April 25, 2011

Squash and cumin soup --the last one

pumpkin and cumin soup

Yesterday we ate, we enjoyed people company, we indulged in tempting sweet treats and chocolate delights. 

Today, the sky is still a little gray, the temperature still not so spring-like, and I have a cold. 

All I want is soup. I made this soup with the last winter squash I had in the kitchen. It was a butternut squash, good for soups or risotto. I really enjoyed the spiced flavor of cumin and the perfect marriage with the sweetness of the squash. 

Conforting, warm, light and good. Just for those who don't go out on Monday after Easter. This recipe is for you.

Spring, I am so ready for you to warm up my system. 

Squash and cumin soup

Ingredients (serves 4): 
- 1 butternut or other winter squash, peeled and diced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp salt
- 1l vegetagle stock
- 1 small yellow onion, chooped
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil

In a large pot, cook the onion in the olive oil til translucent. Add the squash and cook at medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking at the bottom. Add boiling vegetable stock until the squash is completely covered . Let cook covered for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste the consistence of the squash, and if tender, remove from heat. Stir in salt and cumin. Blend with immersion blender til it's creamy. Add more liquid if needed, depending on how creamy VS. liquid you want your soup. Serve hot in bowls with toasted bread.


Ieri, abbiamo mangiato, ci siamo divertiti, siamo stati in comagnia e abbiamo indugiato in dolcezze al sapor di cioccolato o di frutta candita.

Oggi, il cielo è un po' grigio e le temperature non proprio primaverili. In più, ho il raffreddore.

Una zuppa è la sola cosa che voglio, al momento. Questa è l'ultima che posto, promesso. L'ho fatta con l'ultima zucca che avevo in casa  (una butternut squash, quelle di forma allungata dalla buccia beige). Sono perfette per zuppe, creme e risotti. Mi è piaciuto molto il matrimonio tra la dolcezza della zucca e lo speziato del cumino. Un sapore da riproporre in stufati con zucca e lenticchie, in altre zuppe dal sentore indiano, o in chips di zucca al forno. Magari il prossimo anno.

Questa ricetta rientra nella mia personalissima categoria di confort food. Non è per chi va a fare la gita fuori porta a Pasquetta. No, è per quelli che come me, si son svegliati col cielo grigio e hanno un maledetto raffreddore. Questa fa bene al corpo e allo spirito. Garantito.

Per il resto, sono così pronta ad accogliere la primavera nelle mie giornate! Per favore, arriva presto anche qui.

Crema di zucca e cumino

Ingredienti (per 4 persone):
- una zucca media tagliata a cubetti
- 1 cipolla bionda tritata
- 2 cucchiaini di sale
- 1 cucchiaino di cumino
- 1 L di brodo vegetale
- 1 cucchiaio di olio evo

Cuocere la cipolla nell'olio evo fino a che non diventa trasparente. Aggiungere la zucca, cuocere a fuoco medio per 5 minuti mescolando per evitare che si attacchi. Coprire col brodo caldo, coprire il tutto col coperchio e cuocere per 20 minuti a fiamma media. Aggiungere quindi sale e cumini, mescolare. Frullare il tutto col frullatore ad immersione regolando la quantità di liquido a piacimento a seconda della consistenza desiderata --più cremosa o più liquida. Servire calda col pane tostato.


April 20, 2011

My first brunch in Boston

Boston, skyline
Beacon st.

"Hey, do you have any tips on how to eat and drink in Boston?"
Luckly, everybody we asked had at least a couple. Many coincided, many others didn't. Again, as in Portland, we had less than three days and a limited amount of meals.

I wanted brunch. That was my first point on the list. I got a few recommendations for a place in Sommerville (where our host lives) that revealed pretty good indeed. The won various awards as best pancakes in Boston. But we ended up going just for breakfast on Monday mornign. Of course, I tried their triple-berry pancakes --huge and fluffy as they should be. Plus a huge bowl of fresh fruit on the side and coffee free refill. "Really?", I said. Yes, really. I always sound so naive when it comes eating out in the US. I'm always so surprised by everything, so embarrassed at times, so shy when it comes ordering from a menu, or asking for something, or remebering to tip.

Brunch, we said. Sunday morning, late morning, to be honest. We woke up in a state of body heat and clumsiness. The night before had been happily filled with local microbreweries' excellence and multicultural conversation around food. Of course. Of course good beer, of course food talk, of course multicultural. That's what I love, that's what is exiting about what I studied, what I am doing and will hopefully do after this crazy, inspiring and lucky year of eating, drinking and traveling. The morning after these moments of pure joy are always a bit tough, but c'est la vie --c'est ma vie, thanks God!

nature in Beacon st.
shoes as vases on Beacon st.

