restaurant, and left the kids at home with the famiglia. This is a very rare happening and what made it a special evening. We enjoyed every drop of prosecco, every bite of fish and every moment of luscious, quiet conversation. It was a magnificent summer evening and we were even spoiled with a spectacular sunset over the sea on the curvy drive down the coast.
Yesteray it was our brother-in-law's birthday so my in-laws treated us to a lovely lunch for the birthday boys and we willingly obliged. The cloudy sky made it the perfect day for a food fest...and if you read below you will understand my cry for a stomach pump yesterday evening...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Elba part 7 - Sicilian salad and a stomach pump please

I need a break. This is a food orgy; all we seem to be doing these days is eating and drinking. Plus my morning runs and afternoon laps have come to a screeching halt since my 13 month-old not only has decided to start waking up early in the morning but also that he cannot live a minute without his father or me in a two-foot radius. And did I mention that he is also trying to abolish his afternoon nap?
As a consequence I am rising like a loaf of bread in a hot oven. I need to go back home and get back into shape. I also need some healthy, light food. So pass me a salad and a stomach pump please if you will.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Elba part 6 - Of bread and panzanella elbana

Marciana Marina


Italy is not famous for its bread. Don't get me wrong, there are many excellent regional breads, several different qualities. But usually when you think bread you think France and its crusty baguette or Germany and its pumpernickel and whole grain or nutty breads.
The other day we were walking through Marina Marciana, a quaint little town on the northern shore of the island and a little, pretty whitewashed bread store caught my eye in the central piazza. In the windows were the most beautiful crostate (tarts made with jam). Their peach crostata especially intrigued me as Elba peaches are some of the best I have ever tasted.

In I went; the walls were decorated with bread sculptures and the shelves were covered in pretty loaves sprinkled with sea salt and herbs. I decided to buy the crostata (yes, the place turned out to be a tourist trap. The cake was good, don't get me wrong, but not good enough to justify its price). But buying the cake was the real experience. You know what I mean? Does that happen to you too?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Elba part 5 - Mahi mahi, impepata di cozze (mussels in their broth) and pasta alla Norma

In Italian, watermelon is anguria, but here they call it cocomero. Stands sell it by the slice

I could just snack on some of these... 


The days are passing in a whirlwind of sun, sea, sand, food, wine and childrens' squeals.
My father-in-law goes every morning to Fosco's fishing boat to buy whatever the catch of the day is. Yesterday he came home with a 6.5kg lampugapesce azzurro, better known in English as mahi-mahi, dolphin fish or dorado. My mother-in-law cut 9 steaks and froze them to make with tomatoes and olives in the near future. She roasted the rest in the oven for 6 of us. As I write this she is in the kitchen making fish soup with its head and other fish. And my father-in-law made linguine with the roe we found in the fish (1kg!). Needless to say, it was fabulous. Talk about feeding a large family for days!

Mahi mahi: an ugly little huge sucker!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Elba part 4 - Anchovies two ways (raw anchovies marinated in lemon juice and pasta with anchovy ragout)

Remember when I mentioned that my father-in-law had just bought 1.5kg of fresh anchovies and that I was going to help my mother-in-law clean them? Well, I was allowed to take pictures and clean about one before I was promptly pushed out of the kitchen. She is happy to share her culinary secrets and patiently lets me steal all her food from the kitchen to carry it out onto the balcony to photograph it in natural light. She is also happy to explain the steps to me and repeat them when I write my blog. But that is where she draws the line. I am not allowed to meddle in the kitchen. She has her routine, she is quick and I know when it is my turn to step aside. I was allowed to clean one anchovy to learn the process, but that was that. She doesn't say so in so many words, but I get the message. I am allowed to eat until my stomach explodes and then some more, but she is queen in her kitchen. I respect that and bow to her. It is my duty to spread her word, so I will continue to sacrifice myself by testing her recipes for you and taking a swim or two in crystal clear waters in between. It is a tough life, but for you I gladly endure this hardship.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elba part 3 - Triglie alla livornese e pesce spada impanato (red mullet livornese style and sword fish with bread crumbs)

My little one is napping and my oldest is drawing the ferry boats she sees passing from the balcony with her cousin. I am about to help my mother-in-law clean 1.5kgs of fresh anchovies my father-in-law bought right off a boat here in the port for the astounding sum of €3! I am lying on the couch reading my favorite blogs and the comments you left me. The sun is shining, sailboats glide by and I am at peace with the world. Life doesn't get much better and I am appreciating every minute of it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Elba part 2 - Pasta al forno alla siciliana

Greetings again from Elba.

This is the Sicilian dish par excellence, it is to a siciliano what a lasagna is to a bolognese (or a BBQ is to a Texan, lamb is to an Aussi/Kiwi...well, you get the ghist...). Every Sicilian family has a recipe for it, the best recipe for it. It will bring tears to a grown man's eyes when he tastes one that takes him back to his childhood and his mamma's apron strings.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Elba part 1 - Paccheri con vongole e bottarga di muggine (clams and salted fish roe)

Greetings from the lovely island of Elba!

Frati e sfogliatelle: a typical breakfast

View from our living room

 In the next days I will be taking you on a virtual tour of the island and its local foods. I will also post some step-by-step recipes of my mother in law, as promised.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trofie al pesto the traditional way, egg salad dip and genes

I am still trying to get that darn freezer empty and I am also working hard on using up everything I have lying around my kitchen before leaving as opposed to buying stuff.

Our previous neighbor was coming to dinner last night and I had a little under an hour to prepare, while bathing the kids and feeding the baby. So I was trying to get organized whilst carrying said  baby around on my hip and in the midst of this, I was wondering why I get myself into these situations? I have repeatedly told myself not to have guests over on week nights. There just isn't enough time to get back from work and take care of the kids and cook. Then again, I thought to myself, I cook for my family every evening and my friend A. and I had agreed it would be a simple pasta dinner and really just an excuse to get together. So why not?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chilled pea & mint soup

The time has come to defrost my freezer. This task is long overdue and my freezer has started sending me messages. It is like the North Pole in there, ice and snow everywhere. Since we are leaving for sunny beaches in a few days (and my Sicilian mother-in-law's cooking - fear not I will document and pass on recipes! I promise), I have decided to use up everything in it and pull the plug.