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A thoughtful blend of original ‪‎photography‬, ‪haiku‬ and ‪calligraphy‬; a cathartic journey upon fluid images and simple words.

25 Oct 2010

Fragrant Almond Laksa with noodles, fresh herbs, Oriental garden crispy prawns and southern Italian Har Gao dumplings

Fragrant Almond Laksa with noodles, fresh herbs, Oriental garden crispy prawns and southern Italian Har Gao dumplings

Another month is passed and the Velveteers are back! This time was Pam who threw down the gauntlet challenging us on making Laksa.
I might say that this came quite at the right moment, when the increasing cold weather makes our bodies crave for warm soups. Laksa is indeed a satisfying and aromatic soup typically done in Singapore. As consequence to its origins, this doesn't really say it all. Singapore is quite a vibrant, multi-ethnic and voracious city. Its citizens, spanning the whole Asian nationalities and not only, can delight themselves on hundreds of food establishments able to answer that midnight crave for Dim Sum or to fill the emptiness left by a disappointing day. Singaporean cuisine is then a happy fusion of influences contextualised to the local produces. Fish and crustaceans are paramount among the available on high quality standard ingredients hence all the various typical way to cook and enjoy it, Chilli Crab the most famous.
Laksa is a way to enjoy more humble fishes along with the products of land.

19 Oct 2010

Friendship is sharing: a wrap that crosses the Oceans

Chapatti wrap of pickled eggplant Sicilian style with fresh mint and coriander leaves served with a maracuja, chocolate, fried onions dip sauce

Few weeks ago Aparna asked me if I was willing to write a guest post for her, my answer was naturally yes! Apart from being this an honour to be featured on her blog My Diverse Kitchen, how could I say no to a friend?
Once fixed the time details, I just had to think about a yummy vegetarian recipe to contribute.
You might remember that last month Velveteers’ challenge pivoted around the Sicilian caponata; Aparna loved it so much that I promised myself to show her more examples of the fine art of Sicilian veggies.
Last year in one of my visit back home, I bought some little booklets that collect various recipes from Sicilian culinary tradition from the different areas and cities of the island. I started reading the vegetables volume to find out that almost one third of its recipes feature eggplants; they are indeed one of the most beloved vegetable in Sicily. I already delved deeper into the gastronomic history of this fruit in my Caponata post but let me just remind here how it was considered at first as a poisonous "apple" and then relegated as food suited only for Jews.
Curious for more? Let's head over to Aparna's.

13 Oct 2010

An intro on German food and my first cooking class


I did it, I finally started! No, not a diet but giving cooking lessons.
My first attempt at it took place the past weekend with a group of fellow Couch Surfers and we concentrated on German food. Being living in Bonn since more than 5 years now, I think I owe this country some gastronomic interest. I haven't been eating traditional German food very often in these years, mostly because there aren't many restaurants around here that serve this kind of food. German food is mostly a homey kind of food, mostly had for dinner with free flowing bier; the kind of food that Gordon Ramsay will push on a nearly failing restaurant in one of his rescue missions. The food around here is instead mostly Italianised, or Turkish at times; naturally we got our Japanese, Chinese, Thai and now also Tibetan joints but you know these places, they all end up having a shared menu across Europe.
Germany is mostly known for 3 ingredients that make up a typical meal: potatoes, pork and sauerkraut. If French cuisine is a majestic ode to eggs, I believe the German one is to potatoes. Mastering them means mastering two of the main ingredients in our pantry (wheat is mostly exploited in Italian cuisine I believe).

4 Oct 2010

Sicily Sweet and Sour

Sicilian Caponata

When at the Velveteers tavern we planned the hosting calendar, I chose the month of September when I would have been in Sicily.
Despite the good propositions, life in my family house can get easily out of hands. Too lazy, too relaxed, with rhythms other than my owns and the possibility that at any time somebody could drop in my room startling the hell out of me; it is not an easy environment where to concentrate in front of a screen, let alone that the TV right there, beside me. TV is indeed a strange beast, if you don’t have it you don’t miss it, but if it is around it will inevitably attract you like a magnet and so you are lost zapping between channels trying to find something watchable; settling often over a re-run of decades old TV-series (god bless Angela Lansbury and her Murder, She Wrote series!).
Days pass by like sand between your fingers; a coffee and chat with mom, some TV, some more chat with sis, more TV, brainstorming with mom about dinner, more TV. You don’t even notice and it is already dinner time and for me that means that I get to cook when all the others are already sit to dine (we have got only 3 working hobs). And so here I am, rather late for my monthly Velveteers post.

