Baker-to-be

Getting up for Italian is not getting easier. Even if I go to bed at a reasonable hour, the sound of my alarm always comes too early. The snooze button and I are good friends.
Today was busier than usual; came home from Italian to make my daily oats:
Chocolate-orange yogurt oats (oats with cocoa powder with orange yogurt). I’m actually not even a fan of chocolate-orange things, but variety is the spice of life. And it’s hard to make oats that I won’t eat 🙂
I had barely enough time to scarf this before I had to run back out to meet an Italian student who wants to learn English. My school here runs a program that hooks an English speaking student with an Italian and they exchange conversation to improve our respective language skills. My partner was a really cool chick…but she has been learning English since she as 8. Left me and my 3 semesters of Italian in the dust. But I’m so grateful for the practice. Sono determinata parlare l’italiano correntemente!
We talked for a while, and by the time we finished it was too late to bother walking home before my cooking class, so I just read a bit outside our classroom/kitchen. Class was, as per usual, completely wonderful. The menu today was fresh bruschetta – for which we (sepcifically, I) made the bread, pasta alla norma, chicken marsala, and an apple cake.
I was on Team Bruschetta, and I have definitively decided that baking is my favorite activity next to yoga. Making bread is the BEST therapy. And eating fresh bread ain’t so bad either!
For the bruschetta, we first blanched the tomatoes to make them easy to peel. We peeled, seeded, and cubed them, and then made a kind of “cream” simply by blending the seeds and skin together with a tiny bit of olive oil using an immersion blender:
 
All the wonderful lycopene, a a kick-butt antioxidant, is found in the seeds and skins, so you want to find a way to incoporate them into your recipe. You mix this with the chopped tomatoes and a little basil, salt, pepper, and oregano:
As for the bread, it was SO easy. Melt yeast into some lukewarm water and mix it with the flour, essentially. We added fennel, cumin, and sesame seeds to boost the flavor and nutritional profile of the bread:
Ta-da! I apologize for the semi-icky picture, the bread needed to be toasted with the tomatoes and it ended up coming out last – it made a great dessert!
Pasta Alla Norma is a Sicilian dish named for a character in a Bellini opera. It. was. a-ma-zing.
It’s your basic pasta with marinara sauce, then fried eggplant (I have taken to calling them eggplant chips), then pecorino and basil on top. Now, when I say fried, we are not talking your typical battered in refined flour and drenched in nasty hydrogenated oil. For these babies, you cut the eggplant into chip-like slices and dust (very important – dust, not drench!) them with flour. The flour protects the eggplant from being saturated with oil and instead creates a crispy texture on the outside that is to LIVE for! You pan fry your dusted eggplant in sunflower (or vegetable) oil. E voila:
So. good.
There was also chicken marsala, which was tasty enough but I wouldn’t have missed it either. I’m honestly not a fan of the dish, regardless of how well it is prepared.
Here it is in the prep phase:
That’s the chicken in the pan on the left; the mushroom sauce is on the stove. I will say this – it was very pretty and colorful, which always makes it taste better!
The dessert was torta delle mele, or apple cake. 80% apples, with a spongy batter in the middle. It was very good. The cake part actually reminded me of this wonderful pancake-like baked dish that a neighbor used to make that was so good, I can still remember the taste. It’s hard to explain – almost like a custard, I suppose.
I’m not much for fruit pies, but this cake was excellent. Very light, lovely flavor. A good early fall dish, I think. And super healthy!
I have yet to show you my APRON:
 
It may be a little embarassing how excited I was to get this. But I don’t care. Chef Gillian is on the job!
Ooh, Chef Gillian. That has a nice little ring to it, doesn’t it?
I wanted to get out more and walk around, but that meal was so satiating that I came home, bummed around a bit on the computer and eventually fell asleep. I was running around and busy from about 7 to 2:30, and it was nap time. My problem is if I nap in the late afternoon, 9 out of 10 times I wake up with an awful stomach ache. Something about naps totally unsettles my stomach. Dinner was still pretty great though!
I was craving a big bowl of GREEN, and that’s exactly what I had! Spinach and arugula with tomato and pecorino dressed in a little bit of olive oil, good balsamic, and pesto. The pesto made this salad – if you haven’t tried it before, DO IT. This is one of the best salads I think I have ever created. I think a good rule is the simpler the ingredients, the better the taste. Works for me!
I have decreed tomorrow David Day, as I have been in Florence mere miles away from The David and still have yet to pay him a visit – time to fix that! I also have a wicked recipe up my sleeve and my roommates are going to be my guinea pigs…get excited. The Chef is in.
~Namaste~
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One thought on “Baker-to-be

  1. WOW. What a complete sensory experience–your photos are great–I can TASTE the stuff looking at it. Feel like i have to run out to Tutto Italiano (GREAT Italian deli in Hyde Park, MA) and buy some pecorino. We had stuffed eggplant rolls with spinach and ricotta last night–really good…preparing Ernesto for Italian food non-stop in April!Now I have to go rummage in the frig to see whether I can make a great salad for lunch…Love you!Mom

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