Since the moment my wife Jennifer laid eyes on her baby sister, Jessica, they formed a strong bond that has only developed over time. Sure, Jennifer usually acts more like her mother than her sister and yes, there have been a few lively battles resulting in a couple “boo-boos”, but they are as close as any two sisters I have ever known.
That’s why we were thrilled when we learned of a last-minute vacation Jessica planned with her boyfriend, Matt. We were doubly excited because not only were we going to spend time with Jessica, but we were finally going to be able to meet Matt. Living in Italy comes with its obvious benefits, but we do miss out on a lot at home and so we are thrilled any time “home” comes to us. Continue reading Our Lil’ Sis Comes to Visit→
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.
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→
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.
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→
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→
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→
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’svalue 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!→
Living in Italy grants us access to a lot of great restaurants. We fully take advantage of that and eat at… a lot of great restaurants. I recently read that 75% of the food in Italy is great and 25% of the food is exceptional. I would agree with that – most meals leave you feeling completely satisfied and pleased with the overall experience. But occasionally, you’ll find yourself “mmm’ing” and “aahhh’ing” with more delight than you intended to express aloud.
We can usually spot these exceptional places before we’ve walked in the door. We may have heard about the joint from a friend or relative. It’s possible I’ve read about it on the internet or a travel book. Or sometimes, we just walk into a place and the intense amount of “old-world charm” smacks us in the face. We’re greeted by a little nonna (grandma) who then scurries to the back to cook our meal – and we just know that we are in for a treat. Since it is usually one of those three paths that lead to our exceptional meals, I had all but dismissed, Osteria da Clo’ Filomena when we made our reservation. The reason for the swift dismissal, you ask? Well, the restaurant was in our B&B, in a remote part of Emilia-Romagna, surrounded by nothing by small villages and towns. I’m usually quick to dismiss restaurants in hotels anyway, with a few exceptions. Furthermore, the place was empty. I wasn’t surprised, because it would probably be a 20-30 minute drive for most patrons to arrive. I assumed that the restaurant was in place, merely to service the guests of the hotel and therefore had to serve mediocre food (which, if you remember still falls into the 80% “great” category).
The Osteria at night – the outdoor patio is used in the spring
Before I’ve even written the first word of this post, my OCD brain is trying to figure out if this post should be categorized under the “Food” or the “Travel” sections of the blog. I will be taking you along with us on our travel adventure to go eat some of Italy’s best food. It’s quite the dilemma…
A selection of salumi (cold cuts), formaggi (cheese) and the cinghiale (boar) that gave his life to the cause
You may have read about part of our visit with Aunt Deb and Uncle S where we ventured into the wine region of Piemonte during the first portion of their visit. Their two week sojourn in Italy included a mission to explore the best of what the country has to give. It was no coincidence then, that their adventure had been neatly divided into three of the country’s best offerings. Part I was Vino (wine). Party II was Cibo (food) – the subject of today’s post. Lastly, Part III was Storia (history). Since they experienced the rich history of Pompeii and Venezia on their own, I will let them tell you all about it at their next dinner party. I’ll simply report on the parts during which we were present… and luckily for us, we were present for a three day trip into Italy’s richest “food region”, Emilia-Romagna. Continue reading Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead→
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!→
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!→