Category Archives: Italian Food

La Pasqua: Easter Eye Candy [a foto blog]

Prefer to read this post in English? Skip to the text in  green.

Così come guardare le vetrine non incide sui nostri budget, concedersi la bellezza di queste bellissime vetrine italiane decorate con esposizioni elaborate di dolci pasquali non ci metteranno dei centimetri alle vite… Meno male!

Just as window-shopping doesn’t put a dent in our budgets, indulging in the beauty of these beautiful Italian shop windows bedecked in elaborate displays of sweet treats for Easter won’t add inches to our waists… Thank goodness!

Per augurarvi una buona Pasqua, ecco alcune immagini scattate a Firenze di bellissime vetrine colme di dolci di ogni tipo per celebrare questa festa.

To wish you a happy Easter, here are some images captured in Florence of beautiful shop windows brimming with sweets of all kinds to celebrate this holiday.


easter shop windows italy

Coniglietti di ogni misura, in peluche e al cioccolato. / Bunnies in every size, as stuffed animals and in chocolate.

easter shop windows italy

Un’elegante vetrina rivestita in bianco sfoggia dei dolci più sofisticati tipo il torrone e la colomba. / An elegant window dressed in white shows off more sophisticated sweets such as nougat (front, L and R) and la colomba, a dove-shaped Easter cake (front center).

Un’esplosione di tutti i simboli primaverili e pasquali: agnelli, galline, anatroccoli e cestini pieni di uova colorate per tentare i giovanissimi ed anche i giovani di spirito. / An explosion of all the symbols of springtime and Easter: lambs, hens, ducklings and baskets full of colored eggs to tempt the very young and also the young at heart.

 Buona Pasqua! / Happy Easter!


Qual è il tuo dolce pasquale preferito?

What’s your favorite Easter candy or dessert?

Posted in Italian Food, Italian Holidays, Italian Vocabulary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lentils for Luck – Recipe for a Prosperous New Year | Lenticchie per fortuna – Ricetta per un prospero anno

Note: This post is in Italian interspersed with the approximate English translation.

gold coinsSecondo l’usanza italiana, se ti vuoi assicurare di un nuovo anno fortunato, a Capodanno  devi mangiare le lenticchie. Piatte e tonde, assomigliano le monete, e per il fatto che aumentano in misura durante la cottura, simboleggiano soldi e crescita finanziaria. Di solito in Italia le lenticchie si preparano in forma di una gustosa zuppa che viene mangiata nel periodo di Capodanno.

According to Italian custom, if you want to be sure to have good luck in the new year, you must eat lentils on New Year’s Eve/Day.  Flat and round, they resemble coins, and due to the fact that they expand in size during cooking, they symbolize money and financial growth.  In Italy, lentils are usually prepared in the form of a tasty soup that is eaten during the New Year period.

Ecco la mia ricetta – e` deliziosa e abbastanza facile.  Buon appetito e prospero anno !

Here’s my recipe – it’s delicious and pretty easy.  Good eating and prosperous new year!

Zuppa di lenticchie | Lentil Soup

Persone: 4  |  Preparazione: 30 minuti  |  Cottura: circa 2 ore   |  Difficolta`: medio

Serves: 4  |  Preparation: 30 minutes  |  Cooking time: about 2 hours  |  Difficulty: medium

Ingredienti | Ingredients  [Italian | English]lenticchie-2

300 gr lenticchie verdi secche | 10-11 oz dry green lentils

1-2 cucchiai olio d’oliva | 1-2 tblsp olive oil

1-2 cucchiai di burro | 1-2 tbsp butter

peperoncino q.b. /quanto basta | red chili pepper, to taste

1 cipolla tritata | 1 chopped onion

1 costola di sedano tritata | 1 stalk of celery, chopped

2 gambi di porro tritati | 2 bulbs/stems chopped leeks

1 carota tritata | 1 chopped carrot

1 bicchiere di vino bianco secco | 1 c./8oz. dry white wine

1 pomodoro piccolo tritato | 1 small chopped tomato

1 foglia di alloro | 1 bay  leaf

8-10 bicchieri/2-2 ½ litri d’acqua | 8-10 c./2-2 ½ Qt. water

Dadi di brodo vegetale q.b./quanto basta (circa un dado per litro d’acqua) | Broth cubes, as needed (approx. 1 cube per quart of water)

Sale e pepe, q.b. / salt and pepper, to taste

Qualche rametto di timo fresco | A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Facoltativo: 300 gr cotechino o altra salsiccia, | Optional:  10-11 oz. “cotechino”, a traditional Italian pork sausage, or other sausage

lenticchiePreparazione  |  Preparation

Sciacquate le lenticchie e mettetele in ammolo in acqua fredda per circa 2-3 ore.

Rinse and soak lentils in cold water for approx. 2-3 hours.

Riscaldate l’acqua con i dadi di brodo e tenetela coperta a fuoco lento finche occorre.

Heat the water with broth cubes and keep covered at a simmer until needed.

Trascorso il tempo di ammollo, potete iniziare a preparare la zuppa di lenticchie.  In una pentola grande rosolate  cipolla, porro, sedano e carote tritati nel burro e l’olio d’oliva.

Upon completion of soaking time, in a large pan sauté the chopped onion, leeks, carrot and celery in the butter and olive oil, until onion is transparent.

