27 February 2011

Leftover Panettone – Part 2

For the second installment, I made another dish I LOVE, Bread Pudding (made with panettone). This is very simple to make and with a sauce that I invented on a whim, it's even more amazing.  Panettone is very soft, buttery and fragrant and makes a wonderful bread pudding. I'm just sorry that I'm posting this in February when stores no longer sell panettone, but you can still get it on Amazon. But if you happen to have one left-over from the holidays, then you are in luck! Otherwise, bookmark this and return to it in December.

24 February 2011

Haute Cucina

The French are obsessed with les parfums (perfumes). 
The Italians are obsessed with la pasta
So while the French have Chanel N. 5, the Italians have Spaghetti N. 5! 
It’s the little things that give you a glimpse into a culture…wink, wink.

22 February 2011

Leftover Panettone - Part 1

In Italy, the Christmas season doesn’t start with store shelves filled with decorations and presents—it starts with shelves of Panettone. These tall, sweet breads welcome the holidays and the many huge meals that go with them. You never go to someone’s house without a big box of panettone in hand. The problem is, if you’re not a born and “bread” carb junkie like most Italians, by the end of the holiday season, you will have quite the collection of panettone. So what is one to do with all these huge, packaged breads? February is almost over--I need to get cookin'!

One of my favorite things to do with traditional panettone (even more than eating it plain) is to make French toast out of it. The thick, buttery slices filled with raisins and candied oranges goes so well served fluffy and hot with a bit of syrup and orange marmalade. And it’s even super easy. 

18 February 2011

The Peanut Butter Ambassador

Peanut butter. A condiment so common in the US, that no one gives a second thought about it. It is so stitched into the fibers of the American life that we just take it for granted. But here in Italy, it just doesn’t exist. In southern Europe, peanut butter (like pecans and fresh cranberries) is a rare and abstract American food that many people have never tasted and some have never even heard of. So seeing it on the shelf of a tiny international food store, located between asian fish sauce and dried shrimp was a very exciting moment. It was a discovery that reunited my husband with his beloved peanut butter. 

We have since purchased three jars, as gifts for friends that really like peanuts but have NEVER tried peanut butter and I have also introduced my sister-in-law to this new nut butter. She has officially classified it as better than Nutella! Wow. There must be something about discovering a new flavor that makes it so special. I mean, I know peanut butter is good, but you should see how Italians go crazy over it! I feel like I’m spreading peanut butter joy. 

16 February 2011

San Valentino

For Valentine’s day, my husband took me to dinner at Il Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven), a beautiful restaurant which sits atop a hill overlooking the entire bay of La Spezia. Now, eating out for dinner in Italy is a very different process than in an American restaurant. Your evening starts by ordering your vino and an antipasto, or appetizer. After these are brought to you, the waiter will leave you alone for a long while, as this is your conversation time. When you are good and ready to move on to the next course, il primo, you call the waiter to order your pasta, and the story repeats. When you are ready for the next course, il secondo, you call the waiter over to order your meat dish. And so it goes for i dolci, or dessert course, your caffé, your amaro, or after dinner drink and il conto, or check. It would be considered rushed and unnecessary to order all your dishes at once and your waiter will never come around several times to check on you or interrupt your meal without you calling for him. 

12 February 2011

As Easy as...Quiche?

Although I am Italian, live in Italy and speak Italian, my personality, mentality and actions are more French than anything else. In fact, my Italian husband always asks me why I didn’t marry a Frenchman! Anyway, my style français is most evident in my cooking style. I love to cook all types of food, Thai, Indian, Mexican, etc. but the dishes that I consider my mainstays are always French in nature. This brings me to my all-time favorite lunch: La Quiche. In France, lunch specials abound with different quiches served with a salad, or even better, fresh, hot, pommes frites! Mmm…

The best thing about quiche is that you can make unlimited versions. But since we all know quiche to have a crust, it can be a deterrent for whipping one up at home (it was for me). Fortunately, there is a much easier way. Here is my recipe for a crustless quiche that will be the easiest quiche ever! Actually, there is an even easier version, which uses leftover grilled vegetables (thus no sautéing), and is really my favorite. But it’s still winter here, so no grilling. For this quiche, I have used zucchini and tomatoes (because that is what I had on hand) but I encourage you to use your favorite ingredients.

09 February 2011

Strange Fruit

Every once in a while, I come across some kind of fruit or vegetable that I either have never seen, never eaten, or never dared to prepare. But seeing as how I am intrinsically curious and always up for a challenge, I like to give it a try. I am actually quite a bit more daring than my husband, but when I was struck with fascination at the container of bovine nerves, he quickly put the kibosh on it. At least I have gotten him to like vegetables enough to conquer the plant world. So what would you guess this is? (I have not altered these pics, it really is this color)

03 February 2011

Making Herbes de Provence

One of my favorite things to cook with is Herbes de Provence. I use it in just about everything. But, as you may know, this seemingly normal blend of culinary herbs can get quite pricey. It’s just something about having a French name that adds a few to the price. Don't think the price reflects import charges either, because the other day I saw a tiny jar at my local grocery store for almost 4 euros!! That is an outrageous price for herbs in Italy and I'm only a few hours from Provence! Fortunately for me, my garden in Sicily has the perfect climate for these herbs and planting them was my first order of duty (after clearing about 15 years of weeds) when we moved in last year. 

After a recent weekend trip to back Sicily, I found my garden overgrown with lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano! I immediately started snipping away in order to bring back copious fruits of my labor. If you have your own herb garden, you can easily make this mixture as well. 

Vernazza Updates:

Vernazza is well on its way to normalcy and while I no longer write updates on their status, you can learn about the devastating floods of 2011 by clicking the label "Vernazza Updates". For the latest information from the organizations in Vernazza and Monterosso, visit SaveVernazza and Rebuild Monterosso.

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