Monday, January 31, 2011
We went to Istanbul over the holidays. For no reason, except that we had never been before. Which is just plain stupid, since it is so fabulous and so easy to get to from Rome. We only went for four days, which was not enough time to even scratch the surface. But that means we have a good reason to go back, and soon.
Last week I wrote a piece in the Atlantic, about a fantastic Street Food Tour we took. Here follows the list of restaurants we went to and loved. Many of these were suggested by Ansel Mullins, at Istanbul Eats. Most are also reviewed on his web site, which I highly recommend. And I had some great advice from Katie Parla too.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
I’ve known Paula Butturini ever since she and her family lived in Rome, where her husband, John Tagliabue, was the New York Times correspondent. While covering the fall of Romania’s dictator in 1989 , John was severely wounded by a sniper’s bullet in his back. Thankfully, he survived, and Paula’s beautifully written Keeping the Feast is a memoir about nourishment and restoration after a long period of tragedy. It’s about the sustaining powers of food, family and friendship.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Back to cooking with beans I got at the Salone. I still haven’t made it even half way through my stash. Today’s featured bean: Fagioli di Conio, from Liguria. I somehow remember these little beans costing more than usual. But caught up in my Salone bean-buying frenzy, I bought them anyway. They came in a cute little bag, and were being sold by two very kind ladies. I'm a sucker.
I'm very organized when it come to beans. Thinking ahead, I soaked them overnight, cooked them the following morning, and put them safely in the fridge to use later that evening. I was going to make Zemin, a Ligurian dish, that involved Swiss chard, pork and potatoes. And 500 grams of beans, of course.
Friday, January 28, 2011
I promised myself that I would wait at least a week before blogging again about pizza. But...I just had to share one more niblet of information gained during my Bonci pizza class at Tricolore last week.
I’ve told you how to make the dough. And how to top the crust. Now, two more nifty pizza tricks that Bonci pulled from up his sleeve, for you to try at home.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I am always surprised how much cabbage is actually in a head of cabbage. I guess I think it looks like a head of lettuce, and plan out portions accordingly. But cabbage (as I’m sure you’ve long since figured out) is much denser. In other words, when you buy an entire head of cabbage, there is a lot there to play around with. So whenever I make cabbage dish, I’m almost always left with a quarter that doesn't make it in.
I had made some sauteed cabbage earlier in the week, and had the expected, yet unplanned, chunk left over. Too much to throw away, not enough for making something on it’s own. Luckily I had an equally lonely fennel bulb, and two orphaned celery sticks.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
When my friend Evan Kleiman was in town in October, we walked into Pizzarium and she took one look at the color-packed counter full of pizza and declared: this guy’s an artist! She hadn’t even tasted the pizza yet. She was referring to how it all looked, arrayed beneath the glass case, a mosaic of colors: rosy coppa, crimson radicchio, pure white cacciotta, mint green spinach.
“I mean look at this,” she said, eyeing the pizza above, “This guy plays with his ingredients like a painter plays with his palette. He obviously took some of the ricotta - pure creamy white - and then grabbed the coppa - with it’s pinky tones, and painted the pizza with it.”
Monday, January 24, 2011
It’s been a challenge to absorb all I learned last week in my Pizza class with Gabriele Bonci. You know that the previous week I took his bread class, and wrote about it here. (These classes were held at the incredibly cool new space Tricolore, which opened in November. It’s a bakery, cooking school and they make the the most deliciously decadent sandwiches in town.)
Even though I loved every minute of my bread class, it was actually the pizza class I was really excited about. I guess this is for personal reasons. I’ve never been a big bread maker. I go through phases, which have included both my bread machine and my two wood-burning ovens out in Todi. But they are phases. I am not one of those people who have a sour dough starter in the fridge, and make different kinds of bread each week. So, while I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s bread class, and learned much, it just isn’t my passion.
Pizza, on the other hand, is something I can and do get very excited about. I make it all the time at our house in Todi, and eat it more often than I should here in Rome (including, naturally, Bonci’s own at Pizzarium) . So the chance to get tips from Mr. Pizza himself was thrilling.
I plan on writing up a few posts to share all this pizza wisdom. Today’s is all about the dough.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
I’ve been ignoring my tequila recently. I feel so bad, since the two bottles of Patron that my friend Evan brought me in October have just been sitting there, looking pretty, gathering dust. The reason: I’ve been focussing on Italian ingredients lately, mustering up different cocktails that speak Italian. And tequila is just a whole different set of spanish-speaking taste profiles.
