Tag Archives: Cooking

Don’t Pack Up The Grill Just Yet

Before you put away your grills for the summer, you have to try these very simple but delicious verdure alla griglia (Grilled Vegetables).  The combination of a few very simple ingredients helps bring out the flavors of the vegetables, leaving even the pickiest of eaters wanting more.

Verdura alla griglia (grilled vegetables)

For this particular meal we chose to use melanzane (eggplant) and zucchine (zuccini).  You can use a number of different vegetables that will all come out terrific on the grill.  Continue reading Don’t Pack Up The Grill Just Yet

Sipping Espresso Got An Award!!

Our first award!  I’m excited, honored and flattered.  I would like to thank all the little people… namely Julia because she’s pretty little.

The Liebster Award was given to us by our good friend and fellow blogger, Michel.  You’ll notice that his blog, Our House in Provence is one that I follow.  I imagine if you spend just a few minutes reading some of his posts, you’ll be an avid reader as well.  His attention to detail and plethora of knowledge about his subjects puts my posts to shame.  Michel and his wife Shirley live in a beautiful home in wine country, California.  Michel’s passions include food (he owns a restaurant near his hometown, Bistro des Copains), wine (he is an expert in French and California wine), his family (he has two beautiful daughters and four bright grandchildren) and of course France; the subject of his blog (he owns a beautiful stone village house in Provence).

Michel and Shirley

Michel received his Liebster Award from another blogger I follow, Sara in Le Petit Village.  Sara is very plugged into the blogging community and has transformed her life in France into a successful digital collection of written word.  Her blog is one I admire very much.

The Liebster Award [in a nutshell] is one that is given among peers within the blogging community.  I found a blogger that spent hours researching the history of the award.  She had done all the heavy lifting and all it took me was scrolling half-way down page one of my google search.  My kind of effort.  If you’re interested in the origin of the award, click HERE.  The award comes with very specific rules and criteria, which I got from Michel’s post after he had completed all his hard work researching (I told you he was thorough).  So, I did not need to spend much time looking around for information about the award since I luck-boxed my way into everything I need to know. Continue reading Sipping Espresso Got An Award!!

A Fresh Dish for Spring

If you have never tried Risotto, I think it is a must.  It’s delicious and a great way for us to change up lunch from our typical pasta dishes.  Since this has been our first week of spring weather I wanted to make a spring risotto with beautiful seasonal asparagus.

Risotto with fresh asparagus

My mom used to make this for us a lot as a kid growing up in the spring and summer, so I was excited to make this for Greg and Julia.  I was pretty happy with how this dish turned out.  I served with a fresh salad of fennel and our meal was complete.  Even Julia ate a huge plate.  This dish is a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables. I hope to post some other risotto recipes soon (like pasta, there are many different ways to introduce new flavors).  I hope your enjoy this as much as we did. 

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

>Olive oil
>One (1) small onion (diced)
>Four (4) cups of chicken stock
>Nine (9) palms of arborio rice (two palms of rice per person, with one extra for good measure).  This is roughly two (2) cups of rice
>Two (2) cups of asparagus, pre-cooked (best to blanch to preserve color and texture).  Cut into 1″ pieces
>Between half (½) and a full cup of white wine (depending on taste/quality of wine)
>Roughly one half (½) a cup of grated parmesan cheese and then additional cheese for the table and garnish
>Third (1/3) stick of butter
>Salt to taste
Fresh ingredients

>Heat chicken stock in a pot.
>On a separate burner, heat olive oil in a large flat pan with high sides.
>Add onion until it is softened and translucent.  While the onion is cooking, add a dash of salt. This could take a little over 5 minutes.  Don’t allow the onions to brown.

Cook onions

>Add the rice and mix together. Stir until the rice is toasted (but not brown) about three – four (3-4) minutes.

Add the rice and continue to stir

>Add wine and continue to cook the rice.
>After a minute, add a ladle or two of the stock, stirring the rice continuously until the liquid is absorbed.
>Continue stirring and ladling the broth for approximately fifteen (15) minutes.  Be sure to taste as you go and add salt accordingly.  The rice should be al dente and creamy.