Aggiungete le lenticchie, ben scolate dall’acqua di ammollo,e la foglia di alloro, girandole 1-2 minuti mentre assorbono il burro, l’olio ed i gusti della verdura.

Add lentils, having drained the soaking water, and the bay leaf, stirring 1-2 minutes as they absorb the butter, oil and flavors of the vegetables.

Aggiungete e fate sfumare il vino bianco, girando il tutto a fuoco basso.

Add white wine and stir the mix while sautéing so wine absorbs into lentils as it evaporates.

Aggiungete il pomodoro e girate a fuoco lento.lenticchie-3

Add tomato and stir while sautéing.

Aggiungete sale e pepe quanto basta.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Aggiungete circa la meta` del brodo e coprire la pentola. Controllate, girate ed assaggiate di tanto in tanto, aggiundendo del brodo in piu` quando occorre ed evitando che le lenticchie si attaccano. Attenzione che le lenticchie ultimate siano al dente e non stracotte.

Add about half the broth and cover the pan. Check, stir and taste every so often, adding more broth as needed to avoid lentils cooking to the bottom of pan.  Take care that the finished lentils are “al dente” and not overcooked (when ready, lentils should be soft but not mushy).

Aggiungete del sale quanto basta.

Add salt as needed/to taste.

In una padella a parte, fate rosolare le salsicce. Abbiate cura a non stracuocerle. Alla fine della cottura la pelle sara` diventata biancastra. Dovrebbero essere tenere e non dure.

In a separate pan, steam the sausage(s). Be careful not to overcook. When finished, the casings will have turned white. They should be tender, not tough.

Quando le salsicce saranno ultimate, toglietele dalla fiamma e togliere la pelle.

When sausages are cooked, remove from heat and remove casings.

capodanno-buon anno 2014Quando la zuppa di lenticchie sara` ultimate, toglietela dalla fiamma, togliete la foglia di alloro, aggiungete del timo fresco e mescolate.  Affettate le salsicce, mettete le fette in cima alle porzioni di zuppa ed aggiungete un rametto di timo fresco.

When lentils have finished cooking, remove from heat, remove bay leaf, add the leaves of several fresh sprigs of thyme and mix.  Slice the sausages, put slices over the top of the portions of lentil stew, add a sprig of thyme and serve.  Buon appetito!

Avete mai mangiato la zuppa di lenticchie?  Mangiate qualche cibo speciale a Capodanno?  | Have you ever eaten lentil soup?  Do you eat any special foods at New Year’s?

Posted in italian cooking, Italian Customs, Italian Food, Italian Holidays, italian recipes, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dal fruttivendolo | Fruits & Veggies all’italiana | Foto Blog

Simpatia fruttivendolo-greve greengrocer in greve in chianti italy

il fruttivendolo Simpatia a Greve in Chianti / the Simpatia (meaning ‘congeniality’) greengrocer, town of Greve, in Chianti

[NOTE:  This post is written in Italian, interspersed with the English translation.]

In Italia la frutta e la verdura si possono comprare dal supermercato insieme agli altri fabbisogni alimentari, così come negli Usa, però il luogo più comune, più tradizionale e di gran lunga il più divertente per acquistare prodotti agricoli è il fruttivendolo.

In Italy, you can buy fruit and vegetables at the supermarket along with other needed food items, just like in the States, but the most common, most traditional and by far the most fun place to purchase produce is from the fruttivendolo, or the greengrocer’s.

fruttivendolo-asparagi-venezia -asparagus at a greengrocer in  venice

Asparagi in mostra al mercatino del Rialto, Venezia / Asparagus on display at the open-air market in the Rialto, Venice

I fruttivendoli (detti anche ortolani) si trovano nelle zone residenziali insieme ad altri negozi e anche ai mercatini locali, dove gli italiani vanno regolarmente per comprare della frutta e della verdura fresche e dove molto probabilmente conoscono i nomi del proprietario e delle commesse del fruttivendolo.

Greengrocers (fruttivendoli, also called ortolani) are found in residential areas along with other shops and also at the local street/open-air markets, where Italians go regularly to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, and where they very probably know the names of the owner and shop assistants of the greengrocery.

fruttivendolo-insalata mista-greve-mixed greens at greengrocer, chianti, italy

Insalata mista e salvia dal fruttivendolo Simpatia, Greve in Chianti / Mixed salad greens and sage at the Simpatia greengrocer

Siccome stiamo entrando in piena stagione del giardinaggio e della coltivazione degli orti, e con essa l’entusiasmo per ogni forma di frutta e ortaggio che abbondano nei caldi giorni estivi, mi sembrava l’occasione perfetta per condividere alcune foto delle delizie trovate dai fruttivendoli italiani. Non solo sono belle, ma secondo me, la produzione agricola italiana è tra le più gustose che abbia assaggiato.  Godete!

