The Daily Meal

Oh SNAP! I’m back! I have really, really missed blogging. Especially since I’ve been doing a lot of eating recently, and even more thinking, and somehow have not made it back here.

I would like to apologize for the hot aesthetic mess that was my previous post – I am painfully aware that it looks like I divorced myself from my enter key. My big laptop (Stronza) has been crashing within 8 minutes of turning it on for the past 2 months and my external hard drive took a brief vacation from life, I am not only missing my entire picture library but also the gem that is Windows Live Writer – aka, the best thing for bloggers since boutique cupcakes. I can format it the way I want, have more than 4 font options, put pictures wherever I want…but alas, my netbook seems to be the last technological survivor in my little family and poor little Melvin can’t run with more than Windows XP (remember that?), and WLW is too fancy schmancy for measly little XP. (Unless you know something I don’t….in which case, speak up!)

I am writing today to talk about a new website I was recently introduced to: The Daily Meal! I’m sure I am waaay behind the times on this one, but I was pointed to it this week and found dream job #76 – what a freakin cool foodie site! I’m a big fan of sites that have EVERYthing food – recipes for all levels and isms, serious food-world reporting (Top 10 Badass Women Chefs in Americaย !), entertaining tips, how to quarter a chickenย – the good stuff. It’s like every show on the food network tripped into Bon Appetit and landed on the web, and I think it’s quite exciting. Do check them out. Tell them I sent you.

Hmm, let’s see, I have whined about technology and recommended a website…that can’t be all I can do for you…

OH! Cilantro pesto.

Our house has been in its usual disarray since I’ve returned. Chargers strewn here and there, magazines piled up next to the sofa, laundry in different stages of cleanliness on every floor. Dinner can become quite the burden, and is often thrown together perhaps an hour before it is made. Sometimes, it tastes about as good as the thought put into it. Other times – dare I say, most of the time – it works out to be a lovely, tasty meal that everyone likes. Example: last night we had grilled wild salmon (steak tips for the fish-hating brother…we don’t really know where he came from. I maintain the stork got the wrong address.) with cilantro pesto, baked potato wedges, and grilled veggies. The potatoes are easy – chop into desired wedge size, toss with salt, pepper, rosemary and olive oil, bake for 40 minutes until they look as brown as you want them to be. The veggies are easier – cut, grill, eat. (Although if you have the forethought to marinate them in a little garlic and balsamic vinegar, you’ll be even happier.) The cilantro pesto sounds pretty random, right? Well, not when you have a HUGE bunch of cilantro from Whole Foods that the biggest bowl of chili in the world couldn’t help get rid of and it’s already half brown and gross anyway. Nope, pesto seemed liked the smartest thing to do.

I started to make it, but I apparently have higher standards for what constitutes as a “still good” leaf, so Mom took over. Cilantro, parsley, a little olive oil, lemon (or lime – we were out) juice, salt, some sliced almonds, and GARLIC (someone forgot the garlic – let me tell you, it makes a big difference. Like, from “this tastes like pureed cilantro” to “oooh, this is yummy!” different.). Of course, if you do for some ungodly reason forget the garlic, you can just smash a clove or two with a knife between some wax paper and stir it in. Just get it in there.

A little spoonful on top of the salmon made it prettier, yummier, and just better. And I’m prettttty sure if you were to start telling people that you just whipped a little wild salmon with cilantro pesto for a Thursday dinner, they would want to be your friends. I certainly would.

HAPPY FRIDAY!!

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Over-The-Humpday Challenge DEBUT!

