Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Breakfast- the most important meal of the day. At least in the States it is, which is far from what I can say about how colazione is eaten here in Italy. You'll never get that nastolgic morning wiff of fresh morning eggs, sizzling cinnamon waffle batter on the griddle or golden hashbrowns being browned with onion in a skillet while walking down the cobble roads of Italy, but are rather pleasantly welcomed by fresh espresso and warm pastries and brioches fresh out of the oven (which I honestly can't complain about). I struggle with the two polar opposites since both have their advantages (both being delicious) and facing the fact that I really can't have both at once. I still have to come across a better espresso than an Italian one and I still have to come across a better plate of hash browns than those of a real American diner. What I do wish that Italians ate that we American's seem to consume more of is oatmeal.... *sigh* glorious oatmeal. It's such an important health staple that the thought of someone going a whole lifetime without a delicious spoonful of the stuff, well, makes me a bit sad. Personally speaking, and due respect to the notorious super healthy Italian diet, their breakfasts' lack imensly in the health department. It pains me to see most people start their morning on nothing less than a belly "full" of a single shot espresso and a packet of white sugar, which of course will pleastly last them until 1:30 PM pranzo. Skipping breakfast is like the biggest no-no when it comes to living and eating a health diet, but knowing Italians, there is NOTHING that will get in between their caffe' and pasta breakfast. So I guess that will just leave me, the American girl, always companion-less with my bowl of morning oats as I smell the aromas of fresh caffe' and warm brioches fresh out of the forno.
Monday, April 5, 2010
It's one thing to grow up in a household that celebrates Easter, but to live in a country where it's a national holiday is another thing. Like Christmas, Easter, or Pasqua, in Italy is another day to prepare a HUGE feast, be with family and friends and eat like it's nobody's business. Because Marcello (my honey) and I weren't able to make it down to Naples and spend Easter with his family, we were invited by one the mother of one of our fellow southern Italian friends' over to help them gorge on their Easter meal. Never wanting to go empty handed, Marcello and I decided to make the traditional Napolitan Pastiera, which is the traditional cake eaten in Naples for Easter. Pastry making honestly is a whole different ball game when it comes to Napolitan or even Southern Italian sweets and pastries. We spent literally entire yesterday making this thing from start to finish, between making the pasta frolla, the three different components of the filling, and the two hour cooking time. I feel as if it's all about technique when it comes to their pastry making. Sure, one can go to the store, find the ingredients and follow a recipe, but it really boils down to how everything is made; it's what the hands are doing that is making the amazing glory of all things delicious. Seriously that's how I would describe any pastry from the southern region. It's all about perfecting la pasta, or crust, and it's always going to have the right balance, never being too sweet or too rich (which can be a bad thing because, how do you know when to stop?). You'll never find a 5 layered chocolate cake, a mammoth sized peanut butter cup, or a decadent New York Style Cheesecake (yet, guilt as charged, these are the desserts that I miss and end up going to town on when I'm home visiting), instead it will be a creamy gelato, a ricotta filled cannoli, baked or poached fruit in balsamic reduction or a slice of one of these marvelous cakes. So what does one typically have at an Easter (primarily Southern Italian) meal?
Antipasto: various sliced meats (salami, prosciutto, sopressata), fresh mozzarella, in-house sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, olives, country bread, and frittata.
Primo: Lasagna alla Napolitana--(homemade pasta with meat) What sounds as a heavy dish, if made well, is rather light or leggero, NEVER prohibiting one from continuing onto the next corse. The objective is to taste the wonderful homemade fresh pasta with a few bites now and then of cheese and meat as an accompaniment, rather than a gut-bomb over load of meat and oil.
Secondo: Ribs and baby Veal of 10 months. Unfortunately I had to stop at the Lasgna because I'm not a big meat eater, but I can even say that these babies looked divine. The aroma of the meat juices with the tomato sauce just made me want to take a piece of bread and soak up some of the juices..... and maybe I did :)
Terzo: La Rostiera. Pork roast (white and dark meat) roasted all day to perfection. That's all there is to say.
I Contorni: Sides of vegetables and salad were abundant and perfect.
Dolci: Started with fresh gigantic strawberries with a touch of sugar and lemon juice with a center of panna (whipped cream) if people desired. And of course TWO versions of the Pasteria Napoletana (she made one too).
Of course wine was served as well as Grappa before dessert and cafe' at the end to help with the rest of the days digestion.
