Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Vegans, don’t be afraid of the title, this soup is 100% animal product free. That being said, it was a very rich and creamy soup without any addition of soy creamers or soy milk. I love asparagus because it has a lovely savory and bitter taste. It is a very difficult food to pair a wine to, but I find a nice herbal and mineral New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can work, they often have notes of fresh asparagus as well.

You will need a pressure cooker, OR you will have to cook this for a longer amount of time. Also, you will need a hand held blender, OR go through the trouble of transferring the soup to a blender.


500g of fresh asparagus (or the nice little pack you buy in the store already measures)

6 large russet potatoes peeled and cut into large cubes

2 tbsp of olive oil

1 liter of vegetarian broth

1 vegetarian bouillon cube

1 tbsp course sea salt

Splash of white wine


Put all of the ingredients into the pressure cooker. Slow cook on low pressure for about 1.5 hours. Release the pressure and open the pressure cooker. In the pot with handheld blender, blend all the ingredients until it makes a smooth creamy texture. If you need to add more water, do so, or if your soup is still quite watery, boil in the pot without adding pressure, just leave it open and let it reduce on a medium simmer, stirring regularly. I like mine very thick.
Pour in bowls and serve with a thick rustic bread.

For garnish, if you want to be fancy, put two roasted pieces of asparagus on top of the soup for each bowl.
You could also make this in a slow cooker, but I would reduce the amount of liquid as it does not reduce at all. When you get home after a long day on low on the slow cooker, you would blend it and either reduce the liquid with a medium simmer, or add more water. Make sure to check the salt for your own personal taste.

Enjoy with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

I don’t have photos of the soup because honestly, “cream of…” soups don’t photograph well.

If you want to be crazy and add more flavor, try roasting the asparagus first. Check out my Asparagus Risotto recipe for directions on roasting.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Totally Truffled Thanksgiving

Totally Truffled Thanksgiving brought pure joy to my heart.

Palazzo Massimo

Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme By Sarah May Grunwald

One of my favorite places to visit in Rome is the not to be missed Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. It houses the world's most important collection of Roman antiquities, and it is one of the least trafficked museums of its caliber. Another way to avoid the nightmare of the Vatican!! It is also in a convenient location, just steps away from the main train station, but also steps away from the Exedra, which has a darling rooftop bar for your post museum cocktail.

Palazzo Massimo is what all museums should strive to be like. The collection itself is stellar, but the ambience of the place is really its greatest asset. As well, it is a totally feasible 3 hour trip, that won't make you say, "Oh, I wish I could have more time there." The collection ranges from 5th c B.C. bronzes, Republican era portraits, religious iconography, gorgeous mosaics, Imperial era frescoes and portraits, and even a nuministic collection for all you coin lovers. The collection also has continuity, which helps you along, even when you think you have reached the point where you can't look at another piece of marble; there is always something more interesting around the corner that puts the pieces of the Roman puzzle together, like the museum is telling you a story.

The best way to feel this continuity is the start at the top floor and work your way down. In this way you will see the most important artistic treasures, and, if you feel up to it, have time for that very interesting coin collection in the vaults in the basement. This is a very important piece of advice, because honestly, the museum is very quiet and the students that work there are not going to go out of their way to remind you to see the hermaphrodite or Livia's frescoes.

This collection, more than any other in Rome, demonstrates the highly polychromatic world the Romans lived in, not only indicated in the gorgeous frescoes that have been placed here, but in the mosaics and statues. Romans idealized the human form, as did the Greeks before them, in fact, the Romans had Greek sculptors working in Rome to create this masterpieces often copies from Greek originals. If we evaluate Roman art to give us a clear picture of roman life and ideals, what we know is that they were in fact very different to us in the day to day life.