I told you I had fun stuff planned! So, from now on, every Wednesday I will have an Over The Humpday Challenge to overcome. For the very first OTHdC (c’mon, you know you love the acronyms), I was very excited to put a new-found ingredient to some good use:
GARLIC SCAPES!!!
I first saw them on Angela’s blog, and then I spied them at our weekly farmer’s market with a sign that said “Last Week!!” and snatched a big ole bag of them up….with no idea what in the world I would do with them. Luckily, destiny called and lo and behold, the stand that sold the scapes had little recipes printed out from garlic scape pesto. Sounds like a good plan to me.
After reviewing the recipe, I decided to just use my regular pesto recipe and sub the basil & garlic clove for just the scapes. Into the food processor went:
-12 garlic scapes
-2 T pine nuts
-2 T extra virgin olive oil (pesto is raw, so the more flavorful the olive oil, the more flavorful the pesto!)
-5 T parmesan cheese
-pinch coarse salt (we actually didn’t have any, but it is recommended – makes it easier on the blades)
-water (about a glass) to add as needed
I did chop up the scapes to help the food processor a little. 
WHOA these babies are strooooong! This pesto was uber-garlicky, to the point of being spicy, but I and my taste testers thought it was great! I tossed it with some whole grain fusilli with a bit of basil torn and sprinkled on top:
I like to think my cooking professor in Florence would be proud ๐Ÿ™‚
I made it a second time (SO many scapes!) and instead of pasta, threw it in a bowl with a can of cannellini (white) beans, fresh tomato, and black olives – this time adding a touch of ricotta cheese to the sauce. Again, success! We had plenty left over and ended up using it as the sauce for a bag of tortellini for dinner. TOO easy!
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Garlic scape pesto: a dip, spread, sauce, side dish, main attraction, snack, omelette filler….oh, the list goes on. 
OTHd Challenge: Garlic Scapes? Accomplished. 
~Namaste~

The Case of “The Lasts”

Ugh, I hate this part. You know, the one where everything you do is “the last.” Last load of laundry in our crazy machine [it secretly wishes it were a rocket ship – you should hear it on spin cycle). Last shopping trip in the market. Last time I have to climb the never-ending stairs to Italian class…ok, maybe I don’t hate every part. Those stairs at 8 in the morning were not exactly a treat.
After I got my grade on my Italian final – all good ๐Ÿ™‚ – I came home for some overnight oats!
Before you go to bed, put oats in a bowl and pour an equal amount of liquid (I’m a fan of almond milk) over them, and maybe add a dash of cinnamon. Let them sleep in the refigerator and when you are both awake, the oats will have absorbed the liquid and be soft – voila, no-cook oatmeal!

