Saturday, 24 November 2012

"The unconscious mind writes poetry if it’s left alone."

Stephen King, 'Duma Key'

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

"If you want to know where God, the Buddhas and all the great beings live, I can tell you. Here is their address: in the here and now. It has everything you need, including the zip code."

Thich Nhat Hanh, 'No death, no fear'

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

"The solution to a problem lies inside the problem."

Charles Genoud

Sunday, 15 July 2012

“Once you realise that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.”

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "I Am That"

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cherry and almond crumble tartlets

Cherry and almond crumble tartlets (8 tartlets) 
Ingredients for the shortcrust pastry:

wholemeal rice flour:  210 gr - 1 + 1/2 cup
wholemeal millet flour: 30 gr - 1/3 cup
almond meal: 30 gr - 1/3 cup
blonde cane sugar: 100 gr - 1/2 + 1/8 cup
cold, unsalted butter: 180 gr - 6.35 oz. - cubed
free-range egg: 1 - large - beaten
salt: 1 pinch

p.s. yields approximtely 500-600 gr. pastry. You'll definitely need less for this recipe (usually 3/4 according to tartlets size). You can store the pastry in excess in the freezer, for other purposes....

Ingredients for the gluten-free crumble topping

wholemeal rice flour: 100 gr - 1/2 + 1/3 cup
almond meal: 90 gr - 1 cup
blonde cane sugar: 60 gr - 1/3 cup
cold unsalted butter: 50 gr - 1,76 oz.

Ingredients for the cherry compote:

cherries: 450 gr - 15,87
blonde cane sugar: 100 gr - 1/2 + 1/8 cup
unsalted butter: 1 tablespoon - cut to small pieces
cornstarch: 1 tablespoon
marsala liqueur: 2 tablespoons

For garnish:

cherries: 8-10
fresh mint leaves
icing sugar
~ ~ ~

Prepare the shortcrust: put the three flours, the sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the cubes of butter and the beaten egg. Use your fingertips or a fork to mix the ingredients and work the dough quickly until it gets smooth and greasy. Do not overmix the dough, the less you play with it, the more delicate the pies will be. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

Meanwhile prepare the fruits: wash and pit the cherries.
In a small non-stick saucepan combine cherries, sugar, butter, cornstarch and marsala. Toss with your hands or with a wooden spoon to coat evenly. Cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until the fruits are soft. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180° C -350° F.
Prepare the crumble topping: work all the ingredients with your fingertips until your mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If the crumbles are too big add some almond flour, if the crumbles are too fine add a bit more butter.

~ ~ ~

Take the cooled dough out of the fridge, roll it out and cut out circles big enough to fit your tartlet tins (I used 10 cm - 4 inch round cutter). Grease the tartlets tins then line them with the dough. 

Place a spoonful of fruits in the middle of each tartlets. Divide the crumble topping evenly on top of them. Bake for about 20 - 30 minutes or until the topping turn brown.

Garnish with cherries and mint leaves. Serve with vanilla ice cream, creme - fraiche, or cream, according to your taste.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

“The door that locks you in, is also the door that lets you out.”

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "I Am That"

Saturday, 2 June 2012

“Keep quiet. Do your work in the world, but inwardly keep quiet. Then all will come to you. Do not rely on your work for realization. It may profit others, but not you. Your hope lies in keeping silent in your mind and quiet in you heart.”

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "I Am That"

Friday, 25 May 2012

Spring veggie salad with confit lemons and garlic bruschetta

This is an unpretentious recipe. Frugal, plain and simple.
The kind of food I like cooking.
Vibrant green vegetables and fresh herbs, garlic and a top quality extra virgin olive oil.

This 'green' salad combines some of the best and healthiest produces of this season: asparagus, fava beans, and 'agretti'.
You may be wondering what 'agretti' taste like. I guess it's not that easy to find these vegetables outside Italy, or the mediterranean countries. 

