Tag Archives: Jen’s Kitchen

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

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

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.


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