Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Potato and mushroom cups

I'm soooo tired these days. Last night I had the closing shift at the newspaper and afterwards, I stayed up drinking beer and watching The Mentalist until 3 am. Not smart, I know, but I have such a hard time unwinding, especially after a night like last night, when people seem to drive you crazy on purpose. When the alarm went off this morning at 9, I was tired, but thought I felt pretty good for how little I had slept. It's now 11:24 and I just hit a major wall. I could curl under my desk and go to sleep. Instead I have an interview to transcribe, pages to take care of and the thought that tonight it's Christmas tree/decorations time!

Of course I could sleep during the weekend... not this one though. Friday morning I'm leaving for Zurich, so I guess I won't be sleeping too much. Oh well. Thank God the weeened after that is a four day weekend, so I guess I'll have plenty of time to nap then! 

As for my "detox diet" (read: I have to shed at least 4 pounds because I hate the way my jeans fit me right now) it's going well. I bought a really cool cookbook called "Ammazzacicca" which literally means "fat killer". Gotta love that. There's all kinds of good recipes, all under 500 calories, so I'm enjoying food, yet losing some weight. So far just .5 kilos (1 pound), but hey, I've only started on Monday. Here's a good little recipe for you: simple, yet very satisfying.


1/2 pound potatoes cubed
2 shallots
A few sprigs of rosemary and sage
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper

Sautèe shallots in olive oil, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan add potatoes and minced herbs, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 7 minutes. Remove lid and cook for another 7 minutes. Add shallots.

Place potato mixture in a muffin pan to give it a cup shape.

Sautèe mushrooms and garlic in the same pan for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve potato cups with mushrooms on top.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Roasted potatoes with thyme and shallots

Thanksgiving weekend is over, at least for me. I work on most Sundays, so here I am, sitting at the office, already looking forward to next weekend. Friday and Saturday I'll be in Zurich, Switzerland, to check out some art museums, eat fondue and, hopefully, bump into some Christmas markets. I was also kind of hoping for snow, but I just checked the forecast and, apparently, we are going to get fog on Friday and rain on Saturday - a wonderful combo to take pictures...

Oh well, maybe they are wrong. We'll see, I guess.

Other than that, I'm trying to eat light this week, after gorging on way too much food over the holiday weekend. That doesn't mean I won't be posting recipes, luckily I'm always behind when it comes to posting, so I have tons of recipes from the past 15 days still unpublished. See? Procrastination can be a good thing.

So here's the first one: these are the potatoes I served on Thursday night. I was tired of serving rosemary potatoes, so I decided to dress them up a bit with thyme and shallots. It was a very good idea, believe me.


Fingerling potatoes, peeled
Salt and pepper
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 shallot, minced
1 cup vegetable broth

Place potatos in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, add shallots and thyme and pour 1/2 cup of broth in the dish, so they won't stick to it.

Cook in a preheated oven at 375° for about 30 minutes, adding more broth as it evaporates.

Eat your Brussels sprouts!

 I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Mine was great, filled with amazing food and even more amazing friends. It's hard to cook for 19 people, especially in a tiny kitchen, but with my mom's help and two days worth the cooking we managed to serve a turkey meal that everyone enjoyed. Company, of course, was lovely too and it was a pleasure to see everyone loving the food so much. 

The turkey is all gone. All of it. And so are most of the side dishes, except for the stuffings (but that's not a problem. I love stuffing.) I was afraid Brussels sprouts were not going to be overly popular because, let's be honest, they usually aren't. But dressed up with pancetta, shallots and garlic they were much better than usual... they actually had flavor, which isn't their strong suit. Pancetta makes everything better in my opinion, kind of like butter. So if you are wondering how to make Brussels sprouts that don't suck... here's the recipe, adapted from Cooking Light, the November issue.


