Mar 27, 2017

Places in Rome for fine food and free wifi

Working in Rome as an entrepreneur without an office space requires two things: finding balance and discipline at home, and a handful of reliable spots with good wifi around town. 

I avoid frequent coffee breaks and fridge sweeps while pounding the keys of my computer in a corner of my living room, but it tests my self control and demands a well regimented routine. Finding a comfortable place to plug in my laptop to work in a relatively peaceful public environment presents an equally big challenge.


Your best options are places that offer a free password-protected connection that doesn’t require a registration with an email account or a local cell number. If on top of that you're looking for well-brewed caffeinated beverages, fine food and courteous staff, the selection narrows even further.

Continue Reading ➔ public spaces in Rome with reliable wifi, where it's possible to work while sipping espresso or munching on tasty food.

Mar 23, 2017

48 hours in Santo Stefano di Sessanio


The region of Abruzzo is one of Italy's best kept secrets. The Medieval hilltop village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, in the L'Aquila province, sits on the edge of the Campo Imperatore plain in the Apennine Mountains, within the breathtakingly beautiful Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park.

 

Santo Stefano di Sessanio has ancient origins (paleolithic!) and a Medieval imprint, but it flourished under the Medicis in the late 1500s with agriculture contributing to the area’s economy mostly thanks to transhumance. This is the ages-old moving of herds of sheep from the valleys to high altitude mountain pastures in summer. Unfortunately in the mid-19th century the area suffered from extreme poverty leading to mass emigration. S. Stefano di Sessanio fell into abandonment.


The conservation efforts introduced here since 2004 spearheaded by Italo-Swede philanthropist Daniele Kihlgren to preserve the area’s cultural heritage, restored dignity to the pastoral culture that once inhabited these remote rural areas. Kihlgren purchased a portion of the village and maintained the smoke-blackened walls and original buildings intact. With a team of enlightened historians, architects and anthropologists, he re-purposed native materials and reconditioned ancient arte povera furnishings for his unique project: Kihlgern urged local authorities to leave Santo Stefano in its original condition.


In 2007 Daniele Kihlgren's "embargo" on building new houses turned into a legislative ban on the use of concrete. This has led to a complete turnaround: with a permanent population in the very low hundreds, today S. Stefano di Sessanio is a delightful vacation getaway for lovers of nature, fine dining and R&R. By encouraging investment in the traditional trades and crafts of the region, the village now boasts many shops that sell locally produced handicrafts like lace, woven fabrics, beeswax candles and artisanal soap. Others sell honey and jam, cured meats, olive oil, grains and cereals, local cheese, as well as the region's famous lentils.




Continue Reading ➔ my tips for spending 48 hours in Santo Stefano di Sessanio.

Mar 20, 2017

Anti-blues comfort food


Yes, it's the first day of spring.

But the grey blanket shrouding the sky, and the scarf wrapped around my neck as I type this suggests otherwise. This weather plays tricks on my mood.

When – despite what the calendar says – I need something warm to comfort me, I can always rely on these anti-blues winter recipes.

There are dishes that perform miracles, triggering memories. We ritually feed on tried and tested recipes that work as a Linus blanket. Others simply heal. Chunky soups, velvety pureed creams, court bouillon-based fish stews, consomm├ęs...

I have my own set of comfort food classics. They warm and pacify, and help me ward off the melancholy that nightfall brings on.

I once nursed a broken heart on a strict diet of passatelli in brodo, a cheesy-eggy dough that's forced through a ricer and then simmered in chicken broth. It worked wonders.

Continue Reading ➔

Feb 20, 2017

Quick market run and carciofi {video}

The morning was blustery and I needed a macchiato before hitting the market.

Never with a shopping list in mind, rather letting the goods for sale inspire the menu, I decided to make Carciofi alla Romana.

The wonderful globe artichokes have finally hit Rome markets, and braising them with garlic, olive oil and mentuccia is my favorite way to usher carciofo season.



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Ciao!

Feb 7, 2017

Madeleine moment

Children pottering in the kitchen is not uncommon in Italy.

The vibrant core of every Italian household is the stovetop. Both 18th century peasant hearth and sleek modern design cooking areas are where Italian families gather, share, truly talk and where relationships are made. These relationships are cultivated early on, and leave deep, important memories on young children.

My earliest recollection of food-making is tied to my Nonna, my maternal grandmother Giuditta Rissone. Titta, as everyone in the family called her, was not the average nana...

Feb 1, 2017

Mini-guide for families in Rome

Where do Romans go when their kids fire fusillades of questions, throw tantrums and complain with grumbling stomachs?

To a child's unaccustomed eyes art exhibits and museums are a haze of meaningless artefacts, complex dates and intimidating terminology. Thankfully Rome also offers an offbeat, less academic choice of fun, child-enticing activities. 