Ladle in the stock

>Before you add your last ladle or two of stock, add the asparagus and stir into the rice.
>Remove from heat and stir in butter and Parmesan cheese.  Cover and allow pan to sit for five (5) minutes.

Add the asparagus…
…and cover

>Serve right away and top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

PLEASE NOTE – Cooking risotto requires constant attention.  Make sure the table is set and everything else you are serving is ready before you begin the rice.  I have made that mistake before!

Some Good Ol’ Fashioned Cooking

I recently realized that our “Home Cooking” section of the blog was growing the slowest throughout the entire site.  I’m only partly ashamed to admit that the one consistent about our trip is that we’ve been indulging in some of the most amazing food we’ve ever had.  However, my OCD recently kicked in when I noticed all our food posts landed in the “Restaurant” or “Jen’s Kitchen” sections.  So, in an effort to right this wrong… here is one very memorable home-cooked meal we hosted a little while ago.

Eugenio brought a wonderful Champagne

Jen has a warm and wonderful family, with whom we love spending time.  Recently, her cousin Eugenio drove from Torino to spend time with us and get reacquainted with Julia.  He brought his lovely girlfriend, Barbara as well.

But enough jabbering… this post is all about the food and drink! Continue reading Some Good Ol’ Fashioned Cooking

Easter in the Pope’s Church

This year we took full advantage of living in Italy and went to the Pope’s Church for Easter!  Only, it wasn’t in Vatican City and it wasn’t the current Pope.  But it was still his church!  If I may explain…
Jen and Julia in front of the church in Canale D’ Agordo

If you’ve read a few posts (or know us), you’ll know that we’ve been fortunate enough to live in Jen’s parent’s condo while in Italy.  Even more fortunate is that Jen’s Zio (Uncle) Franco and Zia (Aunt) Claudia live above us.  This means we’re eaten countless meals upstairs (she’s a wonderful cook), have built in baby sitters, tour guides and translators… basically we have a third set of parents and new besties. Continue reading Easter in the Pope’s Church

Homemade Pizza – Sorry Mr. Delivery Man

Here is something my Mom, Greg and I all have in common…we love Pizza.  And pizza in Italy is the best!  Pizza originated in Italy and they have continued to perfect the art ever since.  When my Mom was in town we decided to make our own versions of our favorite pizza’s at home. We had so much fun and Julia even got in on the action.
Rolling out her dough
When I told my uncle our plan to try to duplicate our favorite pizza’s at home he gave us a brief history lesson on the pizza.  As it turns out, pizza started as a flatbread consumed by many people in Europe.  In 16th century this was a common meal sold on the streets to the poor throughout Naples.  It was an inexpensive dish that offered many different types of toppings.  Credit for the first Margherita pizza is given to pizza maker Raffaele Esposito of Naples.  The story is that in June of 1889 to honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, he created a “Pizza Margherita” for the Queen (I had to get that from Wiki – History of Pizza) .  This pizza consisted of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil to represent the colors of the Italian flag.  Thank you Raffaele!  Today people around the world enjoy this simple but delicious pizza.
Our own Pizza Margherita

Continue reading Homemade Pizza – Sorry Mr. Delivery Man

A Healthy and Hearty Minestrone Soup Recipe

I (Jen) can safely say Minestrone Soup will be a new staple in our home.  I love it for many reasons.  First, it’s something that I was eating as a baby when my Mom and Nonna (Grandma) would prepare it for me before I even had teeth.  For that reason it’s a soup that not only warms the belly, but also warms my heart.

Julia enjoying some vegetables – pre-soup
I also love that it’s a hard dish to mess up.  You can throw in whatever you have in your pantry and fridge and even though it may not taste exactly the same as the last time; it will always be good.  I also love that I feel good about serving it to my family.  It’s a healthy, complete, meatless dish that tastes good and leaves everyone feeling satisfied.   I love that it works for all ages.  As I mentioned I ate this as a child.  This is a perfect dish to blend up for your baby once they start eating real food.  And I love that now my daughter asks for this soup by name, nearly every day “mom-mom… ZUP!” Continue reading A Healthy and Hearty Minestrone Soup Recipe

Fact or Fiction?

