Friday, July 22, 2011

Zucchini blossom savory pie

I love savory pies. They are so easy to make and so versatile, but most of all they are yummy both hot and cols, so they are also perfect as leftovers. Seriously, there's nothing I don't like about them. Plus, this summer I'm being kind of lazy in the kitchen, which means that I tend to gravitate towards quick and easy recipes that pack in a lot of flavors and fresh ingredients. 

Zucchini blossoms are easy to come by here in Switzerland and in Italy, both by themselves or still attached to baby zucchini. If you can't find them in your area you can make the pie with baby zucchini by themselves, it will still be good. Or you can make this other savory pie with spring vegetables.


One pie crust, such as Pillsbury
2 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups chopped baby zucchini
8 zucchini blossoms
Salt and pepper

Grease a round pie pan and unroll the pie crust on it.

In a bowl, mix eggs, cheeses and zucchini and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into pie crust. Decorate top of pie with zucchini blossoms cut in half.

Preheat oven to 400F. Cook pie in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Light and cool cream of tomato soup

A summer recipe. As if we needed them around here. Seriously, folks, it's raining and storming and haling pretty much every other day, if not every day. Whenever the weather is nice I practically run to the Lido (pool and lake access here in town) to catch some rays and read in the sun. Otherwise I'm home, doing laundry and the likes.

Maybe I shouldn't be complaining too much. The end of June and beginning of July have been really nice. I just don't get why we have had so much rain in the last ten days. I kid you not, yesterday the weather was so gloomy we went up to Lanzo d'Intelvi, right after the Swiss Italian border and we ate homemade tagliatelle with deer ragout. I mean, that's something you do in October, for crying out loud. Right now we should be frolicking in the water, drinking margaritas and eating fresh produce, right?

So whenever there's a gorgeous day out I do my best to cook up some summer fare because I know, I just know it, that come September I'll start moping around blaming myself for not having taken advantage of the bounty of summer produce enough. Last week I made this cold tomato soup, a recipe I've found in an Italian cooking magazine, Cucina Moderna. It turned out great. Next time I'll make more so I can have some leftovers to enjoy once the weather turns horrible again...


Serves 4

2 pounds of ripe tomatoes
2 onions
1 tablespoon paprika
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 pound yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
Fresh thyme
Olive oil

Wash tomatoes, cut in half. Chop onions, place them in a Dutch oven with tomatoes, a tablespoon of olive oil, salt to taste, sugar and paprika. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat.

Add broth, stir and cover for 10 more minutes. Process with an immersion blender until smooth. Let it cool. Add yogurt, stir well and regulate salt.

Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A trip to Porto Ceresio, Italy

The weather so far has been kind of crappy this summer. Yet, I try to make the best of it, because really, there's enough people moaning and bitching and crying about it, I seriously believe we don't need one more whiner in town. Sure, it would be greatly appreciated if it didn't rain on the weekend every once in a while... but what can we do about it? Nothing. Other than move to Spain, maybe. Since that is kind of out of the question right now, I try to enjoy the sunny (and even the overcast) days when I can by traveling around Lake Lugano, exploring little towns I've never been to before and, of course, trying whatever specialties they offer in restaurants, osterie and grotti (grotto being the Swiss Italian word to describe an informal, family run restaurant).

Porto Ceresio is one of those cute little lake villages. It's located on lake Lugano, on the Italian side of the lake, which makes it an ideal destination if you are trying to save some money. Switzerland is a wonderful country, but eating out is extremely expensive, which is why many that live near the border like to take trips into Italy to dine. I know because I do it at least once a week and let me tell you: 15 minutes by boat or car are totally worth it.  

 When I was in Porto Ceresio last weekend I ate at Trattoria del Tempo Perso, right across the street from the Lake. Tempo perso means "wasted time", although in Italy it doesn't necessarily have a negative connotation. Wasting time leisurely, slowly enjoying food and wine, is considered a rather positive thing there and, if you happen to taste the food the owner makes there, you'll understand why. She literally makes everything from scratch, including the olive ascolane (picture below), a specialty of the Marche region in Central Italy. Large green olives are pitted, then filled with a meat filling, breaded and deep fried. Seriously, what's not to love about them? Mind you, they can be horrible and soggy and greasy. But not at this little Trattoria. There they are crunchy and delicious and perfect. 
 Also amazingly good where the fried zucchini blossoms (photo below), something yours truly just cannot resist. I was practically in heaven, with the Trattoria's menu proposing pretty much all my favorite dishes. Besides the two appetizers, the main course I chose — stuffed veggies — was also very good. A zucchini and a red bell pepper filled with a meat and cheese filling was just what I had in mind for my Sunday lunch. The tagliatelle with meatsauce my friend ordered also scored high.
Too bad we had to leave in a hurry because the weather — surprise, surprise — was getting ugly and we had arrived there by boat. My consolation is that Porto Ceresio, and the trattoria, are only 15 minutes away from Bissone where I live, so I can already see my self going back there to try more of their homemade specialties.

Trattoria del Tempo Perso
Piazza Bossi, 17
21050 Porto Ceresio (Varese)
0332 917136

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thai dinner in Switzerland

Who said you can't have delicious Thai food in Switzerland? With a view of the lake? Under the stars? Let me tell you, the Thai dinner we had at the Lido di Bissone, the bar/pool/lake access/beach in the little town of Bissone where I live, was simply amazing. The two chefs came from Chiasso, on the Italian/Swiss border, where they have a little take-away restaurant that I must try asap. So they came here and they cooked in a tiny ass kitchen (I know because I work there, so I realize how difficult it is to produce food for the masses in that kitchen) for five hours, always smiling, never raising their voice, being efficient and quick and precise all at the same time. Let's just say that they should be an example to many others who do less and get pissed about everything. Just sayin'.

Anyhow, the food was amazing. The menu offered spring rolls — crunchy and not at all greasy, made to perfection — followed by pork red curry (picture above), Thai shrimp (first picture), chicken with cashews (picture below), fried rice, rice noodles with vegetables, beef in oyster sauce, tuna with five spices. It was served buffet style, so you could go back as many times as you wanted to get more. And many times we went. I have a thing for noodles with vegetables, so I'm not ashamed to say that I ate three portions. I know, I know. But what can I say? I love the stuff. I love it so much that I didn't even have time to take a picture of it. 

So the Thai dinner was a great success. Many had never had Thai food before and it was great to see how curious and interested they were in a cuisine that is very foreign to them. For those of us who had had Thai many times before was a welcome change. There aren't many Thai restaurants in the area. Hell, there aren't many ethnic restaurants in general. To have all this great food brought practically at our doorstep was a real treat. And eating it at sunset overlooking the lake was just the icing on the cake. What can I say? On Saturdays they usually have BBQs at the Lido, but I hope they will repeat the Thai dinner at least once before summer is over. If they do I'll starve myself all day, so I can eat a fourth serving of noodles!


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