(There are different ways of preparing them; some people add more stuff to it the night before. That’s why they’re so fun – lots of different ways to experiment!)
Before…
After: all mixed up with some vanilla yogurt.
This was exceptionally good today – it tasted like snickerdoodle cookie dough! The perfect way to prepare for my cooking practical, the second half of my final for that class where we actually have to cook for and be judged by our professor.
We set his table up all pretty:
We were split up into teams to tackle 3 courses of 4 dishes.
Course 1: BREAD
Not just bread – stuffed focaccia and pizza.
This was the focaccia we made a couple weeks ago for our “green class.” It’s amazing, and this time it was even better. The spinach is sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic to add flavor and it worked – the spinach-garlic combo sang through the bread. The mozzarella (use fresh buffala mozzarella – it’s a little fattier but you can use less to get a powerful punch of flavor) was perfectly stretchy, and the dough was juuuust dense enough to hold up it’s filling but fluffy enough to be like eating yummy, doughy, pillows. 
Another team made pizza margherita – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil. This was very probably the.best.pizza. I’ve ever had. The flavors was perfectly balanced and so fresh. The crust was the right thickness – not cracker like but not like you were getting more crust than ingredients in your mouth at once either. The sauteed the tomatoes in garlic and olive before topping the dough to bake – this is essential for non-soggy pizza, because if you just throw the raw ingredients on the top, the water (that makes up most of the veggie) will release and make your pizza WAY to heavy to eat. The cheese was golden but not gummy or too crispy and with the basil was SO good. Yup, will be making this when I come home.
Next course: Pear-filled ravioli in a walnut-herb sauce with pecorino.
PEAR!
This was very tasty. The pasta was a little undercooked, but I actually like overly-al dente pasta (yes, I’m odd). I wish the pear had been blended with the pecorino and then filled, the ravioli with just chopped pear felt a little sparse to me. But the walnut sauce was SO good – walnuts, parsley, and basil. You couldn’t really taste the walnuts, at least not unless you looked for it, but that is actually kind of the goal. Like pesto – it’s not ALL about the pine nuts that you add to it, but if you took them out you would know. It really did work well the sweetness of the pears. As my professor commented – “amazing”.
Dessert: MY TEAM!
[Thanks again blogger for the sideways picture. It’s not funny anymore.] 
Crema di amaretti – I also made it here.
Gosh, I love pretty food.
The filling is very similar to tiramisu – we used the double boiler method to kill any salmonella ickiness in the eggs as we beat the. Here’s what we did: Separate the whites from the yolks of your eggs (it’s one egg for every 2 people you are serving). Get your double -boiler going; when the water is simmering (NOT full-on boiling!), use a hand-mixer (or one of those fancy-schmancy Kitchen Aid mixers that I can only dream about owning) beat the yolks with cane sugar (tablespoons=number of eggs used) until it’s nice and creamy. Set it aside to cool. Get your water a-simmerin’ again, and repeat the process with egg whites (no sugar) until they form stiff peaks. Not sure what that means? I didn’t either. Get them to the point where if you turn the bowl upside down, the egg whites don’t move (and please use a second bowl underneath when testing this…). Let those cool as well. Fold in marscapone cheese with yolk-sugar mixture gently. Then add the egg whites. 
This is where I added a couple teaspoons of cinnamon. I remember thinking it would be good the first time we made it, and I wanted to do it for the final. My teacher loved it! Yay! Nothing like feeling innovative in the kitchen to make me smile:)
Now, look at the consistency you have. You want something tiramisu-filling-like, very light and creamy. We made the call to add a liiiiittle bit of whipping cream (whipped with a little lemon juice and a pinch of salt to get it fluffy!), and that really made a huge difference. We used about 125 grams of cream, and we were making for 14 people – so you really don’t need much.
To plate, dip two amaretti cookies (they’re like little almond biscuits, I will have to consciously search for them in the States when I come home – I’ll keep you updated!) in strong coffee mixed with just a few drops of milk and sugar. Sprinkle the top with coffee (instant here is fine), chocolate chips and cocoa powder. Voila! better-than-tiramisu goodness.
Our professor’s comment? “Delizioso!”
He gave me a big hug when I left and that was when this whole “I’m actually leaving” business hit me. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! DON’T MAKE ME GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ahem.
SO, after class I wandered over to the Ponte Vecchio to do some window shopping. I have been searching for a necklace with the Florentine fleur-de-lis crest, and I knew if I would find it anywhere, that’s where it would be. The Ponte Vecchio is known for its jewlery, specifically marble and gold. Honestly, I really can’t stand gold, but I was still hopeful. It was looking pretty dim at first; all I could find were charms the size of my pinky fingernail at the low, low price of 122 euro – which is, what, maybe 150 dollars? Ugh. I was feeling like giving up, when I crossed to the other side and found it.
Yay! 6 euro, and I already have a chain ๐Ÿ™‚ Ain’t it perty?
For the first time this week, the sun was out! I have been planning on returning to Piazzale Michelangiolo to get some better pictures because a) the day we went it was cloudy, b) I have a new camera!!, and c) the combination of my carberrific lunch + the joy of finding my jewelry left me with some newfound energy to burn!
The walk there is lovely.
[Ponte Vecchio]
Remember the funky trees?
It’s quite a hike to get there…
And just when you think it’s over…
But it’s worth it.
Even though I’ve only been here for 4 teeny months, I still call it ‘mine.’ Not that it only belongs to me; more in the way that it has made such an impact on me. It’s home.
Dinner tonight was long-anticipated. We planned to go to Cibreino – “the poor man’s Cibreo.” Cibreo is one of the most important (and most expensive) restaurants in Florence. The chef is world-reknowned for his take on Italian food. Simply put, it’s a big deal.
Cibreino is a little trattoria around the corner from Cibreo that offers a limited menu for a MUCH smaller price. Same kitchen – fewer options.
I was excited.
We got there at 7, when it opens, and all breathed sighs of relief when there was a table for 4 ready and waiting. The trattoria is a very small room with only 8 or so tables, so we were a little worried. It was also mostly tourists – and we were treated as such, which was a little annoying but to be expected considering the fame of this place.
After much debate and some help from our very entertaining waiter, I ordered:
It was a veggie-fish soup. Very well spiced and I loved the fish that was in it – no idea what it was called, a kind of white fish that looked a little bit like tuna (different taste though). It was a little brothy for me, but it was so well-seasoned that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of it. They also brought us a “surprise” bowl of the minestra di pane – bread soup – that is very similar to ribollita. That was awesome – tasted just like Thanksgiving stuffing! Ah, the wonders of sage.
At the end of our class today, my cooking professor was talking about going to restaurants. He said the best way to judge a restaurant is by its appetizers and dessert – how they start and end a meal. He emphasized the great importance of dessert and ending a meal on a sweet note, because there’s always room for sweet! (You understand now why I enjoyed this class so much?) I was feeling inspired and so Alaina and I split the flourless chocolate cake.
Best. Decision. Ever.
This was one of the best chocolate cakes EVER. Very thin but SO dense and moist. I could have eaten an entire cake’s worth of it. But, aside from the phenomenal flavor, I also appreciated the portion size – it was a perfect dessert. Wonderful taste but not overwhelmingly huge so as to make you waddle out of the restaurant. Well done, Cibreino. Well done.
What fabulous plans do we have on our last day in Firenze? Pack, pack, pack – print boarding passes – and then pack some more. Ah, the glamour of life abroad.
And I loved every second.
~Namaste~