While I’ve gotten pretty good at devising my own spins involving Campari, Martini & Rosso and Rosso Antico I’ve never played around much with Tequila. Don’t get me wrong, I make a pretty mean margarita - straight up with limes from the terrace. But somehow this cold and blustery winter night didn’t seem to ask for a beachy margarita.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I’ve been talking about Tricolore a lot lately. This is the place that opened up in Monti in December and has drawn lots of attention, especially mine. I’m including it in an upcoming piece in Food & Wine, and of course it will feature prominently in my soon-to-be-released App. I took a bread-making class there last week, and am attending a pizza-making class this week, both with Gabriele Bonci of Pizzarium.
But there’s one thing about Tricolore I haven’t divulged. My guilty secret. My favorite thing to do these days? Go to Tricolore, get a sandwich (Or two. Or four) and bring it home. I eat it in the comfort of my own kitchen while watching The Daily Show on my computer. My ‘moment of zen’ as Jon would say.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
We spent four days in Istanbul over the holidays. While we did and saw as much as we could pack in to such little time, the highlight of our trip may have been the Street Food tour we took. Organized by Istanbul Eats, it was jam-packed with delicious food, beautiful settings and interesting people.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
A lot of you have come to know me thanks to this blog, where I write mostly about food. But quite a bit of my professional career has been spent writing about design and style. I’ve actually written six books about design and architecture. And write for all those magazines that focus on pretty things and pretty places. So, saying that the way things looks matters to me is putting it lightly.
So it’s no surprise that every so often, when I’m cooking, the color or the shape of an ingredient will affect the way I treat it, as much as the taste. This happened with a recent head of red cabbage I bought at the farmer’s market.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I’ve been working like a maniac lately. Trying to get the App finished, a couple of articles, 2 book proposals and a project for my publishing company, One Book Press. So, as you can imagine, grocery shopping hasn’t been at the top of my list of things to do.
So, Sunday lunch rolled around and it was time to go the pantry and - as my mother would say - see ‘what’s what’. Luckily there’s still quite a bit of ‘what’s wha’t left over from the Salone.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I’m a sucker for great packaging. Slap a nicely designed label on something, and there’s a good chance I’ll look at it, and maybe buy it.
This past Sunday Domenico and I went over to Cafe Settembrini for a late morning cappucino. I hadn’t been there for a few months, and so was curious to see how the newly opened cafe, opened by the owners of the restaurant Settembrini, was doing. One of the biggest changes is that it’s looking more ‘lived in.’ There is more ‘stuff’ that gives it a very cozy, lived in feeling. And by ‘stuff’, of course I mean stuff to buy. Jars of jams, bottles of sauces, chocolates, nuts.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Last week I had the incredible opportunity to take a bread-making class with Gabriele Bonci. For those of you who don’t know him, Bonci is THE pizza guy in Rome these days. His small shop, Pizzarium, has become a mecca for anyone who knows anything about food. I’ve written about it here. And so has everyone else and his brother. It’s not a secret anymore, if it ever was.
Why so great? The toppings do have a lot to do with it. But the crust is the point. Bonci is a dough magician. He uses only Mulino Marino flours (from a mill in Piedmonte) and studied for 8 years with bread guru Franco Palermo. If all this doesn’t mean much to you, suffice it to say that at the moment, when it comes to bread and pizza in Rome, Bonci’s the guy.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Eating dinner all together as a family is a given in our house. It’s not something we make a point of doing, it’s just the way it is. I look forward to cooking the meal, and we all enjoy eating it together. Maybe it’s because we’re living in Italy? I keep reading articles (as I’m sure you all have too) about how the family meal in the States is disappearing as kids get over scheduled and parents work too much. Well, here in Italy - at least at Casa Minchilli - dinner time happens every evening.
Except when it doesn’t. Every so often one of us has something to do that throws the schedule out of whack. This week I’ve signed up for a cooking class at Tricolore, a new bakery/cooking school that has opened in Monti. I’m not usually one to sign up for classes but I couldn’t pass this one up. Gabriele Bonci, the pizza guru of Pizzarium, had agreed to teach his first classes. This Thursday and Friday bread, and next week pizza.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Someone suggested on my blog that should post more salads. I am always thrilled when people actually ask for something specific, because it means I have to think a bit less. One less decision to make is always a good thing in my book.