They idealized lithe male gods, and fertile looking goddesses in the human form. They lived in a polychromatic world, which could almost be bordering on Technicolor to our eyes. As a warrior nation, sexuality was considered not only natural but of the utmost importance. The human form was not one of shame, but a form to celebrate, and idealized by sculpting the Gods and Goddesses as beautiful ideal men and women. To our eyes, Roman art can seem almost too upfront and straightforward. They did not hide sexuality or truths. A great example is the sculpture of the sleeping hermaphrodite, the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, who seems to be playing peek-a-boo with the audience. On one had she is all woman, with curves and breasts like an idealized woman, on the other side; you have the sexual organs of a man. Causing the viewer to question what exactly does gender identity mean? Nevertheless, the Romans lived in a war machine. A militaristic regime, and there was no mistaking to them who were the men and who were the woman. While one could play with gender and sexuality in the arts, a man's duty was to serve Rome, and a woman's was to serve man.

You could easily get hot looking at so many muscular and gorgeous men! They will make you look at your own man, and wonder if he could possibly start doing some sit-ups to strengthen up those abs so you can role play ancient roman myths in bed. Who were the artists' models, we wonder? And why don't men look like that, and why isn't the modern ideal of woman more like the healthy version the Romans had? Don't get too worked up, though, because you can't take a break. There is no café for a quick caffeine fix, so come prepared. Have a good lunch and an espresso before visiting

Monday, November 2, 2009

Insalata di finocchio e clementine

Insalata di finocchio e clementine

Fennel and Clementine Salad

This is one of my favorite salads to make in the fall. I don’t know about you, but I always find citrus to be especially welcome in the colder months. It is like the earth is reminding me of the spring and summer to come.

This is a very easy salad to make.

1 large fennel bulb
5 small Clementine or mandarin oranges
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil


Slice or dice the fennel bulb into small pieces
Peel the Clementine and segment, cut each segment in half
Throw them all into a salad bowl, pour about ½ cup of olive oil, pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste, mix well, and garnish with fennel leaves.

This pairs nicely with a Sauvignon Blanc from the north, or New Zealand

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Best Bruschetta in the World

The Best Bruschetta in the World

I don’t like to brag, but, I live in a town which is famous throughout Italy for two things. The first is the Infiorata, and the second is the Pane di Genzano. The bread of Genzano is one of the first in Europe to have a name place designation. That means it cannot be duplicated anywhere else, because it can only be made in Genzano, by Genzanese bread makers, using a specific set of ingredients. However, this posting is not a lesson on bread making, but on how to make the most delicious bruschetta with the bread that is available. Genzano’s crusty, fragrant, and enticing bread is perfect for bruschetta. Oh, and by the way, it is pronounced BRU-sKet-tah. NOT brushhhedda.

You only need a few simple ingredients to make it correctly


½ loaf of a very crusty Italian bread

10 diced cherry tomatoes

2-3 chopped fresh basil leaves

1 clove of garlic and a fork

Coarse Sea Salt, crushed

Olive oil
1. First, you'll need to start out with a half loaf of good, crusty, Italian bread.
Chop/dice 10 cherry tomatoes and in a small bowl, mix together with fresh basil leaves(about 3, chopped) and some crush coarse sea salt(about a pinch)
Slice the bread into 1.5cm slices, and then slice those in half. Put in your broiler, wood fired oven, stove at high heat(about 180C) until lightly toasted.Take the one clove of garlic, peel in and slice off both ends. Stick one end into a fork, and let the other sliced side lightly brush against each piece of bruschetta
Put them all on a serving plate, drizzle olive oil over them and then sprinkle your sea salt over each piece.On half of the slices you will add the tomato/basil mix, and the other half you will leave with olive and sea salt.

Drink with a lovely glass of local Frascati

I learned this from the most traditional kitchens of Genzano, places like Carceri, Pellicione, Tigellino, and of course La Cucina di Mamma di Ettore

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Risotto agli Aspargi al Forno

Roasted Asparagus Risotto

Some people might say that vegan food is not as delicious, savory, or creamy as non-vegan food, and I hope to prove them wrong with this yummy risotto. For many vegans, the hardest thing to give up are cheeses and creamy foods. This problem is a small one, but with a good Italian risotto, you can have your cream, and eat it too. Here in Rome, people have a very pasta heavy diet. In fact, Romans eat more pasta per person than in any other part of Italy. Making a risotto is a fun escape from the world of pasta, and it is a great alternative for when you have a gluten intolerant guest. In this recipe we are using Italian Arborio rice which is a very starchy short grain rice, that, with proper treatment, can give your food a rich creamy texture without the addition of butter and/or cream. Although risotto is relatively simple to make, be careful that you continuously stir the rice or it will quickly burn. To get a more creamy texture and flavor, gradually stir in the broth, instead of adding in all in at once.


