Jul 25, 2011

My 7 Links: looking back

We'll be taking a stroll down blog-memory lane today. And I have to thank Kathy from Food Lover's Odyssey for that. Kathy––a very busy and generous food & travel blogger in the Italy-loving foodie community––nominated me to join Tripbase's My 7 Links project.

The project aims "to unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again." Each nominated blogger chooses 7 posts from their archives that fit into 7 specified categories. The best of.

It was interesting to look back over my posts written in the last 54 months. I gave myself a nice pat on the back for the huge personal achievement and the monumental changes blogging has brought in my life.

Below are my 7 links, not necessarily all food-driven. I hope you enjoy them.

1. Most Beautiful: Agnolotti

I love the photgraphy in the step-by-step preparation of a family classic. And especially the hands of my mother.

2. Most Popular: La Pasta!

This comprehensive list of Italy's many different pasta variations, sizes, colors, textures and shapes got 10,730 pageviews since it was pubished in Sept. 2010. That's a lot of pasta.

3. Most Controversial: Tiny Heroes

This was perhaps more disturbing than controversial. Foreigners are often uncomfortable hearing about Italy's tragedies, catching glimpses of the darker and not-so-dolce-vita... But I had to honor the memory of those tiny heroes.

4. Most Helpful: Italian Fish and Seafood Names, Translated

This popular index of common Italian marine species––with Latin binomial and English translations––proved very helpful in understanding a little more about local fish varieties, and what might work as a substitute, should the Mediterranean catch I mention not be available where you live.

5. Surprisingly Successful: Salumi per Tutti

It should actually come as no surprise that a catalog of Italy's famed cured pork meats and cold cuts––complete with droolworthy food porn photography––should make this category.

6. One That Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved: Among the Duties of a Parent

The title of this post is obviously not catchy enough, especially for an Italian food and lifestyle blog. But I loved sharing this little story about the impact of art on my small child.

7. One I'm Most Proud Of: E's flowers

Many of my posts are personal accounts in to which I sneak a recipe. But I also sometimes write posts in which I bare myself, my family and my experiences, opening up to places where I share secrets and innermost feelings and emotions. This is one of them.

Thank you Kathy for nominating me and letting me share my links. Now it's time for me to pass this on.
My nominees for the 7 Links Project are the fabulous women behind:

Travels With Persephone
Two Kids and a Dog
Verona Daily Photo
Ms. Adventures in Italy

What are some of your favorite posts published here on Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino?

Jul 24, 2011

Interviewing Rome's top chefs

I've recently teamed up with a young Italian project called Cibando that provides content for restaurants and foodies via iPhone App, blog, mobile site and social networks.

One of the interesting things I do for this company is I get to hang out with celebrity chefs in their kitchens, ask them all sorts of questions, shop with them, discuss their opinions, learn their tricks, and taste their cuisine.

Here are a few excerpts from a video interview I did with Giulio Terrinoni, Executive Chef of Acquolina Hostaria. The northern Rome all-fish restaurant that serves some of the city's best seafood was recently awarded a Michelin star, and Chef Terrinoni is a proud member of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe association.

Image + videos © Andrea di Lorenzo

Check out my YouTube channel to view the interviews.

Jul 15, 2011

Budino di Riso recipe

rice pudding Tuscan style - recipe

Rice pudding––as we know it in Toscana––is one of those quintessential family type desserts – you feed it to kids for afternoon snack, or to perk them up when they're sick. They're sold in both pastry shops and bakeries, and are available all year round. The name "budino" actually means pudding, but there's no resemblance to the classic rice pudding. These are small baked rice pastries, the closest we Italians get to cupcakes!

Whenever I bite into one, the texture and flavor swing me back to my childhood. "Budino di riso" recalls Sunday morning passeggiatas in the Villa Borghese with my friends Margherita and Isabella, picking pine nuts and chasing butterflies, chaperoned by their nonna, the late Suso Cecchi d'Amico––world known screenwriter for Fellini and other cinema icons––accompanied by her gluttonous golden retriever Porto (who never missed a fountain for a dive).

Suso was a tireless nanny, great story-teller and awesome goal-keeper when it came to impromptu games of field soccer. During our playtime, we'd always stop at the Casina dell'Orologio cafe for a treat, and our order was always the same: a portion of budino di riso.