And regarding salads, I guess I should have gotten the hint While everyone says they like heavy comfort food, the posts with salads always get the most hits. You all loved the Cavolo Nero salad, and the Fennel and Orange salad seemed to go over big time too.
Amatriciana is sacred in our house. It is my daughter Sophie’s favorite food group. If she could eat Amatriciana three times a day she would. I always have a whole guanciale in the fridge. Just in case. You just never know when you are going to need to whip up an emergency batch of Amatrciana. Or Carbonara. Or Gricia.
But getting back to Amatriciana. As you can imagine we’ve mastered the fine art of making it here at Casa Minchilli. I posted the classic recipe here, which is the one I use all the time. And my friend Ari weighed in on guanciale and Gricia here.
Last Saturday we had a guest chef for lunch. Well, he’s not really a chef. He’s actually an upholsterer. Luciano Luciani, along with his brother Renzo, work down the street from us, and in recent years have recovered just about everything in our house here in Rome and in Todi, as well as most of Domenico’s clients’ jobs. They are expert upholsterers.
Monday, January 10, 2011
As part of my January-post-holiday-efforts to eat more healthily and possibly a bit lighter, I’ve decided to avoid meat for the next few weeks. I figure if you cut out a few things from your diet, you’re bound to do better, right? Plus, remember all those beans and lentils I bought back in October at the Salone? Well, time to dig them out of the pantry.
So, this morning I set the beans to soak and had all day long to think about what to do with them. The no-brainer route is, of course, soup. But the beans I grabbed were Fagiola a Formella. I vaguely remember buying them just because they were so pretty. They are a beautiful creamy white color and a flat shape I’d never seen before. I wanted to find a recipe where they would keep their color and form, not losing themselves in a beany, soupy mash-up.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
I was just chatting with my friend Jane, telling her how we’ve been going out to dinner too much. Eating too much. Drinking way too much. So I really didn’t want to have anything to drink tonight. And she said “Really?” Jane’s known me a long time.
I guess I’ll try to limit the cocktails to the weekends. Is that a good enough resolution? At least it might be one I’m more likely to follow.
Thank goodness it’s Saturday.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
We’re back from Istanbul, and two things are apparent. There is next to nothing in the house to have for dinner (and it’s a holiday here in Italy so no grocery run) and we definitely have to do some serious calorie cutting.
Skip dinner, you say? That would solve two problems. But in this family? No way. However, when I say there is next to nothing in the house, of course there is plenty. My pantry is always overflowing. There’s just not any ‘diet’ food, like vegetables. Or are there?
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I grew up in a family that mythologized bollito misto. It was one of those dishes that we constantly talked about, and planned on having whenever a festive occasion presented itself. New Year’s was always a sure bet. No wonder then that I found a man who came into our marriage with exactly one hand-written recipe: from his friend Bruno for bollito misto.
The other day I was day dreaming about bollito. But then I actually realized that what I was craving were the traditional condiments to the boiled meats. Salsa Verde and Frutta Mostarda. Salsa Verde, a heavenly mix of parsely, garlic and lemon takes some preparation. But Frutta Mostarda? I actually had a jar of that in the fridge and realized I didn’t need the bollito excuse to crack the lid.
Monday, January 3, 2011
I love pasta with purely vegetable ‘sauces.’ It’s hard even calling them ‘sauced’, since there is not much liquid to speak of. One of my favorite dishes like this is Orecchiete con Le Rape, a little ear-shaped pasta made in Puglia, and dressed with Rape, a form of flowering broccoli. We had it on the day after Christmas in Bari, and it was delicious.
It’s a seemingly simple dish that is, of course, hard to perfect.This is because the vegetables are cooked directly in the same pot as the pasta. And so the timing is what is hard to get just right. Easy to get mushy pasta, or tough vegetables, or a variation on that.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
A while back I mentioned that I was working on a big new project. To ring in 2011 I’ll tell you about it. I’m about to publish an App on what and where to eat in Rome. After all of these years of people asking for my ‘list’ of restaurants, food stores and just where to get good eats in Rome, this little baby will make it easy for you to have it in your hand. (or your iPad or computer). I’m just about finished with it, so stay tuned.
The happy outcome of this new project is not only have I been revisiting all my old and beloved haunts, it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone to try some new and wonderful places I’ve been meaning to get to for so long. So the first post of 2011 is about one of my new discoveries: Flavio al Velavevodetto.