400g. of fresh asparagus, trimmed

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium golden onion(sliced)

2 cups arborio rice

1/4 cup of dry Italian white wine(I use Frascati)

6 cups of vegetable broth

Coarse Salt(to taste, I used about 1 tablespoon, but my broth is salty anyway)


Pre-heat oven to 220 C

In an oiled baking pan, toss the asparagus with 1/4 cup olive oil and coarse salt, then put them in the oven for 10 minutes. While they are roasting,

On medium heat in a non stick deep pan(non-stick great for sticky risotto), simmer 1/4 cup olive oil and white wine and sliced onions

heat the onions until they are more or less clear and then remove them from the oil, leaving the oil in the pan.

Stir in rice into the hot oil and stir for about 2 minutes so the rice absorbs onion flavor, and is slightly toasted

Make sure to stir well, and slowly, you don't want the rice to burn.

Slowly stir in a cup of broth on low/medium heat, until it is absorbed and then stir in another cup of broth, and continue until you have stirred in all the broth.

While you are stirring the broth into the risotto, check on the asparagus, about ten minutes after placing them in oven, and if they have slightly browned, turn them over for another 5-10 minutes until both sides are brown.

After asparagus are done, slice then in 1-2 inch pieces

Throw them into the risotto pan,

And stir them in. The five cups of broth should have been adequate, but if not, add water and always stir. Stir until the texture is creamy and the rice is al dente


We enjoyed this with a bottle of non-oaked Chardonnay from Alto Adige.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Our Day in Piglio

Our Day in Piglio, Latium, Italy

Our day in Piglio.
A few week ago Ettore and I were tired of being house bums and decided to get back into our old routine of going for a Sunday drive to a town within two hours of Genzano for a walk and lunch. We decided we would go to a little mountain town called Piglio which is located in the hills of Frosinone, which is a province of Latium. Piglio is "famous" for a native laziale varietal called Cesanese and Cesanese del Piglio has the excited new designation of a DOCG wine, which is th first in the region of Latium.
After the fall of Rome is 476 C.E. Rome experienced a huge change, which was a population drain and a brain drain. When the Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the city of Rome to Constantinople, many of the skilled crafts people left, as well as scholars. Rome's population in th 5th c. dropped to about 10,000, although some estimates say 20,000 people. With the collapse of Rome in the west, Italy was espeically plagued by constant evasions by the so-called Barbarians. Without a central power securing the city of Rome, many people fled the area and moved into the hills of Latium where they built these amazing medieval towns out of stone totally isolated from anyone else, but also protected from invasions. Piglio is a great example of this. In the Middle Ages, Italy was primarily made up of hundreds of little city states, all at odds with each other. What happened is really what defines Italy today, a country of extreme diversity in culture, language and kitchen. Many people went back to their roots, to the villages of their ancestors before they were Romanized. The Hernici once ruled this region.
The Pigliesi retained their cooking and wine making skills for centuries without interuption, many of these traditions were brought from classical Rome. When one drinks the native varietals of Latium, one drinks the wine of the Classical Romans. It is a very exciting time in terms of wine production in Latium, with native varietals being rediscovered and wine producers realizing they have gold in their hands, and instead of relying on the internationl grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, they are places their bets on what seems natural, and what will thrive in the region.
So on this cloudy day, we decided to give ourselves a few hours break from our sick puppies, and took a drive into the real backwater countryside of Latium for a small taste of what the town offered.
After a very pleasant one hour drive from Genzano on the Autostrada, We encountered this town built of whatever stones were in the area. I would have hated to be the peasant who had to transport good from the fields to the town!