  • 6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallot (about 1 large)
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and sauté for 5 minutes or until bacon begins to brown. Stir in shallot, and Brussels sprouts; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic, and saute for 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until the broth mostly evaporates and the sprouts are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in salt and pepper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cornbread stuffing with sausage, apples and fennel

 It's almost 5 pm now and I have made some progress. I'm actually proud of myself, since I have baked two batches of cornbread, made homemade pate', cranberry sauce and, last but not least, this wonderful stuffing. 

Making this was actually one of the easiest tasks today. I mean, between finding the freaking turkey - which is hard to come by whole in Switzerland - and making the cornbread, I'm already exhausted. It's a lot of cooking, I'll tell you. And right now I'm baking a pumpkin cheesecake, which is particularly stressful for me because I hate baking and I hate making dessert. So you can figure how much I hate BAKING DESSERT. 

Anyhow, here's the recipe for the stuffing, which I have tried and is delicious. Trust me, it doesn't get much better than this!


Cooking spray
2 links hot Italian sausage
10 ounces frozen pearl onions
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 small red Michigan apples, skin on, chopped
1/2 large fennel bulb, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 loaf cubed cornbread (about 8 cups)
2 eggs
1 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet brown the sausage in its own fat, crumbling with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add frozen pearl onions and sprinkle with brown sugar. Cool until the onions are tender and sugar has dissolved, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add celery, fennel and apple (I left the skins on for color, but you can remove them if you like.) Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with thyme and cook for about ten minutes.

Spray a 10x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Mix vegetable mixture and bread cubes in it. In a small bowl beat the eggs into the broth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over bread and veggie mixture, toss to coat. Bake in a 400F oven for 45 minutes.

Skillet cornbread

Here I am, on Thanksgiving Eve (does that even exist?), trying to make stuff ahead so I don't lose my mind tomorrow like I did in 2008, break my knee like I did in 2009 or end up with food even in my hair like I did in 2010. You live, you learn, they say. We'll see. 

As of now, it's 11 am on Wednesday and I've already baked cornbread for my gluten-free stuffing. That's all folks. It's not like I'm crazy ahead, but in the next few hours I'm going to crank out some serious food... at least the appetizers, the stuffing and the cranberry sauce.

I'll keep you all posted. Hope you are having a great almost-holiday weekend =)

A funny note: buttermilk doesn't exist in Switzerland. Or if it does they hide it so well I couldn't find. So my day started by having to make buttermilk, which is not complicated, you just mix a scant cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice... but it kind of makes you think about the challenges ahead.


  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil 
  • 2 cups buttermilk 
  • large egg 
  • 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 

  • Coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with bacon drippings; heat in a 450° oven for 10 minutes.
  • Whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add cornmeal, stirring well.
  • Stir in baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour batter into hot skillet.
  • Bake at 450° for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Goat cheese appetizer balls

It seems like yesterday that I was thinking about Thanksgiving being two months away. And now it's here. Only two days away. Of course I havn't even started cooking or prepearing for it, mostly because this working full time thing has kind of gotten in the way ;-) Since Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Europe I had to take the day off and, while I was at it, I also took tomorrow off, so I have two days to prepare the feast! I have to say that I'm super excited about cooking. I hadn't really noticed it, but since I've started working I have been cooking less than I used to and I really, really miss it.
It sounds a little crazy, but it's true.
So tonight I'm baking cornbread that I will use for the stuffing, so that my celiac friend can eat it too. Tomorrow I'll make what can be made ahead: my famous homemade patê, a pumpkin spread for my vegetarian friend and, most likely, the pumpkin cheesecake I intend to serve as dessert. Thanks to Debbie at Feast for the eyes I will also make the gravy ahead. That way on Thursday I only have to make the turkey and the side dishes. Sounds like a good plan, right? We'll see if I actually follow it through. I'm famous for not following through, so chaos and disorder are always around the corner...
Anyhow... if you are looking for an easy to make and cool to look at appetizer, here's a recipe for you!
2 goat cheese packages
2 tablespoons ground almonds
EVOO, 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper
Mix cheese, oil, honey in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Place in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
Using your hands make balls out of cheese mixture. Dredge them into ground almonds.
Serve with a honey drizzle over it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Things I loved about Prague

Back from 48 hours in Prague, Czech Republic. The place is absolutely fantastic, so great I wish I could have stayed there at least twice as long. To see the whole photo album, here's a link you can use even if you are not on Facebook.
Prague ham... at all times of the day, even for breakfast. Alwaya accompained by creamed horseradish and a Pilsner Urquell beer. The smokiness of the ham goes together well with the smooth, bold pils. A breakfast (or lunch, or snack) made in heaven.