It's up to us parents to alternate the more scholarly museums––like the Vatican, for example––to the simply playful and educating, child-friendly cultural experiences.

Continue Reading "City breaks with kids: Rome" as appeared on The Guardian ➔

Jan 26, 2017

11 years


This photo was taken 11 years ago today. I had come out of the delivery room only a few hours before. I love Elliot's dazed look. His congested 9-months-floating-in-liquid complexion, glazed eyeballs and stupor of having just ingested his first meal straight from my unaccustomed breast is hilarious. He soon after fell asleep and snored in that same position, mouth open. He still does that, collapsing after eating. And snoring, mouth open.

I can't believe Elliot is turning 11 years old today. That little bundle in the photo is now a grown person. With his own opinions, peculiarities and body odour.

This is the last thing I'm writing today. I'll be tking the rest of the day off to be with him. After school we may go to an art exhibit, a movie, or not. We may stay in and order sushi. Whatever he wants, we'll do.

Having a birthday one month after Christmas sucks from a gift-receiving perspective. I try to be as original as possible with my presents. Cooking class, ice-skating party, kart driving... we may even steal away for a weekend somewhere we've never been. The plan is to not have a plan until the very last minute.

Happy birthday, topino. You are my love. My joy. My reason for living.






Ti voglio bene, Mamma.

Jan 11, 2017

Testaccio Market in Rome

Buzzing with activity, chatter and delicious aromas, the market square has historically been at the center of city life.


The Greek concept of agora – a term whose literal meaning is "gathering place" or "assembly" as the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city – later evolved to a place that also served as a marketplace where merchants sold their goods on stalls and small clustered shops. The agora marketplace brought people together to supply and provide sustenance for family and to foster communication, enhancing social interaction.


One of Rome's best examples of this cultural evolution is the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio: a modern-day agora sitting on nearly two millenia of history.

Continue Reading ➔

Jan 7, 2017

Avanzi, Italy's glorious leftovers

You know me. I'm the one fixated with not throwing away food. I so firmly believe in recycling leftovers that I purposely cook in larger quantities than needed in order to have uneaten food to work with later.

After a sad few days of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple, toast)––my son and I caught the stomach bug of 2016 late––I needed something to revive my depressed taste buds.

So for dinner yesterday I "made" two sensational Southern Italian dishes with avanzi. Made is actually too bold of a term, let's say I transformed leftover spaghetti into Neapolitan frittata di maccheroni and day-old green beans into Sicilian fagiolini alla muddica.


A week ago I made enough Puttanesca for 10 (there were 7 guests, 3 of which kids) so naturally I had a bowl of it sitting in the back of the fridge. The sauce made with this summer's pommarola, brined olives and minuscule capers from Pantelleria stuck to the noodles and was still fragrant. I didn't have to think twice: frittata di maccheroni. Every Neapolitan homemaker has this recipe in their repertoire.

I loosened the spaghetti from their bowl-shape and mixed in 4 beaten eggs.
I transferred the slippery mix to a heavy-bottomed pan with just a drizzle of olive oil and gently heated for about 5 minutes, until a delicious crust started forming on the bottom. My mother's trick is beating one more egg with salt and pepper and pouring it on the surface. This helps set the frittata.
I covered the pan for another 2 minutes, checking that the bottom didn't darken too much: browned frittata is dry and disgusting.
At this point of cooking frittata you have to be resourceful for the flipping portion of the recipe.
I use a lipless lid and good balancing skills to slide the uncooked side back into the pan.
On the whole, another plus is that this dish takes about 10-12 minutes to make. So while wisely thrifty, you're also budgeting time.

Cooking with leftovers — www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com

But my recycled carbs with high-protein needed a vegetal side. I glanced at the handful of yesterday's steamed green beans sitting suffocated under a plastic wrap cover. I reached in for the bowl and let the contents warm to room temperature on the countertop while I made the seasoned breadcrumbs.

I have a small fabric pouch where all my bread corners, broken breadsticks and uneaten slices fall into. This is what's known around the house as the Pangrattato Pouch. All the hardened bits of sourdough in there become breadcrumbs. I transfer the amount needed in a sturdy airtight plastic bag and arm myself with a rolling pin. I seal the bag and bash the hunks of bread to the desired powder grain. I prefer coarse. To the ziploc I then add powdered herbs, seasoned salt and a fistful of polenta (cornmeal) for crunch.

Cooking with leftovers — www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com

I toasted the breadcrumbs with olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. A salt-saving, flavor-boosting trick is adding 2-3 oil-packed anchovies and working them into the crumbs with the tines of a fork. When the breadcrumbs clumped together to a crispy crumble, I added the green beans, tossing to coat and heat through. I didn't need to adjust seasoning, so I served immediately.

A tavola!

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