Friday, June 21, 2013

My Vegetable Garden

vegetable garden
That young man you see in the picture is my son.  A 17 year old, at least 20 cm taller than me and high enough to eat comfortably on top of my head; a self-taught basketball player; deeply in love with 1960’s Chevy Impala cars; an absolute fan of the TV series “The Big Bang Theory”; a voracious devourer of pasta and pizza; and the author-creator-development manager of our marvelous vegetable garden.  From the double-digging, to harvesting, from designing to planting, from weed pulling  to natural bug attack prevention, he’s done it and all on his own.

How proud can a mother be?!  I mean, can you see my face right now?! :)))vegetable garden3
Seeds are sprouting, zucchini flowers are blooming, tomatoes are growing and the lettuce is in its full burst of beauty. Big, crunchy leaves that give you pleasure of savoring a delicious, fresh lettuce from the garden.  Flavor and texture that far exceeds the best grocery store produce.  Lettuce is what we have been enjoying in abundance lately with a drizzle of olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and salt….but, in the long run, this can become boring.  Here’s a flavorsome dressing that will give your salad a twist.  Beware:  you can get addicted to this!

The portions for this dressing may vary depending on preference and quantity of salad. 

Recipe - Blue Cheese Dressing
For a medium size salad

80 gr blue cheese
40 gr heavy cream (or buttermilk, or yogurt, or milk)
1 tbsp of Worcester sauce
1 tbsp of vinegar
freshly chopped chives
some roughly chopped hazelnuts
vegetable garden1

Monday, June 17, 2013

Barbecue Prawn Kebabs

We are starting to feel the hot weather in Rome and when I say hot, I mean HOT!  Finally, it's time to enjoy eating on the patio, reading in the shade, napping on the hammoch, lying under the sun, picking fruits, making jams, and all those things that come with summer.  While I'm busy doing all of the above, the men at home do the cooking and when the sun is out and the sky is blue, it's time to barbecue! Barbecues are what men do best (that's what I make them believe).  You should hear my dad, husband and son while they discuss on how to place the meat on the grill, if they should use charcol, wood or gas, when to cook rare or well done, which equipment to use, if a man should wear an apron or not, why you need to drink beer to compensate the loss of sweat under the sun... they go on and on.  Their "serious" BBQ talks are as interesting as watching golf on tv...and while they talk, the food cooks by itself.  It's fun to leave them loose with the grill, you get to see how well they flip the meat!

Here's a recipe for BBQ boys and for girls that do-it-themselves not worrying to hurt any (boy) feelings :)   

RECIPE - BBQ Prawn Kebabs
for 4 people

8 wooden kebab skewers
16 prawns
1 lemon, juiced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cm ginger, peeled and grated
60 gr melted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
hot pepper

*Soak wooden skewers in water for about 30 minutes before use.

Whisk the lemon juice, garlic, ginger, hot pepper, salt, parsley, melted butter and olive oil. Pour sauce on prawns and leave to marinate for 1 hour.  Remove the prawns from the sauce and stick 4 prawns through each skewer. Place the prawn kebabs on a preheated BBQ until cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side.  Brush the prawns with the marinade while they grill.

TIP:  Use 2 skewers for each kebab, this will keep the prawns steady, when flipping them over. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pistachio and Sesame Seed Cookies

pistachio and sesame seed cookiepistachio and sesame seed cookie1
This cookie won't do anything to be noticed or to capture your attention.  The aspect is simple and discrete.  It will sit quietly to be left unobserved.  It timidly keeps its ingredients intimate. It won't talk, sing or dance.  It waits and waits and waits until you take the first bite and that's when it reveals music of flavor that you would have never thought as so sublime.  

Don't judge this cookie by its looks, it is deceptively delicious.

Photo tip:
Did you notice a difference in these pictures from my usual ones?  I've been using the "super-new-fantastic-I'm in love with it" VSCO cam app, which you can see more of in my instagram photos.  If you haven't discovered it yet, and you have an iphone, I truly suggest you give it a try, it's absolutely awesome.  I love the vintage feel of pictures, especially when I combine a picture to a subject like this cookie, that can bring back simple memories. This app allows you to  modify pictures in an easy, fast way with many beautiful effects.    


50 gr whole wheat flour
50 gr rice flour
50 gr white flour
90 gr pistachio roughly chopped 
15 gr sesame seeds
110 gr brown sugar
90 gr butter
1 pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg

In a bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, sesame seeds and pistachios.  In a blender beat butter and sugar until soft and light, add egg.  Add the dry ingredients and mix to form a ball.  Make 15 small balls (you can use an ice cream scoop)  and place on a oven tray covered with parchment paper.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes.  Let the cookies bake more if you like them crisp or less if you like them chewy.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chicken Burger

Ladies and gentlemen may I present to you my favorite burger.  The very uncomplicated burger. A chicken patty smashed on the griddle, a soft bun lightly toasted, a slice of emmenthal, fresh vegetables and a cucumber yogurt salsa to die for.  NO ketchup, NO relish, NO mayo, nothing caramelized, none of that stuff that hides the taste of what you are supposed to taste: the meat.  Let it be chicken or beef, you need to bite it and taste it, or you're not eating a burger.

It just happens to be that I made this particular burger with chicken, usually it's the beef that I use, the beef that I want and the beef that makes, what I believe,  a true hamburger.  This chicken burger can be seen as a healthier version, with no fat and unexpectedly juicy. 
...and what's a hamburger without its bun?  Nothing!  So here's a homemade recipe for you that's quicker to make than to go out and buy.  
Senza titolo

Recipe - Chicken Burger

1 whole chicken breast 
2 small spring onions
1 tsp salt
1 tsp five-spice
rughetta or lettuce
tomato slices
emmenthal slices
yogurt sauce
old style mustard

Mince the chicken meat with the spring onions, five-spice and salt.  Mix and leave aside while you prepare the rest.  The chicken mixture is sticky, so oil your hands with some olive oil when you prepare the patties.  

Recipe - Yogurt Salsa

1 cucumber peeled and chopped in tiny cubes
300 gr plain white yogurt
lemon zest
pinch of salt
1 tsp of lemon juice
some fresh chopped herbs (chives and parsley)

Recipe - Hamburger Buns

20g fresh yeast
50g butter
500 ml milk
580 g flour (plus extra for kneading)
1 tsp salt
1 egg wash 
sesame seeds

Heat butter and milk to luke warm, pour in a big mixing bowl.  Add the yeast and let it dissolve.  Add flour and salt to the liquid.  Mix dough.  It needs to be sticky.  Cover with  plastic wrap and leave to rise for about 1 hour.  Roll dough onto a floured surface and divide into 16 equal pieces, use extra flour if necessary.  Brush each bun with the egg wash and sprinkle with some sesame seeds.  Let it rise for 1 hour.  Place in a preheated 200°C oven for 15-20 minutes.

Assemble the burgers with rughetta (or lettuce), a tomato slice, emmenthal, some yogurt salsa and old style mustard on lightly toasted buns.