“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Joy of Pesto

First off, I would like to introduce you to a wonderful blog that I discovered called“A High School Foodie.” It is run by high school student Russell (as you could probably guess by the name) and has a number of delicious recipes, both indulgent and healthy. Make sure to add it as a favorite!!

For me, Pesto is like water. I must have it. Water has so many benefits and can be used in a number of ways, just like pesto! You can use it as a marinade, a dressing for salad, add a few tablespoons to a sandwich or a side of vegetables, pasta, the list is endless. Pesto can be used however you like it! Spread it on some nice crusty bread for a snack; add a few tablespoons to your pizza for a little zing. Do whatever you want with it!!

Here is a little history about our dear friend, Pesto. Pesto originated in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy. It traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts mixed with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano and Fiore Sardo. My Pesto Genovese it a mostly traditional, except for the fact the I sometimes make it with walnuts instead of pine nuts. There are so many variations of pesto, traditional, tomato, sun dried tomato, spinach, cilantro, arugula. I love pesto and if you have yet to experience, I encourage you to try these recipes with some nice al dente pasta and I dare you not to fall in love with it, the way I have!

Pesto Genovese
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
½-3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 – ½ cup pine nuts or walnuts (to taste, some people like more, some people like
Crushed red pepper
Salt +Pepper
Full head of fresh basil

Warm your garlic very slowly in the olive oil until it gets just slightly golden. DO NOT BROWN. Add crushed red pepper to taste, add nuts to the oil, brown very lightly. Let it all cool. Put your basil leaves and thin stems into the food processor or blender. Add your oil, garlic and nut mix, salt and pepper to taste and process. Some people like a coarse pesto which is more traditional, others like a smoother one. This would traditionally be made in a mortar and pestle and would be coarse, some people enjoy using this traditional method. Either way, it’s delicious.

Tomato Pesto

Fresh tomatoes (any size, cherry, plum, even large, just chopped coarsely) end up with two cups chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
½-3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts (to taste, some people like more, some people like less)
Crushed red pepper
Salt +Pepper
Full head of fresh basil

Warm your garlic very slowly in the olive oil until it gets just slightly golden. DO NOT BROWN. Add crushed red pepper to taste, add nuts to the oil, brown very lightly. Let it all cool. Put your basil in the blender, chop it a bit. Then add your garlic nut mix, salt and pepper and tomatoes last. Try to keep them a little chunky. This is also makes an amazing bruschetta!!  If you have some fun ways that you enjoy pesto, please comment and let me know how you enjoy it! Buon appetito!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Sweets of Italy, Part due

Time for more delicious sweets of Italy!!

Gelato mouse trifles- So, at Roxy bar they had these wonderful little trifles. They were made with a layer of mouse (hazelnut, vanilla or chocolate) and a layer of gelato (hazelnut, vanilla or chocolate.) Obviously this combination was enough to satisfy me. But what made this so incredible what something I have never seen before. They were served in these little plastic cups with a handle. The handle was hollow and filled with….yep, you guessed it, NUTELLA!!! Even more amazing, it was served with a special double sided spoon, one side was like a regular spoon and the other was a narrow spoon made specifically so you could scoop out the nutella. It was amazing.

The mini pastries- We went to this really nice place for lunch right by an Upim (Upim is a big store, kind of like a JCPenney or a Target.) We had a delicious lunch there. When I went inside to use the bathroom I noticed a huge Pastry display. We were stuffed, so we decided to go back for dessert after dinner. Boy, am I glad we did. We shared a nutella tartlet, a pistachio tartlet and a coffee crème puff. I think I’ve said it all.

Nutella with toast- I know this might sound boring. But if you’re used to toast with butter or peanut butter and jelly, this is a nice change of pace. At our hotel in Rome, there was a continental breakfast and every day I had two slices of whole wheat toast spread generously with nutella. It’s weird; I can’t seem to have this breakfast at home. It’s just somehow not the same when I know I’m not in Italy. Good thing I’m going back soon.

McFlurrys- Yes, McFlurrys, as in a McDonalds McFlurry. Strange, I know. My mother and I went to the famous McDonalds by the Spanish Steps and I couldn’t help but notice that they had hazelnut and pistachio McFlurrys!!!!! I was tempted, so we got one of each and shared!! They were the classic vanilla soft serve ice cream topped with hazelnuts or pistachios. Classic, simple and very, very tasty.

Coffee gelato milkshakes- When we were in Italy, some days were unbearably hot. We noticed a lot of people had gelato for breakfast (my kind of country), so one day we shared a coffee gelato milkshake with our cornettos. Oh my. So delicious and refreshing. We continued this tradition almost every day. You know, to escape the heat. Wink wink.

