Friday, 30 September 2011

"'One day I'll make it'. Is your goal taking up so much of your attention that you reduce the present moment to a means to an end? Is it taking the joy out of your doing? Are you waiting to start living? If you develop such a mind pattern, no matter what you achieve or get, the present will never be good enough; the future will always seem better. A perfect recipe for permanent dissatisfaction and nonfulfillment, don't you think?"

Eckart Tolle, "The Power of Now"

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Zucchini 'in carpione', my way

September. Last summer days.
The weather has been indulgent and has provided unusually hot temperatures over the past two weeks.
No way could we keep M. at home once she was back from kindergarten school, and outdoor activities had to be planned almost every day.
As if she wanted to squeeze the last drop of summer light before the Autumn sets in.
As if she could feel it. The end of Summer.

Don't get me wrong. She loves autumn too.
Cosy, homely afternoons.
And apple tarts. And walking through the woods, harvesting chestnuts.

Still. Summer always brings precious gifts.

Open spaces.

What is it that makes it so special?

Anyway... back to the recipe... I was visiting an uncle of mine during one of those outdoor afternoons with M. and he walked us to his home garden, still as lush and colourful as in the midst of August, thanks to this particularly temperate weather: tomatoes, green peppers, salad leaves, and so forth...

"Would you like some zucchini?" - my uncle asked, proudly showing me his 'zucchini trombetta', or 'tromboncino zucchini', an italian summer squash variety. Fruits are long and slender, light green in colour, with a  fine sweet flavour. I simply love them. I couldn't say no.

Being one of my favourite vegetables I've been cooking zucchini in different ways throughout this summer: in salads, pasta, frittata (pancakes) or torte salate (tarts) or baked and stuffed with grains or cheese and vegetables. 

I've browsed magazines, books and blogs and finally I've come to this version of 'zucchini in carpione'. That's to say fry marinated zucchini. My way, since I added an extra sweet touch to this traditional sour recipe. It comes from the Piedmont region cooking tradition, and it's considered a 'piatto povero' (poor dish) since the ingredients were easily affordable to peasants: vegetables, olive oil, vinegar, fine herbs. Of course different varieties of this recipe have been developed through time, but basically it consists in frying the vegetables and then marinating them with vinegar and white wine.
Choose fresh and tender zucchini and you'll get the best results. And a good olive oil too, of course.
You can serve zucchini in carpione as a starter or a side dish. You can also treat yourself with an in-between-meal: slice some wholemeal bread, spread some goat cheese, top with zucchini in carpione, sprinkle with peppers and that's done! Enjoy!


zucchini: 900gr-2 lb
onion: 1 small - thinly sliced
garlic: 3 cloves - unpeeled
apple vinegar: 160 ml-2/3 cup
dry white wine: 250 ml-1 cup
extra virgin olive oil: 250 ml-1 cup + 5 tablespoons
dry raisins: one handful - soaked in water for 10 min.
sage: 2 bunches
almond flakes: 1 tablespoon
salt: 1 teaspoon or less, according to taste

Clean the zucchini and cut them lengthwise, then slice them into 4 to 5 cm pieces (1 to 2 inches).
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the zucchini and fry them until slightly brown and crispy. Drain the slices and blot them with paper towels, sprinkle with salt. Arrange the zucchini in a glass baking dish.
At this point you can choose to follow the traditional indications or go healthier.
In the first case: sauté onions, garlic and sage in the same oil, then add the white wine and the apple vinegar and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Pour this hot mixture over the fried zucchini, let it cool down. Add raisins and almonds then refrigerate for at least 6 hours (the longer, the better).
In the second case: heat 5 tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil in a pan over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic and sage, then add white wine and apple vinegar and let simmer for about 10 minutes, as above. From this point follow the same instructions.

The second method is highly reccomended - for your health at least - but it must be said that traditional recipes provides a simply delicious treat!

Shelf life: keep in the fridge for 7-10 days

Saturday, 24 September 2011

"Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to 'die before you die' and find that there is no death."

Eckhart Tolle, "The Power of Now"

Thursday, 22 September 2011

"Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life."