Since we are entering into the high season of gardening and vegetable garden cultivation, and with it enthusiasm for every type of fruit and vegetable that abounds in the hot summer days, it  seemed like the perfect occasion to share some photos of the delights found at Italian greengrocers. Not only are they beautiful, but in my opinion, Italian produce is among the tastiest.  Enjoy!

fruttivendolo-zucchine-greve-zucchini at greengrocer in chianti

Zuccchine con i fiori ancora intatti. Sono buonissimi nel risotto! Dal fruttivendolo Simpatia, Chianti. / Zucchini with their flower blooms still intact. These are great in risotto!

fruttivendolo-peperoncini-venezia-chili peppers drying at the market in venice

Peperonicini appesi per essicare. Notate gli spicchi d’aglio. Venezia. / Chili peppers hung to dry. Note the cloves of garlic. Venice.

fruttivendolo credit policy-greve-greengrocer's humorous strore credit policy

Il proprietario del fruttivendolo Simpatia mette in mostra la sua spiritosa prassi sul credito: “Faccio credito solo ai novantenni se accompagnati dai genitori.” / The owner of Simpatia greengrocer displays his humorous store credit policy: “I offer credit only to those in their 90s, if accompanied by parents.”

Have any interesting Italian fruttivendolo anecdotes? Are you keeping un orto (a vegetable garden) this summer? Are your favorite verdure (vegetables) shown in these photos? Love to read your comments!

[Grazie sentite ai miei assistenti di redazione Giovanna ed Enzo e alla mia assistente grafico Mimi!]

Posted in Italian Food, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian, Photo Foto Blog | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

La dolce Pasqua | Sweet Easter | Foto Blog

NOTE: This post is written in Italian, interspersed with the English translation (in Italics).

Anche in Italia le uova ed i conigli sono simboli della primavera e della Pasqua, insieme agli agnelli e agli anatroccoli. Le vetrine delle pasticcerie sono particolarmente deliziose in questo momento dell’anno.

In Italy, too, eggs and rabbits are symbols of Easter and spring, along with lambs and ducklings.  Confectioner’s shop windows are particularly delicious this time of year.

Ecco alcune immagini pasquali che ho ripreso nell’ultimo viaggio in Italia. (Notate come i palazzi ed i negozi di fronte alle vetrine vengono riflessi nel vetro.)

Godetevele!  Buona Pasqua e felice primavera!

Here are some Easter images I captured on my last trip to Italy.   (Note how the buildings and stores in front of the display windows are reflected in the glass.)

Enjoy them!  Good Easter, and happy spring!

easter shop windows italy I love how it looks like gli anatroccoli (the ducklings) are riding nella macchina (in the car)!

easter shop windows italyIl torrone ed i conigli bianchi. / Torrone (nougat candy, bottom l. & r.) and white rabbits.

IMG_2569 wmI cestini, gli anatroccoli, le galline, e gli agnelli in una vetrina colorata. / Baskets, ducklings, hens, and lambs in a colorful window.

easter shop windows italyUn gigante coniglio dorato. Chissà se fa le uova dorate? / A giant golden rabbit. Wonder if he lays golden eggs?

Ti piacciono le foto? Qual è la tua preferita? / Do you like the pictures? Which is your favorite?  Leave a comment below!

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Food, Italian Holidays, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian, Photo Foto Blog, Vocaboli Italiai | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Love Affair with Nutella

giant jar of nutella in florence italy

Gigante barattolo di Nutella a Firenze

Sarà vero che il burro di arachidi rappresenta per i bimbi americani ciò che la Nutella è per i ragazzi italiani — una crema gustosa (per i panini e le merende) al cui sapore ci si abitua sin dalla prima infanzia… Non credo che il burro di arachidi ispiri la stessa passione ed emozione della Nutella.

While it might be true that peanut butter is to American kids what Nutella is to Italian children — a tasty spread (for sandwiches and snacks) that you begin acquiring a taste for in early childhood… I don’t think peanut butter inspires the kind of passion and emotion that Nutella does.

Per prima cosa, il burro di arachidi non viene citato così frequentamente come la sua lontana cugina italiana Nutella. Quando faccio una ricerca in internet sul “burro di arachidi” trovo solamente la storia della chiusura di uno stabilimento per la sua produzione a causa di un avvelenamento da salmonella… triste ma poco divertente.

For starters, peanut butter doesn’t make the news the way its distant Italian cousin Nutella does… when I google “peanut butter”, all I find is the story of a peanut butter processing plant being shut down due to salmonella poisoning… sad, but not very entertaining.

FAREWELL to ATTILA the NUTELLA-LOVING REINDEER

Una ricerca sulla Nutella invece frutta delle storie che comprendono la morte, a Belluna, di una renna che amava la Nutella, un politico indagato per delle spese sospette — la piu` clamorosa delle quali: un barattolo di Nutella per 2 euro 70 centesimi. Poi c’è una mamma californiana che ha fatto causa alla Ferrero che produce la Nutella per pubblicità falsa ed ha vinto (era scioccata di scoprire che nonostante le affermazioni negli spot in tv, la crema non è la base di una colazione sana).

A search for Nutella, on the other hand, yields stories that include the passing of a Nutella-loving reindeer in Belluno, a politician under investigation for suspicious expense claims — the most clamorous of which is a €2.70 jar of Nutella. Then there’s the mom from California who sued the Ferrero company, maker of Nutella, for false advertising and won (she  was shocked to discover that despite claims made in the TV ads, the spread is not a healthy breakfast staple).

World_Nutella_Day_Final_mPoi naturalmente non esiste la Giornata del Burro di Arachidi. Il 5 febbraio 2013 invece segna la settima annuale Giornata Mondiale della Nutella, un giorno dedicato all’adorazione di…, al cucinare con…, e al gustare questa dolce delizia. Ricorrenza ideata da due americane espatriate in Italia (Sara Rosso e Michelle Fabio), le due donne hanno la parola e negli anni hanno raccolto oltre 700 ricette con la Nutella. Queste si possono vedere sul loro sito www.NutellaDay.com, ed ora hanno persino scritto un libro, “The Unofficial Guide to Nutella” (La Guida Inofficiale alla Nutella).