Gorgeous, colorful houses in Mala Strana and Stare Mesto, the two oldest neighborhoods in town. One on each side of the river Moldava, they are so pictoresque they almost look fake. The best thing about them is they are 100% real.

Old Town Square and its Astronomical Clock looking dramatically beautiful. The square has been the heart of Prague since the 10th century.

Amazing doors and doorknobs that lead into even more amazing churches and sinagogues.

A Middle Ages themed tavern, where the waiter slams a tray full of grilled meat in front of you and says "Eat with your hands!"... what's not to love about that?

Art Deco everywhere. I swear, you cannot turn your head without bumping into some of it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grilled vegetables mock lasagna

One thing I miss about summer the most once fall sets in is eating flavorful fresh vegetables. Fall veggies are fine, but they are definitely not the same, not just because of their color, but also because of their flavor. Let's face it: parsnips are ok, but they are no fresh baby zucchini.
Still, I have promised myself that I wouldn't buy out of season vegetables that come form the other side of the world this year, that I would make more sustainable choices in the months ahead. And, to be honest, summer veggies don't taste that good when you eat them in the fall, they just aren't the same.
Unless you grill them, of course.
See where I'm going here?
I bought a last batch of summer veggies -zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant- grilled them and used them to make this mock lasagna. Again, I call it "mock" because it's not made with lasagna noodles, but with pane carasau, a Sardinian flatbread.
This isn't really a recipe. I just grilled the vegetables, chopped them and alternated layers of flat bread, layers of veggies and sprinkled them with shredded mozzarella. Then I baked it at 350°F for ten minutes and... voilà. Dinner is served!
 That's all floks. I won't be around for a few days, I'm going to Prague tomorrow... so have a great weekend everyone, and see you on Monday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A guest post: gluten free carrot cake

I'm proud to announce a guest post for today. Last week, I was checking out Facebook while at work and saw that my coworker Samantha had posted a picture of a gorgeous looking carrot cake on her profile. Later that day, she showed up in the newsroom with a generous amount of it and she put it on the meeting room table for us to try while we discussed news and pages. It was delicious. And, to my amazement, it was gluten and butter free. So I asked her to write a post on my blog and she graciously accepted. So here she is and here's her recipe:
"As soon as I found out I couldn’t eat any wheat anymore I felt desperate. I thought it was a complete nightmare, also because I love every kind of baked sweets. Ok, after a few months I have to admit it’s not actually nice, but from that day I tried to cook my own dishes a little more and discovered that gluten-free food can be delicious as well. I tried many carrot cake recipes but this is my favorite, both because it’s really simple to make and because the result is great. That’s why I’m writing this post for my new colleague and I’m really honored to!"


300 gr (10 ounces) carrots 

300 gr (10 ounces) grated almonds

300 (10 ounces) gr sugar

80-100 gr (3.5 ounces) gluten-free flour (or simply white flour)

4 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

grated lemon rind

Eventually, to decorate:

icing sugar

marzipan carrots

Peel and grate the carrots. Mix them with the grated almonds, the sugar and the lemon rind. Add the eggs and stir. Finally add the flour and the baking powder and keep mixing for a couple of minutes. That’s it, you can now put the mixture in an oiled  baking pan (no matter what shape, I actually like ring shaped cake). Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes at 175° (aria calda). When the cake got cold, you can decorate it with icing sugar and marzipan carrots or with a lemon frost made with water, lemon juice and icing sugar. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The 2011 Thanksgiving Challenge

feature photo

Holy crap, Thanksgiving is almost here! Seriously, it snuck up on me this year. While I usually plan the meal well in advance, this year I had no idea the holiday was upon us until I started notcing everyone posting Thanksgiving recipes on the web.