Unreal

On Sunday, my weekend adventures took me to Cinque Terre, five little hill towns on the Mediterranean coast on the northwestern side of Italy that are connected by a loooong trail. We went with Florence For Fun, a local travel agency that arranges spring break, long-weekend, and day trips for students in Florence. It was a great deal, too! Cinque Terre (literally, ‘five lands’) is world-renowned for its incredible natural beauty–it’s on UNESCO’s World Heritage List–and it has a fantastic hiking trail with some drop-dead gorgeous sites. It really felt like we were walking around inside a postcard. It was almost too beautiful to be real.
We arose at the obscene hour of 6 AM; well, my travel companions did…I fell back asleep and they jostled me awake at quarter to 7. Whoops! I also awoke to find my puffy face had returned; a mosquito must have bitten me last night. Grrr! It wasn’t as bad as last time, and faded by the time we got off the train in the first town, Riomaggiore. It seems that it’s not just Florentine weather that likes to trick us more than treat us, but all of Italy – it was cloudy and freezing when we got there! (Don’t worry, we sang “Oh Mr. Sun” in Italian and he eventually came out to de-thaw us!)
The big deal history-wise with Cinque Terre is its muretti, “little walls.” Despite its terrain being incredibly steep, rocky, and generally difficult to farm, its people have thrived as farmers from the first centuries AD. They propped up their farms and vineyards by building little stone walls – a lot of them. 11,000 kilometers (6836 miles), in fact, which is similar in length to the Great Wall of China. I know, crazy, right?? The craziest part is they did it completely by manual labor. SAY WHAT???
This mural was painted in recognition of those who built the walls. They deserve this and more! 11,000 KM!!!!
We didn’t actually go in to Riomaggiore; we pretty much got off the train, went to the bathroom and started hiking! Didn’t stop me from snapping away, of course:
The bar where we used the bathroom listed the ingredients used in the breads/pastries they sold. TOO COOL!! Look at all that real food – no artificial unpronouncable chemical ingredients here! This made me happy. [coughfoodgeekcoughcough]
The first trail, from Riomaggiore to Manarola, is called Via dell’Amore – The Lovers’ Walk. It was actually named by a journalist who was writing a story was walking on the path and found a note left by two young lovers. Awwwwwww!!!
Doesn’t everyone proclaim their love on a cactus leaf? I would.
When couples come to Cinque Terre they bring a lock and put it on rails, plants, nets, anything, then lock it and throw the key into the ocean. So sweet!
Ok, get ready for some serious picture overload. I’ll try to let the pictures speak for themselves and narrate only where necessary ๐Ÿ™‚
Town #2: Manarola