They have a grassy, earthy flavour and we usually cook them with pasta or as a side dish. I had never thought of combinig them to other vegetables in a salad, though reading this book may have had some influence on my latest cooking endeavours.

Last but not the least, with this post I take part to the contest 'Salutiamoci, mangiare bene per stare bene': the challenge is to cook something good and healthy too. Each month a different italian blog will be hosting the contest, choosing an ingredient amongst super natural foods (the list of ingredients has been developed with doctors who deal with cancer prevention and other serious deaseases).

This month the contest was hosted by 'Stella di Sale' and fava beans were the chosen ingredient.

Hope you enjoy the salad!
Take care,

Ingredients for the salad (serves 2/3):

asparagus: 1 bunch, approx. 800 gr - 28 oz.
agretti (barba di frate): 450 gr - 16 oz.
fava beans: 900 gr - 32 oz.- unshelled
coarse salt

Ingredients for the citronette:

extra virgin olive oil: 4 tblsp
preserved lemons oil: 2 tblsp
lemon juice: 1 tblsp
garlic: 1 clove - peeled and crushed
fresh ginger: 1/2 half tblsp - grated
salt and pepper: to taste

Ingredients for the bruschetta:

wholemeal bread: 4/6 slices 
extra virgin olive oil: 3 tblsp 
thyme: 3/6 sprigs - with flowers 

For garnish:

confit lemons: 1 big, or 2 small
chives flowers

~ ~ ~

Prepare the citronette: in a medium size bowl wisk together preserved lemons oil, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Stir well. Reserve.

~ ~ ~

Shell the fava beans, wash and rinse them, discard any damaged or rotten bean. Set aside.

Wash 'agretti' carefully under cool running water, then cut off any roots, yellowish or extra thick stem. Set aside.

Wash the bunch of asparagus under cool running water, then trim away the bottom of the stalks (the white and thick part of them, 1/3 of the stalk will do). 
If you like so, you could peel the stalks, so that they are the same width as the tip. Thin stalks of asparagus do not need peeling. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine tap water and ice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add coarse salt (the water should be as salty as seawater).
Add the shelled beans to the boiling water and let cook for about 5 minutes, then remove from the saucepan and plunge into the ice water. Let the beans cool, then peel the outer skin from each of them.

Meanwhile cook the asparagus: plunge them in the same saucepan of boiling water and let cook at least 8 minutes, or until the tips are tender. Remove from the saucepan with a skimmer and plunge into icewater.

Cook agretti in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, until wilted. drain well and let them cool completely.

~ ~ ~

Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet and place it over medium heat. Transfer bread slices in the skillet, heating slowly until bottom is golden brown. Flip bread slices and toast the other side as well. Rub the slices with the garlic clove and garnish with thyme.

~ ~ ~

Combine the vegetables in two large individual plates.
Pour the citronette on the salad and gently toss to coat; add the confit lemons, halved and quarterd, and serve with garlic and tyme bruschetta. Garnish with chives flowers. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Como, Città Murata

The first time I visited Como I was about five years old and I was on a school trip with my kindergarten classmates and, of course, our teachers.

Little I remember of our train trip from Milan and the places we visited once there, and I would probably have forgotten all about it, was it not for an old snapshot, showing a bunch of kids on a tiny stretch of pebbled beach, a grey sky reflecting itself in the lake behind them, and a timid smile on my face.

At that time, never would I've guessed I would spend many happy moments with my husband and daughter here, on lake Como.

About 5 years ago, Riccardo and I moved from the crowdy and frantic Milan to a quiet (almost too quiet!) small town in Brianza, about 20 kilometers from Como.

Over the past years we have made a habit of visiting 'La città murata' - the Walled City - the most ancient part of the city, so called as it is still surrounded by its old Roman walls and towers.

Our roundabouts usually start from the merry-go-round in the public gardens next to the Lungolago Trento. Though Maddalena would never leave the spot, I love getting lost in the narrow cobbled streets that stretch between the elegant Piazza Volta and the impressive architecture of the Duomo.

