September 23, 2011

Fall mood: beetroot || Autunno: rapa rossa

beetroot

Fall has officially come, and mood is changing rapidly toward a more calm and contemplative state of mind and soul. The earth is giving its best to provide us with beautiful food to face the upcoming cold season. Squashes, beets, kale and winter greens are slowly taken the place of colorful tomatoes and peppers.

I am fondly in love with summer and summer food: berries, watermelon, tomatoes, aubergines just make me think of long, warm nights and late, lazy dinners. However, there is something magical and a bit misterious about fall vegetables that reassures me and fascinates me equally.

I got the beautiful beetroot in the picture from a collegue who received way too many from a friend and farmer. I stared at its shape all the way home: clumsy and dirty, but strong and secretly bright inside. The morning after, I woke up seeing the cold light touching it from afar, from the half open window, and it was in that exact moment that it revealed all its beauty.

I have a love-hate relationship with beetroot. It always leaves me with an umpleasant, earthy feeling. I started to appreciate it in dishes where flavors are contrasting rather than matching: spicy mustard or horseradish cream, sweet fruits like apples and pears, and very savory cheeses like feta or parmigiano. This are fixed rules for me now. From here on, there was just space for trial.

September 20, 2011

On Red Currants - part 2 || Sui ribes rossi - seconda parte

red currants for cobbler

Sometimes all I want is a calm lunch for two, and then a walk in a sunny afternoon. Since J. and I have started to have different jobs in different places, we no longer have lunch together. Which is something completely new for me, and it still makes ma a bit sad sometimes to sit at an empty table. I start to become messy and I don't take care of myself anymore. Sometimes, I am almost about to eat directly from the pan or the skillet. Others, I am just not so hungry.

When I am by myself, I totally lose the will and desire to cook. So, my lunches are becoming more and more a parade of quick salads with a fruit for dessert.

Then, of course, J. comes back for dinner, and we cook and eat together, open a bottle of wine, and chill down after a long walk, chatting about our days. Suddenly, the will to share a meal and to cook something good comes back.

September 15, 2011

Easy Light Fig Cake -- Torta Facile Leggera ai Fichi

figs

I miss having a fig tree. I was used to have one in grandma's garden, along with a cherry tree, a plum tree and a beautiful vegetable garden featuring squash, strawberries, concorde grapes, tomatoes, green beans and more.
Even though I live in a town blessed with amazing food and produce coming from local farmers, I still miss having something that is mine. The problem is that I haven't been living in a place long enough to have the chance to grow something on my own --not even a small terrace garden.

So, when I went home for my holidays a few weeks ago, one of the first things I did was picking as many as a could from the tree and eating them still warm and sunkissed. Full and satisfied, I brought the rest inside for some easy and quick baking --no one want to spend too much time inside when the sun shines and the bikes are ready to go, right?

September 12, 2011

Ricotta Pancakes with Banana Maple Topping || Pancakes alla Ricotta con Banane e Sciroppo d'Acero

Ricotta Banana Pancakes

I once heard someone saying that bananas were made to become bread --or muffins. On this, I couldn't agree more.

Sometimes, however, I wake up late (oh lovely weekends!) and don't have any banana bread or muffins waiting for me on the kitchen counter. Busy week days didn't give me time even for baking something small...Or for grocery shopping. No muesli in the jar, no yogurt...All I have is a fridge with a couple bananas, some half-eaten ricotta, and a couple eggs. I needed an idea for something quick and delicious and possibly featuring bananas. They were really ripe...Really really.

I found out that bananas were created to top pancakes, too. They really were. I haven't proved myself that they are good into the pancake batter, yet. But on top, omg, they are delicious. 

September 8, 2011

Making Baba Ganoush || Come fare il Baba Ganoush

baba ganoush

Italian summer fare is amazing. Big red juicy tomatoes, firm colorful bell peppers, huge black or violet aubergines. It just makes me feel so good...

Sometimes, I just eat those vegetables in the easiest way possible, just chopped and quckly sautéed with good olive oil and salt, other times simply raw on crusty bread or in salads.

Many times, however, I feel more inspired. I feel like I want to explore different flavors and combinations, using local vegetables in exotic ways.

With the couple of aubergines I bought at the farmers'market, I made baba ganoush. I missed that flavor since my friend from Sydney left Italy to travel around the world. She was the first one to introduce me to this dish and to teach me how to make it. I loved her baba ganoush from the very first bite on crusty pita. 

"It's so easy", she said. "All you need are good ingredients: good aubergines, good tahini, good olive oil".

So, one day, I tried to make it myself, following her instructions. I used mortar and pestle to enjoy the moment even more. I was quite happy with the result, but still: she must have a magic touch.

September 2, 2011

Watermelon Cucumber salad || Insalata d'anguria e cetrioli

cucumber watermelon salad

When days are still warm and bright, salads appear on my lunch table.

Light and fresh, easy to prepare, colorful. Nothing fancy but rather quick, efficient and new every day.

On their stands, farmers are still selling the best of summer fare: tomatoes, bell peppers, peaches. Huge watermelon next to tiny blueberries. I couldn't resist buying the last watermelon.

So one day, my palate led me to dice some watermelon and to mix it with a sliced cucumber --brought back from summer holidays, from my grandpa's garden. The result was hydrating and flavorful. I just added a handful of peppery rocket for a little boost and seasoned all with salt, pepper, olive oil.

No fuss lunch, and a nap afterwords, right before starting the rest of the day.