Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This time tomorrow...

...where will we be?
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across an empty sea
This time tomorrow what will we know?
Well we still be here watching an in-flight movie show
This time tomorrow what will we see?
Field full of houses, endless rows of crowded streets...

(The Kinks)

This time tomorrow, I will also be a year older. When I wake up tomorrow morning I'll be 31, which will feel kind of weird since I have just recently gotten used to be 30.

Not to mention that 30 was extremly good to me. One of the best years of my life, actually. I would have never expected it, mostly because I spent all of last summer dreading turning 30. Then, on the eve of my birthday, my car got towed in Milano and I had to spend several hours and hundreds un Euros to get it out of the impound lot. That's when I figured out that 29really  sucked (for more than just that reason, of course, but i won't bore you here with why it was one of the worse years of my life) and that, well, I couldn't wait to be 30.

So on September 29th last year, I woke up in a great mood, feeling that 30 would be a great year.

Turns out I was right.

30 was a great year.

And this time tomorrow I'll be 31. I have a good feeling about it. We'll see.

By the way, I strongly suggest you listen to The Kinks' song. It's awesome:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Vegetarian pad thai

I've recently became a tofu eating freak. Don't get me wrong, thre's nothing wrong with eating tofu, or with being a freak for that matter. The wierd thing about my tofu eating habit is that I have loathed tofu for so long, I was actually famous for campaining against "that cardboard-like crap". I would tell to everyone that listened to me that never would I dream of ruining a perfectly good dish by putting tofu in it. And so on.

The problem, if you are wondering what my problem was, is that the only way I had ever had tofu was in miso soup and, let's be honest, when you eat it like that it doen't taste like much. And I find that the broth makes it kind of slimey too, which is not my favorite consistency in the world.

I had to go to a Japanese restaurant in Milano to change my mind. There, because of a mistake, they brought me a noodle dish with tofu instead of chicken. What a revelation. Because it was sauteed in spices and condiments, it was actually yummy. There and then I decided that tofu would become part of my diet. I bought it shortly afterward and tried my first tofu recipe at home, adapting a Cooking Light pad thai recipe. Success!



  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • Noodles:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 cup matchstick cut zucchini 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup light coconut milk  
  • 1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onion tops
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 8 ounces uncooked wide rice stick noodles (Banh Pho), cooked and drained
  • 5 lime wedges

  • To prepare sauce, combine first 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk.

    To prepare noodles, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add sauce and tofu; cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk; cook 2 minutes. Stir in green onions and next 3 ingredients (lettuce through noodles); cook 1 minute.

    Serve with lime wedges.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Corn fritters with fresh tomato sauce

    Another great summer recipe. This year I'm definitely trying to hold on to summer more than last year, although I have to say that it feels pretty damn great to sleep under the covers with the windows open. Last night I enjoyed a glorious rainstorm, one that made the temperature dip from Saturday's 81 degrees to a high of a mere 68F and a low of 52F. I know it's not freezing by any means, but it was quite a shock. The ten day forecast looks good, though. Today is still a little chilly, but from tomorrow on we are going back into the low 80s, hopefully until the 29th, when I'm hosting my birthday party at an outdoors venue.

    But enough about the weather. Let's talk about food, shall we?

    I had toyed with the idea of making corn fritters for a while, but for some reason I never got around to actually make them. Something would always come up and I'd cook something else, postponing the fritters indfinitely. I mean, between cookbooks, cooking magazines and blogs, how on earth is one supposed to try all the delicious recipes one finds? Seriously, how do you guys deal with this recipe overload?

    Anyway, I finally made the fritters... and now I wish I had made them earlier on because they are de-li-cious! Also, they are very easy and quick to make, so I definitely suggest you try them as well.


    1 large can of corn (or you can use fresh, if you have it)
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 red chili pepper, minced
    2 scallions, finely chopped
    A bunch of basil, chopped
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 cup flour
    2 eggs, beaten
    4 tablespoons of water
    Salt and pepper

    2 tomatoes
    1 scallion
    Salt and pepper
    Fresh basil, torn into pieces

    To make sauce, cube tomatoes, slice scallion, mix together with fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.

    To make fritters, place corn in a large bowl. Add garlic, basil, scallions, chili pepper, soy sauce, flour, eggs and water. Mix well.

    Heat some oil in a large skillet. Spoon batter into skillet, one tablespoon at the time, then, using a wooden spoon flatten the batter and make the fritter as round as possible. Cook for two minutes, then carefully flip and cook on the other side for two minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with tomato sauce.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Oven-fried zucchini chips with basil dipping sauce

    The end of summer is near. Yesterday the weather was hot and humid, the kind of day that makes you run to the nearest gelateria for a good ice cream cone or to the bar for an ice cold beer. Today there's a high of 69 and the rain is falling heavy upon Lake Lugano, making it look like the midst of November.

    Seriously, it's quite a shock. Yesterday flip flops and a sun dress. Today leggings and boots. As the old people would say, where the hell have the half seasons gone?

    Nobody knows.