I love to cath every tiny teeny detail.

A marble decoration of an old palace in Via Cinque Giornate,or the coloured glass vases in an antique shop as I walk along Via Diaz. 

Inevitably, though, I stop in front of 'Pane e Tulipani' at the crossroads between Via Bonanomi and Via Lambertenghi: a cafè, a restaurant and a florist at the same time.

The first time I had a look through the shop windows I knew this was my kind of place.

I was completely fascinated by the shabby-chic interior design, and plunged into the intimate and calm atmosphere of this 'cafè-fleur'. 

As in a reverie I had a glimpse at the wide selection of teas and sweets, cakes and cookies, and ordered a strawberry tart.

Since then, I have regularly come back to this place. I pay a visit any time I am in Como. Be it for a coffee, a sweet snack, or an evening 'aperitivo'.

I also love to have lunch here with Riccardo and Maddalena, though this is not a vegetarian restaurant.

If you wish to go green and have a 'meatless meal' here are a couple of dishes you could choose: vellutata di piselli (green peas cream soup) or bruschetta con mozzarella di bufala ('bufala' mozzarella cheese bruschetta) among the starters; asparagi con uova al burro e scaglie di parmigiano (bleached asparagus with  fried eggs and parmesan cheese) as a high-protein dish; insalata di cavolo viola e pere (purple cabbage & pears salad)  or insalata cotto e crudo (mesclun mix salads, beans, and pecorino cheese)if you'd rather go for a light salad.

The quality of the food is high and the presentation of each dish is mouth-watering!

I also love the fact that the menu always changes according to  the season, so please don't expect to order ' bleached asparagus, eggs and parmesan' if you visit this restaurant in January.

You can't leave this place without having a glimpse at the florist' shop. Every detail is really nice, here.

I would probably buy everything you see on these shelves, handmade baskets being among the items I like to collect...

But, luckily, every time I step in this place my daughter Maddalena pulls my coat and reminds me it's time to go back to the merry-go-round for a last ride...

We lazily walk out of this 'cafè-fleurs' whishing to be back soon for another family supper, or coffee break in the city.

I really treasure these moments. I hope you and your family may spend some good time together, and share happy memories in the future, like the ones I lived on our trips to Como.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

a snapshot from home

Espresso Banana Muffin - Instagram photo by Riccardo

This week I share an instagram snapshot from home. And a few words.

Our daughter Maddalena got chickenpox at the beginning of this week, and though I cooked and baked all sorts of treats to cheer her up (or me up, or both) I couldn't find that time and space to capture with images the food I offered my family these days.

There were apple strudel, millet and chestnut pancakes (see recipe here) and muffins, amongst the others.

As I wrote in the previous post, muffins are on my favourite list lately, and a dozen standard batch a day is not quite enough for us!

I found the recipe of the espresso-banana muffin you see in the picture in Heidi Swanson's book, Super Natural Cooking

Loved them from the first bite!

I'll be back soon,

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Raspberry and goat milk yogurt muffins with red fruits sauce

I would probably have posted this recipe earlier this month, hadn't a violent storm hit our town and crashed down our laptop computer and internet connection.

Luckily we have managed to recover most of our data thanks to a friend, but we have been cut off from the cyberworld for about week (which in itself was not as bad as I thought...).

But let me tell you about the muffins.

Muffins are surprisingly easy to make, as they require less than 20 minutes to cook. Moreover, being highlgy addictive, you'll probably bake another batch of them even before you've finished eating the first one.

No wonder this recipe is one of my favourite ones, especially this cold and rainy April.

They add a shaft of light on the most dark and damp day.

As for the muffins recipe, at first I strictly followed the instructions I read in an old issue of Elle à table magazine. Then, after the third, fourth batch, I started adjusting the recipe to my own taste. I basically just cut down on the sugar and used the blond cane variety instead of the superfine one. I would also suggest you to try different combinations of flavours or textures (adding i.e. coconut flakes, or almond meal to the batter) to personalize these little cakes.