Do you have a favorite sweet memory of Italy? If so, please comment and let me know!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Sweets of Italy, Part Uno

I ate a lot of sweets when I was in Italy this past summer. I mean a lot. I had to have nutella and gelato every day. I had sweets at breakfast, in the afternoon and of course, after dinner while strolling around Rome or Ischia. I got so used to having nutella everyday, that when I got back to America and it wasn’t everywhere you looked, I went through nutella withdrawal. It was pretty intense. Anyway……I thought it would be fun to list a lot of the delicious treats I ate while in Italy. And don’t worry; I’ll be salivating right along with you.

The nutella donut- Yes, you read that right. Nutella. Donut. A beautiful light yeast donut, stuffed and I mean STUFFED with creamy nutella. Sometimes I would eat the outside of the donut first just to save the nutella for last, other times I would take a bite and get a little of each.

The yeast bun with chocolate chips- Okay, not quite sure how to describe this. Almost every morning in Ischia my mother and I went to a place called Roxy Bar. They had some baked goods, gelato, coffee and drinks. One morning we get this delightful yeast breakfast bun, shaped like a cinnamon bun that was made with chocolate chips. It wasn’t sweet, the chocolate was the only sweet thing about it. It was kind of like a twisted bread roll with chocolate. Eaten with a cappuccino was a lovely mix.

Cornetto with nutella and cream- So in Italy, they call them cornettos, not croissants.  They are very similar, but the French version of the croissant tends to be crispy and contains a lot of butter, whereas an Italian cornetto is usually softer. A lot of the time for breakfast my mother and I would get one filled with nutella and one filled with Crema Gillia (custard) and share them both. Delizioso.   

Gelato- I don’t even know where to begin with the gelato. I had so many different flavors, it’s not even funny. The flavors I like are usually nutty or chocolaty. I had Stracciatella (kind of like chocolate chip, except the chocolate is not really in chip form, but in fine bits throughout the gelato. It gets this way by drizzling a thin stream of melted chocolate during the final stages of churning, which hardens on contact and gets broken up as it churns.) I had baci (chocolate and hazelnut), bianco hazelnut (white chocolate and hazelnut. Pistachio. Coconut. Nocciola (hazelnut.) Noce (walnut.) Caramel. White chocolate. Cookie gelato. And my personal favorite, nero fondente. This was without a doubt, the richest, darkest, creamiest, most intense chocolate gelato (or ice cream) I have ever had in my life. It was literally black. Best. Gelato. Ever.  
Do you have a favorite sweet memory of Italy? If so, please comment and let me know!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Memories of Ischia: The Food, Part Due, Our Pizza Guy

 As silly as it may sound, when we were in Ischia, my mother and I had a pretty set routine for the late hours. After I finished with my evening lessons, we would take a walk, maybe do a little shopping, pick up a pizza from our favorite pizza guy, come back to our nice, spacious room and eat the pizza straight out of the box on our comfy beds while watching DVD’S on the laptop. I know what you’re thinking. You’re in Italy and you stay IN for dinner? First off, we did not do this EVERY night, just most. Second, we were in Italy for a month and sometimes we really craved that feeling of being “home” and doing this kept that feeling alive. Third, no matter where you ate this pizza, it was going to taste amazing, so who cares where we ate it?

Forio, Ischia

So, how did this routine start? Well, on our second night in Ischia (The first night we went out with a group) we were not quite sure what to do for dinner. Were we going to go to same place we went the night before, look for another place, maybe venture to another part of the island? We weren’t really up for anything that big. As we were wandering around trying to make up our minds, we passed a teeny tiny pizzeria. Il Pizzicotto Pizzeria. It was very narrow with just two little booths on one side, a narrow counter for just a few people to sit on the other side and the main counter in the back to order. On one side of the wall was a huge menu, I think they had over 25 pizza specialties. Even though it was small, it felt very inviting and we instantly felt at home. We scanned the menu, unable to pick from so many of the tempting, mouthwatering pizzas. But, after much deliberation, we landed on the Sorriso.

The “Sorriso” was a traditional pie with gravy (some of us Italians call it gravy instead of sauce) and mozzarella, but…..it also had dollops of fresh, creamy ricotta. And if that wasn’t enough, the crust was also stuffed with more fresh ricotta. The combination of the homemade gravy and moist mozzarella with the creaminess of the ricotta, the chewy crust and the smoky taste from the wood burning oven was indescribable. Best pizza ever. While we did try other varieties (my other favorite was the eggplant parmigiano pie) most nights, we just had to get the Sorriso. We would go in, scan the menu, go over a few other options, but I think we both knew we were always going to get the Sorriso.

What made this experience so memorable for us was the fact that even though we were only in Ischia for a little over two weeks, we became regulars at Il Pizzicotto Pizzaeria. It was a very nice feeling. There were moments when we missed home and having a little place where the owners remembered us and knew we would come back every night was a special feeling. I would have loved to have known the names of the two people that were always in there. There was a sweet older woman who helped us a few times and of course, the pizza man himself. Every time we came in, he was so nice and polite. He would take our order and then go straight to making our pie. We even saw him in town a few times and he would always say hello to us. I miss the taste of the pizza in Ischia. It was like no other pizza I have ever had. But I am quite certain I’ll get to try it again someday.