Monday, October 31, 2011

back in the kitchen

After 10 days without cooking a single meal, I was actually excited and inspired to get back to making dinner. This month's bon appetit magazine was particularly full of good recipes so last week I tried out a few. Padang Curry was the best coconut based curry I have made yet. Going through the "hassle" of making curry paste is the difference between edible and good. A bigger hit though were the Corn Fritters which were devoured fresh and did surprisingly well reheated the next day. I recommend you give them a try. Don't forget the dipping sauce.
We took a trip to the library over the weekend and I picked up a book called "The Modern Vegetarian" by Peter Berley. Of the hundreds of options at the library, this one called to me because the recipes came across as creative without being weird and healthful while still being appetizing. Last night I made the Creamy White Bean-Garlic Soup with Rosemary which was somehow chock full of flavor and had about 5 ingredients. I will definitely make it again. I also tried this salad using raw mushrooms. The simple dressing contains no oil (healthy!) and the combination of fresh lemon juice and thyme and perfect for the season and their zing brought mushrooms to a whole new level. I just reread the recipe and found that I skipped over the step of whisking in 6 T olive oil. Umm, okay. How did that happen?! If you are attempting to avoid oils, go ahead and skip it like I did. We really had no idea. I'm sure adding it will mellow out the tang of the vinegar and lemon juice though so that is an option too. As it was, we decided the dressing was reminscent of mignonette and this would be our vegetarian version of oysters on the half shell. Therefore, next time I make this salad, I will be serving it with champagne.

Fresh Mushroom Salad with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

2T fresh lemon juice
1T white wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar because this is what I had)
1T finely chopped thyme leaves
1T finely chopped parsley
1t coarse sea salt
fresh black pepper
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz fresh white button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
6 cups mixed greens or lettuce

1) In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking to emulsify.

2) Add the mushrooms and toss gently to coat.

3) Add the greens, toss gently and serve.

Monday, October 24, 2011

l'italia pt 6

Okay, this is the last posting about Italy. I just wanted to make a quick note about the bed and breakfast where we stayed. Trastevere is a lively neighborhood with close proximity to most of the sights. We came across A Spasso per Roma in a last minute hotel booking and it ended up being perfect for us. Giulia, the owner is lovely and has opened up her luxurious home to a few visitors at a time. I think there are only 3 or 4 rooms available. Ours opened up to the terrace and had a view of one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. Each morning we were offered fresh torta, cappuccino, yogurt and fruit. She has made the obvious decision to buy organic products and requests her guests to conserve water. After walking for as many hours as a tourist usually does, coming "home" to a clean and relaxing place was ideal. If you are traveling to Rome, I highly recommend you stay here!

l'italia pt 5

Whenever I think about moving away from San Francisco, I think about moving to a smaller town. Or not even a town, maybe just a farm in the middle of nowhere. I never wanted to live in New York, I never wanted to live in a city at all. But Rome...that is a city I could see moving to. Somehow the history and modernity come across as the perfect mix.


 dry peppers for sale at campo dei fiori

 undeniably perfect street corner

 carabinieri moseying despite riots getting ugly

fountain at the vatican

the pantheon by day

crossing one of many bridges

 the pantheon by night (twice visited due to proximity to amazing gelateria)
a mosaic fountain

rome's famous cacio e pepe

l'italia pt 4

The last 3 days of our trip were spent wandering the streets of Rome. As soon as we had booked our tickets, I started reading the food blog by Katie Parla. I didn't want to waste a meal eating anything less than delicious food, so having a guide like hers was extremely helpful. Of course it never goes perfectly. We accidentally walked around the entire perimeter of the Vatican looking for a pizza place that was never found (thanks to a huge error in the map we were using!) and two restaurants with the same name yielded an unfortunate plate of pasta. Then again, we happened to be staying 2 blocks away from a wine tasting hosted by Katie and the sommelier Hande which ended up being a total pleasure. We drank some fantastic wine, tried cheeses and meats from Lazio and met a couple who live three blocks away from me in San Francisco. The event was a fundraiser and you can read more about it here.

sunlight on a church

Saturday, October 22, 2011

l'italia pt 3

"Orvieto is not exactly a foreign tourist destination," we were told by some men we chatted with. "Appunto, " I replied, that is exactly the point. We were attempting to get away from all the tourists a bit on this trip. Since my friend and I had already been to most of the "must see" spots, we agreed to avoid museums, feign an itinerary and just see what happened. To get to the hilltop town of Orvieto you must take a tram from the train station. It is quaint, old and just what imagine when you think of the Italian countryside. Of course most of the shops and restaurants are full of tourists even here, but at least they were often speaking in Italian. Our hotel was yucky, but I managed to get a beautiful shot of the colorful linens in the sunshine. Don't be fooled, the shower was totally moldy and the whole place smelled weird. We had a delightful walk in the morning topped off with a coffee and some planning for where to eat in Rome.

Friday, October 21, 2011

l'italia pt 2

From Genoa, we took the train to Florence. My companion had studied there for a year and we were able to stay with a friend of hers. Florence is an artist's haven. As you walk along the streets, there are little workshops tucked in everywhere. Many of them are refurbishing furniture or paintings, some are creating new items. We stopped into a glorious fabric store called Casa dei Tessuti which opened in 1929. The owner was sitting and reading from his book of poetry when we walked in. He invited us to sit. Several hours later we stumbled out with packages of the most incredible fabrics.

A main focus for us, as for all tourists in Italy was the food. And by that I really mean that we ate gelato everyday, had apperitivi regularly and tried to get in as much good pasta and pizza as possible. It was a diet of bread, cheese, ice cream and coffee for the most part. Walking a good 5-6 hours a day made it seem less gluttonous somehow.

One of the walks we took was to a church high above the city. We came across a public garden and some funny art installations. Florence is famous for the Ponte Vecchio, but really all of the bridges can be lovely to look at.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

l'italia pt 1

I'm sipping a cappuccino this morning because I am trying to hold onto the feelings of vacation as much as possible. It took 11 years to go back, but I finally made the trip to Italy. Seeing the kids I took care of all grown up was wonderful. Using the language, eating the food and meandering through the historic cities all reminded why I loved the country in the first place.
It's hard to sort through the 600+ photos that I took and share just a few so I'm breaking it up a little. We flew into Milan, spent one night there with a friend and then took the train to Genoa, where I lived.

 high above the alps between somewhere between paris and milan

piazza de ferrari genova, italia

 idyllic moment on the italian riviera

 steps into the mediterranean

 san frutuoso-only accessible by boat

 wonderful colors on the beach

the very best foccacia
 view from the historic tower, built 1007 AD. my friends own this tower

looking into the hills from the tower, genova