Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bowties with Asiago, Mascarpone, & Zucchini Blossoms

I finally cooked something in our tiny, barely stocked hotel kitchen!  Besides toast.  (We had to buy our own toaster... lol.)  After our trip to Asiago , I wanted to use up the Mascarpone and Asiago cheese we brought back.  This dish was perfect for that.  We picked up some Asiago Speck (like Prosciutto), too.  We visited a local grocery store where I got the mini bowties, and then I searched for asparagus, so I could make this old fave.   The store didn't have any asparagus, so instead, I got tiny, finger-sized zucchinis with the blossom still attached!!  They were SO cute and cheap; it was only 50-something Euro cents for 6-7 of them.  

I made the pasta with the above ingredients and it was SO good and flavorful, and everything I used was local, made in this region of Italy or a nearby.  Except the garlic, for some reason, which was from Spain. (Spain, I still love you.)  I love being able to use local ingredients like this- it was harder to do this when I lived in the Azores.  
I'll definitely make this dish again, with the changes and the fresh mascarpone & Asiago.  We get the keys to our house today, but won't move in right away.  In a few weeks though, I hope to be able to cook from my own kitchen!!  

Bowties with Asiago, Mascarpone, & Zucchini Blossoms
adapted from here

1/2lb mini bowtie pasta
1/2 cup pasta water, reserved
2T unsalted butter
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 large fresh garlic clove, minced
4-5 ounces Asiago speck or Prosciutto, coarsely chopped
1/2lb tiny zucchini with flowers attached, gently washed, dried, and chopped
1/2 cup (about 4oz) mascarpone cheese
salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts, shelled pistachios, or a mix (toast first, if desired)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup Asiago (medium to old-aged; I used 6 months aged) cheese, shredded
fresh grape tomatoes, optional

1.  In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente (about 7-10 minutes). Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.

2.  Saute garlic, for 1 minute, in melted butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add Asiago speck or Prosciutto and chopped zucchini and chopped zucchini flowers and sautĂ© over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until zucchini is crisp-tender. Do not overcook.

3.  Reduce heat to medium and add pasta and mascarpone; toss until cheese melts and coats pasta; slowly add reserved pasta water, as needed, to moisten (I used just a few tablespoons).

4.  Remove from heat and add toasted nuts. Toss with Asiago cheese and fresh basil. Season with salt & pepper (you may not need any additional salt). Top with fresh grape tomatoes, if desired.  Serve immediately.
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Asiago, Italy

Yesterday, we decided to drive up to Asiago for the afternoon.  We didn't leave until noon and we still had a great day.  It didn't take that long to get there (a little over an hour) and it was absolutely gorgeous.   You drive up into the mountains to get here.  There are 10 large switchbacks (they number them here!)  It was worth it though; we want to come again.  It looks like Austria or Switzerland or the Black Forest of Germany here; and it was much cooler too.
We visited the World War I memorial first.  They have names of all of the Italian soldiers that died up in marble plaques throughout a majestic hall.  It's a very somber place.

Then, we walked around the town, looking for lunch.  Most things were closed until dinnertime, though.  And a lot of stores were just closed, I think for the upcoming August holiday.  It started pouring down rain, so we ran back to our car and just drove.  In a neighboring town we found a restaurant that cooked pizza for us, even though it was a weird time (2:30pm) and nobody else was eating.  It was some of the best pizza we've had here, and the family running the restaurant were super friendly!  I had to get an Asiago cheese pizza with another local specialty, Asiago Speck (a kind of cured ham, like proscuitto).  And.... I kind of ate the whole thing.  My kids got plain Asiago cheese pizzas, or sausage.  Everyone ate a ton.  (Walking around the empty town of Asiago searching for food for over an hour probably helped..... lol.)
The owners of Waister Trattoria were SO friendly and helpful; in their limited English and our super limited Italian, we asked where we could go to see a cheese factory.  We couldn't find anything on our GPS or our phones.  The owners are actually friends with someone who owns a small-batch cheese factory!!  So they gave us directions, and we went there after eating.  It turned out to be even more awesome than we had hoped for.
Here is the cheese for sale in the shop.  They also had fresh ricotta, mascarpone, drinkable yogurt, butter, and other cheeses for sale.  (We bought Asiago, fresh mascarpone, and berry drinkable yogurt.... all delish.)