We made a discovery recently about Italians that contradicted an earlier belief of ours.  So it got us thinking… what other misconceptions do many Americans have about Italians?  Let’s dig a little deeper and see what we discover.  This is a collection of observations we’ve made since we’ve been here and we will likely have additions over time (and possibly corrections).

*Disclaimer - this post is meant to be fun and in no way itself, factual!  These are simply things that we have observed [and this is important] in this region.  One of the first things that we learned is that there are dramatic differences throughout the country - cultural, culinary, lingual... you name it!  So, while something may be fact or fiction based on what we've noticed; it's highly probably that it could be the opposite somewhere else.

FACT OR FICTION – ITALIANS LOVE GARLIC…THE MORE THE BETTER!

 

While garlic is prevalent in many dishes, like most other things… they prefer it in moderation.  In fact, what appears to us like a little amount of garlic in a dish is probably already far too much.  Interesting Italian tidbit – eating raw garlic is good for you, but cooked garlic has no impact.  Vampires beware, I’ve been gulping the stuff!

Answer – FICTION

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FACT OR FICTION – ITALIANS LOVE THEIR COFFEE?

 

Given the name of this blog, you most likely have already surmised that coffee is enjoyed several times throughout the day.  However, the experience is very different than the US.  Instead of going to any Starbucks in the morning and ordering a 20 oz coffee that you’ll guzzle in your car on the way to work, Italians prefer several small cups of espresso throughout the day.  Sometimes with milk (con latte or a machiatto), sometimes very small (corto) and occasionally a bit bigger (lungo) – but always in an espresso cup and never “to go”.  An enjoyable custom is visiting various “bars” throughout the day, ordering your coffee, chatting with your friends, plunking down your €1 and heading out only to return a few hours later.  CAREFUL – one of us (and it wasn’t your author) learned a couple years ago that you NEVER order a cappuccino after a meal.

Answer – FACT

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FACT OR FICTION –  ITALIANS HAVE TWO HOUR LUNCHES?!

Pranzo circa 2006 when we were here for Jens cousin’s wedding

Perhaps not two hours exactly, but pranzo (lunch) is an event that is not to be missed or rushed.  In most households, pranzo is the most important meal of the deal – a wonderful moment to spend time with family.  You’ll find most shops close around 12:00 and don’t re-open until after 2:00 in order to allow shopkeepers and workers time to make it home and eat.  Many households will regularly serve pasta as a prima (first course), sometimes followed by a secondo (second course of fish or meat) and usually rounded out by a salad at the end.  Of course, wonderful bread and cheese are present and many households will happily open a nice bottle of vino (wine) and finish with caffè (coffee).  With a younger generation and big box stores ushering in new norms, pranzo may not have as much emphasis as it did in the past – but the act of eating an enjoyable lunch will always have a place in Italian culture.

*We have the benefit of wonderful cooks both upstairs and in our own home – we have enjoyed many wonderful two-hour lunches ourselves; even though my waist line isn’t too appreciative.  Future posts on Claudia and Jen’s delicious cooking to come.

Answer – FACT

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FACT OR FICTION – “SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS” IS ALWAYS ON THE MENU?

No meatballs here

While pasta is very common (and spaghetti, a type of noodle is one of the most popular varities) – polpette (meatballs) are never served on top of spaghetti and oozing with marinara.  In fact, the only time we’ve ever had polpette was a second meat course and they tasted very different than what we’re accustomed to.

Answer – FICTION

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FACT OR FICTION – ITALIANS DRINK TONS OF SAN PELLEGRINO SPARKLING WATER?

