May 31, 2011

Disaster avoided

It's been one hot 24 hours here at Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino.

Kathy, a blogger friend, notified me that something weird was going on yesterday when she couldn't access my URL.

Sure enough when clicking on this is what I'd be redirected to:
The scary screenshot that appears when a domain is expired


I won't get into how Google and domain registrars work (mainly because I didn't even know what a domain registrar was four hours ago).

To make a scary story short, my expired May 29th, despite having paid the automatic renewal on time.

As my darling friend and cyber-expert Sara informed me, "most domain expirations are not immediate, and the domain goes into a "grace period" where they can be easily renewed by the current owner before being released as available on the market again."

After a few heated emails, a teary phone conversation with an eNom operator, and lots of venomous tweets, I finally regained ownership of my website, my followers, my subscribers, my friends and fellow bloggers for whom I've had the honor of posting for the past 2 and a half years.

Thank you for your moral and technical support in this crisis.

May 28, 2011

Zucchine alla Parmigiana recipe

Summer is definitely here. And with it come chilled glasses of Falanghina, long walks, and lazy afternoons.

Although baking is not ideal in this weather, there's a nice alternative to the usual and world-known cousin Parmigiana di Melanzane, quintessential summer staple. This "tortino in bianco" version, a tomato-less zucchini baked dish, is a summer favorite, and very popular among my circle of friends and family. More delicate than the eggplant counterpart, it combines the principles of Parmigiana, yet with a more subtle gusto.

2 kg (4.4 lbs) ribbed heirloom zucchini (zucchine romanesche)
Parmigiano, grated
Breadcrumbs, toasted
Béchamel sauce (halve quantities to yield 1 1/2 cups)
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter for greasing
Mozzarella (optional)
Salt and pepper

Thinly slice the zucchini length-wise (with a mandoline you can obtain thinner wafers) and sauté them in batches in plenty boiling olive oil. Fish them out with a slotted spoon after a few minutes, the time needed is according to how thinly they have been cut.

*For a "leaner" version, zucchini slices can be grilled, instead of fried.

Grease the bottom of a large enough baking pan with butter, coat with breadcrumbs, and begin layering the zucchini slices, alternating with generous amounts of grated Parmigiano, lashings of béchamel sauce, and a drizzle of olive oil. If you like, you can add sliced Mozzarella as well, but not Bufala, which tends to be too watery. The risk is a soggy mess.

Top the last layer with more Parmigiano, a few curls of butter and some breadcrumbs.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until a nice tan crust forms. Remove from the oven and wait for the ambrosia to cool before you apply to face.

Best eaten at room temperature the next day. During overnight refrigeration, elements firm together, making this leftover dish an excellent sandwich filler.

Buon appetito.

May 26, 2011

Vignarola recipe

E's play-do art
homemade playdough firstlings

Strawberries in January? "E perché?" That's how Giuliana, my greengrocer replies when I tell her how the organic supermarket in California where my dad lives sells off-season goods all year long. Tomatoes, peaches, cardoons, cabbage and raspberries all share the same space. At the same time.

It's a given for Giuliana, and for her long-standing clients—and Italians in general—that agricultural bounty be closely tied to nature's cycles, to climactic fluctuation, sun, rain, ice. Rhythmically defined by the seasons...

Continue reading →

May 16, 2011

Pollo arrosto al limone recipe

This recipe has been in my family ever since I can remember. I have seen variations of it in cookbooks from all over the world, and in various cuisine websites.

When we refer to this dish we usually call it "pollo coi limoni nel c..." alluding to where exactly it is the lemons enter the chicken.

Despite its uncouth name, this dish is always very popular. It's easy to make, and has saved my own culo in the course of many improvised meals, with the unexpected dinner guests routinely licking their fingers and the plate clean.

Image © paperogiallo
Essential to any successful dish–I'll never tire of repeating this–are natural, wholesome ingredients. Choose a healthy chicken, that's not been fed hormones, antibiotics, or animal protein. A bird that's had plenty of time to cluck about in wide, open spaces. I'm lucky enough to have a retailer nearby that sells San Bartolomeo broilers.
Real free-range chickens in the San Bartolomeo farm
The lemons I use are plucked off my mother's tree, two blocks from my apartment, in the garden I grew up in. I know the only thing I scrub off these lemons is dirt. No chemicals, no pesticides, no wax... niente.
Mamma's organic lemons
The ingredient list is short, and the instructions are brief. Please don't let them scare you with things like, 'the mark of a top chef is roast chicken.' This failsafe recipe will guarantee a perfect bird, crisp on the outside, with under it succulent, tender meat.