When I proposed to cook Caponata as the September Velveteers’ dish, I wanted to make it a family business but actually only I ended up eating the plated dish at the end of the shooting since we had already planned a chilli con carne night. I did though brainstorm with mom about the traditional way we are used to make this dish in my household so it still involved all the needed family members.

26 Sep 2010

A tradition out of traditions: Chilli con carne

I was visiting my family till few days ago but unfortunately I had rare occasions to cook for them. My mother though always wanted to try one specific dish: chili con carne! She kept referring to it every now and then without a real decision being made, then she bought kidney beans and all was set.
Being from Sicily, spicy dishes are not uncommon; dishes featuring meat and beans together are quite uncommon instead. In the Lazio region they are used to cook their beans with cotiche (pig' skin) or sausages but here the meaty element doesn't realy play the leading role in the dish.
So there we stand wanting to cook a proper chilli con carne in the hot Sicilian weather.

Chilli con carne

19 Sep 2010

Project Food Blog #1: Me, myself and Mr Hyde

Wrinkled future

This post is all about clarifying or better investigating who I am and what I am doing here in the food world; you can call it a self-improvement experiment.
We are only given rare blissful moments of clear inner vision, when thoughts start flying around our minds like doves at the sound of Sunday bells. Unfortunately, those Silicon Valley geniuses haven't yet invented an interface that would allow the transfer of these sparkles onto "paper". Yes, we could speak those words aloud to a recorder but Heisenberg's principle would hit on us. Observation of a phenomenon will irremediably influence it and that clear insight will become muddled by the social rules of communication. Then it might be worthy to resort to a stream of consciousness. I fear though that in this context a patchwork of sentences, for how beautiful and meaningful they might be, could result too hermetic; I will have then to edit what comes out (rather heavily I suppose).
The framing of oneself is always a process in fieri. Daily experiences, inspirations, desires and decisions continuously shed new light on our souls, on our place in society and eventually on our call.

15 Sep 2010

Clafoutis and the wondrous world of baked custard

Clafoutis of peaches and apricots with caramelized fennel and blackberry-lavender sauce

Few weeks ago Rebecca from Chow and Chatter asked me to contribute a guest post to her blog.
Discussing with her about what to write about, we convened that a light and yummy dessert would fit the occasion. It is a very easy, light, sweat fix that showcases mostly a very useful dessert category: the clafoutis. I decided than to share with you all my Clafoutis of peaches and apricots with caramelized fennel and blackberry-lavender sauce.
Hope you will enjoy!

Clafoutis of peaches and apricots with caramelized fennel and blackberry-lavender sauce

25 Aug 2010

Home sweet home

Crostini with spiced pork patty, celery cream and yellow peach

Almost one week ago I finally arrived in Sicily. Right out of the plane, my home land welcomed me with a warm sunny embrace, relaxing and comforting.
It has been a few years since I last visited my family during the summer season. I had forgotten the mood, the still atmosphere, the crave for that breeze in the evening, the blinding sun, the suffocating heat, the singing cicadas, the sleepy cats spread over the shadowy ground; I had forgotten the Sicilian summer symbolon.

Already the day after my arrival it was farmers’ market day in my town. Sacrificing few hours of sleep, I joined my mother for a walk among the various stands. The day was sunny and not too warm; after a ride among the flock of innumerable cars all slowly approaching the city center with their occupant, we reached the market area. The first stalls to welcome us were those of clothes, shoes and other bric-a-brac. After finalizing few errands, we entered the food area inside the old soccer stadium.

