Category Archives: Cooking

Fun With Food ~ Chocolate Salami

I had the pleasure of first sampling this rich and tasty dessert at a friend’s house over the holidays.  After my first bite I was hooked and inquired after the preparation of the dish.  Luckily, everyone here is happy to share their secrets and pass on tips.  First, let me explain, chocolate salami is not salami at all (even though Greg wolfs this dessert down, he has a hard time getting past the name).  This simple, no bake dessert only resembles salami.  This Italian favorite was originally served around the holidays but now is acceptable any time of year.  I think it’s the perfect dessert to serve while entertaining.  The best part is that you can prepare it ahead of time and store it in the freezer.

Voilà!  A salame di cioccolato (chocolate salami)
Voilà! A salame di cioccolato (chocolate salami)

INGREDIENTS  (serves 8 people)

>One (1) cup of biscotti or dry cookie broken into pieces
>Eight (8) ounces of dark chocolate.  I used 70%
>One (1) stick of high quality butter, softened
>Two (2) eggs, very fresh
>Half (½) cup of sugar
>Quarter (¼) cup, freshly brewed espresso
>Confectioners’ sugar, as needed
>Chopped nuts optional (I didn’t use them but I think I will try next time) Continue reading Fun With Food ~ Chocolate Salami

Fast and Tasty Shrimp Scampi Recipe

On a particularly warm and sunny day this week, Greg and I and decided to ditch the pasta and opted instead to share a lighter lunch.  We all love shrimp (especially Julia) so we decided to try our luck with Shrimp Scampi.  I have never made this dish before so I did some research and looked at a few different ways it is prepared.  After evaluating the ingredients I had lying around the house, I came up with a simple recipe for my first attempt at this classic dish.  I have to say – we were all pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. 

Buon Appetito!
Buon Appetito!

I was pleased to see Greg fare la scarpetta, or “to do the little shoe”.  This is a term the Italians have come up with that I adore.  When you have a delicious sauce that you can’t stand to leave behind, you can use a piece of bread to mop it up.  I would encourage you to be sure that you have plenty of good bread for you or your guests to do la scarpetta! Continue reading Fast and Tasty Shrimp Scampi Recipe

Warm Your Christmas Spirit With Some Vin Brulé

If you’ve read a couple of our recent Christmas posts, you may notice a consistent theme over and over.  We have been thoroughly enjoying the official drink of the season, vin brulé from the markets of Alto-Adige to the lakeside shores of Lugano, Switzerland.  I promise you, we are by no means a pair of winos – but I’m pretty sure it’s against the law not to have a vin brulé in your hands as you stroll through the Christmas markets.

Homemade vin brulé

We have been having so much fun thawing the chill from our bones with this delicious winter drink that we thought we should make it at home for ourselves.  I have to say, for our first attempt – it was pretty darn good!  And since we enjoyed this easy and delicious recipe so much, we decided it was only fair to share it with you.  Of course, that meant that we had to go back to the test kitchen and whip up another batch! Continue reading Warm Your Christmas Spirit With Some Vin Brulé

Adding Italian Flavor to Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow – here is a suggestion of something you can do to dress up your leftovers.
Risotto is a favorite of mine; winter, spring, summer or fall.  While cooking risotto, I like to use fresh, seasonal ingredients – and with fall comes all things pumpkin.  So, this was my chance to combine one of my favorite dishes with one of my favorite fall flavors.
Risotto con zucca (Risotto with pumpkin)

However, when it came to the Thanksgiving dinner we just had, I knew it would be too much for a first course.  While risotto is relatively simple to prepare it is time consuming and requires my undivided attention for at least 20 minutes.  I decided instead to create a new family tradition.  My plan was to serve pumpkin risotto the day after Thanksgiving, along with all of the other delicious leftovers.  I think it’s a perfect way to add a new element to a meal we’ve already eaten a couple times over by lunch the next day.  I had plenty of left over zucca (pumpkin) from the soup course, which worked out perfectly.  I have officially converted Greg into a pumpkin/squash lover.  If you want to add some Italian flavors to your holiday meal this year, check out my simple recipe.  I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do.  Continue reading Adding Italian Flavor to Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving in Italy

Can you believe that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Italy?!  They also don’t celebrate the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or Labor Day!  I know weird, right?!

Our Thanksgiving table is set
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Of course I love the spirit of Christmas, the fun costumes of Halloween (another holiday that they don’t really celebrate), the fireworks of our Independence Day… but nothing can match the guilt-free ability to gorge on delicious food all…day…long!  And if that wasn’t good enough, you are then permitted… nah, encouraged to lay on your duff and watch football until it’s time to re-heat a plate of leftovers. Continue reading Thanksgiving in Italy

Vinegar and Ice Cream – A Delicious Combo!