1 whole chicken, possibly free range
2 organic lemons
1 bouillon cube
Preheat oven at 180° C (350° F).

Burn off any excess feather stubble over the stove and give the bird a nice bath. Carefully towel dry inside and out.

Soften the lemons by rubbing them between your palms (good exercise for cleavage). Cut one lemon in half and poke holes in the other with a fork. Insert the lemons and the stock cube in the chicken, apologizing for intrusiveness.

Seal the opening shut using toothpicks (or poultry skewers) and kitchen string, and then tie the drumsticks together.

Place in a high-rimmed oven pan, and bake for 30 minutes, basting often with resulting juices.

Raise the heat and broil for another 10 minutes. To check final cooking, poke drumstick with a fork: juices should run clear.

This particular recipe's simplicity is directly proportionate to its mouthwatering goodness. It'd be a crime discarding the precious skin.

Buon appetito.

May 8, 2011

Ricotta and cacao recipe

After snuggly morning wishes, a sloppy kiss and a wonderful drawing of the two of us, my son informed me that, "Mother's Day is also Childrens' Day."

I wouldn't be a mother if it weren't for him, so the kid did have a point.

I'm assuming the battery operated dump truck he's been coveting for the past week had something to do with his statement.

With the lovely Mother's Day celebrations behind us, I'm making a treat for my dad. He's not been feeling well lately, and there's always a sense of helplessness that comes with living on the other side of the world from him.

So tonight I'm making him virtual dessert. He never says no to the meal's sweet endings, and ricotta and cacao is one of his favorites.
ricotta and cacao recipe
Image ©

This dessert is refreshing and chocolaty, not too fattening, and essentially one that can be easily made at home, in a moment.

250 g (1 cup) fresh sheep's ricotta
5 tbsp. Dutch cocoa powder
2 tbsp. sugar
A pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

fresh sheep's ricotta

Work the cocoa powder and sugar into the ricotta with a fork to obtain an even blend. The provided quantities depend greatly on individual taste, so go ahead and tweak as you wish.

Fill dessert goblets, champagne flutes or Martini glasses with the flavored cheese, dust the surface with more cocoa powder or chocolate sprinkles, add a dash of cinnamon, or garnish with finger biscuits, if you like.

If at all possible, use genuine, fresh sheep's ricotta. It's not always easy to find, but the natural flavor, aroma and softness of this product, paired with the bitter cocoa, is una meraviglia.

Get well soon, daddy.

May 3, 2011

Cacio e pepe recipe

To hell with the diet. I made cacio e pepe tonight.

This typical Roman pasta dish is a simple cheese, black pepper and starch combination, and a hallmark of the Testaccio district, the early 1900s housing project that developed around the now defunct abattoir, in the southern part of the city.

Pasta cacio e pepe is enjoying a moment of popularity, everyone's crazy about the old cucina povera quick fix. Restaurants in Italy and overseas are sometimes charging eyebrow-raising sums for a plateful. But on a par with aio e oio, cacio e pepe has always been a reliable and expeditious solution in case of sloth, self-invited last minute guests, or for post fornication midnight munchies.
Image © senzapanna

One of the best types of pasta to use for cacio e pepe is fresh tonarelli all'uovo, a thick and squared-section noodle made with eggs, flour and love.

That said, 400 g (14 oz) of the largest size durum wheat spaghetti you can find will do just fine
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Lots of coarsely ground black pepper
E basta. (no olive oil, no butter, no cream)

Cook the pasta until al dente in 1 gallon of lightly salted water. Remember, fresh pasta cooks much quicker than the dried kind.

In the meantime grate Pecorino cheese and grind the pepper.

Loosely drain the pasta, saving more starchy cooking water.

Toss the cooked pasta into a large warmed bowl, adding handfuls of cheese and freshly ground black pepper, and adding more of the saved cooking water to blend. Using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until creaminess ensues.

Don't skimp on the pepper, lash away––the condiment should be quite spicy.

Uncork the red wine and quietly devour at tongue-burning temperature.

(Diet can resume tomorrow)