This sounds and looks ridiculous in terms of quantity, and one might wonder why do American's eat only one huge plate, yet cultures like the Italians can eat all of these various plates and stay slim and healthy? The biggest key is correct proportions. Yes there were two courses of meat, but everyone had a few smaller pieces of each type. Each courses objective was to not fill one's plate to the max, rather it was to take a taste and save room for the next course. Don't get me wrong, we all felt stuffed and couldn't fit another morsel into our stomachs, but it was Easter and I'm definitely one who on the right occasion will enjoy their plate(s) of deliciousness to the fullest.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
I have a new obsession..... ceramic watches. Lately I've been making my leisure daily strolls purposely passing the little Italian jewelry shops in order to gaze at the lovely tickers that hopefully will make my wrist nice and pretty one day. It's not even that I need a watch, I already have a BEAUTIFUL one that my honey gave my for my graduate, I just think that watches are like shoes, you can work them into any outfit (it's funny that I'm even blogging about these because as of two years ago I never even owned one). I really like both black and white, but my favorite are the mauve tones, which I've searched EVERYWHERE for online but couldn't find anywhere, only this Chanel pink one....which I guess I could settle for..... um, yes please!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Some may not agree with me on this (like my brother for example), but I LOVE fruit in salads!!! I'm such a lover of the sweet/salty combo that any excuse to pair a nice peppery green like arugula, topped with a sweet pear, a few juicy plums and a chopped pistachios makes my mouth start to water. I think salad inventing is so much fun and can be a great way to get extremely creative. The best is during the summer months with the lovely fresh farmers' markets where everything just looks perfect in every shape and form, all of which has to be put into the same bowl for consumption in that very moment. I hate seeing people eat the same drab salad at restaurant: standard veggies (either iceberg or limp romaine with pale tomatoes, dried out cauliflower and broccoli and shriveled cucumbers) accompanied with a raunchy cream dressing. Rather go for the bold and jazz things up a bit with a non-orthodox (I had to, it's Passover) salad and make a wonderful night of it. I know I seem over the top with all this, but you know what it's like to have just indulged the perfect bugger or sandwich consisting of all things delicious? Imagine that same satisfaction but between veggies, fruits and all wonderful condiments imaginable. Sounds like heaven to me.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Since living in Italy and adapting to their 24/7 obsession with always looking fabulously dressed in the hottest new fashion trends, there are definitely a few that I just can't seem to wrap my brain around. For example, sagging.... NEVER cute! To me that means ass crack and no one like to see that, even hot Italian women don't have pretty cracks. But there are these GOD-awful pants, which have been around for a while now that I just can't get over. With summer approaching they are EVERYWHERE, back on the racks in all different colors and textures awaiting the mad rush of antsy fashion-crazed Italian women. They're supposed to ride low on the waste, lay baggy in the hips, sag low in the croch and tapper off at the ankle . . . how lovely, no? The first time I laid eyes on these pants I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or just vomit as I thought that the woman wearing them thought she may have "scored" them at some fun unique vintage shop somewhere as a definite "find" from the '80's. But then I began noticing that they weren't an "unique find" but rather a haunting trend that ever-other woman and mannequin were wearing. The other day while shopping I decided to just try them on and stop talking about how awful they were to see if I could indeed give them a chance. Well, after one look that was a definite NO, rather F NO! The only way however that these pants could look remotely cute (at least from what I've seen) is paired with a simple tight-fit shirt and a nice pair of heels, otherwise (and regardless it still does) it will look like you took a big crap in your pants. And believe you me, no one likes poopy pants.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Nothing is more lovely than a beautiful flowers. There is a particular flower man at the market that has one of the most beautiful stands that I've ever seen. Unfortunately due to the ever-so low number of my bank account, purchasing these wonderful flowers are a bit out of the question, so rather I sit there and gaze for a while, trying to lock them tight into my memory. Beautiful flowers for me being out of reach is truly the biggest tease in the world. Growing up with a mother who made it a lively routine to pick and arrange flowers spreading them around the house, from the small kitchen table, to the bathroom sills, bedrooms and living room, while displaying her unique vase collection, engraved in me the happiness that flowers bring. From the simplest arrangements to the grand bouquets, all guests, visiting family, hell, even my father would comment on how joyful and pleasant the flowers were. So each friday as I pass the lovely flower booth I sit there creating new arrangements for my future nest, always with the hope in living up to my mother's vibrant imagination.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I can't believe it! Today, while flipping through my calendar to figure out what I was going to do for St. Patty's day here in Italy, far away from all things Irish, it was brought to my attention that it was YESTERDAY!!!! I wash shocked! How could I have missed it?!? For some reason as someone who never truly celebrated the green day, was somewhat disappointed. It's one of those days that all get together, no matter if your Irish or not and just have a good time. Like watching the river be dyed green in downtown Chicago while dodging people left and right on the way home or eating the crappy green festive cookies and desserts from Costco while throwing it all down with a nice Guinness. Yum, I think my mouth is starting to water.... Anyways, next year- promise to self....NEVER forget St. Patty's day. Regardless how much I truly care about the holiday, it's rather about spending quality time with my friends, in this case, my fellow non-Irish Italian friends.