Follow the “Indiana Jones” bridge to…
Town #3: Corniglia

LUNCH BREAK!!!
After all that walking + 382 stairs to get to Corniglia, our collective blood sugar was very low. BUT we were determined not to let our stomachs take us to the first (or second or third) touristy restaurant we found and wandered to find the “right” place. Jackpot!!!! We found a wine bar with a restaurant upstairs. Quiet, music in the background…and some seriously incredible eats & drinks.
We started with a necessary bottle of wine:
Cute label, right?! 
They only produce white wine in Cinque Terre, and I am not complaining – this was delicious! A little fizzy, a little sweet & sour. Very tasty. (and for 16 euro, I should hope so!)
I also split an appetizer with Alaina:
Anchovies!!! They are the specialty fish here, and I see why – these were amazing. Soft, tender, almost silky in texture, and they were drizzled in a garlic-infused olive oil with I think a bit of pesto on top. I need to find anchovies at home.
For our main course, we all ordered the same thing and it was brought on one big platter:
Pasta in a tomato sauce & pesto
Cinque Terre is in Liguria, where basil is grown and hence is the region from whence comes the holy pesto sauce. And I must say, this pasta was a downright divine experience. The pesto was a beautiful, vibrant green color and the basil used was sooo fresh. Mixed with the slightly sweet tomato sauce, I was sad when my plate was empty and there was no more sauce to sop up with bread. We were happy little hikers!
After lunch, the trek continued to…
Town #4: Vernazza

^Corniglia from the trail^
Vernazza from the trail
This trail called for some serious hiking & rock-scrambling! It was a little rough at first, what with that big lunch sitting not fully digested in my tummy, but after a quick breather I was good to go, and by the time we got to Vernazza, it was definitely gelato time!
Frutti di bosco (mixed berry yogurt), mint chocolate chip, dark chocolate
It was amazing gelato, but the dark chocolate was quite good. We had more chill time in this town and we got to walk and shop a bit – I found one store with some faaaabulous turquoise jewelry and I wanted to wrap the whole shop up and put it in my pocket!
We also, as usual, made some furry friends:
The hike from the 4th town to the final 5th is the longest and most difficult, and because we were quickly running out of time before out train left in the last town at 6:30, we took the very fast 5 min. train ride to…
Town #5: Monterosso
Loved the turquoise/coral colors of this house!
What a charming little beach town! We have been planning to go to a beach in May before we leave, and we are thinking about coming here to explore it more and do the last hike we missed out on (it’s also supposed to be the prettiest).
Before leaving, I had to try the limoncino, which is Liguria’s take on the southern Italian limoncello (basically lemons, sugar, and alcohol – it’s a very typical after-dinner drink). The only difference between the two is the lemons; limoncino uses lemons from the north.
I could definitely taste a difference between the ‘cino and ‘cello – the lemons had a distinctly different flavor, more mellow and sweet maybe? I liked it well enough but just like limoncello, I can only handle a few sips and after that my tastebuds just get bored. Even though it’s poured in a small dessert-wine glass, it still seems like a little too much to enjoy. But I’m still happy to have satisfied my curiosity!
[More gelato may or may not have been consumed at this point. I am powerless to anything melon-flavored.]
We also bought some focaccia for dinner on the rather long train ride home. Focaccia is the bread specialty of Liguria, and my cooking teacher expressly specified that focaccia con formaggio (with cheese) must be tried in Cinque Terre. No arguments here! I got some with cheese, tomatoes, and more anchovies (so amazingly good here!), and swapped half for some of Alaina’s cheese and tomato piece. It was really good, especially with the anchovies. Very light, airy and buttery (well, olive oil-y, in a good way). Although I think I prefer the focaccia we made in class last week for being denser and doughier, both have their own place in my carb-loving heart.
A long, glorious day of walking, eating, oohing and aahing. Now it just seems like a dream! Every moment was like stepping inside a picture on a postcard. It was breath-taking, awe-inspiring, mouth-watering, exhausting, rewarding, and above all…
Unreal.
~Namaste~