Due to recent rains(I should say never ending rains!) the countryside of Piglio was very green, and even though the vines of Cesanese were lifeless at the moment, the had an air of nobilty and age that no New World wine countryside can compete with.

When we got to town it was still too early for lunch, so we decided to have a walk in what seemed like an ancient ghost town, but surprisingly we came across people just minding their own business. This lady seemed to be taking laudry from the well to hang to dry. The people of these sorts of town are very interesting. It is rare to see young people, and the older people really hang on to their traditions as if glued to them. Ettore enjoyed hearing their dialect. He couldn't understand. That is what centuries of isolation created!!

It is good to know Italians never lost the ability to make the Etruscan arch. That's right...the arch is NOT a Roman invention, but something Romans took from the Etruscans when they conquered them.I love to study pre-roman Italian civilizations.

So we finally saw a child. Sometimes people who are from these towns move to the cities, but they never forget their roots, and come home for Sunday lunch.

When it was finally lunchtime, we found a real hole in the wall, down a stone alley, with the smallest door. The only reason when knew it was a open for lunch it because of the delicious aroma coming from the kitchen. It was cold, and we cold smell minestrone and polenta, cold weather foods that appealed to our cold hands.
The restaurant is called La Cantinetta. They weren't quite ready to serve lunch, but they welcomed us anyway, and we got our table and ordered the house wine, which was made by the owners Uncle, a lovely Cesanese del Piglio, which was lovely with the grilled vegetable antipasto which were the best tasting grilled vegetables I have ever tsated. they were perfect, straight from the garden, and with a very earthy homemade olive oil from the region. YUM!

For lunch I ordered the Polenta di Porcini which was more of a creamy polenta with fresh mountain porcini, most likely fund in the forest behind the town. I can tell you it was delicious, but not very good looking, which is why I didn't take a close-up photo.

Ettore ordered the Penne di carciofi the pasta with artichoke. It was also delicious, and not as bitter as many artichoke dishes are, which was great in terms of being to taste the wine. Sometimes the bitter metalic property of artichoke interferes with wine. It is notoriously hard to pair with wine. Ha! You can actually see the fork moving in the photo. It was so delicious, I couldn't get Ettore to wait 5 seconds while I took a photo!!
All the food was extremely fresh, the kitchen aromas were enough to appeal even the pickiest eater. We had a lovely day trip, and the best part of it was the cost. Our meal, which was two antipasti, two primi, two desserts, house wine, and caffe was only

30 euro for both of us.
It was really one of the best meals of my life. Simple country food, that was satisfying in is simplicity, but also in it's soul and heartiness. I can't wait to get there in the summer, when everyone is boiling in Rome, I will be enjoying the cool mountina breeze of Piglio, sipping on a local wine. We saw that there argreat haking paths in the area and want to make a backpacking trip in the area. Hiking all day, eating local cuisine at night. Our favorite kind of vacation. The first year I lived here, Ettore and I would go on spontaneous day trips like this all the time. This tradition has waned, but I am hoping to revive it. Italy is so diverse, even a town about 50km away is like a different country for us.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pomodori con riso e patate al forno

Pomodori con riso e patate al forno

Rice stuffed tomatoes with rice and roasted potatoes.
Ingredients for 4 people
4 medium tomatoes
2 large potatoes.
1 cup of brown rice
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup olive oil
4 cups of water
salt to taste

Preheated oven at 180 Celcius

1st. cut off tops of tomatoes and with a spoon gently scoop out the fruit.

after you have finished all the tomatoes, in a small pot add tablespoon of oil, and one finely choppped clove of garlic. add a splash of white wine and simmer, DO NOT BROWN THE GARLIC. add the remains of the tomatoes fruit you just dug out, add rice, water and salt.

cook on medium heat until rice is almost dry about 3/4 done and then stop simmering, but you still want some moisture. do not finish cooking the rice in the pot or pan. only about 1/2 way, when the rice is between crunchy and chewy. AS well it is important to stir continuously and use a masher to mash the rice and pulp of the tomatoes together.