And of course, there is no World Peanut Butter Day. February 5th, 2013 marks the 7th annual World Nutella Day, a day dedicated to the adoration of, baking with, and eating of this sweet treat. Created by two American expats in Italy (Sara Rosso and Michelle Fabio), the two women have spread the word and over the years have amassed a collection of over 700 recipes involving Nutella.  You can peruse these on their website www.NutellaDay.com, and now, they’ve even written a book, “The Unofficial Guide to Nutella”.

Nutella-filled Red Velvet Cake Pops

Nutella-filled Red Velvet Cake Pops

Per la Giornata della Nutella del 2012, un’amica ed io abbiamo tentato di creare una ricetta originale: Nutella-filled Red Velvet Cake Pops (ovvero, le palline di torta al velluto rosso riempite di Nutella). I risultati erano da morire dal ridere (e deliziosi) e di sicuro meritevoli di Lucy ed Ethel (del vecchio programma televisivo “I Love Lucy”).

For Nutella Day 2012, a friend and I tried our hand at creating an original recipe: Nutella-filled Red Velvet Cake Pops. The result was a hilarious (and delicious) baking adventure worthy of Lucy and Ethel.

Dunque oggi, o qualsiasi giorno, anche voi potete aggregarvi al divertimento — vi serve solo un cucchiaio, un barattolo di Nutella, e magari anche un pò di pane o qualche crepe per spalmarla.

Nutella Ad_BreadSo today, or any day, you too can get in on the fun–all you need is a spoon, a jar of Nutella, and maybe even some bread or a crepe to put it on.

Your comments:

Have you heard of World Nutella Day? Are you celebrating it this year? What’s your favorite way to eat Nutella?

[Grazie sentite al mio assistente redazione Enzo Heinz D’Albis!]

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Food, Italian Holidays, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Risotto al melograno | Recipe Blog | Pomegranate Risotto

pomegranate, melograno

NOTE: This post is written in Italian, interspersed with the English translation (in Italics).

Buone feste a tutti e spero che avete passato un bel Natale. Se fossimo in Italia saremmo ancora in festa. Il 26 dicembre, giorno di Santo Stefano, il primo martire cristiano, è festa nazionale in molte parti del mondo, l’Italia compresa. Dopo arriva Capodanno e poi la stagione Natalizia termina con l’Epifania, detto anche la Befana, il 6 gennaio.

Happy holidays everyone; I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  If we were in Italy, we’d still be on holiday. The 26th of December, St. Stephen’s Day (the first Christian martyr), is a national holiday in many parts of the world, including Italy. After comes New Year’s Eve, and then the Christmas season finishes with the Epiphany, also called la Befana, on January 6th.

Perciò potete usare la vostra affinità per la cultura italiana come scusa per rimanere nello spirito festoso un altro pò. In onore di Santo Stefano allora vi propongo un bel piatto che ho preparato per degli ospiti in questi giorni: il buonossimo Risotto al melograno!

So, you can use your affinity for Italian culture as an excuse to stay in the festive spirit a little longer.  In honor of St. Stephen then, I present you with a wonderful dish that I made for my guests recently: the delicious Pomegranate Risotto!

pomegranate risotto, risotto al melograno

Questo risotto è bello quanto è buono. Il succo del melograno gli dona un bel colore rosato insieme ai chicchi fiammeggianti e croccanti. È un primo piatto perfetto per qualche pranzo o cena natalizio o per il Capodanno!

This risotto is as pretty as it is good.  The juice of the pomegranate gives it a nice pinkish color together with the brightly-colored and crunchy seeds.  It’s a perfect first course for any Christmas lunch or dinner, or for New Year’s Eve!

Ingredienti {English translation and notes below}

  • 500 g riso arborio
  • 1 cipolla tritata
  • il succo di un melograno
  • i chicchi di un melograno (2 melograni in totale)
  • un litro e mezzo di brodo vegetale
  • 1/2 bicchiere vino bianco secco (tipo Sauvignon)
  • olio di oliva, q.b.
  • sale e pepe q.b.
  • burro
  • 4 cucchiai parmigiano grattugiato

Procedimento

  • In una capiente padella fate imbiondire nell’olio e a fuoco basso la cipolla tritata.

1w WM

  • Poi tostateci il riso e dopo sfumate con il vino bianco.

3 w WM

  • Aggiungete il sugo di melograno.

6 w WM

  • Cominciate ad aggiungere, poco per volta, il brodo.

4 w WM

  • Dopo circa 15 minuti di cottura, salate, pepate, aggiungete i chicchi del melograno (tenendo da parte alcuni per la presentazione finale) e continuate la cottura mescolando di tanto in tanto, aggiungendo il brodo quando occorre, stando attenti a non lasciar attaccare il riso.

7 w WM

  • Quando il riso è cotto mantecatelo fuori dal fuoco con una bella noce di burro ed il parmigiano. Spargete in cima i chicchi di melograno rimasti.
  • Servite subito e buon appetito!
8 w WM

If it turns out well, and your guests are hungry, this is how the pot will look before long!