The red fruits sauce, instead, is 'my own work'.
I always keep in store some organic frozen berries for a last minute dessert here at home, and they quite inevitably end up in this decadent and flavoursome sauce: a perfect accompaniment to cakes,fruit pies, tarts, and ...muffins!

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins):

unsalted butter: 100 gr – 3,50 oz - room temperature
blonde cane sugar: 90 gr - 3, 15 oz - 1/2 cup
goat milk yogurt: 125 gr - 4,30 oz - 1/2 cup
free-range eggs: 2
all-purpose flour: 300 gr - 10,60 oz - 2 cups
organic lemon zest: 1 pinch
baking powder: 4 teaspoons
salt: 1 pinch
frozen raspberries: 100 gr - 1 cup

Ingredients for the red fruits sauce:

mixed frozen berries: 150 gr - 5,30 oz - 1 cup + 1/3 cup
blonde sugar cane: 3 tablespoons
filtered water: 80 ml - 2,70 fl oz
plain yogurt: 1 tablespoon - optional

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
Line 12 standard muffin cups (or a 12 muffin tin) with paper liners.

In a large bowl cream butter and sugar.
Whisk in the eggs and the yoghurt first, then add the flour, salt, lemon zest and the baking powder. Stir just until all the ingredients are well combined.

Divide mixture evenly in each muffin cup, top each muffin with three or more frozen raspberries.

Bake for 20 minutes approximately, until slightly golden on top.

Place frozen berries, water and sugar into a large non-stick saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until bubbling. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Puree with a hand processor. 

Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Stir in a dollop of plain organic yoghurt (see photos above) if you like to add a sour note and balance the sweetness of the sauce.

Store it in the fridge - in an airtight container - for three or four days.

Friday, 13 April 2012

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lemony glazed italian Easter cookies - SCRIPT & RECIPE

INT. HOUSE. DAY. Early Sunday morning.

My daughter M. wakes up and reminds me of a promise I made earlier that week.

'Facciamo i biscotti, Mamma?' 
(Shall we make cookies, Mummy ?).

I smile. Yawn. I give her a drowsy nod. She immediately gets excited at the idea of picking her favourite cutouts from our ever-growing collection.

'Facciamo le colombe per Pasqua?'
(Shall we make pastry doves for Easter?)

'E anche le farfalle e i fiorellini, però!'
(And butterflies and little flowers, too!)

I give her another nod. I perfectly agree with her.

Doves are getting quite boring these days...


Here in Italy, they are as common as Easter bunnies 
in North America or Northern Europe. You just have to look around in pastry shops and supermarkets, they are everywhere: dove-shaped cookies-sweets-candies-chocolates, and Easter dove cakes, of course (a soft and orangey flavoured cake with an almond topping).

As to our family traditions, we usually prepare a nest with a wicker basket and fill it with straw and chocolate eggs.
This year I fancied a change, though. As we rolled out the dough and cut tiny butterfly-shaped cookies out of it, I imagined them hanging beautifully from an old tree branch. Dancing and floating in the air as a cool spring breeze blows into the house through the open windows. I suggested the idea of making an Easter tree and decorating it with the cookies, but Maddalena was quite reluctant at first. She was determined to eat them all, offering them to a class-mate and her visiting family. At last I managed to convince her (she is quite a stubborn kid sometimes), and I stored some biscuits in the cupboard, almost hiding them... 

As for the doves I was so eager to do... I baked a dozen this time, decorated them with an immaculate white lemony glaze and carefully placed them in an origami box filled with straw. I also made some marzipan eggs and placed them in the nest too. 
Sweet, cute little eggs.

 'Mi piacciono tanto!'
I love them!

'Anche a me.'
So do I.

We exchange an affectionate glance.