For the second time in a row I'm hosting a European Thanksgiving extravaganza, where the extravagant part is cooking it all in a ridicolously small kitchen. For about 15 guests. I know it sounds crazy, but I did last year, I can do it again this year, right? Not to mention that this time my mom and dad will be here, so they can help too. On top of that, I had my mom bring me some brining begs form the U.S., so I can prepare the turkey like I did in 2009, which was the best bird ever... ruined only by the fact that I broke my knee while preparing the meal.

So since I'm a little bored today I thought that planning this year's menu would be a good idea, even though every year I end up changing some of it at the last minute. And this year, other than the tiny kitchen challenge, I have a second one: one of my guests is a vegetarian, another one has to eat gluten free. Here's what I have so far:

Homemade patê
Pumpkin Spread (vegetarian and gluten free)
Mushroom Crostini (vegetarian and gluten free)

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes (vegetarian and gluten free)
Apple and Cranberry Sauce (vegetarian and gluten free)
Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausage and Apples (gluten free)

Pumpkin Almond Cheesecake (from Cooking Light)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The travel bug

...I admit it. I'm sick. The travel bug is back, stronger and meaner than ever. This time it looks like it's going to take over my body, my mind, my whole life worse than the other times before.

It got into me a little bit last year, but the problem was I had no freaking money to travel with, so I couldn't do too much about it. Then I got a job and, almost instantly, I started itching for some more travel. New destinations. New adventures. Even if just for a weekend.

Then this morning, while I was looking for a my scarf, I came across a travel wishlist I had scribbled when I first moved to Switzerland, a year and a half ago. I have it here, on my desk. And it makes me smile, because it's awesome. But it also makes me want to pick up my crap and just go.

Seriously, every time I walk by the Lugano train station I feel this urge to jump on a random train and go wherever. But since working is a necessary condition to have money for traveling, I won't do it. What I will do is make sure I go to each and every place on my list as soon as possible.


Lisbon, Portugal
Madrid, Spain  (July 2010)
Barcelona, Spain  (August and October 2010)
Bilbao and San Sebastian, Spain
Stockholm, Sweden  (February 2011)
Dublin, Ireland
Oslo, Norway
Tallin, Estonia
Bruxelles, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Prague, Czech Republic (going next weekend!)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Krakov, Poland
Berlin, Germany  (October 2011)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Sicily, Italy
Belgrade, Serbia
Greek Islands  (July 2011)
Istanbul, Turkey
Zurich, Switzerland

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Acquacotta... much more than just "cooked water"

Acquacotta in Italian means, literally, cooked water, but as you can tell by the picture, there's much more to this Tuscan soup than just cooked water. There's a poached egg, there's a rich mushroom and tomato broth and, underneath it all there's a thick slice of bread sprinkled with Pecorino cheese. It's a very comforting dish, easy to make and, above all, it's very cheap. Mushrooms are plentiful in this season, but I had so many bags of dried porcini (don't ask, I'm not sure why) in the pantry I used those, and it turned out great.


Serves 4

2 large onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
5 tomatoes, cubed
5 cups tasty stock
Grated Romano cheese
4 eggs
4 large slices country bread
Salt and pepper
Dried marjoram

Heat a bit of EVOO in a large dutch oven, add onions and sautee on medium heat for a ten minutes, stirring so it doesn't burn. Add garlic and mushrooms, sautee for three minutes. Add tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and marjoram and cook for about ten minutes. Add broth, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

In the mean time, toast bread and place each slice on the bottom of a large bowl. Sprinkle with cheese. Pour very hot soup in each bowl. Crack an egg in each one. The broth will cook the egg. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Things I loved about Berlin

The Riverside Lodge Hostel, Berlin's tiniest hostel. And I'm not exaggerating: it consists of two rooms and two bathrooms, all spotless and clean, with cool murals and a super nice host, Enrico. The bed was comfy and warm and I loved how everyone had to take their shoes off at the hostel entrance.

