February 29, 2012
These are days of big changes and anticipations. Hopes and novelties keep me excited during the day and awaken at night. It is a calm yet busy moment, in which most is done sitting in a room, answering emails and organizing information, writing down figures and numbers. Sometimes, the fear for the unknown overwhelms me, but I try to keep it down with positive and rational thinking, with self-motivation and an adventurous spirit. J helps a lot in this, as he teaches me to face things as they come, and to not create worst-case scenarios all the time only to scare myself more. I try to tackle issues when they appear, but it is not easy for me as I am a planner and need some certenties. Here, now, I have none, and I have no choice but to go with it, I just have to keep doing what I do regardless, because "what if it really happens? I have to be prepared". Positive thinking. I am learning this lesson.
There are moments in which sitting at the computer becomes unbearable. I go for a run in the chilly night air to distract me some, and look at the moon as it shines bright and crisp in the starry sky. I like to do so, I like to be alone with her sometimes. I feel a little bit of a stranger in this place where I grew up, and I don't care for meeting or seeing anyone. Besides my family, nothing links me to here, not even the affection for the land. However, the calming effect I receive from this lonely night walks is unbelievable to me, too. I come back refreshed and relaxed.
One night, I came back with a strong desire for baked apples. I needed some comfort, and I wished to find it in a warm, spiced dessert to eat with a good book and far from the computer screen. It is a good think that there is never apple shortage in this house. So I picked four, one for each of us, and turned on the oven. Cracked nuts and soaked raising, spooned cinnamon and brown sugar. Then, I laid on the sofa just thinking, smelling the scent of cooked sugar, waiting for them to be ready.
February 26, 2012
Sooner or later I will create a saga, a project, a collection of all the banana breads I liked and posted in this blog.
I don't know about you, but I have more fun testing new banana bread recipes than finding the ultimate pie crust or chocolate chip cookie. It is even more interesting that trying different apple cakes.
The best thing about this process is that I will never find the ultimate recipe. I will find those that I like more than others, but my curiosity will always push me forward, I will always ache for a new version of my favorite breakfast sweet bread. Variables are infinite: with more or less bananas; with or without eggs; with different combinations of flours, nuts, seeds; sweetened with maple syrup, honey, raw sugar or agave; with or without added fats; with applesauce or yogurt. The quest for perfection will never end as perfection is not of this world, but at least I can't say I didn't try.
February 24, 2012
"I should better use that butternut squash, before temperature reaches a more acceptable level and it goes bad."
I am always surprised about how long squashes can last. This little butternut was purchased at an impromptu farmers' market that J and I encountered in Val di Susa, near Avigliana, when we were still living in Piedmont. Almost three months ago now. I was so happy about this find, as this squash varietal is very hard to find in Italy, let alone organic.
For some reason, I kept it like a little treasure until now. I didn't want to waste it --so precious to my eyes. In the end, though, I go back to the basics. In this I will always be deeply, stubbornly Italian. I like basic preparations with good ingredients where you can taste it to the fullest, without mixing it with too many ingredients but only with flavor boosters such as spices and herbs.
So, in the end, I made a soup and a salad (for two, as its small size allows). The former for a rainy day, the latter for a sunny one. One with other wintery ingredients, the other with fresh greens. Because you never know what might happen --a sudden drop in temperature or some unexpected warmth.
February 20, 2012
A much needed escapade.
Five days in Ireland and, surprisingly, five days of (almost) no rain, with even some sun poking through the clouds every now and then. Lots and lots of fresh wind, though. It felt nice.
We spent most of our time in Dublin, relaxing, eating and walking aimlessly around. We skipped all the classics --the full Irish Breakfast, the Guinness factory Tour, stew and mash with gallons of beer. Except for one: Trinity College and the library, which filled us with the smell of dusty leather and old paper. Such an underrated scent, and oh, so fulfilling. We then walked along the river and around St Stephen's park, and simply enjoyed the moment without rush. Lunch break, a little shopping, coffee, a nap, walk, dinner. Our very similar way of traveling make us the best travel companions for each other.
February 13, 2012
It is that time of the year. I start to empty the kitchen shelves, use dried stocks, and make physical and mental room for the new season that is about to come. I know there is still time, that new waves of cold wind and snow can surprise on one morning as I wake up hoping for some warm, shy sun. I just can't help it.
I am slowly getting rid of things that have a winter feeling to them: chestnuts, legumes, flours. I bake less when the sun is out. I prefer big salads and a bike ride. I just can't help it.
I had split peas at the top of my list -- the first thing I wanted to free my shelves from. I guess the reason is that as soon as the right season opens, I will find fresh ones at the market. That bag of dried peas was really hitching me.
They did a good job, those split peas, I have to admit it. The soup was earthy and filling, and reconnected me with the world around me --still immersed into the snowy winter. Spring dreams faded away at every spoonful I put in my mouth, so fully wintery and nourishing. It felt good to dream, but it also feels good to make the best of this reality I am in, I thought.
I am here, where I probably shouldn't be. Aching for spring and new adventures to take off. But for now, all I can do is winding my spring, as Murakami says, waiting while doing something, even if it is just liberating myself from the old. The only thought of something new that is about to come gives me strength to make every day a positive one. Too many times living in perspective have made me forget that these are days worth living, too.
Like a bag of split peas is worth a chance. You'll be surprised of what you will get in reward.
February 10, 2012
I have already talked carrots. I forgot something crucial: what to do with the green leaves that come with them? I decided to make a pesto, and to use it in pasta but also into a pretty tasty sandwich.
February 4, 2012
I have with sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichokes) a love-hate relationships. Their purple red color and their funny shapes make me smile. I like their mild artichoke-potato flavor and their versatility --they are perfect in soups, frittatas, mashes, or shaved and eaten raw in salad or fried like chips. But they are a pain to wash, peel, cut and digest.
Being a great appreciator of their sweet nutty flavor, I made sunchoke soup many times in the past, just to end up a little sick every time without knowing why. After some research, I found out that sunchoke is a bit harsh on our digestive system as they contain inuline, a carbohydrate similar to starch but that cannot be broken down by the human digestive system, and which is treated as insoluble fiber. Inuline is a treat for our probiotic functions as it reinforces our bacterial system. Plus, since it can't be assimilated by our body, it doesn't increase our blood sugar and can be taken also by people suffering from diabetes and similar issues. This comes at a price, though, which usually consists in major tummy pains.
Still hungry? :)