We asked if we could ever see them making cheese, and they said they do it early in the morning.  They must have seen our disappointment, because they offered to take us downstairs to the little factory and show us around!!  We were so excited; we took a lot of pics.  They are below.

Fresh, "new" cheese, both photos above.  Cheese aging in the cold storage room, two pics below.

After we had our fill of the factory and the cheese room, we went upstairs to look at the products for sale again, and bought what we wanted (the cheese we bought is pictured below- aged 6 months).  Then we asked to see the cows in the barn across the parking lot, and we were free to wander around in there before driving home.
The kids were excited to see cows again; we haven't seen any since the Azores.  The Italians move the cows up to the mountains in the summer and bring them down in the winter (I think).
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Italy Scenes and Buildings

We drove to a quaint little town and walked around, getting ice cream and later, dinner.  The building above is where we got the ice cream, and then sat outside.  It was such a cute building; I loved it!  The view below is the view from the outside seating where we ate our ice cream.  I love this town; we've looked at a few houses here but haven't decided yet.  
The next four pics are photos from around the main town here.  We took an afternoon with friends and walked around, got gelato again (of course) and ate dinner near the city square.  The 4th pic is of the city square.  

This is a countryside restaurant we didn't eat at, because they were full, but I thought it was beautiful.  Maybe one day we will eat there; I want to.  It's an "Agriturismo", or Farm house resort in the countryside.
The pic below is of a pizza oven; our first week here we had great pizza & gnocchi on the same day as we had ice cream in the colorful building at the beginning of this post.  I asked the waiter if I could take a pic of the pizza oven and he was happy to let me.  I need to do a post just on pizza!
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Italy! (Food Pics)

We're really enjoying Italy so far.  We arrived about a week and a half ago. We haven't eaten out at very many restaurants, but we've been to a few, and some food stands, and a very nice and huge grocery store. I'll just share some pics of the food we've eaten here, and of food in the grocery stores.  Above is actually leftovers from a very good restaurant we went to on our second day.  We got appys, 1st and 2nd course.  The leftovers are of the 2nd course and veggie sides.  Grilled salmon, swordfish, grilled veggies, and roasted potatoes.  It was sooo good!!  
These are grocery store pastries, but they were unbelievably good!!  I disagree with buying doughnuts in Europe, but my fam doesn't. There are so many other pastries; why choose doughnuts??!!  Lol.  

The previous 4 pics was part of dinner last night; fried calamari, my Quattro Formaggi pizza (my daughter ordered the same), my husband's pizza with raw prosciutto, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and tomatoes, and some of our drinks.  I love the tall skinny soda cans here. The orange Fanta is quite different than Portuguese; it's not nearly as sweet and not as orange because they don't add any food coloring (not sure if Portugal does).  And they have lemon soda and some places have lemon Fanta here... I LOVE lemon soda and so do the kids now!!  
We took the kids out for their first gelato experience (my husband and I had already had some alone.. oops) and they loved it, of course.  I love how beautiful it all is. I got hazelnut (had pistachio before), my sons got Kinder Egg flavor, cookie flavor, and mango flavor.  My husband got Panna Cotta flavor.  
Italian flag Nutella for the World Cup!!!  Plus, mini nutella jars and Nutella to go.  Love it.  I don't love Nutella, but I think I may start to, living here, in its birthplace.  :)  My kids DO love it and have already gone through some of this huge jar, and all of another (small) one we got when we first got here.