20 Aug 2010

The decision has been made

Here we go, also for this month the PaperChef challenge has gone by and, judging from the submissions, surely not unnoticed; the hosts (Ilva and Mikey) have received in total 10 submissions.
As monthly co-host my duty was to choose a winner among them. Let me first remind you the ingredients you were supposed to use in your creative efforts: Dried cranberries, dates, candied orange peel and flour.
It was very interesting to see what these magic four have inspired in you. The entries may be divided in roughly 3 groups: leavened goodies, savories and baked desserts.
Let's start with the breads and rolls.

To Karen from Prospect in the Pantry, the monthly ingredients were simply speaking tea-times with her siblings in Scotland. She wanted to share with us the relaxed and elegant atmosphere of these occasions with a Date-Nut Bread with Cranberry Orange Cream Cheese.

12 Aug 2010

It is not always black or white

Middle Eastern raviolo served with cranberry-sage butter sauce, fresh peach crescents and thyme leaves

You probably have noticed already that this month I was pleased to host among this creative walls one of the most interesting challenge out there in the blogosphere: Paper Chef.
Strangely from the usual chaotic recipe development process, the first idea to come out and to be scribbled over one of my notebooks was the winner. Do not get me wrong, I wrote down short of a tenth of candidate dishes but either sleepiness or the recognition of a sparkle of efficiency made me concentrate on the first pasta dish.
The perfect Teutonic efficiency stops here because it was only when I had almost completed the dish that I realized one of the four PaperChef’s ingredients in my head was wron. Peaches went in instead of candied orange peel. No big drama, the two fit quite well with each other so, more fun for our papillae!
What I propose you today is a sweet and earthy savory dish, a really lovely and elegant one that I really won’t mind having in a tete-a-tete dinner by the candle light even if with a mirror.
Cutting it short, here I present you my

Middle Eastern raviolo served with cranberry-sage butter sauce, fresh peach crescents and thyme leaves

Middle Eastern raviolo served with cranberry-sage butter sauce, fresh peach crescents and thyme leaves

4 Aug 2010

The ultimate Cheesecake and August PaperChef

The ultimate Cheesecake

The past July I was honored to win the monthly PaperChef challenge with my Seared salmon fillet glazed with a raspberry sauce and served with a zucchini and rice timbale and black-eyed peas cooked with mint and garlic. Karen of Prospect the Pantry was so surprised by my raspberry and cumin sauce that she passed me the honor of co-hosting this creative challenge for the month of August. My duties will be to choose the 4 new ingredients and the monthly winner to whom to pass the palm for September's challenge. How do these ingredients get chosen? The hosts of this challenge Ilva of Lucullian Delights and Mikey of Spikey Mikey’s will post a list of ingredients over at PaperChef to which everybody can add their owns simply by commenting.
Back to August challenge, I decided to sort alphabetically the final ingredients that Mikey emailed me this morning allowing me to eliminate a few doubles, was then appointed with the hard job of drawing the four random numbers out of the 56 ingredients. And the winning ingredients for PaperChef's 55th round are:

31 Jul 2010

Matcha Madness #3: Matcha poached prawns with light bisque cubes, citrus emulsion

Matcha poached prawns with light bisque cubes, citrus emulsion

From my two previous posts you might know what is going on: Matcha Madness. A contest started by Catty of The Catty Life to help spreading the knowledge about matcha and push its healthiness in our lives.
I decided to work on three recipes to enter in the contest, that is:
and now it is time to share with you the last and more elaborated of them.

Matcha Madness #2: Cod mousseline disk with nigella seeds and matcha foam

Cod mousseline disk with nigella seeds and matcha foam

As continuation to the Matcha Madness cook-off, it is now time for the cod mousseline. What is a mousseline? It is simply a farce, a mixture of protein (mostly fish) and cream used in classical French cuisine for quenelles (dumplings) or to make terrines.
It is a very simple and versatile preparation that can even produce elegant and delicate sausages; a perfect ingredient for a dinner party.
What is Matcha Madness  you ask me now? Matcha Madness is a recipe contest that Catty from The Catty Life started for the month of July. We were asked to produce something featuring matcha green tea to win a tin of Teapigs’ matcha powder . If you want to know a bit more about matcha read my previous post.
I decided to cook something savory and after fighting with something like 10 different dishes I chose three of them:

Matcha Madness and the Green Fairy

At the beginning of this month, Catty from The Catty life  announced a new recipe contest: Matcha Madness. If you are familiar with her blog you would agree with me that she is the Green Fairy, as she is mad about matcha. For its flavorfulness and healthiness this ingredient is in effect a must of every refined pantry and palate.
What is matcha?

