Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cooking Class!

Last week, my husband and I met a friend and took the bus downtown to attend a cooking class.  Cooking with Lucas was awesome. We learned about food, made delicious food, ate it, and met some great people. This one happened to be a tomato class.  So we made two types of tomato sauce for pasta, bruschetta (pronounced brusKetta), we learned about and tasted his sun-dried tomatoes (those take days, so we didn't make those), and the class favorite, Caprese salad with really, really good fresh mozzarella.  I'll just post a bunch of pics below for you to enjoy.

Chopping onions for the long-simmered tomato sauce; the copper pot is a great pot for simmering sauces; as the sauce doesn't jump out of it at all.  Lucas buys the pots locally.

A huge pan of fresh cherry tomatoes and olive oil, ready for roasting.  Above, the finished sauce on some good pasta with fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.  So simple and good.
 Preparing the bread and tomato topping for a delicious bruschetta.
Lucas with his very good olive oil that he imports from another part of Italy.  Cool olive oil dispenser!  Three photos below are of the Caprese salad.  So delicious, flavorful, and fresh.  Really, really good.  Fun to photograph, too obvs. 

This is a painted fresco on Lucas's kitchen ceiling.  It was really awesome.  He lives in a historic downtown apartment building that used to be a castle and is nestled against the old city walls, right by the big archway into the "old" part of the city.  The whole experience was amazing and I really want to take more classes.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hotel Eatin'

We're in the hotel still, but I when we first got here, I bought a small 220v crockpot so I could cook here if needed, and I knew I'd need a 220v one soon enough anyway.  (I had 3 110v, or "American" crock pots before moving from our last place, but I finally sold the one I bought in 2001.  Lol.  Still have the others, coming.)  Anyway, last Sunday I made this shredded taco beef for tacos in the crockpot.  (BTW; in lieu of the spices I don't have on hand right now, I used half a taco seasoning packet.)  Since the kids don't love eating this meat in tacos for some reason, we had a lot leftover.
The next day, I wanted to use the rest of the beef, so I made quick microwave nachos with it.  This isn't really a "recipe" fit for a food blog, but I really got nothin' else.  Lol.  If we do eat in the hotel, it's been bread & cheese, fruit salad, Frito Pies, toast, crackers & cheese, ice cream and hot fudge...... (there is a small stove and a small pan, so I did make homemade hot fudge recently).  Luckily there is a plethora of delicious Italian restaurants out there for us to explore, so we're not eating too poorly.  I do want my own, larger  kitchen though.

Anyway, I'll be posting this as a recipe.... I know you can figure it out yourself, but you're welcome anyway. And loooook!!!  My first microwave recipe!!!  I think.

Shredded Beef Microwave Nachos
from yours truly

leftover shredded beef from tacos
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
favorite tortilla chips
sour cream
pickled jalapeno peppers
any extras you like, like fresh tomatoes, veggies, garnishes, etc.

1.  First, you need to warm up the leftover beef and break it into small enough pieces.  Place it on a microwave-safe plate and warm up for 30 seconds or until warm.  Cut or shred into smaller pieces using 2 forks or a knife.

2.  Lay out chips in a mostly single layer on a larger micro-safe plate.  Lay on shredded cheese, as much or as little as you like.  Then, layer on the warmed shredded beef.  Microwave for 30-60 seconds, or until cheese is melted.  Top with sour cream, jalapenos, and anything else you like.  Eat.  :)

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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 sauté 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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