    Still, yesterday I went grocery shopping and, since the weather was still nice out, I bought a bunch of summery ingredients, mostly fresh produce and such. By the time I got home, the clouds where rolling in, the wind had picked up and the lake was white capping. But I had no choice. It was too late to make stew or a roast. So I made this recipe that I found a while ago on Reeni's blog, which is wonderful and you should visit if you have never done so.

    I tweaked the recipe a little bit because I didn't have the exact ingredients. It turned out great. As soon as the chips where out of the oven they were all gone. 


    1 cup breadcrumbs
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon onion freshly ground black pepper
    1/3 cup vegetable broth
    2 small zucchini cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices
    Cooking spray or vegetable/olive oil

    Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease a large oven-proof wire rack set on a baking sheet.

    Whisk together bread crumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place broth in a separate shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in broth then in breadcrumb mixture patting the crumbs on. Place slices on wire rack. Repeat until all are coated.

    Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with basil dipping sauce if desired.


    1/2 cup plain yougurt
    A big bunch of fresh basil, chopped
    1 scallion, chopped
    1/2 clove garlic
    1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    Kosher salt and ground black pepper

    Use a blender or food processor to combine all ingredients except salt and pepper until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Provencal pork stew

    I'm sure you all remember that, lately I've been cooking with tomatoes a lot, with homemade tomato sauce, to be precise. Ever since my coworker flooded the newsroom with beautifully ripe beefsteak tomatoes I've been making homemade tomato sauce like crazy and, subsequently, had to figure out ways to use it, other than using it as pasta sauce of course.

    I found this recipe on Cooking Light's website. It caught my eye not only because it called for a lot of tomato sauce, but also because it called for other ingredients I love and had on hand: fennel, black olives and oregano. Well, I'm glad I tried it because it was amazing. I'm also glad I made a lot of it, so I had some leftovers to enjoy a couple of nights later, when I didn't feel like cooking. I love my new job but sometimes I'm really tired at night and I don't always feel like cooking. This stew keeps really well in the fridge... I'd even say it was better after two days!


    • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
    • 4 cups sliced fennel bulb (about 2 bulbs)
    • 3 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (about 2 large)
    • garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
    • 2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
    • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
    • (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 1/2 cup niçoise olives
    • 1/2 cup capers
    • Chopped fresh oregano 
    • Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add fennel and onion; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Spoon fennel mixture into a large bowl.
    • Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of pork mixture; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add browned pork to fennel mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining pork mixture, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
    • Add wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in pork mixture, broth, herbes de Provence, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until pork is just tender.
    • Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and olives. Simmer 10 minutes or until pork is tender and sauce is thick. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    A new project, a new beginning

    The day it all began on 365 Project

    Please, take a minute to check out my new project, 365: a year in picturs. Today I posted my first picure... and I'm looking forward to a year of (hopefully) good photography. Enjoy!

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Veggie and mozzarella pie

    If you think that I'm obsessed with savory pies, you are 100% right. I am. My obsession springs from the harsh reality that more than once savory pies have saved my ass when I had to throw a meal together at the very last minute. Also, another great quality of theirs is that you can fill them with virtually anything you have at hand so there's no need to run to the store and get ingredients when you are already running late.

    As you might have guessed by now, I happen to run late a lot in the kitchen. I always have these grand plans of prepearing everything in advance so that I have time to clean up the kitchen and take a shower and welcome my guests happy, clean and relaxed... then I usually end up greeting them looking like a freak with food all over my hands and half the stuff still in the oven or on the stove. But I guess they love me anyways, because they keep coming back. And they love my savory pies, even though I admitted to all of them that the only reason there's almost always one on my table is that I'm incredibly disorganized.

    Oh, well.

    In case you have missed my other savory pie recipes, here they are:

    Zucchini blossom savory pie
    Spring vegetables savory pie
    Zucchini savory pie
    Savory yogurt pie


    1 refrigerated pie crust
    1 yellow bell pepper
    1 small eggplant
    1 onion
    2 small zucchini
    1 mozzarella, cubed
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Salt and pepper
    Fresh or dried oregano

    Chop all vegetables. Heat some olive oil ina large skillet, add vegetables, season with salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes, until crisp tender.

    Unroll pie crust, scatter half of mozzarella on it, add vegetables, then other half of cubed mozzarella. Season with oregano.

    Cook in 350F oven for about 25 minutes.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Homemade tomato sauce

    There's tomatoes and then there's Tomatoes, with a capital T. The Tomatoes one of my coworkers brought to work yesterday definitely belong to the latter category. Fresh, plump, pretty much just-off-the-plant. My coworker's father grows them (along with other vegetables) in his garden and they are absolutely delicious. They were extremely ripe so I decided to turn them into tomato sauce right away, before it was too late. Making tomato sauce is not something I do very often, but when I do I enjoy every second of it, mostly because the whole house smells amazing five minutes into it.

