Thursday, April 30, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Peanut Noodle Salad
This is a nice variation of the standard summertime pasta or macaroni salad and goes great with all types of protein - chicken, shrimp, steak, tofu. Feel free to make the dressing in advance but don't toss with the noodles more than a few hours ahead as the acid will sometimes break down the pasta.
Ingredients For the dressing .5 c. Lime juice 1 T. Peanut butter (creamy or chunky is fine) 2 T. Sesame oil 2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped 1 t. of Ginger (fresh grated or fresh from a jar, not powdered) 1 T. Low sodium soy sauce 1 T. Tomato paste (or sauce or whatever tomato product you have around 1 packet Splenda or 1 t. brown sugar* Hot sauce or Sriracha (to taste) *Depending on how acidic the dressing tastes, and what kind of tomato product you used, you may want to add a bit of sweetness for balance For the salad 8 oz. Soba or whole wheat spaghetti, prepared to packaged directions, drained and cooled .5 c. Snow peas or sugar snap peas, julienned .5 c. Zucchini, shredded and drained/water squeezed out .24 c. Carrots, shredded .5 Red bell pepper, julienned 2 Scallions, thinly sliced .25 c. Unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped 2 T. of Basil leaves and Spearmint leaves, cut into long thin strips (chiffonade) Method For the dressing, using a standard or immersion blender, blitz the first seven ingredients (lime juice through tomato paste). Sample and add sweeter and hot sauce to taste. For the salad, combine pasta and vegetables. Toss with dressing a few hours before serving. Serve chilled with hot grilled chicken, shrimp, beef or tofu.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Run by the colorful Carmelita, Cook Italy offers a slew of courses, including a personalized one-day market tour and cooking lesson in Bologna. I emailed Carmelita on a Saturday night, confirmed the date on Sunday, went to my bank on Monday to send a deposit via wire transfer and departed for Italy that evening. The next foggy Friday morning, I hopped on the 07:30 Eurostar Italia and arrived at Bologna Centrale one hour later.
Bologna is quite a charming small city, even straight from the train station. It was an easy walk to the cafe (Terzi, Via Oberdan 10) Carmelita recommended as the meeting place.
I was Carmelita's only "guest" for the day. Although I worried it might be a little awkward, it was far from it! Carmelita, who has run the business for almost 10 years, is very knowledgeable and passionate about Bologna, food and Italy in general.
After a quick hello and coffee, we set off for the shops. First stop, a quick tour of Eataly Bologna.Eataly Bologna, which only opened a few weeks before my visit, is an outpost of the larger Eataly in Turin. Carmelita told me the building, which was once a church and movie theater had been extensively remodeled. Picture a Barnes & Nobel meets Dean & Deluca, with extra cafes and food outposts for coffee, lunch or wine. With lots of books in Italian and English, including an extensive cooking section, Eataly is clearly designed for the Bologna yuppie -- highly designed and stylized, but, according to Carmelita, there are a few food gems mixed in with the products that may have earned shelf space more for their marketing and packaging. I was impressed with the interior: the casual spaces designed to grab a coffee or snack, the number of chairs inviting visitors to sit down and flip through a book or two, and the nice basement bathroom! With rumors circulating Eataly is coming to NYC next year, I will be curious to see if the concept is more similar to the Bologna store (likely, due to space issues) or Turin location. But with other shopping to do, we set off, peaking in Gilberto (good for all types of balsamic, according to Carmelita) before checking out the produce stalls. Since I had barely eaten a vegetable on the trip, I asked if our lunch menu could take advantage of the lovely spring produce. And it was lovely. While we're just seeing the first ramps of the season in NYC, Bologna was already enjoying purple artichokes, slender asparagus stalks and fava in velvety pods. The little stalls we visited also had some non-local products, including fruit (plastic wrapped pineapple not grown in Italy). But Carmelita, a fan of tracability, a least in terms of growing region, shunned the strawberries and went for things like morels and zucchini, as well as this interesting citrus fruit with an edible pulp: citron or cedro/cendrone. With the produce in hand, next up was protein. Carmelita took me into her butchers shop (to gawk), but as it was Friday and Lent I was all for a fish lunch (especially after seeing the meat in it's close-to-natural-state). True confession: I never liked fish as a child. In fact, my mother once tried to convince me a scallop was a vegetable so I would try it (it didn't work). But I've since learned to enjoy most shellfish and some other types of seafood. But not sardines, although I can appreciate the beautiful color of these fresh specimens. As well as laugh at the antics of these odd crustaceans (I have no idea what they are, but am glad we did not purchase any after seeing them alive!).
