I suppose that something like that happened almost once to everyone: you wake up in the morning, look back and ask yourself how it’s possible that your life has changed so much in so little time. If you are a new mother like I am, this probably happens almost once a week! In few days my little daughter will be 16 months old and I’m really astonished: she changes everyday and everyday is a new challenge. Then of course there’s the “mother trick”: if you are back to your job you miss the baby so much but, if you are still at home you miss your job so much! You know, when we decided to have a baby, I knew that my life would have been different but I was a little bit scared: what, I thought, if motherhood will change not only my life but also myself? After 16 months I’m happy to quote my best friend that, speaking with my brother, told: “Cristina? Noooo, she’s not a mother… she’s just Cristina with a child!” So, after all, I’m the same old witch I used to be…. still in love with shoes and bags (stroller walk with heels should be an Olympic sport), still interested in politics and literature and art, and food of course! And if you’re asking yourself why so much time passed since my last post now you have probably guessed that the little adorable monster took all my time in the last weeks… haven’t I deserve a spectacular comfort food like this focaccia? Trust me: this is the perfect end for a hard day! Buon appetito!
When I started this blog, I did it thinking that in every kitchen you can find pots, pans, ingredients of various types but over all stories, emotions and memories. So it may happen that you come across an old picture, yellowed by time and memories, and meet a nice person like Elisabetta that tells you a story of pasta and dreams, of Italian flavors in American sauce and of difficult times and solidarity. It was 1920 when Elisabetta’s grandfather left Italy, a country which was just emerging from World War I and, with his brother Santi, after a long travel by sea arrived in the promise land. After years of war and weeks in the ocean, New York must have seemed closer to hell than to heaven but Giovanni and Santi, like many others, managed to find their way. From the work and the determination of these 2 brothers was born the Milianelli Macaroni Factory, a laboratory – shop where they produced tortellini, macaroni and tagliatelle. The Italian community was very close and the Milianellis brothers hired only Italians, a great help for those that, coming from far away in a country with different cultures, different traditions and over all a different language, felt lonely and lost. Read more
Sometimes it happens that you are in a city almost accidentally and, after 10 minutes, you are completely in love. That is exactly what happened to me the first time I visited Strasbourg. Today the city is famous because is home to the European Parliament (and certainly a visit to this part of the town is interesting), but the true heart of the city is the Petit France: a medieval area (Unesco World Heritage) that has its soul in the Gothic cathedral which seems to rise up to the sky. It’s wonderful walk in these streets, breathe this so romantic atmosphere and spend time in the many shops full of culinary delights and local crafts. Then, walking near the cathedral, your eye catch something different, not a medieval building but a palace, something that recall Paris: it’s the Rohan Palace and here, with a following of 57 carriages and many cheers from the crowd, a future queen entered her new kingdom. Read more
What if I ask you how you imagine a typical Italian Christmas? I bet that you will think at a room full of people, different generations sitting around a table full of every sort of food, bottles of good wine, children that run around and women in the kitchen. And over all, an heavenly smell of food and the noise of a happy chatter. If this is what your mind suggested to you, you won! That is a reality in the biggest part of the Italian families and was also the way I used to spend all the Christmas that I’m able to remember. My heart is full of memories of a young version of my mother in the kitchen (days before Christmas!) with my aunts, a table that seemed always too short for all that people, such an incredible amount of food that even after years I don’t know how we survived… and then the hours spent playing bingo and all the plays we did only at Christmas. But this Christmas we had a completely different day. We didn’t come back in Italy and spent the holidays in Switzerland so, for the very first time, around the table there were only 3 people: my husband, our one year old daughter and me! Even if it has been a very different Christmas, I can tell you that it was really special. I didn’t spent days in the kitchen cooking mountains of food, instead I decided to choose few particular dishes and make a menu to remember. This risotto with scallops is of course part of that menu, we really enjoyed it, hope you will too! Buon appetito! Read more
When I think about fairy tales sometimes occurs to me that Italy was probably a perfect setting and a truly source of inspiration. There was a time when the country was divided in kingdoms an duchies. Dynasties as de’ Medici, Gonzaga and Visconti spread their power over territories and people. They used their money to build palaces and finance works of art that would make their power visible and would make them immortal, that’s the reason why in every corner of Italy you can find beautiful things. Apart Rome, Florence and Venice there are hundreds of small towns enriched by architectural gems. One of this is Ferrara, a small city in the middle of Italy, surrounded by a fertile countryside and by rolling hills. The splendour of the Estense court during the Renaissance has left an indelible mark of beauty and harmony and since 1995 the city is Unesco World Heritage. I really think that only in fairy tales and in Italy you can find a place called PALAZZO DEI DIAMANTI (literally “diamonds palace”). This poetic name derives from 8000 pink and white marble ashlar in the form of diamonds that cover the 2 main facades. This building is of course just one of the magnificent things you can visit in Ferrara and its surroundings: you can chose between castles, churches, abbeys and towers… and the better part is that you can visit all this enjoing some of the best food Italy has to offer! As I wrote near Ferrara there’s a fertile countryside and it’s exactly from there that comes the pumpkin I used to cook this cream. I know, like in a true fairy tale I should have probably tried to transform it in a carriage…but it was dinner time and even princesses have to eat something every now and then!