    Fresh tomatoes, onions, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, salt and a little crushed red pepper. That's it. That's my recipe for perfect tomato sauce. Of course there's a gazillion different ways to make sauce, as many as there are Italian (and non-Italian) cooks. But this is the way I made it. And, believe me, it was amazing. I'm looking forward to using it all week long to cook several dishes I already have in mind.

    Note: I don't peel my tomatoes to make sauce because I actually like the way the sauce stays thicker that way, but you are free to peel them if you prefer.


    10 large tomatoes
    2 onions, chopped
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Salt, to taste
    Crushed red pepper, to taste
    A bunch of fresh basil

    Place whole tomatoes and chopped tomatoes in a large dutch oven, pour some olive oil on top, season with salt and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, breaking the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they become soft. 

    When tomatoes have cooked for about half hour, season with crushed red pepper, torn basil and toss it in the sauce. Cook for ten more minutes. Turn the heat off and let cool. Use sauce for pasta, pizza or whatever other dish calls for tomato sauce.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Herbed roasted chicken with root vegetables

    There's something in the air. Mornings are brisk, and so are nights. Alas, the end of summer is near. The days are still bright, sunny and warm, yet you can tell that in a month or so, it will be over. It will be time for coats and socks and autumn ingredients.

    When I was little, I used to be kind of glad when summer was over. It meant going back to school, but it also meant that my birthday was coming up, that I would be able to play with my best friend again, that ski season was approaching fast.

    Last year I was even more excited. It was my first "real" fall after nine years of Florida. I was thrilled to see the leaves going yellow and reddish and brown. I couldn't wait to put on my winter clothes and spend evenings reading in front of the fire.

    This year, things are a little different. I've found myself more than once wishing summer could last a little longer. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that while last year I traveled a lot between June and Spetember, this year I only went to Greece for a week. Which was fabulous, of course, but didn't last long enough.

    Enough with the whining, though.

    To get ready for the change of season I'm slowly incorporating "fall" recipes in my diet, so that when tomatoes and basil are no longer tasty and delicious it won't be too much of a shock.
    Which brings me to today's recipe: an easy, simple roasted chicken with root vegetables, with a kick: the bird is smothered in fresh herbs. Just to make summer last a little longer ;)


    1 whole chicken
    1 lemon, quartered
    Salt and pepper
    1/2 stick of butter
    Fresh herbs, such as basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme
    2 onions, coarsely chopped
    3 carrots, coarsely chopped
    3 potatoes, coarsely chopped
    1 glass dry white wine
    2 cups chicken broth

    Preheat oven to 400F.

    Season chicken cavity with salt and pepper, then place quartered lemon into it. Truss chicken.

    In a food processor pulse butter and herbs until you obtain a smooth paste. Being careful not to rip the skin, place a little herbed butter between the skin and the breast, then use rest to rub chicken all over. Season with salt and pepper.

    Place chicken in a oven safe baking dish. Scatter chopped vegetables around it. Pour wine and broth into baking dish.

    Cook for 45 minutes in preheated oven. Should the top of the chicken brown too fast, cover with foil.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Thai style fried rice

    "Let's make Thai (or French/Chinese/Moroccan/etc.) food this weekend."

    You often here me announcing such things on Monday or Tuesday night, as I enjoy a post-work drink at my favorite new bar, the Borromini Art Caffè. I won't lie to you: I announce such things at the beginning of the week because I can't wait for the weekend already. As much as I love my job, I still love cooking and doing nothing all day a little better. Waking up at 10... going dowstairs to have coffee with my friend Samy... taking my sweet time to make it to the pool... what's not to love?

    And, of course, having time to cook for 8 or 10 people ROCKS. That is probably my favorite part of the weekend. I cook, they bring the wine/beer. It beats going to the restaurant, both because of the price and the quality of the food.

    Every week I come up with a theme, then go with it. My friends are adventorus eaters, thank God, so they never turn down the opportunity to try something new. This past weekend I had my heart set on Thai food, so I made my green curry and also fried rice. As much as I love curry, I have to say that the rice was my favorite part of the meal.

    Adapted from Cooking Light
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
    • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste), divided
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
    • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 bunch green onions
    • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
    • 2 1/2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
    • 1/4 cup vertically sliced onions
    • 2 cups broccoli florets
    • 1 cup julienne-cut bell pepper
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
    • Cooking spray
    • 2 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
    • 4 lime wedges


    • Combine first 4 ingredients, 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine eggs and remaining 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek in a bowl. Separate green tops from green onions, and diagonally chop; set aside. Cut green onion bottoms into 1-inch pieces; set aside.
    • Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan, swirling pan to coat evenly. Add rice; stir-fry 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer rice mixture to a large bowl. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in pan. Add onions to pan; stir-fry 30 seconds or until tender. Add brown sugar mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until liquid thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. Add to rice mixture.
    • Wipe pan clean with a paper towel; return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add broccoli and bell pepper; stir-fry 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, green onion bottoms, and garlic; stir-fry 1 minute or until fragrant. Add rice mixture to pan, cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
    • Add egg mixture to pan, swirling to coat pan; cook 30 seconds or just until egg is set. Top with green onion tops; garnish with lime wedges.


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