While the rice is boiling, peel and chop potatoes to small bite size. put them in raosting pan and add olive oil and salt to taste. make sure all potatoes have oil.
Stuff the tomatoes with rice mixture, and them place the tops on.
place them carefully in the pan with the potatoes. cook for about 25-30 minutes depending on how crispy you like your potatoes.
The potatoes were excellent. the were roasted and crispy, yet had a hint of tomatoe juice.
I served a Sangiovese wine from lazio...but I already recycled the bottle. It was nice. Even though it was a highly acidic tomato dish, the acid was balanced by the roasted flavor, and the nutty brown rice.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sweet Sweet Porto

I was fortunate in my life to have found and loved a very special puppy named Porto. I found him in a dumpster with his brother Chardonnay, and I loved him from the first. In total, I found three of the brothers in the same location. Porto never seemed to have a fair life, and his life ended, sadly, violently, and prematurely on Saturday. I know that many people think it is easy to say good bye to a pet, but I am finding it to not be true. I have feelings of guilt, of depression, of mourning, and they are profound. When I found Porto, and Chardonnay, and later their brother Chardonnay, I knew they could not live in our small apartment, with our cats. And Fortunately I was able to take them to live on Ettore's grandfather's vineyard, a place I thought would be at best, temporary, as I planned to get them all adopted to good homes. Porto was the first to get "adopted" by a family with disabled kids, and we thought, at first the match was great. We were wrong. We checked in on him two weeks later and he was in a cage, skin and bone, with no food or water. We took him back, and I promised I would never give him up again. The area I live in is full of street dogs, and sadly, finding abandoned puppies is not uncommon, but I didn't want to risk them living an entire life at the shelter, so we kept them, down at the land, where they ran freely, and had a barrack to live in, and I visited them everyday and ran with them. Porto was always the one that struggled to fit in with his brothers, and he always wore his heart on his sleeve. He was truly a very special boy, and I loved him, and when I would visit them daily, I would make a special point to give him extra caresses and kisses, because I knew he needed them. But he faced this life with courage, and even though he didn't live in our house, he had his place, and he was always happy to see us.
Starting in November, the puppies were growing up, and they needed to be vaccinated but, I thought, more importantly, neutered, because they would often come up missing, and the town had other street dogs. I thought it was responsible for us to get them fixed because when they would go missing it would break my heart, and in any case, I didn't want to be responsible for yet MORE street puppies.When I got back from my last visit to the states, my priority was getting them fixed.In retrospect, all the signs of Porto being ill were already there. He had a strange tick, and was tired. We made arrangements, to get them fixed and then in a week we would vaccinate them.
Going under, for any animal or human always takes a toll on the immune system. We got them back and they were all fine for about a week, and then one by one they all came down with what we thought was a Gastroenteritis Virus or poisoning, as one of the pups had actually been poisoned. NOT uncommon is this region. People hate these dogs. We got them medical care and they all seemed to recover, even Porto. Then I noticed a hole in Porto's leg that looked like a gunshot wound or a an animal bite. Porto and Bellone both got sick a second time, but Bellone recovered. Porto, sadly, took the Distemper virus, and it not only infected his intestinal tract, it got him in the lungs, and in the nervous system and eventually the brain. He had a nervous tick, then he couldn't breathe well. But he faced each problem with courage, he ate, he drank, he wanted to go out, even though he was weak, We tried everything for him to help him. We went broke on everything we would think of, but last Sunday was the last day he ate. It was also the last day he ran on his vineyard. The next day, on Monday he seemed tired, but I took the boys out for a small walk at the Lake of Nemi, which always revives me. And he was struggling, and not eating. He started to have vomiting, and ticking, he refused food and water, so we had him on an IV. Up until Thursday, he was still trying. He would get up to relieve himself, he would jump in bed with me to cuddle, so we were still hopeful. Then the virus just stuck him down. On Thursday he would still walk, but he would fall. On Friday morning he had pure liquid blood stools, and stared having seizures. We took him to the vet, and the doctor told us he was done. We brought him home, to say goodbye, but he was a seizure and went into a coma. On Saturday morning, we found him in a pool of his own waste, and knew it was time. Nobody, animal or man, deserves to live like that, he deserved some dignity, and and end to his misery, so we took him to the vet, and he was slowly put to sleep. Ettore wanted to go alone, and I let him, and I am happy he was not alone. He faced all of the disease with courage and hope, and smiled up until the end. He never became angry when we were hooking him up to IVs and bombing him with Vitamins to boost his immunity. In the end, he was just too weak.Porto was a brave soul, and honestly one of the purest and innocent beings I have known. I think now I am the fortunate one to have found him, because even though his life was brief, he lived in fully, smiled, protected his vineyard and olive grove. All he asked for was to be held when he didn't feel well, for extra caresses, and love. He was never shy when giving us love. He made my life better, and made me want to be truer to my beliefs, because through him, I saw the soul of a beautiful animal,, so precious. He was the most precious puppy, and I don't want his life and death to go unnoticed. Porto matter to us, and we loved him, and we made our mistakes, but he remained loving until the end.Today we took him back to his olive grove, and buried him between the trees in the spot where we would often relax together to take the sun. He loved bones, and he loved to get belly rubs.I will keep Porto in my heart forever, and my heart will always have a piece missing that belongs to him...REST IN PEACE LITTLE PORTO!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Poor Puppies