Eckhart Tolle, "The Power of Now"

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Penne pasta with italian green sweet peppers and lemon sauce

Italian green sweet peppers. Not until I wrote this post I discovered the english translation for the italian word 'friggitelli'. Baby peppers, you could as well call them, as you have to pick them when they are young and crunchy. Italians love to fry them (hence the name 'friggitelli' from 'friggere' = to fry), but you can eat them raw, in a salad, for instance, or 'in pinzimonio'. 

Talking about the recipe, this is the kind of dish I cook on a regular basis during the summer, even though it's not one of our daughter's favourites ('What are those greenish things in your plate, mummy?'). This pasta is quite simple to make and cooking it will surely take you less time than it took me to wrote down the recipe... - especially translating it from italian to english- the title being one of the hardest task of my blogging adventure so far (how the hell do you say 'friggitelli' in english? I need to thank wikipedia once again for the amazing discovery).

Even writing these few lines happened to be hard work, I confess. I scrabbled down some notes as I was cooking, then changed them several times in my mind, and finally ended up with a completely different introduction for the post... had I waited any longer to write the post, it would not have been the right season anymore...

Ingredients (serves 4):

penne pasta: 340 gr / 12 ounces
italian green sweet peppers:8
- or alternatevely, 1 green bell pepper -
spring onion: 1
organic lemon zest: 1/5 teaspoon - grated
lemon juice: 1 + 1/2 tablespoon - filtered
parsley or chives: 1 tablespoon - roughly chopped
salt and pepper: to taste
extra v. olive oil

for garnish:

organic lemon zest - grated

Peel and finely chop the spring onion. Wash the green peppers, remove top and seeds and cut them into thin 5 cm (2 inches) long strips.
Heat two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with some water (1/8 cup) in a small frying pan, then add the chopped onion. Cook for 15 minutes on a very low heat or until the onion has softened. Remove from heat and reserve.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a wok over a high fire until the oil surface ripples. Add the peppers and stir-fry them for about 15-20 minutes, until they shrink slightly and become tender. Add some water if necessary. Meanwhile prepare a citronette whisking together three tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt an pepper.

Place a big pot of water over medium heat and bring to boil. Add salt and cook pasta 'al dente' according to cooking instructions. Sautè in the wok with the green peppers and onion over a medium heat, season with the citronette and finally add chopped parsley leaves.

Serve the penne pasta and garnish with grated lemon zest.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Garlic and tomato bruschetta

Summer weather, hot and sunny days have welcomed us back home.
During these last days of vacation we have been visiting friends and relatives, sharing holiday tales and memories. M. at last could play around with her cousins and peers while we were asked many questions about our trip to Montrèal, which of course we were very glad to answer...
I didn't have much time to cook and unfortunately we bought more stuff than we actually needed.

Take bread, for instance. As usual, we had some that was going stale in the cupboard....
Italians have always been very creative with stale bread though: bruschetta, panzanella, pappa al pomodoro, canederli, and so forth.

Garlic and tomato bruschetta is our favourite. Cheap, easy and tasty. 
It makes a perfect appetizer or a healthy snack between meals.
R., my husband, is the master chef. He will perfectly toast the bread golden brown and coat it - litterally coat it - with garlic.

Tuscan crusty bread makes the best bruschetta, but other kinds of bread will do as well (as you can see in the picture we used a baguette...). The main ingredient is a good extra-virgin olive oil, then you can be creative! In fact, there are many variations on this basic tomato bruschetta recipe and we often add any of the leftovers at hand in the fridge: grilled aubergines and black olives being among my favourite during the summer....

Ingredients (serves 2):

tuscan crusty bread: 4 slices (approximately 1 cm - 3/8 inch thick)
garlic: 1 clove - peeled
cherry tomatoes: 1 cup - diced or roughly chopped
fresh chilli pepper: 1 - whole (optional)
extra virgin olive oil: 4 teaspoons
salt: 1pinch
basil or oregan: to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Toast or grill the bread on both sides until the slices are golden brown (5 minutes approximately). Arrange the bread slices on a plate then rub with garlic clove and chilli pepper.
Add the tomatoes and season to taste. Garnish with fresh basil or dry oregan. Drizzle with olive oil and serve while still warm.

Monday, 5 September 2011

"Intention, I say, is kamma. Having willed, we create kamma, through body, speech and mind."

The Buddha
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