Apr 26, 2016

In defense of the fish

Italy is for the most part surrounded by sea, with the peninsula and its two large islands lapping up against various parts of the jagged Mediterranean. This makes most of us Italians very familiar with fish. Given such extended coastal real estate, it's hardly surprising that most Italians are raised catching, cooking and eating fish.

As a child I loved the act of fishing but hardly ever ate fish with bones. I was one of those kids parents dreaded, the ones too freaked out by le spine — bone or cartilage — to fully enjoy a meal of aquatic edibles. But mine wasn't a total embargo: I was simply more of a polipi kind of kid...

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Image courtesy of Massimo Capodanno

Feb 15, 2016

Healing with food, Italian style

Whether to treat minor issues like the colpo d'aria (stiffness or a cold from a draft, basically) or to attack more serious conditions, Italians have an entire protocol when it comes to eating the sickness away that goes way beyond the old maxim,"Feed a cold, starve a fever."

When you are sick in Italy there is never starvation involved but Italians are remarkable when it comes to what you should and should not eat when sick. While Americans just plow through ailments or hide in bed – and not eating if they don’t feel like it – in Italy not having at least a bowl of mamma’s chicken soup is punishable by a lengthy jail term, so imagine fasting. Heresy! Continue Reading ➔

Feb 13, 2016

Traveling with Kids

Unfamiliar timetables, jet lag disrupting a well-established routine, not to mention the stress of check-in lines, passport control queues and security checks: these are enough to break any seasoned traveler, even more so if with kids. Add a star if doing this as single parents.

Is there a secret for making travel with kids seamless or at least bearable? Maybe not, but I have accumulated enough mileage to share some helpful hints for parents traveling with tiny humans in their care.

The best thing to do when approaching extended travel in the company of your children is wise planning, keeping clutter to a minimum, and staying calm. Here are my tips for traveling with kids. Continue Reading →

Feb 10, 2016

Essential kitchen tools for cooking Italian food

Just like any cuisine uses its indigenous cookware Рthink anything from Asian stacked bamboo steamer baskets and woks, to Spanish paella pans and French cr̬pe skillets РItalian cookery also demands its own set of specific tools and implements.

Check out this list of 12 essential kitchen tools for cooking Italian food.  Continue Reading ☛

Jan 18, 2016

Grilled polenta with 4 formaggi cheese fondue

My fridge is exploding. It has always seen its fair share of dairy, but never this much.
The result of shooting a show entirely dedicated to cheese comes with many obvious perks, one of which is taking home chunks and slices of the set after filming.

At every caseificio (dairy farm) the crew and I visited – be it to portray the production method, meet the producers, or milk the livestock – there was always a tasting here, a random gift of the local specailty there, and often a purchase of the product featured in each location. Hence the fridge explosion. I am loaded with cheese. There's formaggio everywhere, and more apparently coming in the mail...

What to do with all this bounty (aside from eating it and thus increasing my cholesterol)? After giving away loads of it to friends, gifting it to neighbors and showing off la bella figura at parties and festive gatherings, I need to start using the funky stuff and make room in the icebox. Employing the cheese in dishes is always a good way to start.
My favorite are the fridge-cleaner recipes, the ones that wipe out most of the leftovers in one fell swoop.

A few days ago, with the bitter chill of winter finally scratching at our windows, and fierce winds blowing, I made polenta. I see a pattern forming: my mother makes polenta at the first sign of cold, I see myself now doing the same. Of course, like her, I make it monumental amounts, despite our immediate family of two.

With the leftover polenta and the abundance of cheese I made crostini and popped a nice bottle of Franciacorta. Cleaning out the fridge deserves some celebration, no?

Leftover polenta, about 400 g (14 oz)
100 g (1/2 cup) gorgonzola, sliced
100 g (1/2 cup) fontina, diced
50 g (1/4 cup) Parmigiano, grated
3 tbsp mascarpone
1 glass heavy cream or milk
1 small bunch of chives, minced
2-3 firm Kaiser pears, cored, peeled and quartered – slice to obtain a piece for each piece of polenta

Start by slicing the polenta (it solidifies fast, so I store the leftovers in a cubic container, in order to make it easier to cut it in regularly shaped slices). I like my slices thick, about 3/4-inch. You can of course change this measurement, but anything thinner than that could potentially come apart when heated and topped. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Heat a griddle or a ribbed steak pan until scorching hot. Brush or spray with olive oil. Grill the polenta slices until seared with dark grill marks on each side, and set aside. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

In a saucepan, melt the cheeses with the cream (or milk) over low heat. Stir gently to obtain a firm, lumpy mixture. The texture should not be runny or liquid.

Let the mixture cool a few minutes, then incorporate the minced chives stirring to blend well.

Place the grilled polenta on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spoon a dollop of the mixture on each slice of polenta and top with a piece of pear.

Pop in the hot oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble. Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!