Palazzo dei Diamanti – Ferrara (Italy)
- 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 small leak, finely chopped
- few springs of thyme and marjoram
- 400 g (14 oz) of white potatoes
- 500 g (17.6 oz) of pumpkin cleaned and cut in small cubes
- 1/4 of a glass of cognac (or brandy)
- 1 liter ( 1 cup) of vegetable broth
- salt & pepper
Cook the potatoes in boiling water then peel and cut them into small pieces. Put the extra virgin olive oil in a pan, add a clove of garlic and thyme and marjoram Fry lightly then remove both the herbs and the garlic. In the pan with only the spicy oil add the leak. Fry for 2 minutes, add the pumpkin and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Deglaze with cognac and when it’s evaporated add the potatoes. Cover with 1 cup of vegetable broth. When it starts to boil, reduce heat to minimum, cover with a lid and let it cook for about 20 minutes. You know that is ready when the vegetables are so soft that melt in contact with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and blend with a hand blender. Buon appetito!!
I suppose that something like the story I’m about to tell happened to you too, no matter if you have or not a food blog. You wake up and decide that you want to cook something so you go out, do your shopping and wait for the right moment to cook. This week I really wanted to cook an apples and nuts cake so, the day after the food shopping, I started to cook. I did everything in the right way and when the dough was ready I just reached the fruit bowl to take 2 apples…. but… WHERE ARE THE APPLES??!! Guess what.. your husband has eaten all your wonderful apples…. For a moment you can feel just panic “OMG what I will do with this dough now?!” then, luckily, I realized that I had also cranberries in my fridge. I bought them without know how to use them but I never found them in Italy so, seeing them at the market, I didn’t resist the temptation and I bought them just to try something new. So, here you can find the recipe of a cranberries cake that wanted to be an apples cake. It’s really good, especially if you love contrast (cranberries are acids while the dough is sweet). The reality is that if you have a very good basic dough (and this is incredibly good, not because I’m a kitchen genius but simply because the original recipe is by Maurizio “Black” Santin, one of the most famous Italian pastry chef) you can put nearly everything inside it and get always something incredibly good! Enjoy! Read more
Breaking news: Halloween is coming! It’s really strange for me think at this event especially because it wasn’t common at all when I was young in Italy. In this very same period in Italy we celebrate the Saint (1 November) and the death (2 November), but it’s a really serious celebration, strictly connect with Catholicism and faith. So, even if I never did “trick or treat”, it’s nice think that, now that thanks to marketing Halloween is common also here, my daughter will have something fun to do. Unfortunately I’m not ready to create a skull cake or something frightening (I have to study so I will be ready next year!). I decided instead to follow the spirit of this blog and cook a French recipe while tell you the story of a French cemetery.
Cemeteries are an important key to understand civilizations. Since Mayan and Egyptian pyramid, to the Etruscan catacomb till today they talk about our fears and our believes. When I was in Washington I spent few hours visiting Arlington: it was a touching moment and I really believe that this place tells about American patriotism more than every political speech. I visited a cemetery also when I went to Paris: I’m talking about the world famous Pere Lachaise. Read more