It’s likely that you may think I’ve gone off my rocker.  Vinegar on a salad – of course.  Vinegar on french fries – sure.  But vinegar on ice cream?!  Greg, you must be crazy?!  I assure you, I am not (well, at least when it comes to this point).  Provided one very important detail is in play… that the vinegar used is aged balsamic vinegar from Modena.  This dark, delicious treat becomes sweet and thick (almost, syrupy) once it has been aged 12(+) or 25(+) years.

Old fashioned equipment used to make vinegar now stands as decoration

I have been a fan of all things vinegar for as long as I can remember.  Admittedly, a strange condiment choice (above ketchup or mayonnaise) – but the heart wants what the heart wants.  Although we use apple cider vinegar every single day, I have always been quite fond of balsamic vinegar.  Just the right amount can add the perfect hit of acid to round out a caprese salad.  However, I recently learned that I have become accustomed to eating the equivalent of a McDonald’s value meal when a readily available filet mignon was just around the corner.  But let’s back up and find out how I discovered this… Continue reading Vinegar and Ice Cream – A Delicious Combo!

Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes

Jennifer, Julia and I had a wonderful time when my Uncle S and Aunt Deborah came to visit us this past March.  That’s why we were thrilled when they mentioned that they would like to come back to Italy again this fall.  They wanted to do a bit of traveling and invited us to join them on their adventures, using our condo in Como as a “home base”.  They had sketched a rough itinerary and just wanted a little help filling in the blanks – assistance I was happy to give.  They knew that they wanted to spend some time with us here in Como, some time in Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna (two regions adjacent to our region of Lombardia) as well as a quick jaunt down to the historically significant city of Pompeii and another to Venezia.

S and Deborah standing near the divide of Lake Como

Jen and I share the responsibility of planning our trips – researching restaurants, activities and hotels.  But they’re usually in three or four day stints and one location at a time.  This time, I had to navigate through a two week itinerary, complete with activities, restaurants, hotel stays and all at new locations each day.  Putting the puzzle pieces of their trip together was a challenge not for the faint of heart.  Jen and I dug in, and by the time S and Deb landed in Milan, we had an itinerary that we were both proud of.  I think all of us agreed that it came together quite nicely.  Of course, the key ingredient was the company, mixed with a little food and wine! Continue reading Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes

Don’t Buy The Jarred Stuff!

I know this is Jen’s Kitchen, but I’m sorry to report that you’ve got me (Greg) writing this one. This area of the blog is Jen’s domain – but she was having trouble getting her writing juices going, so I offered to give her a hand (her timing in the kitchen may be pure perfection, but if I don’t get this post going, it’s sure to be over-cooked).
Jen shows of her tomatoes

I may not know a lot, but I have learned two things while living in Italy:

First, every home has two types of olive oil.  They all have the generic store bought one (that’s still delicious) for cooking and salads as well as the “special” olive oil that is pressed by someone’s nonno in some small town in the mountains somewhere… Continue reading Don’t Buy The Jarred Stuff!

Learn How To Make Grappa At Home

Before Jen blindsided me so many months ago with the suggestion that we move to Italy, I never thought I would know how to make grappa.  Honestly, I never thought that I would ever even like grappa!  But like so many other things I swore I’d never change about myself, living in Italy has transformed that part of me (keep an eye out for me sporting a “puffy” coat this winter – a style I hated when I first moved here and now think is the coolest thing to come of the runways of Milano).

A selection of grappa offered in a restaurant in Lago Maggiore
Grappa is an alcoholic beverage that is served in Italy as a digestivo (digestive) after a meal.  We have learned that Italians take the digestion of their meals very seriously and have structured the order of eating in such a specific way as to aid in the digestion.  A full blown Italian meal will include the following: Continue reading Learn How To Make Grappa At Home

Step Aside… It’s Time to Grill!

When our friends, Nathan and Danielle had come to visit this past spring – Danielle pointed at a unique outdoor-oven-with-a-chimney-thingy in a neighbors yard and asked what it was.  I replied with all the confidence in the world that it was an Italian-style BBQ, but in reality I wasn’t positive.  I had seen the smoke billowing through the chimney and I had seen many of these things in other neighbors yards – but I had never inquired about it.  I asked my “go-to guy for all things Italian”… Jen’s uncle, Franco.  He confirmed that it was in fact a BBQ and a fairly typical one in Italy.  So, my educated guess was right.  Whew!

Classic Italian style outdoor grill

I noticed shortly thereafter that the typical gas Weber grills we’re accustomed to using in the States are non-existent here.  In fact, it’s possible you may see a round charcoal grill – but more often than not, it’s one of these large, permanent fixtures that people use to grill. Continue reading Step Aside… It’s Time to Grill!