I haven't had much time to blog lately because I have three very sick puppies who have been in and out of the dog hospital for the last 2 weeks. They are now staying at home with me, but one of them is just not getting better.

I have been cooking, however, and I plan to catch up with my blog as soon as I don't have to be a doggy nurse anymore.

Look forward to Cime di Rapa, Amatriciana Vegana, and Minestrone delle Verdure.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Polenta Grigliata con Sugo di Melanzane

Grilled Polenta with Eggplant

This dish is a bit more time consuming than the others I have posted, it is a two step process since we are working with Polenta and a sauce. The sauce would actually be great in a slow cooker, but if you are cooking it like I present it here, give yourself at least 2 hours of simmering, plus 40 minutes to cook the polenta. The polenta should be made before the sauce, because it needs time to cool and stiffen in order to be used on the grill. Please DO NOT use quick polenta. It tastes terrible. I made the polenta in the morning and started the eggplant in the late afternoon for dinner.


1 cup dry polenta

8 cups of water

1 large eggplant, diced, which should give you 4 cups

1 can of diced tomatoes

2 tbsp of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in one cup if water

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 Calabrian dried red peppers

1/4 cup olive oil

splash of wine

salt to taste for the polenta. I used about 1 tbsp


For the Polenta

Bring for cups of water to a boil in a pot or deep pan. I used my deep pan because it is non stick, which is useful with sticky polenta.

When water comes to a boil, add salt, and slowly stir in polenta, and cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly. Add another cup of water halfway through Stir at least every 3 minutes.

When polenta is complete, pour into a medium baking pan, and leave to cool to room temperature. When it cools, you can refrigerate it for a few hours before grilling

For the Eggplant, you will need to prepare 1 tbsp of thoroughly rinsed dry porcini mushroom in one cup of water. Let the porcini soak for no less than 30 minutes

In a deep pan, put olive oil, splash of wine, garlic and peppers and simmer for a good five minutes on medium heat.

Add can of diced tomatoes, and 2 cups of water. Simmer on medium heat for 3 minutes. The you will strain the porcini mushrooms and pour the water they were soaking in into the tomato sauce. The mushrooms will give the sauce a meatier taste, and make it much easier to pair with a bold red wine. Save the porcini in the fridge for other uses. I used mine in a Minestrone I am going to blog about next.

Add the diced eggplant to the mixture and two cups of water. Add salt to taste, simmer on high heat for about 5 minutes, then on low heat for at least 2 hours. If not, your eggplant will taste watery. I know we are ADDING water, but that is to encourage mixing of the tomatoes, porcini water, and eggplant. If you are slow cooking, add all of the ingredients together and leave it for about 8 hours.

