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!