Coffee, water. "Where shall we go for brunch?", I asked, interrupting J.'s daydreaming. "Dunnooo...Wherever, it doesn't matter to me" was likely to be the diplomatic answer. He is so diplomatic. The night before, I grabbed the name of a place that our host Fausto's girlfriend mentioned as being the best place in Boston for Sunday brunch at affordable prices. Sure enough, it is pretty popular and the wait line is always quite long, she said. But we HAD to go. The only thing I could remember was it started with a P. after a few research on google, we found it. Paramount.  OK, we are going. My first brunch ever was happening in a couple hours. I was exited --and hungry.

brick houses, Bacon Hill, Boston
brick houses, Bacon Hill, Boston

The Paramount is in the middle of fancy and elegant Charles Street in Beacon Hill. Walking through antique and vintage clothes shops, glancing at the red brick houses in the crossing alleys, we arrived to destination and started to queue without saying a word --everything was exactly as we expected. We read the menu placed outside the door to torture and tempt customers and we started to compose the ideal meal in our mind. Omelet or sandwich? Or maybe a french toast? No, my first brunch had to have eggs. And not being a fan of mixing sweet and salty --my Italian origin prevent me from fully enjoying a feast of pancakes and breakfast burritos at the same time-- I gave up the "why not both?" option. No, omelet it is. With spinach, feta and basil, sided by cubic, soft and golden home made potatoes. Plates fluctuating in the air to avoid heads gave  us a visual demonstration of what to expect. It was comforting --all looked so good. It was hard --I rethought my options multiple times by the time I ordered. In the end, I got back to my first instinct. It's always the best. 

We ordered. In two minutes, we received our food on the trays, we moved on, paid and sat down. No table service here. You wait, you order at the counter, see your food being cooked, get it, and then sit and eat it. They say it works for that tiny little place always packed with people. You don't wait for a table, you wait for food, and by the time you get it, there is surely be an empty table for you to eat it fresh and steamy.

I looked around and saw a perfect family with beautiful parents and consequently beautiful children, all casually dressed but with details revealing their wealth, sharing a plate of pancakes and confidentially staling bits and bites from each others' plates. I saw a couple of Italian-American friends chatting in front of a huge waffle buried under a mountain of fresh fruit. I faced my omelet, contemplating it for a second, than attacking it with enthusiasm. I felt foreign and local at the same time. That place, with its mix and match of people from different backgrounds, different social levels, different cultures, was giving food to everybody, making their Sunday morning a bit special every week.

Boston loves magnolias
magnolia at Boston Common

Everybody waits, on Sunday morning at Paramount, all eat the same good food at fair prices, everybody enjoys it. I love places where you get a sense of food as a shared experience. My first brunch was a shared experience. Here, for the first time out of Vermont and in this trip in the US, I felt the conviviality of home meals.

sakura @ Boston Common
Harvard yard, Saturday afternoon

We walked around all day in that beautiful neighborhood, enjoying shops, buildings, blooming magnolias and the park. Spring is coming. 


April 13, 2011

Lentil Burgers with pita bread and spiced yogurt sauce

lentil burgers

I've never been a big meat eater. No, not even cured meat. Yes, I'm Italian. Probably, I'm a bit strange. 

I found out that what I am is called flexitarian. I think I found out about it reading Rolling Stone, or maybe Bon Apetit, I don't remember. Sometimes it's just nice to find somebody or something --a book, your mum, the little kid at the beach-- that tells you what you are. I mean, it's so hard to define ourselves, so why refusing a little help or some suggestions? 


April 6, 2011

Buttermilk coffee cake - Torta al latticello

buttermilk cake

More snow. Or more mud. What do you prefer? Hard to say.
They told us that it wouldn't be the best time to be in Vermont, and I kind of understad why. Spring is far from coming, and I don't see any flour blooming or bird singing to the sun. 

I see my pellet stove lightening the big living room and all I want is sitting in front of it and going through all the cookbooks and food magazines around the Inn. So, I started reading the Better Homes and Gardens' New Cookbook, that I found on the kitchen shelves, and that apparently is a bible book in American homes like Artusi or Cucchiaio D'Argento (or Suor Germana) for Italian housewives.

I wanted to cook something from it, to feel a bit Bree of Desperate Housewives.


April 4, 2011

Portland, ME: good (clean, fair) food lovers' mecca

Portland port

First weekend of many out of little-bubble Vermont, I headed toward Portland, Maine --mecca for lobster lovers and nostalgics of the old continent.

What I discovered, once there, is that Portland is much more than this --it's a paradise for eco-foodies and a very charming place for spending a couple days. Which is just enough time to see and eat what's worth it, and to feel that you would need more time to see, taste, and try what Portland offers. All the worse! --what better excuse to come back?

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