Too prepare meal:

When eggplant sauce is ready, you can bring your polenta out and get it read for grilling.

Grill two pieces of polenta at a time, until brown lines appear on either side. Notice the texture of the Polenta is not like a porridge, but it seems almost like Jell-o. There is no gelatin in Polenta, however.

This recipe is for 4. It pairs well with a St. Magdalener from Alto Adige, a Aglianico del Vulture, or a Montepulciano D'Abruzzo.

Enjoy this delicious winter dish inspired by great food I have had in Trentino Alto-Adige.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Minestrone di fagioli

Minestrone di Fagioli

Beans, beans the magical fruit...

A vegan's best friend is the magical bean. From the bean we get much needed nutrition, including a way to combine with grains to make a complete protein. I personally couldn't live without my pressure cooker. I cook all my broths, beans, soups, rice, and grains with the pressure cooker. It is a money and time saver because in about 2 hours, dry beans can be made into a delicious and simple meal. The following recipe is for a pressure cooker, but you could easily substitute canned beans if you don't have a pressure cooker, or use a slow cooker after you have fried the onions in the olive oil.


1 cup of dried OR two cans Borlotti beans

1 cup of a small soup pasta, I use Ditalini Rigati Grandi

1 small yellow onion sliced lengthwise

2 dried Calabrian red peppers

1 tbsp of double concentrate

1/2 cup olive oil

splash of white wine

1-8 cups of water (depends on use of dry beans)
Salt to taste (will need at least 1/2 tbsp if using dry beans)
In this recipe I will refer to use of pressure cooker, but if you are not using one, then use a medium sized pot, canned beans, and only 2 cups of water.

In pressure cooker pot, put olive oil, splash of wine, onion, and red peppers on medium heat until onions become translucent. Remove onions and peppers when onions become translucent. Add concentrated tomato paste and one cup of water and stir. Stir in the beans and let simmer on medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Then add 5 cups of cold water, salt, and the seal the pressure cooker. I usually will simmer on high heat until pressure builds one time, and then I put the pot on the smallest burner and simmer on low heat for 2 hours, but you should follow the directions of your pressure cooker as every brand is different.

After 2 hours, I open the pot and make sure the beans are very soft, and taste the soup if the salt is adequate, if not, I salt to taste. Stir soup lightly on medium heat, and mash mixture with a masher, and stir again. Add 2 more cups of water and bring to a boil. When soup comes to a boil, add small pasta. Stir while the pasta cooks until al dente. When the pasta is ready, the soup is ready. This makes enough for 4 servings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Arance condite

I am working on a more complicated polenta dish that I made the other night, but I was super excited to post about one of my favorite things to eat in the winter. Arance condite. Bread with oranges. I first heard about this combination a few years ago at Ettore's mother's house. I am always asking about Genzano classics. The food of Latium is a poor kitchen, meaning, it evolved from the kitchens of the poor, so they had to be quite inventive. Oranges are quite plentiful in Italy during the winter, and bread, of course, is what puts Genzano on the map. It turns out this is not a Genzanese classic there are different versions of this dish. All you need is some rustic and crusty Italian bread and some blood oranges, and olive oil.. Depending on your taste, you need sugar, or salt, or salt and pepper. Here I am posting about oranges with salt and pepper. This can be served as an antipasto.


4 slices of rustic bread cut in half, making eight pieces.

4 small blood oranges, or 2 large

bottle of olive oil

crushed coarse sea salt


Bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo


Slice the bread into four slices and cut each in half, making 8 pieces. Peel oranges with a knife, and then slice 1/2 cm. slices. Put the oranges on the bread slices, drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt on eat piece of bread, and then pinch of pepper. That's it!!