Ingredients for the short-pastry:
(yields 5 dozen cookies)

all purpose flour: 250 gr - 8,8 oz
rice flour: 50 gr - 1,7 oz
granulated sugar: 90 gr - 3 oz
unsalted butter: 175 gr - 6 oz - room temperature
free-range egg: (50 gr/1,7 oz approximately)
salt: 1 pinch

Ingredients for the icing: 

organic lemon juice: 60 ml - 1/4 cup
sifted powdered sugar: 100 gr - 1 cup
lemon extract: 3 drops
red&blue food colorings (optional)

Sift together the two flours in a large bowl. Add granulated sugar and salt and mix carefully. 

Make a 'well' or a 'fountain' in the centre of the dry ingredients. Add butter and eggs in the well and mix the batter roughly with a fork, then knead the mixture with your hands until you form a ball.

Divide dough in half. Wrap each one with plastic film and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Roll out the first dough ball (while you keep the other one in the fridge, of course) on a lightly floured surface to 3/4 mm (1/8-inch) thickness. Cut out dough using Easter or Spring cookie cutters of your choice, such as doves, flowers, bunnies, eggs, bells and butterflies. Place cutouts on an ungreased parchment paper. Repeat the same process with the second dough.

Bake for approximately 10/12 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden or light brown, rotating the pans from top to bottom once or twice meanwhile. Let them cool down completely on a wire rack.

Prepare the lemony icing: pour the lemon juice and extract in a small bowl, gradually whisk into it the confectionary sugar until you get a smooth, sticky - but pourable - glaze.

Divide it into three different small bowls and tint two of them with one or two drops of food colouring, as desired, leaving one white (for the doves).

Decorate Easter cookies with the lemony glaze, adding assorted sprinkles and candies if you wish so. Enjoy!

Maddalena's pastry leftovers turned into a happy clown face!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Black lentils salad with red cabbage and ginger vinaigrette

These days, I am always on the run.
Having less time to spend in the kitchen, a better organization at home is required. 

I have to confess, though, that I am not used to plan a meal in advance, I consider myself a 'spontaneous cook', I sometimes create a recipe at the very last moment, with the ingredients I have easily at hand in our fridge or on our cupboard shelves.

The only tip I've found really useful so far is cooking grains, beans or vegetables in advance, and prepare whatever-the-dish with them, according to our seasonal cravings.

This week, it was salad: crunchy red cabbage, fresh chives, feta cheese and lentils. Black lentils.

'Lenticchie Beluga' as they call them, here in Italy.

The main source for this salad is a recipe I've recently pinned down in an old issue of 'Elle à table'. As for the vinaigrette I have to thank Coco, a great photographer and fantastic blogger, and her inspiring ideas and posts, this one in particular.

I've slightly adapted her recipe to my taste, you can stick to the original version though, and the result will be scrumptious, I am pretty sure of it.

Serve the salad with some roasted wholegrain bread or crackers, and you'll have a super natural and high-protein meal!

You can also veganize this recipe by leaving out the feta cheese and using rice syrup instead of honey.

Ingredients for the salad (serves 4):

red cabbage: 300 gr - 10,5 oz.- thinly sliced
black lentils: 100 gr - 1/2 cup - 3,5 oz.
feta cheese: 56 gr - 2 oz.
red onion: 30 gr - 1 oz. - thinly sliced
coarse salt: 1/2 tblsp

Ingredients for the vinaigrette:

extra virgin olive oil: 125 ml - 1/2 cup
white wine vinegar: 1 tblsp
honey: 1 tblsp
dijon mustard: 1 tblsp
fresh ginger: 1/2 half tblsp - grated
salt and pepper: to taste

For garnish:

fresh chives: 2 tablespoons - roughly chopped

Carefully wash the black lentils, rinse and drain them.

Bring water (2 cups at least) to a boil in a medium size saucepan, add the lentils. Reduce heat and simmer for about 25 minutes. Make sure the water doesn't boil down below the level of the lentils and add more if necessary. Add salt in about the last 15 minutes of cooking time. 