Chocolate Anger, Green Contentment

 I mentioned a slight kink to my lovely day in the sun yesterday – a sudden cloud cover, if you will. Downright stormy in fact. But this was not a storm of hurricane winds or torrential rain. This was a technological cloud of doom – my internet was gone. Now, you might say “oh, kids these day, they  lose their precious internet for an hour and think the apocalypse has come” – but I am NOT finished. My internet was gone because there was supposedly another person using my internet account, and of course that sent me into a tailspin of questions, like “if they got my internet password, what other passwords could they have??!!” My dad later explained that it was probably just a router reboot issue, and the “other user” was probably me, it just hadn’t logged me out correctly – but this was not something I knew to consider. Angry and powerless, I turned to the one thing that always helps: baking.
Some people run when they get angry. Others listen to loud music. I make cookies.
These were the cookies we made in my first cooking class and they were so incredible, I’ve been craving them ever since. We had all the ingredients on hand, and thanks to my mom who sent me my food scale, I was all set. A little too much flour (they were a little bread-y), but I halved the recipe so I think the proportion may have been off. Instead of dark chocolate chips, I chopped up some of my egg left over from Easter. Delicious, brownie-like, and not even very damaging from a nutritional standpoint. I felt quite a bit better.
I didn’t have a lot of time to focus on the internet issue anyway because tonight we had tickets (thanks to my study abroad program) to MoMix, a modern dance company performance! We had heard that it was awesome, and very much like Cirque Du Soleil (which I adore), so I was pretty excited! It was a very interesting performance – modern dance goes a little over my head, but I can usually get it for the most part. It was just such a cool experience to see it! The music was really good, and the dancers really did a beautiful job. I think I like Cirque a liiiittle bit more, but this was really cool. Such a fun way to spend a Wednesday night!!
After that, I convinced the roomies to get gelato because they had yet to try Perche No!, which is where my other roommate and I went over Spring Break and declared it our favorite Florentine gelato so far (although Vestri may tie up the competition…).
After falling in love with their soy vanilla flavor, I tried the soy chocolate – and was not disappointed! It was very cocoa-y, which I love. Sometimes when I’m having a chocolate craving, I just have a little spoonful of cocoa powder. It sounds weird, but it works – my theory with chocolate is, the darker the better! I also got mango because, well, I’m pretty much obsessed with all things mango. SO good!
We came home and sampled my cookies (I think they were approved of…), and then my internet issue came flying back at me. I was not in the best of moods. And it only got worse when I broke my tea mug, and then seconds later remembered I had a report for my cooking class due tomorrow, which was actually today as it was already past midnight. Not gonna lie, I had a bit of a breakdown. I pulled it together (although another cookie may have been eaten), cleaned up the mug shards, wrote the paper, and got to bed. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave me much pillow time, and I am feeling it today.

BUT, Italian was more or less painless. I left actually pretty excited because yesterday we gave oral presentation about our favorite books and I chose:

Ruth Reichl is one of my very favorite authors. This book is about her time as The New York Times’ food critic, and it is just a completely charming, funny book. I’ve read her others, which I like almost as much as this, and just started her newest one, Not Becoming My Mother. ANYway, my Italian teacher went out and bought it after she heard me talk about it! I love spreading the foodie love ๐Ÿ™‚

Today continued to make up for last night’s ick-factor when I came home, made a big cup of coffee, and discovered my internet to be restored. And all was well again. Honestly, I think my issue last night was lack of sleep more than anything else. It’s just been a bit of a tough week sleep-wise. And really, when I look back on my semester here, I am not going to remember the internet-less nights of stress; my trip is going to be marked by my sunny afternoons spent lazing in Piazza Indipendenza, making fun of the pigeons and talking to the dogs.

The ladies who lunch sit.

Lazing in the piazza is exactly what I did today – after my cooking class, of course! Today was a “green class”   – lots of antioxidant/fiber-filled goodness!