Next post: Shopping and cooking in Bologna.
Monday, April 6, 2009
First stop, Princi Bakery. Prinic has been lauded by the New York Times and other blogs for its chic approach to baked goods. With several outposts in Milan, I visited the stores at 5 Piazza XXV Aprile (which uses a numbered ticket system for ordering, making for much better crowd control) and Via Ponte Vetero 10 (which has more indoor seating, including a communal table good for solo diners, if you can actually get them to take your order!).
The best thing at Princi? The focaccia, or pizza as they called it. Servers snip off large squares which they will heat (Italian="caldo") and snip into smaller squares making it easier to eat with a fork (only children seem to eat pizza with their hands). During my stay, I sampled focaccia with zuchini, focaccia with eggplant and the focaccia with spinach, tomato, brie and some other kind of cheese pictured here (it was my favorite). If you go, grab an extra piece to eat on the plane home. Hot or cold, it was delicious and a pretty good bargain at about €3.50 (prices based on weight; cash or debit only). Next up was a chowhound.com recommendation for wood-fired pizza. Sibilla, located on Via Mercato, 14 (a little up from the Princi on Via Ponte Vetero), has no exterior signage -- just the name "pizzeria" over its door. It is clearly a family place. In fact, I went on a Saturday afternoon shortly after it opened and of the five or so tables, I was the only one with no kids!
I asked my server what the most popular pizza was and without hesitation he said the margarita, so of course I ordered it. The pizza itself was fairly standard - good and hot, but they clearly used "cheap" cheese, making what could have been great similar to your average New York slice. However, the servers were friendly, service was prompt, portions generous and there was no cover charge. A Coke Lite, green salad and pizza cost me €14 (cash only).
For those overwhelmed by the Duomo crowds (or line of tourists snaking around the Duomo roof -- all I could think when I was up there was "safety hazard"), Luini is a good place to recharge with a quick snack. Luini was highly recommended in multiple guidebooks, as well as sites like chowhound.com.
People are gaga for its panzerotti, or little hand pies. Luini offers a selection of these treats in both sweet and savory flavors. I went in late in the afternoon, and pickings were slim. I ended up with a salami and mozzarella version for €2.50. It had been sitting in the case, and was room temperature, but still tasty. The dough was not greasy in the least (perhaps it had been baked vs. fried) and was a tasty snack on the go (especially since so few Italian snacks are meant to be eaten on the go -- in fact, most Luini patrons seemed to linger outside the door and finish their snack). I however was thirsty and decided the perfect way to wash down a panzerotti was with a cocktail, so I went around the corner to Zucca. The bar/cafe, which is on Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, has beautiful mosaics, and is well-positioned for people watching. Pay the cashier, belly up to the longer bar for alcohol or shorter for a coffee, give the bartender your receipt and wait for your drink. Or pay a cover to sit, relax and giggle at tourists. I am a sucker for local liquors (once, in Antwerp, I ordered an Elixir d'Anvers, a yellow, anise flavored beverage I sipped once and then traded in for a cosmo). So of course, I ordered a Zucca and soda. Zucca, which I gather is a rhubarb liquor, is quite bitter and reminiscent of sour root beer. However, for €3.50 (plus all the green olives, chips and Doritos I could eat), it was worth it just to stand and gawk, like any good tourist. Next up - Mangia Milan: Gelato.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
More stories and pictures to come, but here's a taste of what's ahead. Ciao for now!