Ingredients

  • 500 grams arborio rice (find it at healthier stores that sell bulk grains, or in a 1 lb box at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • the juice of 1 pomegranate
  • the seeds of 1 pomegranate (2 pomegranates in total)
  • 1 1/2 liters vegetable broth
  • approx 4 oz. dry white wine (such as Sauvignon)
  • olive oil, as much as needed (to generously cover bottom of pan)
  • salt and pepper, as needed
  • dollop of butter, as needed
  • 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

5 w WMDirections

  • In a large pan saute the chopped onion on low heat until transparent.
  • Add the rice and stir it to absorb the oil and onion flavors; then pour in the white wine and stir while it evaporates.
  • Add the pomegranate juice [you can squeeze the seeds with your hands as I did, or use some type of strainer, or buy the juice ready].
  • Begin adding in and stirring the broth, a little at a time. [Cover the pot, stirring occasionally, while the rice absorbs the broth.]
  • After about 15 minutes, add salt and pepper, add the pomegranate seeds (keeping some aside as garnish), and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, adding broth as needed (being careful not to let the rice get stuck to the pan).
  • When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and cream it with a generous dollop of butter and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds on top of the risotto.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!

Leave a comment: Have you ever heard of or tried Risotto al melograno?

 

Posted in italian cooking, Italian Food, Italian Holidays, italian recipes, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

When life gives you zucchini… make zuppa! | Italian Food

vegetables for soup: zucchini basil onion sweet potato

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FOR ENGLISH VERSION, SCROLL DOWN.

L’altro giorno un amico mi ha regalato delle zucchine del suo giardino e poi ci e’ capitato di cenare al ristorante Bencotto nel Little Italy di San Diego. Li’ ho gustato la loro deliziosa zuppa di zucchine e basilico ed era talmente buona  che li’ per li’ ho deciso che cosa fare delle zucchine regalatemi.

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Mi sono messa alla ricerca di una ricetta facile e ne ho trovato una. Subito dopo pero’ ho dovuto fare una modifica… la ricetta richiedeva le patate ed io avevo in casa solamente le patate dolci. Hmm, verrebbe bene lo stesso con le patate dolci? Beh, l’unico modo di saperelo era di provare!

[E sinceramente, una ricetta diventa proprio nostra quando le diamo un tocco speciale, a volte in base alla necessita’!]

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E’ cosi’ mi sono messa ai fornelli. Il risultato e’ stato ottimo, da leccarsi i baffi!

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Il giorno dopo ho rifatto la zuppa usando delle patate classiche, faccendo un’ulteriore modifica alla ricetta originale : ho aggiunto un dado da brodo perche’ senza avevo dovuto aggiungere troppo sale alla fine della cottura. Anche con le patate classiche la zuppa di zucchine e basilico e’ venuta molto gustosa.

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A ripensarci adesso mi rendo conto che avrei potuto non pelare le zucchine e cosi’ la zuppa sarebbe venuta piu’ verde di colore.

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Tra le due versione credo che ne preferisco quella delle patate dolci. Qual e’ la vostra preferenza? Lasciate i vostri commenti qui di sotto!

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onions sauteeing

Ecco la ricetta: Zuppa di zucchine e basilico

Ingredienti

• 600 gr. di zucchine

• 200 gr. di patate

• 1 cipolla piccola

• 3 cucchiai d’olio d’oliva

• 1 dado da brodo

• 6-10 foglie di basilico (di piu’ se volete)

• q.b. sale

Ricetta per 4 persone

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chopped zucchini and potato

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Preparazione

Pelare e tagliare la cipolla in 4-5 pezzi, poi spezzarli con le mani,  e farla soffriggere con l’olio d’oliva. Lavare la verdura e pelare le patate che poi verranno tagliate a pezzetti, per le zucchine tagliate le parti finali e tagliatele anch’esse a pezzetti e gettate il tutto nella pentola dove avete soffritto la cipolla. Aggiungere acqua fino a copertura delle verdure aggiungendo anche il dado da brodo e cuocere fino a che le verdure non saranno cotte. Togliate dal fuoco e aggiungete il basilico lavato precedentemente, tritate il tutto con un frullatore. Regolate il sapore con il sale e servitela ben calda. Buon appetito!

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zucchini basil soup

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

The other day a friend gave me some zucchini from his garden. And then we ended up dining at Bencotto restaurant  (Bencotto means well cooked) in San Diego’s Little Italy. There I tasted their delicious zucchini and basil soup, and it was so tasty that right then and there I decided on what I was going to do with my gifted zucchini.

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I got busy searching for an easy recipe, and I found one. Immediately though, I  had to make a modification… the recipe called for potatoes and I only had sweet potatoes in the house. Hmm, would it turn out just as well with sweet potatoes? Well, the only way to find out was to try it!

[And honestly, a recipe becomes truly ours when we give it our own special touch, sometimes born of necessity!]

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And so I got busy in the kitchen. The result was excellent, finger-licking good! (This is the closest translation of da leccarsi i baffi, literally to lick one’s mustache.)

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The next day, I recreated the soup using regular potatoes, making one more modification to the original recipe: I added a bouillon cube because without it, it was necessary to add too much salt at the end of the cooking process. With regular potatoes, it came out very tasty, too.

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Thinking about it now, I realize that I could have not peeled the zucchini and the soup would have come out a deeper green in color.