Patate agli spinaci
This was very interesting. We took boiled potatoes and peeled them–you want to boil vegetables with skins on because if you peel them first, the water will take and dissolve all the nutrients! Of course, you can do this to create a vegetable stock – all the nutrients seep into the water. But for this purpose, boil-and-peel! The potatoes were then riced (I am pretty sure it was a ricer?) –you could probably grate them too– and mixed with spinach that had been sauteed shortly with olive oil and garlic. This mix was put in a pastry bag and squeezed onto a baking sheet into perty potato-spinach flowers and sprinkled with parmesan cheese (which got all crunchy and golden and delicious!), and baked. They were pretty tasty, although I feel like they could have used a bit more oomph. More salt maybe? I feel like potatoes and spinach are two more or less bland-flavored veggies (don’t get me wrong, though, I love eating both!) and they needed more than just the herbs and cheese to make these really *pop.* Ok, I just talked about potato-spinach flowers for about five minutes, NEXT plate…

Trofie al pescatrice e pesto
Holy WHOA this was SO yummmmmmy!! We used trofie, a type of pasta that looks like it’s been stretched and then twisted, and is popular in Liguria which is near Genova where basil is grown for pesto! Nice little linkage there, no? We made the pesto, but instead of using water like last time, we used some ricotta cheese to make it creamier. Normally I don’t like super creamy pesto, but it went so perfectly with this dish! Into the pasta also went cubed pieces of fresh swordfish…oh dear, how I love fish. I’m pretty sure my eyes lit up when he said we would be making fish! The fish taste was not at all overwhelming and was perfectly balanced by the sweet and creaminess of the ricotta-pesto, and the pasta choice of trofie worked really welll. Something about the thin shape and soft denseness really seemed to accentuate the pesto flavor and the alternate texture of the fish. Definitely had 2 servings of this! Could have happily drowned in it.

Foccacia agli spinaci
They made the foccacia from scratch, of course, so the chances of this being amazing were pretty good from the start. We used mozzarella instead of the usual scamorza, because the mozzarella is fresh and less fatty. They sauteed the spinach in olive oil and garlic and then stuffed it inside the foccacia (btw – that is not an easy to word to spell) and baked it. Towards the end of baking, Marco (our teacher) brushed olive oil and white wine on the top so that it would turn a nice golden color. The secret to making foccacia in under an hour? Use a pinch of sugar in the dough. The yeast loooves sugar and will grow faster with the addition of the sugar.
This was out-of-this world good!! It was just salty enough and suuuper doughy (a very good thing!). I had extras on the crust because it was just. so. good. I just love bread. You start with yeast, flour and water and yet the variety of different results you can get from those simple ingredients is infinite. So cool.

Finally, my team’s dish:

Bet you can’t guess!

Sfogliatine di pomodori verdi (con sorbetto di limone)
This is basically a jam made of green tomatoes, lemon juice, and cane sugar inside puff pastry. We de-seeded and cubed the tomatoes and cooked them in a pan with the sugar and juice of half a lemon, and towards the end of cooking added crumbled pieces of panbrioche (a sweet bun, basically) to thicken it. We brushed milk (instead of egg yolk) on top of the sealed pastry triangles and sprinkled them with a little more cane sugar. Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so, and you’re good to go. We served them with a “dollop” (my teacher was very proud he remembered that word) of lemon sorbetto, which put these over the edge! It may sound very odd, but it worked so well. The green tomatoes are higher in acidity, and paired with the sweetness of the sugar and the sweet-sour sorbet (plus that hot/cold contrast), this was one of the most uniquely tasty dishes I’ve ever had. The jam was SO easy to make; definitely worth a try on my own! (Or your own – if you want the recipe, just leave a comment!)

After class & said-park lounging, the roomies and I decided on aperitivo for dinner. I have given up trying to takes pictures in Kitsch because it’s just too dark, but just image a nice glass of prosecco and various little appetizer tastings. Always lots of food and nice prosecco for the low low price of 8euro. Hard to beat.

We have make-up classes tomorrow  – whatever classes we didn’t have on Monday (we got it off for Easter). I know I am going to the market for my Food & Culture class to walk around and talk to the vendors. Should prove to be quite interesting at the least!