Art on every wall, around every corner. Even at a small playground in the middle of the Turkish quarter. My playground, as a kid, never looked this cool.

Beer gardens. Despite the temperature (it barely broke 50F during the warmest hours of the day) everyone enjoyed sitting in the sun, sipping on a good, cheap, draft beer. 

The incredible architecture. The Berliner Dome and the Alexanderplatz needle are just two of the many amazing buildings you see as you stroll down the roads in Berlin.

Street vendors still capitalizing on Berlin's DDR past, selling CCCP flags and other (fake) communist memorabilia to tourists. 

The sky over Berlin. No wonder Wim Wenders named his movei, Der Himmel uber Berlin, after it. It's temperamental and dramatic, just like the city below it.

Branderbourg Gate. Because seeing it on tv is one thing. Hanging out below it, remembering people cheering for their newfound freedom in 1989 is priceless.

Amazing city sunsets, which are always my favorites. Because let's face it: it's easy to see a great sunset on an island in Bora Bora, but it's much more scenic when you see a monument in the way.

The East Side Gallery, aka what remains of the Berlin Wall. Hundreds of incredibly gifted artists from all over the world have contributed to transforming a symbol of repression into one of freedom and hope. 

Street musicians, playing, singing and smiling despite the cold Northern wind that blew relentlessly throughout the day.

Feeling part of a history that, until now, I had only seen on tv and read in books. 

Impromptu art galleries placed in abandoned buildings, where mostly homeless artists place their sculptures and live together.

Paying my respects to the victims of the Holocaust. A sobering experience that anyone who's visiting Berlin should partake in.

Drinking beer for breakfast. Scratch that: drinking incredibly good, tasty German beer for breakfast, and not being the only one in the bar to do so.

And most of all, hanging out with my old friend Cass, who invited me to meet her in Berlin while she was visiting the city. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Risotto with pumpkin and pancetta

Happy belated Halloween everyone! I hope you are not tired of pumpkins and pumpkin recipes because lately I have been cooking a loooooot of pumpkin. I just haven't had time to post any recipes, nor have I had time to visit other people's blogs. I'm not sure why, exactly. Maybe because I have been traveling and when I was home I went out to restaurants a lot. Maybe I've just been lazy. Maybe I was trying to enjoy the last few days of warm fall weather because, so far, we have had the most amazing October I've ever seen. So it was a great time to take walks by the lake and go to outdoor festivals. Next week, though, we are supposed to get some really shitty weather, so I guess I'll have tons of time to dedicate to my blog then.

Back to pumpkin, though. Here's a recipe to make risotto with pumpkin and smoked pancetta which is very, very good. And I'm not just saying so because I invented it. It was truly amazing, perfect for any fall dinner party you might be hosting. Or even for a family dinner, really.


1/2 cup EVOO
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped pancetta
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
About 6 cups of hot vegetable stock
1 pumpkin, one half baked in the oven and then pureed; the other half, peeled, cut into small dice, and sauteed in a little oil and butter until tender
1 cup grated Parmesan
4 tablespoons butter

In a medium-size heavy dutch over, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and a tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and pancetta and saute, stirring continuously, just until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and continue to stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat the rice with the oil.
Add the white wine and continue cooking, stirring often, until it has been absorbed by the rice. Pour two ladles of broth to cover the rice and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid is absorbed.

Pour in 1 cup more of the remaining stock and stir and cook until it has been absorbed. Repeat with 1 more cup. Add the remaining cup and cook, stirring, until the rice is al dente, tender but still very chewy, and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Stir in the pumpkin and reduce the heat to very low so that the risotto doesn't simmer anymore. Stir in the cheese and butter to give the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Spoon it immediately into heated shallow serving bowls.


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