This was something Jen and I assumed, not necessarily something that is commonly thought of.  Every time we have gone out to eat in the states with Italians, we order aqua frizzante (sparkling water) and 9 times out of 10 they would deliver San Pellegrino to the table.  Given Jen’s Italian upbringing, we actually became quite accustomed to stocking the delicious “bubbly stuff” in our own home (thank you Costco for selling cases).  So, naturally we assumed that the big player in the US market would dominate on their own turf.  But the truth is – we haven’t seen a single bottle!  Not at a restaurant, not at a friends home, not at the supermarket.  It’s like they bottle almost exclusively for export!  Don’t get me wrong… there is a bottle of frizzante at every table we’ve graced – just not San Pellegrino.

Interestingly enough, Illy and Lavazza (the two espresso brands most dominant in the US) are not only very prevalent in Italy – they are regarded as the best quality.

Answer – Fiction

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FACT OR FICTION – ITALIAN SUBS ARE BETTER IN ITALY?!

 

Well, this just seems like common sense.  We’re in the mecca for the cured meats, wonderful cheeses and incredible bread that could make the world’s greatest submarine sandwich.  We have access to carefully aged vinegar and the most delicious olive oil.  The lettuce and tomatoes… well, OK – they’re pretty much the same.  So, of course they should put them all together and give it the namesake of their own country, right?

I dare you to go into any restaurant and order an “Italian Sub”.  You’ll get a look like you have three heads, because for some strange reason twelve inches of layer after layer of mixed meats, cheese, vegetables and oil smashed into a piece of bread doesn’t sound appealing to them at all.  Weird – I’m getting hungry just typing!

Italians prefer to keep most things separate, so that they can taste each item.  Sure, they have sandwiches (post on our sandwich adventure), but not of the “sub-sandwich” kind.  In fact the place we went in Milano is quite rare.  Most places simply put one type of meat on bread (salami or prosciutto or prosciutto cotto) sometimes accompanied by cheese and maybe some arugula.

Sorry Jared – we have no use for you here.

Answer – FICTION

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FACT OR FICTION – ITALIANS ARE VERY LOUD…YOU CAN HEAR THEM A GREAT WAYS AWAY?!

“I already TOOOOOLD you!!!!”

I feel as though I am credible to be able to write about this, as I have known a great many Italians over the years and been privy to many, many conversations.  As it’s been explained to me… they’re not loud – they’re passionate!  And they’re not always passionate – only when topics of conversation requires it.  Like politics or religion…. or what to cook for lunch, or who’s right or wrong, or what the temperature is, or if the sky is actually blue, or if breathing is important, or whether the neighbors can hear them.  That sort of thing.

Answer – FACT :-) 

Well, we hope you had as much fun learning about what’s Fact and what’s Fiction in this great country as we did creating the list.  We’re hoping to learn a lot more so we can continue to add to the list.

Easy and Delicious Marinara Pasta Sauce

Well, we have heard a lot from Greg so I thought it was time for me (Jen) to give this blogging a go.  I have had a lot of people ask me how to make sauce.  Growing up in an Italian family this was a staple in our house.  I didn’t even know until college that most people buy pasta sauce from a jar!  Sorry, but… yuck.

I am by no means an expert cook but I have had many very talented woman in my life that have taught me a lot.  Until recently everything I know has been taught to me by my nonna (grandma), my mother and my mother-in-law, who are all incredibly talented in the kitchen.

Even though my Mom isn’t Italian she learned from the best Italian cook (my nonna) how to prepare all of my Dad’s favorite Italian meals.  In the beginning of their marriage she made all the foods she grew up eating – good Ohio cuisine.  This consisted of meat and potato cooking such as meat loaf and casseroles.  Don’t get me wrong, all these foods are delicious… just not to my Dad.  It wasn’t until maybe a year or so of eating this food that my Dad admitted he missed his mother’s cooking and my Mom’s path to creating mouth watering Italian dishes began.  One of the best things she learned from my Nonna was how to prepare Sugo (sauce).  My Nonna’s recipe requires a lot of chopping and it is time consuming to make.  Since I have been living in Como I have had the opportunity to learn from another very talented woman, my Zia (Aunt) Claudia.  She recently taught me a quick and easy way to make delicious sugo with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator.  I hope you enjoy the sauce as much as everyone here enjoys eating it. Continue reading Easy and Delicious Marinara Pasta Sauce