White Jade aka Almond Tofu

What is that nut revered and featured in many ancient cultures cuisine in the highest festivities? That nut that divided Medieval courts aside the white granular gold? The nut that is cited in the Holy Bible with pistachios?
Yes, you got it right it is the almond.
Its mellow, round, heady aroma refreshes us during summers and titillates our palates with little delicacies at coffee time year round. It was introduced in Europe most probably by the Phoenicians through the south of the Mediterranean countries and it has been for centuries a status symbol. Combining them with the precious

23 Jul 2010

The health paradigm

Fresh Tofu mousse with sesame seed and Matcha powder

Tofu is healthy.
Everybody knows that, they keep on telling this to us from any available source promoting vegetarian eating (and not only) last but not least even Lisa Simpson from her yellowy world praises the loveliness of a mock-turkey made with the bean-curds as deign substitute for the feathery alter-ego in a Thanksgiving dinner.

So for once, let’s be healthy and, as always, adventurous; shall we?
For this month the four Velveteers, in the person of Pam, have chosen to have a lovely trip to the far-east. Furthermore from this month on we (Aparna, Asha, Pam and me) decided to open the Velveteers challenge to all our fellow bloggers so don’t be surprised to see more tofu’s posts in the next days. If you want to join the Velveteers club, just email us or join our Google group.

14 Jul 2010

PaperChef 54 with a magic quartet

Zucchini, raspberries, beans and cereals; these are the actors of today' show.
As every first weekend of each month, it is PaperChef time! If you remember I have already taken part to this creative challenge, quite a few months back. Voids of memory and travels have impeded me to rejoin the happy crew for the monthly ride.
Miraculously this month I remembered of it and checked the dedicated blog  even before the host and ingredients were disclosed; I told you it had something of a miracle, no?
This month host is Karen of Prospect the Pantry and she is the responsible for the weird combination of toys I had in front of me. To be honest, fate is the responsible but, have you read of the power of thoughts on stochastic event? if not, it is a pretty cool scientific/philosophical topic to delve into. Anyhow, the whole ingredients list (Zucchini, raspberries, beans and cereals) didn't look so strange if it wasn't for the raspberries.

12 Jul 2010

Orange cake: one and a hundred

From the records of this blog, you might have realized that I do not really bake that much; I usually do so more for catering than for private appreciation.
It is more than one year already that a friend of mine asked me to bake for her a weekly orange cake. I worked over the recipe she gave me to bring it to my liking (though still I could tweak it) but after the beginning excitement it all looked quite repetitive.
As usual, I do not really like to repeat my things over and over again if not for the purpose of development so I ended up producing quite a certain variety of orange cakes. The cake is a really nice one, neither too sweet nor too rich but very aromatic and satisfying and different garnishing add specific accents to the orange flavor; Chinese rice wine, rose’s petals, rose water and orange blossom water, tarragon, pink pepper, gooseberries or rhubarb played all a role in one version or another.
This post serves the purpose to show how versatile a single cake recipe can be, without the need of including a frosting or pastry cream of any sorts.

Basic and delicious Orange Cake

30 Jun 2010

Salmon with chocolate-soy sauce featuring Linwoods’ Flaxseeds, Cocoa and Mixed Berries

 Few weeks ago Bethany of Dirty Kitchen Secrets launched a recipe contest on the new Linwoods’ product: Flaxseeds, Cocoa and Mixed Berries sprinkle.
I have come to know Linwoods’ products since last year Food Bloggers Connect conference. In our goodie bags we found few nice pouches of their healthy products featuring flaxseeds, goji berries, hemp, sesame and other yummy and nutritious seeds to sprinkle almost on anything that comes to your mind. For instance, lately I always add them to my healthy sweet fix of the day: sweetened quark cream with nuts, honey and sometimes also herbs or berries depending on what I have in the fridge.