The two pics above are of some young Asiago cheese we bought.  It was good; soft and mild.  It's made kind of close to us; in the mountain town of Asiago.  I can't wait to go.

Aisles and aisles of pasta!!  There are SO many kinds!!  These two pics are just the dry stuff; there are whole aisles of fresh refrigerated pasta and then another whole section just for fresh gnocchi.  We love pasta so we're in for a treat.  And I haven't had good gnocchi in such a long time!!  There are whole restaurants here just dedicated for gnocchi.  I think I'm in heaven.  :)
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Our Faves From "Our" Pastelaria

We flew out of the Azores today; headed for Italy.  We're resting at a hotel right now; dividing our trip up so as not to do too much in one day (plus, that's just how the flights worked out... lol).  I meant to do this post before moving, but I'll do it now.  I didn't have time in the last few days.  I wanted to just post some pics of the food my family use to get at our fave little cafe there.  We'd go at least once a month, probably, and hardly ever eat out anywhere else.  I also met friends for lunch there frequently.  I will miss it- I loved the location, the decor, the people there, and of course the food was delish (and cheap!)  We first found this Pastelaria on accident when we moved to the Azores 6 years ago and I posted about it back then.  Who knew that we'd be going here so regularly and it'd be our favorite place!!  
These are pics of our "usuals".  First pic is a sandwich I loved; bacon and cream cheese with egg, corn, lettuce, tomato, and onion.  I tried to re-create it once, but it wasn't nearly as good.  They have good freshly-squeezed orange juice, and I'd sometimes share a plate of fries with my husband.  I'd always order a bowl of soup (below), they had different ones every day.  My favorite was Canja, chicken, rice and lemon.  The pic above is carrot soup.  It was only about 1 Euro a bowl, and always good.  I asked for the recipe for Canja but they said no.  :(  At least I have an Azorean cookbook with some Canja I can try.

My husband usually got some kind of burger; they make really good ones here.  The buns are fresh; the produce is good and in the summertime, looks like it's fresh from someone's garden.  For reals.  Eating here, my fam started to really like mixing mayo and ketchup for fry dipping.  We should have eaten our fries with a fork, like the locals.  Maybe in Italy....
My daughter was so adventurous (lol) and always got a baguette with butter, fries, and a fresh orange juice or orange Fanta.  (Orange Fanta is so good in Europe.... it has real juice it in.  Not like in the US.  And I don't' mean to say that in a snotty way; it's just true.)
My son always had a baguette with Sao Jorge cheese (pic above and below).  He's not crazy about fries, so he wouldn't get those, usually.  Sao Jorge cheese is super strong, but he loves it and it's one of his fave kinds of cheese.  It's made on Sao Jorge island, in the Azores.  

My second son always, always got a hamburger and fries.  If we went to another restaurant and he ordered a hamburger, he said he didn't' like it because it didn't taste like the "Pastelaria hamburgers".  I hope he's ok going to another country and trying their hamburgers!  (Poor guy.)  The waitresses knew he only wanted lettuce on it; no onions or tomatoes.  
For my youngest, the baby of the fam, we started ordering him torrada, or toast with butter.  It took us like 5 years to figure out what torrada was, by the way; and it's on all the cafe menus here.  When we did figure it out, we were very happy, because we finally had something easy to order for the baby.  It's only like 80 cents, too.  But.... you have to say it correctly.  Until a few weeks ago, we'd been saying "torada" with one R, which means bullfight.... lol!!!  Someone at a different restaurant corrected us a few weeks ago, after looking utterly confused when we asked for a torada for the baby.  You have to make the double R sound, which is hard for me to make.  I think the Patelaria had just been humoring us, the clueless Americans, for the last year every time we asked for a bullfight.  So anyway... it's torrada, not torada.  
We ate here many times without getting dessert, but if we did get it, I always enjoyed this caramel tart, which tasted just like Dulce de Leche to me.  I will definitely miss our favorite Pastelaria!!  It's closed on Sundays, but if it was not, I bet they'd be enjoying watching Portugal play against the US in the World Cup today.  :) Have a great weekend; I'll be writing from Italy next time!