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Between the two versions I think I prefer the one with the sweet potatoes. What’s your preference? Leave your comments below!

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Here’s the recipe: Zucchini Basil Soup

Ingredients

• 1lb. 5oz. (21 oz.) zucchini

• 7 oz. potatoes

• 1 small onion

• 3 tbsp. olive oil

• 1 bouillon cube

• 6-10 basil leaves (more if you wish)

• Salt as needed (q.b. = quanta basta, or as needed)

Serves 4

Preparation

Peel and cut the onion in 4-5 pieces, then break them apart into smaller pieces, and sauté them in the olive oil. Wash the vegetables and peel the potatoes, cutting them into small pieces. Cut off the ends of the zucchini and chop them into small pieces, too. Throw it all into the pan where you sautéed the onion. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, adding in the bouillon cube, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Remove from heat, add in the previously washed basil, and chop it all in a blender. Add salt as needed and serve hot. Enjoy!

Posted in italian cooking, Italian Food, italian recipes, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

You say tomato… | i Pomodori | Recipe Blog

Heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market

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You may say tomato, while I say pomodoro, but we both gotta agree that this time o’ year the dang things are everywhere. Which I guess would explain why ben due volte quest’estate (at least 2 times this summer) I have conjured up new dishes involving these luscious, plump, ubiquitous red, yellow, and green fruits (or are they vegetables…? I never know…)

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I’ve dubbed the recipe I’m sharing today the Skinny Caprese/ il Caprese magro. It’s easy, yummy, and as the name implies, light on calories. Yup, I created this on one of those days when I was watching my linea (figure).

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Like the classic insalata caprese (Caprese Salad), the Skinny satisfies the palette, and because pomodori are so low cal, portions can be abundant. The use of unusual spices makes you forget about the fact that you’re not using mozzarella. And your tastebuds and la vita (waistline) will thank you!

Ecco la ricetta /Here’s the recipe (It follows in italiano.)

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Skinny caprese salad ingredients

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  • • Start with several ripe heirloom tomatoes. Cut them into quarters and then into small slices, not too thin.
  • • Arrange on an attractive plate. Drizzle with apple cider vinegar. (This is not only tasty but it helps the body to process more slowly so that you stay sated longer.)
  • • Add a sprinkle of salt (I like pink Himalayan, freshly ground) and of pepper (I prefer a freshly ground blend)*
  • • *Or you might get a little creative with the spices, adding cardamom and marjoram, mint, cloves, cinnamon, or cumin, or a special blend of spices. I like Turkish Baharat, which you can get at Amazon.
  • • Chop and sprinkle over top of salad just the greens of green onions.
  • • Also take several fresh basil leaves and tear or cut them into small pieces and sprinkle over salad.

Serve fresh. Sip some nice wine. Enjoy!

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This dish is great as a salad, a snack, or an appetizer.

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COMMENT: Are you a tomato lover? How do you like to eat tomatoes? Let me know if you try this!

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skinny caprese salad ready to eat

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RICETTA IN ITALIANO /Recipe in Italian

  • • Procurate dei pomodori “antichi” maturi (in italia la specia piu’ simile all’heirloom tomato e’ la Miranda). Tagliateli in quattro e poi tagliate essi in fette non troppo sottili.
  •  • Dispionete i pomodori su un bel piatto. Versarci sopra un filo di aceto di mele. (Non solo che e’ gustoso, l’aceto di mele aiuta al corpo di bruciare piu’ lentamente le calorie in modo che rimane sazio piu’ a lungo.)
  • • Aggiungete un pizzico di sale (a me piace il sale rosa tipo himalaiano, macinato) e del pepe (preferisco una miscela, macinata)*
  • • *O potreste darvi un po’ alla fantasia con le spezie, agguingendo del cardamomo e la maggiorana, della menta, del garofano, la cannella, o del cumino, od una miscela speciale di spezie. A me piace il Turkish Baharat, che si puo’ prendere da Amazon.
  • • Tagliate a pezzetti solo la parte verde di alcune cipolline verdi e cospargeteli sull’insalata.
  • Prendete anche qualche foglia di basilico e strappatele or tagliatele a pezzetti. Cospargetele sull’insalata.

Servite fresco. Sorseggiate un po’ di buon vino. Buon appetito!

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Questo piatto e’ ottimo come insalata, spuntino, o antipasto.

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COMMENTATE: Vi piacciono i pomodori? Come vi piace mangiarli? Fatemi sapere se provate questa ricetta!

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Posted in italian cooking, Italian Food, italian recipes, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian, Vocaboli Italiai | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nutella-filled Red Velvet Cake Pops – The Odyssey!

Recently, in honor of World Nutella Day… Giada Antonucci (friend, Italian student, and baking-partner-in-crime) and I got together to concoct a recipe that I dreamt up using Nutella (that most delicious, creamy chocolate & hazlenut Italian spread).

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Annual World Nutella Day was just around the corner, and I got to thinking that rather than just celebrate it by merely dipping my spoon into the nearest Nutella jar (as I’d done when I discovered this day last year), I, too, wanted to participate in the Nutella recipe challenge.

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Next came the question: What to do, what to make? And so the recipe came to me:  Nutella-filled Red Velvet Cake Pops… I’d sampled cake pops only once, but never made them…  and thus began the baking shenanigans — If there was a mistake to be made, we made it — truly worthy of a Lucy & Ethel episode!