This recipe yields about 10-12 pastries, according to shape.

For the filling:
150 g (3/4 cup) of rice (I use the kind that will give off starch, like Vialone Nano)
400 g (2 cups) whole milk
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar + some confectioner's sugar for dusting
50 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter + more for greasing the molds
A pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
A shot glass of rum, or cognac
A dash of cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, slit open and scraped (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
The zest of 1 orange and of 1/2 lemon

For the pastry crust:
200 g (1 cup) "00" flour + more for dredging
150 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled
A pinch of salt
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven at 180°C (350°F).

Use whatever muffin pans or ramekins you have at home, but ideally you'd need oval molds to make these typical Tuscan rice puddings.

Prepare the pastry first.

Quickly work the ingredients for the shortcrust with your fingertips (run them under cold water first) away from the oven or hot stove: remember, shortcrust pastry dough is tricky.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and a pinch of salt, and using two knives, cut the butter into the flour. Roll up your sleeves, remove any rings and bracelets, and get in there pinching and breaking up the butter chunks further with your fingertips until the texture resembles coarse oatmeal, and the butter pieces are no larger than peas.

Drop in the yolk, and knead just until the dough pulls together. You want to obtain a silky texture, so don't be tempted to add flour.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Then roll the dough down to 4 mm (1/8 inch).

Butter and dredge your muffin pans or molds with flour, line each with some pastry dough, and return to the fridge.

Bring 2/3 of the milk to a simmer and add the rice. Cook stirring until it's half done, then fold in the sugar, a pinch of salt, and the butter. Continue to cook, stirring and adding milk as the rice absorbs it, until the rice grains are quite soft.

Remove the mixture from the stove, let it cool until it is hot but not boiling, and stir in the eggs, liquor, cinnamon, vanilla and zest, mixing well.

Pour the mixture, divvying it among the prepared dough-lined molds, and bake for 15 minutes or until a light brown crust forms. Cover with foil and finish baking for another 10-15 minutes.

Remove the pastries from the oven, gently dislodge from the molds and let them cool on a rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve at room temperature, with a nice cuppa.
rice pudding Tuscan style - recipe
Images © NatadiMarzo


Jul 11, 2011

Rome summer survival guide

Hotter than July is no urban legend in Rome. Summer deals end, sales kick in, and restaurants and gourmet shops trim supplies in preparation for the inevitable August vacation exodus. Throughout Europe, August is the month in which shop owners, businessmen, and restaurateurs take a time out. Many movie theaters are also closed.

Though the traditional Rome exodus has slowed a bit in recent decades — some businesses now opt to stay open — travelers must be mindful of the ripple-effect shutdown. Summer in Rome is a quirky place. Be prepared... 

Jul 9, 2011

Visiting Italy as a Vegetarian

"Sono vegetariana," and no one bats an eye. That's because in Italy, skipping meat is no big deal.

The average everyday Italian diet is very vegetarian-friendly, and the reason for this is in the history books... (continue reading this article on Travel Belles →)

Jul 6, 2011

Pesche al vino recipe


Peaches and wine make a fine pair. A sliced white peach soaking in chilled Chardonnay is almost as sweet as a lover' first kiss. Bold red wine, yellow flesh peaches and orange wedges bobbing in a bowl of soda and a shot of cognac Sangria are a terrific drink. Peach nectar and Champagne make bubbly Bellini. The duo is dynamic and downright divine. Applying these same pairing principles, you may wish for an equally inspired dessert. Feel free to vary quantities, proportions and ingredients; all you really need is your peaches and vino.

4 very ripe peaches
Robust red wine
Icing sugar
A cinnamon stick
Lemon rind

Remove the peach pits, and peel the fruits. (To make peeling easier, carve a small cross-shaped incision at the tip. Then blanche and shock them in water and ice, after 10 minutes peels will slip right off).

Arrange peeled peaches in a bowl and set aside. In a saucepan over a medium heat, pour one glass of red wine, two tablespoons of powdered sugar, a stick of cinnamon, and a piece of lemon rind.

Simmer these together for 3 minutes over medium heat, and then pour the hot liquid over the peaches in the bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to stand for at least 2 hours. Remove lemon rind and cinnamon stick, and serve chilled presented in smaller serving bowls, plain or à la mode.