21 Jun 2010

Mint: my nemesis

Few weeks ago this word appeared in an email I received as the chosen ingredient for the next Velveteers challenge.
Mint; one of the readily available ingredients that never made it into my pantry. Why? I suppose I got scarred by all those medicinal tablets with mint flavor I had to employ to heal my sore throat; I think I liked more the raspberry flavored cough syrup.
That freshness coupled with the chemical taste of medicines was quite a nightmare. Not even bitterness or extreme sourness made me shrivel into a gothic grimace like menthol.
I like mint’ scent, I have always liked it but keep the shrub out of my mouth please!

15 Jun 2010

Sweet sweet sugarworks

It was the beginning of April when a friend of mine asked me to prepare a cake for an event he was organizing. As an art historian he is involved, with some of his colleagues, in trying to save the local concert hall the Beethovenhalle; there are in fact plans of building a new one on the same location.
The first plan was to bake a cake in the shape of the building itself so I started collecting pictures to build a 3D model of the cake and plan this way the baking. The building itself isn’t really articulated but it has different parts at various roof heights plus a nice fancy-shaped dome above where the actual concert hall is located in it.

27 May 2010

The Four Velveteers go cheesy nutting

Here we go again! It is Velveteers time!! Actually, to be honest, it was almost one week ago and I finally managed to cook up the dish I planned, photo shoot it and now write about it.
 What did I do in these days? I catered a birthday dinner party. It was great fun; it is always great fun to be able to make people happy. The suddenly super hot and humid weather made me feel 10 years older though, aching bones, legs and so on. Yeah, I missed only (extra) gray hairs.
For this round of the Four Velveteers; Aparna, Asha, Pam and me decided to prepare a dessert that would feature nuts.
From the first moment I wanted to include cheese in my dish; the idea was a new catch on the classic Greek dessert based on yogurt, honey and nuts. On the way thinking about how to realize it, I was more interested in using Camembert.
The idea was now to hollow a little Camembert wheel keeping the shell as container for the dish, the scooped out cheese would be turned into a nice fondue sauce.
The other ingredients for the dish would be seasonal and refreshing; that means rhubarb and strawberries!
During this season I can consider myself as blessed; this region of Germany (North Rhine Westphalia) produces some of the best strawberries I have ever eaten. They are not what we would recognize as perfectly ripe, inviting looking strawberries; they have more of an orange pinkish hue than the bright purplish red we are used to. But their scent, oh my...
If the look isn't enough to drive you closer, their intoxicating sweet, aromatic, honey like aroma is just fantastic.
I am not very familiar with rhubarb, but few trials with it and you easily get why it goes so well with strawberries and oranges; its taste actually reminds a lot of these fruits.
As nuts I decided to use hazelnuts. I finally converged on the perfect way to roast them so nothing is stopping me to enjoy them, So here you are my:

Strawberry and rhubarb jelly salad served with a sweet fondue sauce and a licorice candy disk

15 May 2010

This ain't a Lasagna

I am just back from my trip to Sicily visiting my family; trying to get used again to Germany with its gloomy and cold weather, I got in a terrible lousy mood. Totally lacking energy, sprint, inspiration. Thankfully it was that time of the month when the Daring Cooks challenge comes to its deadline, so the dinner was fixed. And what a yummy dinner!

Barbara of Barbara Bakes has chosen for us Mexican Enchiladas. First time I try my hand at Mexican food, though I always wanted to start fiddling with this cuisine. The bold flavors, spiciness and freshness always attracted me, probably reminded me of Southern Italian cuisine.
Tonight then I was more than happy to jump on the Daring train and start fixing my dinner.
The recipe we have been asked to follow was taken from finecooking and here it is.

Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

30 Apr 2010

Chocolate Calamari soup: weird is good

Few days ago I wanted to experiment a bit with calamari. I had in mind two dishes to work on for dinner. The first didn't turn out as I wished so you will have to wait to try it for yourself, but the second was delish!
Not really much to write about this dish, the fact that it includes chocolate should be sufficient to stimulate your imagination.
Chocolate and calamari? You would say; yep they go quite well together too!

Try it and let me know...
I have also tried a new style of photography.

25 Apr 2010

Birthday under the Baroque shadows of mount Etna

I am not sure of it... For those who believe in astrology, this year previsions for my sign weren't all that sparkling; nothing serious, just another year uphill.
 How was my 30th year of life? I think it was a good year, a positive one. I started this blog at the end of my 29th, I opened to the world my rambling in the kitchen and brought it to other people kitchens too. I was happy to be finally able to make other people smile and have a pleasant different evening (maybe also memorable).
Opening to the world meant also starting to tweet. I met many great people, now great friends, thanks to this media. Food connects people at a higher level, faster, truer. The first Food Blogger Connect conference confirmed this to an unexpected level. Opening the foodie door brought me in contact with an inner portion of myself, with roots that I was unaware to have, influences and dependencies that were so loudly screaming inside me to become quieter than a flying butterfly.
Nothing is exclusively positive in our life, we won’t have white without black; I convinced myself of this when trying to reproduce a chiaroscuro as high-school task, I wasn't pushing hard enough my pencil and everything was flat. Thankfully we tend to forget most of our negative experiences so I can't really point out negative events; it is the overall lingering sensation of being on waiting for something to happen or to finish. Do you know when you feel yourself pushed to the border of the cliff? When the decision, a decision is building up in your head? Maybe this will be the year.

18 Apr 2010

Strawberries & the feathers

It is spring after all.
The sun might be missing from some of our skies, the gardens are though starting providing us a fresh bounty of aromatic fruits and vegetables.
In rainy days like this one, a perfect dinner relies on the suited person to share the food with you, dim lights a nice bottle of bubbly and some soothing music on the background that will company the melancholic sounds of rain drops hitting the windows, the balcony, the ponds. The moon will soon shine and all the warmth we need is already here with us. A lazy gaze to each other, tales of everyday life, challenges and satisfactions; what's missing from this picture? Strawberries, of course!
Those plump, luscious, fiery drops of sunlight trapped in sweet and tangy flesh with the tiny seeds of life sprinkled over the surface.

As main course in such a slow paced evening, I propose you my Chicken scaloppini in pomegranate and strawberry reduction sauce companied by a Tangy strawberries salad with fresh sage.
When I first tasted this dish I was very pleased by its complexity and at the same time lightness on the palate. The chicken scaloppini bring the major texture to the bite, their starchy coating is now creamy thanks to the wine that provides the major acidity to the dish (salad aside). A hint of garlic comes up to your nose giving the dish a homey feeling. The dark red sauce provides astringency, sweetness and the complex round aromas of strawberry and sage.
I perceived this dish as quite elegant and light; indeed a dish well suited for a tête-à-tête dinner with your sweet half. An elegant but homey dish that will let you loosen up in the moment.

15 Apr 2010

Bluefin Tuna "alla Siciliana" with grilled Saffron Polenta wedges

Again today it was ugly and gloomy, less rainy than yesterday at least. Daddy was on his way to the fish market in Syracuse quite early this morning and brought back nice treats for our weekly meals. He found some more fresh sardines, some calamari and a special treat, fresh Mediterranean tuna steaks.
Mommy doesn't eat much fish but fresh tuna is among the few she likes, especially cooked the way I am going to show you.
It is a traditional way of cooking meaty fish like tuna and it uses the best of the sun gifts: fresh tomatoes and basil. We don't eat this dish very often, at most twice a year, tuna is rare thankfully since it is an endangered specie; the days of the old "Mattanza" are over...
As side, I needed a starch (since I am in a no bred period) and spotting an half used package of polenta cornmeal, while reaching for it I saw also that mom had bought some saffron. So my side dish was set: grilled saffron polenta wedges.
Back to the recipe, are you ready with your tissue papers? You are going to have a watering mouth, I advised you ;-)
Here we go!