~Namaste~

A Most Gratifying Day

Anyone who can tell me what my title is quoting gets a goodie!!!
I’m currently struggling to write a paper on the role of the Tarantella and tarantism in Italian society. I can’t take the mental strain anymore…so it’s blog time!!
It is Thursday. And Thursday means…COOKING!! Thursday is the one day that I don’t feel the desperate need for a morning nap after Italian because I get so jazzed about going to class. It’s really great. And speaking of great…
Blueberry-chocolate oats. I hope I’m not boring you too much with all my oat pictures – ’cause I sure ain’t getting tired of eating them!
On to the real show. We had our first quiz today on the film Super Size Me, which was relatively easy. And when we finished, our teacher had coffee made for us. I’m pretty sure that’s what all quizzes & tests should finish with, don’t you agree?
*sizzle sizzle*
What could that be?
The menu today was:
Home-made ravioli with a ricotta-spinach filling in homemade pesto (Yes, we made the ravioli dough in class.) I can’t even begin to describe how much better fresh pasta is than the regular old out-of-a-box stuff. It’s just something everyone should experience. Holy yum. And the pesto sauce was wonderful – so fresh but not overpowering! And very easy. As with all our recipes, our teacher showed us how to reduce the calorie-count without taking away any of the flavor – in fact, it probably tastes better than the super-high-fat kind! A lot of people are very judgmental I think about recipes that are “lightened”, but it is my experience that those people have usually never given it a real chance. I’m not talking about sugar-free fat-free “food-like” things mostly made up of chemicals just edible enough for the FDA to let pass – I’m talking about REAL. FOOD. It tastes good. If you don’t believe me – invite me over to cook for you sometime!
Next up: 
Penne alle Vesuviana.
The penne wasn’t fresh but MAN this was so good! Very simple, but that is so often what tastes best, ya know? It was all about the sauce – garlic browned in olive oil and then added with 3 colors of bell pepper (SO pretty!), cherry tomatoes, olives, and basil. You can also add capers if you like; our teacher advised against it because he finds the saltiness of the capers to add too much complexity to the dish. We trust him.
I was in the dessert group – I was a little sad I didn’t get to make the ravioli, but I’m pretty this was just as much if not MORE fun to make:
Oh yes. It was good.
It is kind of like tiramisu, but not quite. We wanted to avoid the use of raw eggs (used in the traditional tiramisu recipe), and the thick, sogginess of the soaked lady fingers to create something with a similar flavor but lighter. We put some water in a double-boiler and when it was simmering, we took it off and beat egg yolks and cane sugar together. Doing this over the almost-boiling water heats the yolks enough to kill any bacteria in the raw egg without cooking the egg itself. When it was beaten into a very creamy pudding-like texture, we set that to cool and brought the water in the double-boiler back to simmering. We then beat the egg whites over the double-boiler (for the same reason – no salmonella in this baby!) until it formed peaks and set it to cool. We next folded marscapone cheese into the yolk/sugar cream – called zabaione – and then folded in the egg whites. We also whipped up some cream and folded that in, but you don’t necessarily need to do this step. We poured this creamy amazingness into ramekins, topped with 2 amaretti (little cookies with intense and wonderful almond flavor) that had been soaked in coffee, sprinkled them with mini chocolate chips and coffee powder, and then set it in the fridge to chill.
HOLY WHOA this was SO GOOD. It was kind of like a cross between vanilla ice cream and vanilla mousse. Next time I make this I think I am going to add a little cinnamon and perhaps some coffee to the cream. I really wanted the coffee flavor to penetrate a bit more – really gave it that good tiramisu feel. I’d probably also sprinkle it with cocoa powder instead of chocolate chips; I really think the cocoa would make the chocolate flavor more present. The chocolate chips added nice texture but the flavor wasn’t as good because you have to bite into them to get to the chocolate and let’s face it, this is dessert – instant gratification is what it’s about!
Came home and have been “writing” this paper since then. There have been countless bouts of procrastination, frustration, and eating. Dinner was a mish mosh of snackiness, nothing particularly photo-worthy. But…
Tomorrow me and the roomies are off to VERONA!!! As in, fair Verona. As in, ‘deny thy father and refuse thy name’ Verona. The four English majors are going to a holy land. So. Freaking. Excited.
The paper seems to be beckoning me back…blast. I will return in a couple days with pictures – and maybe if I get lucky, a Romeo?
…Doubtful.
~Namaste~