I like the lentils 'al dente' - not too soft - so if you want them more tender allow some extra cooking time. Once ready, sieve the lentils in a colander and let them cool down.

Meanwhile whisk together white wine vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, grated ginger and extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.

In a large bowl mix red cabbage with black lentils and red onion (you'd better slice it at the very last moment). Pour the vinagrette on the salad and let 'sit' for 10-15 minutes, then toss to coat and place into individual bowls or plates. Add bits of feta cheese - if you like so - and chives.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

"When effort is needed, effort will appear. When effortlessness becomes essential, it will assert itself. You need not push life about. Just flow with it and give yourself completely to the task of the present moment, which is the dying now to the now. For living is dying. Without death life cannot be."

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "I Am That"

Monday, 12 March 2012

Celery root, leeks and almond cream soup

The weather has been playing tricks over the past two weeks.

Hot and sunny days unexpectedly broke the long siege of winter
and we experienced a glimpse of early summer.

We took off our coats, left our scarves and hats in wardrobe drawers and joyfully ran out of the house door to make the most of this exceptionally mild weather.

We knew it could not last long, though.
Temperatures dropped down again, and a greyish sky fell heavy on us.

I got a sneezing cold and reluctantly had to return to my winter clothes and routines, which include, of course, cooking comfort food - such as a cream soup - to warm myself up.

As I wrote in a previous post, soups are amongst my favourite dishes during this time of the year, and I always make some for dinner. The kind of soups my husband and I grew up eating (and probably rejecting as little kids): minestrone, pasta e fagioli (beans and pasta soup), pasta e ceci (pasta and chickpeas soup), passato di verdura (mashed/processed vegetables soup) tuscan ribollita and different kinds of vellutata (cream soup)

I like the term 'vellutata'. It comes from the italian word 'velluto' (in english, velvet). It perfectly conveys the idea of a smooth and soft texture.

A good vegetable broth and single – or double – cream are essential elements to get a perfect cream soup, as they provide this dish with that peculiar consistency that should be neither not too liquid, nor too thick.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of using vegetable milk instead of dairy cream in cooking this celery root and leeks vellutata. Browsing through different foodblogs and magazines I've found many excellent ideas, which include coconut milk amongst the ingredients, but we found it a little too sweet in flavour (beside the fact that my husband R. is a little bit conservative in his tastes), so this time I added a thick homemade almond milk to the soup, and enjoyed it pretty much.

We really loved this recipe, and I would appreciate to have a feedback from you; nonetheless feel free to experiment with other vegetable milk products (ever tried with oat milk cream??) or ingredients and let us know your preferences.

Ingredients for the soup (serves 3 to 4):

celery root: 260 gr / 9 oz – peeled and diced
leeks: 115 gr / 4 oz - sliced
onion: 85 gr / 3 oz - chopped
filtered warm water, or broth: 1000 ml / 4 cups
ginger powder: 1/2 tsp
nutmeg powder: 1/4 tsp
salt: to taste
extra virgin olive oil: 3 TBSP

Ingredients for the almond milk:

almond butter: 1 + 3/4 TBSP.
filtered water: 180 ml

for garnish:

flakes of roasted almonds: 1 TBSP
rosmary sprigs: 2

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add three teaspoons of raw vegetable stock (if you are using it) and ginger powder and cook for a couple of minutes. 

Reduce heat to medium low then add onion, leeks and celery root and cook until softened for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning the ingredients.
Add warm water (if you are using raw veg stock) - or broth (if you are not using it at all) to cover the vegetables, bring liquid to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat again, cover the pot with a lid, and cook for 20/30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile make the almond milk: whisk almond butter with cold water in a medium size bowl until you get a smooth almond milk.

Puree the vegetable soup in a blender, add almond milk and stir well. Season with salt and spices (nutmeg and pepper I would suggest) to taste.

Serve in individual bowls, garnish with rosemary sprigs and almonds.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...