Bluefin Tuna alla Siciliana (aka in fresh tomatoes and onion sauce)
Tuna alla Siciliana with Grilled saffron polenta wedges

13 Apr 2010

Sun bathed Sardines

Oh the sun... I came to Sicily with the hope to see more sun than I would staying in Germany but, I was wrong. At least so far... On almost 8 days that I arrived in my home town, we have had only 3 days of sun; at least one was Easter. 
Tonight I was in the mood for some sun, the day has been gloomy all the way through and rainy. A look in the fridge and I realized we still had few fresh sardines that my father had bought at the fish market; we never run out of oranges around here and this is the period of blood oranges so bride and groom ready, time for the wedding to take place.

Sun bathed Sardines

9 Apr 2010

Easter & the Sea

For this Easter lunch we decided to visit our favorite seafood place by the sea shores. The little, family run restaurant “I Malavoglia” is located in the once fishermen village of Aci Trezza near Catania. The restaurant takes its name from a novel of Giovanni Verga; a father of Italian literature who placed in this village his stories depicting the everyday struggle with poverty of a fishermen family whose only hope for survival is to rely on the holy Providence.

We are on the cliffs of Mount Etna. Behind us lines of villas inhabit the inhospitable but fertile grounds, orange, lemon and loquat trees. The ground consists mainly of lava stones of different nature reddish and sharp high on the cliffs and smoothed by the continuous flushing of the sea waves at the shores. The sea is dark blue and clear. The horizon is pierced by the dark jagged silhouettes of the Faraglioni; big boulders of lava stone racing for the grade of hills which, following the tradition, are the last surviving vestiges of Odysseus’ visit to the giant Polyphemus living inside the volcano. It is said in fact that the choleric giant threw Odysseus’ ship these stones after having had his unique eye blinded by a wooden pole.

25 Mar 2010

Fresh, zingy richness in a clear glass

The four Velveteers are back! After our Red-Velvet cakes we come back to you with a new adventure into our fridges, grocery stores and creative minds.
This time it took us quite a few emails before we could agree on what to propose you. At the end we settled for a Verrine.
What is that?? You might say; that is simply a layered dish prepared into a transparent glass so to admire the alternation of its colors and textures and entice our tasting experience. To make the challenge more interesting we decided to propose each an ingredient to keep secret till the day when they were disclosed all together to the others. Aparna required us to include a cheese of any kind, Asha went for zucchini or squash, Pam chose salmon and I threw in chocolate (yeah I know, I like to make things difficult).

So, let’s see what we have on hands. Zucchini have two major qualities to them: they have a lovely crunchy bite when raw and they get sweet when cooked long enough. To make the things even, I decided to use them two ways: creamy and crunchy.
As salmon I chose to use the smoked one and it is mainly salty, rich and meaty.
The flavors did work for me from the starting; the tricky part was in choosing a proper cheese that will stand out balancing the saltiness of the salmon and the sweetness of the zucchini. At the end, I chose to use Gorgonzola with its saltiness and slight bitterness.
Chocolate was naturally to be dark for me but… when pondering on the juxtaposition of the different layers, the possibility to use milk chocolate came around.

To link the various components I had my spice rack on hand.
All this thinking and pondering brought to life my:

Smoked salmon verrine with zucchini-duo, a Gorgonzola mornay sauce and peppery chocolate shards.

20 Mar 2010

A taste savior

How often did you find yourself at the end of a busy working day and still you have to figure out what to cook for dinner? In these situations, burgers are often a life savior! The pantry is your loyal companion in this business.
Last night, I was in the mood for tasty burgers and went into my kitchen with all the best intentions of cooking myself the juiciest and tastiest patties ever when, on the peak of the mixing, I run off of breadcrumbs… So here we go; pantry, au secour!! Naturally flour was not an option but I had cornmeal. A little onion here, few green chilies there, hups some lemon fell in too and ta daaaa!