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So, first, the disclaimer:  Try this at home at your own risk, and you may very well end up with a messy kitchen and completely blowing your diet, but very happy taste buds!

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First thing, we had to procure the cake pop molds (we found ours at Bed Bath & Beyond), then get savvy on how to mix the perfect cake pop batter (an extra egg added to the standard cake mix; substitute milk for water, cutting the amount in half, and add one packet of dry pudding mix, in a complimentary flavor (to our red velvet cake mix we added chocolate pudding).

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Then be sure to spray the cake pop molds with a spray that contains flour (not just any old vegetable spray, as it will mess up the consistency of the pops). We used Baker’s Joy.

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Next challenge:  Spoon the mixture into the mold — no pouring possible — the stuff is just too thick! (Of course, starting with this phase, we made pretty much every possible mistake we could: First off we deposited our batter, forgetting to spray. Do over! Note to selves: Cake pop molds are a pain in the beep to wash 🙁

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Once done, you clamp the two halves of the mold together and pop into the oven for the suggested baking time. Naturally, we overfilled our first batch. Luckily, cake pop molds are built with an overflow hole for just this type of snafu. An easy fix: just scrape off the excess after baking… providing us with perfect mini samples — we were able to instantly confirm (via scientific dipping method) that red velvet cake + Nutella = yummmm!

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Despite the late hour (Friday evening, after a long day and an even longer work week) we knew instantly that we were on to something good.

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Now with our cake pop baking techniques down pat, we moved on to our next challenge:  Getting the Nutella into the center of the cake pops. To say it was a challenge is an understatement. Cake pops are tiny little deals, and even if we’d had a pastry sleeve, which we didn’t, it still would have been una faccenda difficile (a difficult feat).

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.injecting nutella with syringe

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After trying to use a paper envelope and then a plastic baggie (both unsuccessful), we finally ended up using a mini syringe filled (with sufficient difficulty, given the small aperture involved and the inherent thickness of Nutella… a bigger syringe would be much easier to wield). In our particular case, were able to inject 20-30 mm of Nutella into each cake pop.

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inserting sticks into red velvet nutella-filled cake pops

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Next phase/Challenge:  Getting the sticks into the pops. We used a combination of the sticks included in the cake pop kit and bamboo skewers cut in half. We dipped them into melted chocolate and then stuck them into one side of the cake pop spheres. Then we popped them into the freezer for for about 10 minutes fast ‘curing’.

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Next, the final phase: Covering the pops with frosting/glacé. We wanted to use a vanilla or white chocolate frosting, but after messing those up (wrong melting techniques, etc), our potential frosting ingredients had dwindled down to a bag of Nestle chocolate chips, which we melted in the microwave, adding, per package instructions, a tablespoon of vegetable oil.

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frosting red velvet nutella-filled cakepops

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But this was not the easy-peasy dipping sauce we’d hoped for. We ended up having to be very hands-on — basically frosting individually each cake pop versus dipping it(!)

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finaL PRESentation red velvet nutella-filled cake pops

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Mamma mia! What an arduous task! Four-plus hours after we’d started, at midnight, (and with the aid of a nice bottle of Italian red — we found San Giovese goes well with red velvet cake and Nutella ;-)) — we had finished with a yield of about 50 cake pops.

Whew!!! The result, despite our Lucy & Ethel-esque baking escapade, was delicious, as verified by our enthusiastic taste-testers the next morning at the Saturday Italian Conversation & Study Group!

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Afterthoughts:  If you want to try a similar omaggio (homage) to Nutella, go for it. If you avoid our first-timer mistakes, it should be a much quicker process. Should you want the same yummy flavors without the detailed work necessary to make cake pops, we suggest you make a simple red velvet cake and frost it with Nutella — same flavors and way less work!

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Your thoughts:  Have you tried Nutella? Have you used it in any baking recipes? Plan to try your hand at our crazy Red Velvet Nutella-filled Cake Pops? Love to hear your comments in the “Leave a Reply” section below… Buon  appetito!

 

Posted in italian cooking, Italian Food, italian recipes, Italian Vocabulary, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Italian Vocabulary:

>> Favorite Italian Christmas Words & Practices

panettone italian christmas cake

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Some of my favorite things about the Italian Christmas holiday season are — not surprisingly — edible. Starting with le castagne, il panettone, and le lenticchie, following is a list of a few of my favorite Italian Christmas holiday things followed by explanations, some local lore, and info on current practices.

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Read & Practice Your Pronunciation

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  1. Le castagne, le caldarroste = Chestnuts, roasted chestnuts (also called ‘castagne arrostite’).
  2. Il panettone = Typical Christmas cake from Milan.
  3. Le lenticchie = Lentils.
  4. Il cenone = Big dinner, from the word cena (dinner) plus the suffix -one, indicating ‘large’.
  5. Il Vischio = mistletoe.
  6. L’albero di natale = Christmas tree.
  7. Gli addobbi = Decorations.
  8. Le luci = Lights.
  9. Le palline = Ornaments (literally, little balls).
  10. Babbo Natale = Santa Claus or Father Christmas; babbo = dad or daddy, Natale = Christmas.
  11. I regali = Presents.
  12. Gesù Bambino = Baby Jesus.
  13. Il Presepe, il presepio = Manger, nativity scene.
  14. La vigilia di Natale = Christmas Eve.
  15. Chiesa = Church.
  16. Santa messa = Holy mass.
  17. Buon Natale! = The greeting/wish equivalent to Merry Christmas!
  18. Buone Feste! = The greeting/wish equivalent to Happy Holidays!  
  19. Auguri di stagione! = The greeting/wish equivalent to Seasons Greetings!
  20. Capo d’Anno = New Year’s Eve, literally the ‘head of the year’.
  21. Prospero e felice anno nuovo! = A prosperous and Happy New Year!
  22. L’Epifania = Epiphany, Jan 6th.
  23. I Tre magi = The three wise men.
  24. La Befana = Gift-bringing witch (on Epiphany).
  25. La Calza = Stocking.

