Tag Archives: Food

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

Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead

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

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!

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!

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

And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!

Jen, Julia and I spent a few days exploring France – from the French Riviera (blog post HERE) to Côtes du Rhône (first blog post HERE).  I knew that the dining experience would be different than what we’ve grown accustomed to while living in Italy, but I think I underestimated just how different it would be.
I’ll point out a couple of the noticeable differences.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I have made many references to pranzo, or lunch.  While the literal definition is simply, lunch – it should be modified to be more along the lines of, large meal in which copious amounts of pasta are finished with meats and salads and where the act of gathering is as important as the meal.  Wine and grappa are a must.  Since lunch is usually the “big deal”, that means we partake in a very light dinner.  Whereas in France, dinner was the star meal of the day.  Although, many of our days in France we also had a big lunch, and so our stomachs questioned our brains when we sat down to a second coursed-out meal at dinner time.  Continue reading And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!

Someone Turn The Hose Off… These Streets Are Flooded!

One of the true gems of the world…. Venezia (Venice).  The name alone evokes powerful feelings for many people.  Romantic gondola rides, historical architectural treasures, beautiful creations blown from Murano glass, unique hand-crafted masks and always… always a city constructed with streets of water.  Amazingly, the entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site in order to preserve it’s unique beauty.  According to my Wiki research, Luigi Barzini described it in the New York Times as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”.  I’d have to agree with Luigi!

Panoramic view from the roof of our hotel
Venice from the water
The Grand Canal
More of the Grand Canal
Happy to be here

Our good friends Nathan and Danielle joined us recently for a whirlwind visit filled with food, wine and lots of fun (read about it HERE).  We punctuated their trip with a stopover in this romantic city.  I was intrigued by the history of such a unique place and just did a little research.  Venice consists of 117 islands, formed by 177 canals and connected by 409 bridges.  I kept waiting for that “ah-ha” moment when I discovered the name of the genius city planner that decided to create a magical city on the water.  But unlike Bugsy Siegel’s Las Vegas or Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid’s reinvention of Dubai – there was no one person that can be credited with the conceptualization of Venice.  The truth is that refugees fleeing from invasion of the Lombards sought shelter in the marshland that is now Venice.  And how do any cities really get built?  A collection of people working together to establish trade and industry, creating habitation and then services to support the population.  And so the city grew around the marsh and homes and churches and municipal buildings were constructed.  This begs another question.  How can you build a city on water? Continue reading Someone Turn The Hose Off… These Streets Are Flooded!

Tornado Touches Down in Italy

On May 4, 2013 a tornado touched down in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  A path of chaos was carved throughout the area best known for a city that inspired a processed meat in the US nowhere near an authentic representation of it’s namesake – Bologna.

One day prior, a different type of tornado touched down in the Lombardia region just north of Emilia-Romagna.  Our friends, Nathan and Danielle landed in Milan and a whirlwind of food, fun, wine was about to begin – our own path of chaos would be carved throughout northern Italy.

Our very good friends, Nathan and Danielle

I picked them up at the airport while Jen stayed home to prepare a proper welcome – an Italian pranzo (lunch) done right.  We greeted them with an aperitivo (an alcoholic beverage used to stimulate the appetite) and then began stuffing them with salami, prosciutto, lardo (cured meat – basically just pork fat thinly sliced), cheese and olives.  Then it was on to the pasta course, with a simple red sauce before our secondo, veal Milanese.  Next of course were the salads and then dessert – fresh fruit and pastries we bought that morning.  Plenty of wine flowed throughout the meal and we finished with grappa.  The only problem… our large lunch had an effect opposite of our intention to keep them awake and perky in order to stave off jet-lag.  They were both crying out for a nap, but we were merciless with our plans.  We whisked them to downtown Como, where we walked off lunch and eventually made our way to a bar for happy hour outdoors under the sun. Continue reading Tornado Touches Down in Italy

Bagels and Lox – Italian Style

I’ve got a lot I should be blogging about.  Now that the spring flowers have arrived, I’ve decided Lake Como is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I’d like to feature the lake – specifically, downtown Como for you.  I also need to do a piece on Alzate Brianza (the town in Como in which we reside).  I would love to share with you images of our condo that we’re borrowing from Jen’s parents.  If that’s not enough… we have had some wonderful experiences recently in Bergamo, Tuscany, Piemonte, Bellagio, Venice and more.  And of course, we’ve had some incredible meals I’d like to showcase.

A scene in Tuscany – what I should be writing about

In order to share these stories I will need to take hundreds of new photos and sift through the thousands I have already taken.  Then, I’ll need to re-create the stories and sprinkle in a bit of research about the towns.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I love doing this.  And I love even more that we have both devoted and casual readers of our blog.  A highlight of my day is getting a comment from a new reader somewhere in the world.  But, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer work of it all.  I recognize that feeling stressed over such an unimportant task is comical.  Or perhaps it just makes me look like an asino (you can translate that one on your own).  But what can I say… I just want to do the best job I can.

So what do you do when you’re overwhelmed?  Procrastinate, of course!  And what can make you happy when you’re overwhelmed?  Comfort food, of course!  So this blog is a procrastination piece about comfort food!! Continue reading Bagels and Lox – Italian Style

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!