Polenta burgers with green bird-eye chilies and lemon zest

16 Mar 2010

Red, White and Green

More or less two month ago, Asha of Fork-Spoon-Knife announced her own challenge: the FSK-Café. Similar to the Paper Chef, the FSK-Café challenge requires us to create two or more dishes with the chosen ingredients. For the first round, Asha chose mozzarella, tomato and basil.
They are everyday ingredients but quite deceptive. It is hard to come up with innovative dishes featuring this Italian trio; salads, pasta dishes, bready ones are those that come up to mind. To make things more challenging, I chose then to stay as far as possible from starches in my dishes and this is what I came up with:
  • Mozzarella Lasagna with Tomato brunoise, basil and lemon peel served on a rosemary scented orange carpaccio;

  • Fluffy sweet mozzarella curds with candied tomatoes and dark chocolate basil boat served with a tomato caramel sauce.

And here you are how to do them by yourself.

11 Mar 2010

Rejuvenation is Yellow

The world of food bloggers challenges never stops to produce pleasant surprises. It was just last week that Cathy of ShowFood Chef popped by my blog and left a comment. I then had the pleasure to discover her blog and the PaperChef challenge!
This is quite the kind of challenge I prefer. What is it about? Monthly a series of 4 ingredients are drawn randomly from a list and a theme is picked by the monthly-host. Our duty is then to produce as many recipes as we wish featuring these ingredients and inspired by the chosen theme. But get a look here for a more complete description, have a look here.
The host for this month challenge is Cath of Prospect: the Pantry; the ingredient drawn were Honey, Ricotta, Dill and Eggs and the theme was Rejuvenation.
To me, all of these ingredients speak of life, spring, sunshine, grass; it was quite easy then to put together my two entries.
The first concentrate on the symbolism of the egg as a life bearer and this thought bloomed in me as a:

Deviled egg with ricotta and dill mousse over a Honey-Dark Chocolate sauce.

1 Mar 2010

Daring Bakers at travel

Challenges, the life of a foodie are full of them; even more if you are a blogger. We apostrophize ourselves as Daring and caring. Being it savory or sweet, we meet up each month in two occasions to share the results on a chosen challenge.
The sweet challenge that us, Daring Bakers (DBs), have been presented with this month was Tiramisu. Thanks to this choice, we were able to make an ideal travel starting from India, reaching USA with a little touch of Italy.
The hostesses for the monthly DBs’ challenge were the lovely Aparna and Deeba from the colorful India. They chose the recipe for Tiramisu proposed by pastry chef Carminantonio Iannaccone. Major part of the challenge was the making of mascarpone and ladyfingers biscuits from scratch. Frankly speaking, this was not the hardest part of the challenge; the recipe itself was quite long to finish. The entire process took a whole of 3 days with 2 days dedicated strictly on the tiramisu cake.
Have you ever tried to make this Italian dessert? I am sure though that you have tasted it: soft, spongy biscuits soaked in strong coffee and layered with a fluffy and delicate mascarpone and egg cream; a dusting of cocoa powder crowns it all.
It is not a really difficult cake to make and it is always a great success with guests.
Here there is the recipe we were asked to follow.

A plastic delight

Childhood brings always good memories back. What if we could play like then and also satisfy our grown up needs? Right, we need chocolate in this; plastic chocolate.
This will be lots of fun for your kids to play with and very useful to you to decorate your cakes making luscious bows, little animal or roses like these ones.
It is easy to make and to work with, here there is how to do it.
Plastic Chocolate

  • 100g dark chocolate;
  • 30g light corn syrup (any kind of syrup will work I used Agave syrup for instance).
Cut the chocolate with a saw knife and melt it in a double boiler. Take it away when it is almost totally melted and continue stirring until it will be shiny and fully melted. Add the corn syrup and mix until the mixture gets together (it may become a bit grainy, but that is normal).Cut a big piece of cling film, poor the mixture over half of it; cover it with the other half of the cling film and flatten properly. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before using it.
When ready, work the mass in batches with the palm of your hands until soft and warmed up ready to model.