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castagne italian roasted chestnuts

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Le castagne. In Italy chestnuts are a symbol of winter. They are used in breads and cakes and roasted and eaten plain. There’s nothing better than buying castange arrostite (roasted chestnuts) from a street vendor in a paper cone and eating them while strolling through the centro storico (downtown) of Milano, or any Italian city (more on the holiday period in Milano here).

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Il panettone. Large golden-colored dome-shaped Christmas cake made from flour, butter, eggs and sugar, with candied citron and sultanas (small seedless raisins). Light and fluffy, NOT heavy like a fruit cake; panettone originated in Milano and is now eaten all over Italy. No Christmas table in Italy is complete without it. I love the smell of this special cake. Luckily it is widely available in specialty food shops in the U.S., including Trader Joes and Cost Plus World Markets.

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lenticchie italian lentil stew

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Le lenticchie, Capo d’anno. Lentils are little round flat legumes, often used in soup or stew. Popular Italian tradition has it that since the lentil shape resembles a coin, eating it on New Year’s Eve or Day guarantees good health and prosperity all year long. It is common in Italy to eat dishes containing lenticchie on Capo d’anno (New Year’s Eve). Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I promise I’ll post my recipe for Italian Lentil Stew 🙂

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vischio italian mistletoe

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Il Vischio. During the Holiday Season it is an old tradition to give vischio, or mistletoe, especially on the last day of the year. It is often dipped in gold or silver paint, and it is given as a symbol of good wishes, or ‘auguri’. One of my friends in Milan reported that, “a large bank in the downtown has hung a huge ‘vischio’ outside the bank and they invite whoever wants to stand under it, and have their picture taken while kissing under the mistletoe.” Now that’s a fun publicity stunt!

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cenone big italian christmas dinner

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Il cenone. In Italy, celebrating Christmas in family is very important and consists most importantly of eating, eating, and eating! As one friend said, the eating/celebrating starts the 24th and continues on thru the 26th/27th, only to start up again on Capo d’Anno (New Year’s Eve). The most common day of the big family dinner depends on location: in Rome and further south it’s a huge dinner on the evening of Christmas Eve, based on fish, especially eel. In northern Italy, families tend to celebrate on Christmas day with a midday dinner based on some type of roast meat. While many claim that southerners are bigger ‘mangioni’ than northerners, it seems to me like both do some pretty serious face-stuffing (abbuffare)!

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presepe italian nativity scene

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L’albero di natale, gli Addobbi, le luci, e le palline, il presepe. As a rule, people in Italy do not go overboard decorating their homes for the holidays. Many will have a nativity scene, and perhaps a Christmas tree, but it will usually be small-ish, possibly a live tree still in the pot, and not super-loaded with ornaments. And some of the tree decorations might consist of chocolates, candies, and small fruits (that after the holidays, the kids get to eat!). In the downtown areas of cities and towns there will be lights and other decorations along the street. Larger cities will be especially lit up, and some have begun using LED lights because they are energy-saving and less polluting.

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italian santa claus on vespa scooter

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Babbo Natale, i regali, Gesù Bambino, e la Vigilia di Natale.  In most households it is Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) who brings the regali (presents) and leaves them under the albero di natale (Christmas tree). In some more religious families it is Gesù Bambino who brings the regali and leaves them near the presepe (manger), though this version is diminishing, especially as kids become ever more clever! In both cases, the presents are delivered the on night of la Vigila di Natale (Christmas Eve) and the bambini run to check for the regali on the morning of Natale.

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holy italian christmas mass

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Chiesa, Santa messa. In smaller towns and the in the south, more people go to chiesa (church) for the santa messa di Natale (holy Chrismas mass) than in bigger cities. Though like in the US, those who don’t go to church every Sunday will often go on the occasion of Christmas. The most popular service is midnight mass on Christmas Eve, but many also go Christmas morning.

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befana the italian christmas witch of epiphany

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I Tre magi, l’Epifania, la Befana, and le calze. The Italian holiday season lasts until l’Epifania (Epiphany) on Jan 6th, when the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem. This is also when la Befana makes her entrance. Befana is a beloved, gift-bearing witch who arrives the night before the 6th on a broom filling le calze (stockings) of bambini bravi (good kids) with gifts (mostly candy and fruit) or, for i bambini cattivi, (naughty kids) coal! The Befana truly is a legend and merits a whole blog post to herself. Stay tuned!

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Mando a tutti i migliori auguri di buone feste con le vostre famiglie e gli amici!

(I send everyone best wishes for happy holidays with your family and frends!)

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… And if have any questions or favorite Italian Christmas holiday things please share them  in the comments section below! (Under the sign-up form) I love to hear from you! 🙂

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