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Coconut Horchata

Way back in May, on Cinco de Mayo, we had this for our drink that night.  :)  I forgot what else we had, probably Carnitas and guacamole or something.  My husband I love horchata, and usually just make the rice kind.  (Horchata is a dairy-free rice drink from Mexico, usually flavored with cinnamon.)  I love that this recipe uses coconut milk also.  The only thing is that the coconut milk is kind of hard to incorporate; just whisk really well and enjoy anyway.  I think the kids tried this and like it.... but I don't remember.
Coconut Horchata
adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 1/2 cups water, divided
2/3 cup light or regular coconut milk
1/3 cup superfine sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Pour rice, cinnamon, and 3 cups water in a blender; blend until rice begins to break up, about 1 minute.
Transfer rice mixture to a large bowl and stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups water; let stand for at least 3 hours, whisking occasionally.

2.  Strain rice mixture with a fine sieve into a large pitcher and discard rice.  Stir coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla extract into the pitcher. Chill completely and stir before serving over ice.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014


Back in May, my good friend came over and showed me how to roll sushi.  This is the same friend who showed me how to make lumpia, pancit, yakisoba, and Japanese croquettes.  She just moved on Friday, and I'll miss her.  I'm glad I have these recipes to remember her by, though. 

This isn't really a recipe; more of a method.  I still need a lot of practice; I was flinging sticky rice everywhere.  Also, my friend brought over a rice cooker, which made everything easier.  I don't own one.  First, we made the rice and prepared the fillings.  We prepared a lot of fillings!  If I was doing it alone, I would have just stuck with one or two.  But we made: fried pork cutlets, fried shrimp, cut cucumber, cut avocado, thin egg omelets, cut lettuce, raw tuna in a sauce, and a ginger-beef mixture (she had already made that at home).  We also mixed together mayo and Sriracha sauce to include inside the sushi rolls and to dip into.  

I picked about two fillings for each roll.  I loved the friend shrimp and pork cutlet.  To fry these, dip in flour, egg and panko, and fry in oil (I think! lol).  Then just set aside until needed.  To roll sushi, I'll include some photos of my friend rolling, because that's easier than explaining.  But I will try a little.... start with a bamboo sushi mat, covered with plastic wrap, covered with a sheet of nori.  With wet hands, gently pat down a thin layer of sticky rice on top; add your toppings in a single line, and roll, pressing roll gently so it sticks together. Here come the photos!




Sushi Rice (can multiply; we did x5 to make a ton of rolls)
1 cup of rice
20 grams sugar
20 grams rice vinegar
salt, to taste (or add none)

Other ingredients:
Nori sheets

raw tuna + mayo mixed together with green onion
Panko-fried shrimp
Panko- fried pork loin
shredded, seeded and chopped cucumbers
sliced avocado
thin egg omelet (like a crepe)
any leftovers you want to throw in
(mix and match from above or do you own thing)

Soy Sauce
Mayo + Sriracha sauce

1.  To make sushi rice, cook rice in a rice cooker or on the stove.  In a small pot on the stove, add the rice vinegar and sugar together and heat gently until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over cooked rice.  Let cool a little before making sushi.  

2.  To roll sushi, start with a bamboo sushi mat, covered with plastic wrap, covered with a sheet of nori. With damp hands (have a small bowl of water handy), gently pat down a thin layer of sticky rice on top; add your toppings (2-3) in a single line, and roll, pressing roll gently so it sticks together. This part may take practice, or look up a few Youtube vids.  :)  

3.  When rolled, transfer to a cutting board and cut with a very sharp knife.  We used a serated knife and it worked well.  Serve with either soy sauce or mayo mixed with a little Sriracha sauce for dipping, if desired.  
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