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28

Nov

Returned to Bologna for the second time this year. Had a great tagliatelle con ragu (which is bolognese sauce, but in Bologna it is just called ragu) at Trattoria Serghei. Stumbled upon a Chocolate Fair.

21

Nov

Sugarpie, Honeybunch

One of the best classes we have had this year was Food Photography. Our final assignment was a group project in which we had to design a concept for a food photo shoot.

Behold, our honey-riffic prep area:

And, our two post-production final shots, A Palette For Every Palate, showcasing the many different varietals of honey.

[Sorry for the ugly white blocks, had to remove the company logo]

20

Nov

I am a WALKING DISASTER

Last night I had the dumb logic of deciding to stay in while my friends went out for drinks. My thought process was something like “hark! I am sleepy and there is this giant block of ice in our fridge blocking needed shelf space that I have been meaning to melt down. What a great Friday night activity!”

Thus, Yui and I took all of the food out of the fridge, turned it off, and waited for the melting to start. After several hours, it still wasn’t melting so I decided to plug in my blow dryer and use the power of heat to get the ice to turn to water. That started working well until the kitchen started smelling like burnt plastic, as a result of the blow dryer being too close to the plastic shelves. Also, there were large pools of water all over our floor.

Still left with a huge hunk and getting sleepy, I decided to start smacking the ice block with a wooden spoon. That didn’t work that well. So, I tugged on one of the plastic shelves really hard until the fridge almost tipped over. (At this point in the story I feel like it is necessary to point out that clearly I don’t like to only give 50%. If I start a project, I’m going to finish it goshdarnit). Then I tugged some more until I was finally able to release the Devil Ice Chunk.

At this point I noticed that all my wooden spoon banging caused a giant strip of plastic coating at the bottom of our cabinets to fall down across the kitchen. I put it back and it fell again.

I put the ice chunk in the sink to melt overnight and told Yui we could put the food back in the fridge, and I turned it back on.

Then the electricity went out.

We tried playing with all the circuit breakers and nothing would work. So, we gave up and went to sleep.

Neither of us slept well because we were stressed out about the fact that I killed our apartment. We called Alberto, the IT guy from school. I think we woke him up. He was really nice but not in Parma and said to wait for our landlady, whose bell we already tried ringing twice. We texted Sandro, a classmate who speaks Italian because somehow we thought he might have new ideas based on his language skills???

I sat in our living room for awhile staring at a wall and finally heard our landlady come back. She and another neighbor figured out the switch to try (which I SWEAR we had tried twice already) and the power came back on!

Then five minutes later it went off again.

Now I think we are hopefully in the clear.

I have learned a lot of lessons from the past 14 hours:

  • my roommate is very patient with me, but I should probably stop attempting kitchen-related “projects” (remember earlier in the year when our pipe disintegrated?)
  • never turn down an invitation for aperitivo
  • always have some canned food to eat in case you are starving when trying to stalk your landlady

Here is the Devil Ice Chunk, after a night of melting, so imagine it about 8 times bigger:

19

Nov

Sometimes there are dessert days at lunch! Look at this creamy/pistachio nutty beauty.

Sometimes there are dessert days at lunch! Look at this creamy/pistachio nutty beauty.

One Month From Today

Milan Malpensa —-> London Heathrow —-> Washington Dulles

13

Nov

Autumn in Tuscany

Tuscany

There could not have been a better week to travel to Tuscany. The olive oil harvest had just begun and the trees were beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and red. It was a fabulous last Stage and I learned a ton about Tuscan food and wine traditions. Some of the food highlights:

We tried some of the new olive oil from the current harvest, which makes me not want to have “old” oil ever again. The oil is bright green, peppery and hits you with a super intense olive oil flavor.

A classic Tuscan favorite is the Bistecca Fiorentina, which is essentially a very rare T-Bone steak that has become a tourist favorite. It is certainly tasty, if you’re into bloody meat…

Antipasto Toscana are various crostini with spreads such as liver, mushrooms and eggplant.

Tuscan bread is made without salt, resulting in a somewhat flavorless carbohydrate. Thus, it should be doused in olive oil and salt.

Or, it can be used as a main ingredient in soup, such as Ribollita, a delicious bread-based soup with various greens and beans. Or, Pappa al Pomodoro, in which both bread and tomato shine as the key ingredients.

Finally, pici is a hand-made pasta that looks similar to Japanese Udon noodles. It is chewy and goes well with heavy, dense sauces such as ragu or, in this case, lots of cheese and garlic.

31

Oct

Rainy Cooking Sunday

It was a great day to not leave the house much and cook all day.

My friends Claire and Ben were in town from the States and were desperately craving some vegetables after eating at restaurants for a week straight. I was happy to oblige. I made an arugula-tomato-cucumber-caramelized onion-zucchini salad and roasted Brussels sprouts, eggplant, and squash.

Later in the day, Suzie and Lauren came over to teach Yui and I how to bake bread. It was a really great lesson, and we now have a lot to eat. Although my kneading skills need some work, the loaves turned out nicely. We learned two different recipes.

Lauren’s recipe made A LOT of bread (there is another loaf not pictured) and was a really good introduction recipe — not too much kneading, proofing for under an hour, and bakes for under 40 minutes.

Suzie’s recipe required 20 minutes of straight kneading, which she did beautifully all by herself. It was seriously amazing to watch. We used more white flour in this one (Lauren’s was all multi-grain).

I’m really happy to now have some basic bread baking knowledge, though to be honest, I feel like it requires a lot more patience than I sometimes have. I’m more of the “let’s throw some stuff in a pot and see what happens!” kind of person. Which is exactly what I did for dinner.

I attempted to create a version of Tom Kha Gai soup after sampling Emily’s last week and falling in love. The soup was better than most versions in Thai restaurants I have tried. However, I digressed from the standard recipe quite a bit - I didn’t use shrimp or galangal (couldn’t find it). Instead, I used mushrooms, potatoes, tandoori curry pasta and rice noodles. Salted peanuts and sriracha gave the soup a nice extra kick.

Now I have a lot of leftovers to get through.

25

Oct

Dal, Eggplant, Chickpeas

I returned from Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto yesterday with some serious veg and bean craving after eating a slew of samples and different fried options from the street food section.

In continuation of my various Asian food experimentation, tonight I made a dal-esque dish (inspiration here), spiced chickpeas, and eggplant with a spice packet described as “barbecue spice powder.”

I love a good super oily eggplant, I think it is definitely a vegetable that is cooked awfully so frequently. It can so easily become tasteless and soggy. But, when cooked right, it is so nourishing.

A little curry powder and cilantro can go a long way.

Purple Potatoes