I highly recommend drinking a nice Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with this. I discovered this by accident, but this combination of flavors works really well with this wine. A great marriage of food and wine is always good. The oranges with the pepper emphasize the dryness and fruit forward quality of the wine. I suggest taking a bit of the bread with oranges, and then taking a sip of the wine with the food still in your mouth. Strange that a wine that is tannic and best served with sausages and cheese ends up being gorgeous with this combination!! Have fun and Buon Appetito!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Penne with Artichoke Hearts

It seems simplicity is the latest theme in my life. Not for me a vegan life of fake meats and soy cheeses. Why would I even have to eat those types of food when I live in a grossly abundant country full of amazing fruits and vegetables? I have been on an artichoke kick lately, as we can still find them in the market, but I have also discovered that frozen artichoke hearts are delicious, and can supply me with artichoke hearts when they are not in season. As they are frozen when they are at their freshest, they taste sublime.

INGREDIENTS for 2 people(you will probably laugh at how few you need!)

400 to 500g package of Penne or Fusilli pasta (you can use more or less pasta depending on how much artichoke you want in each dish)

1 450g. package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

5 TBSP of olive oil

splash of white wine

1/4 tsp of coarse sea salt

1/4 cup water


Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil, add salt to boiling water and add pasta of choice, cook until al dente. While pasta is cooking (about 8-10 minutes) in a deep non-stick pan, pour olive oil and splash of wine and throw in the garlic cloves. Simmer at medium heat for about 1 to 2 minutes, then add the artichokes and 1/4 cup of water, and sautée until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and pout it into the pan, and mix everything together, then turn off heat. Serve in deep pasta bowls. See? I told you it was simple!! If you don't want pasta, you can easily serve the artichokes as a vegetable dish or side.

Penne with Sun-dried Tomato and Almond Pesto

This is one of the easiest meals I have made. I just gathered all of the ingredients and threw them in the food processor, and it was done. It will take more time to cook your pasta than it takes to make this pesto.
I made mine for 4 people, and also I want to mention that if you want a less salty taste, you don't have to add any salt because the marinated sun-dried tomatoes are already pretty salty. What makes this pesto different from regular pesto is the exclusion of any cheese. The tomatoes are so savory and delicious, there is no need.
Package of your favorite Penne
3/4 cup of marinated sun-dried tomatoes. You can use the jarred variety, but you should be able to find these at any Italian deli.
1/4 cup of peeled almonds. It is very important they are peeled. If not the pesto will turn out gritty
handful of fresh basil leaves
1-2 large cloves of garlic(to taste, some people like food to be very garlicky)
1/4 tsp of course salt (to taste) I use Himalayan salt.
2 TBSP of olive oil
1/4 cup of water (this will encourage better mixing in the food processor
1 TBSP course salt for boiled water
In a large pot bring water to a boil and add 1 TBSP of salt. Throw in entire package of penne. While the pasta is boiling, put all ingredients listed in a food processor. Start with the sun-driedtomatoes and end with the water. Use high speed on food processor and process sauce until it is fine. You want to make sure that the tomato skins are well blended. Taste with a spoon and decide if you need more salt or not. If the sauce is not smooth enough add a bit more water, OR you can add some of the marinade from the tomatoes.
When Penne is al dente drain well, and then put back in same pot. Pour pesto over the pasta and stir well to mix sauce with pasta. Serve pasta in bowls and and garnish with fresh basil.
Pairs nicely with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Keeping it simple

I was reading an article in the magazine Bon Appétit from May 2005 which was about Rome, Florence, and Venice. They had a short article about the grandson of Salvatore Ferragamo, the famous shoemaker from Florence. He became of food and wine professional in the family and manages their estate and restaurant in Chianti. One of the questions they asked him was, "After returning to Italy from a trip, what's the first thing you want to eat?" Ferrogamo replied," A good plate of linguine with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and torn basil leaves. Keep it simple-that's the trick of Italian food. Let the ingredients make the dish."

That is what all the great chefs in Italy say. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Sometimes I find that chefs and cooks gets so overly involved with the process they forget that real people are going to eat their food. I make the following dish about 2-3 times a week, and it is especially great right now with summer's last tomatoes. I find that I crave this dish more than any other when I am not at home. It is also great for those nights after a long day of work when you just want something simple. Now that we are heavily involved with volunteering with dogs, our time is becoming more limited. This dish only take the amount of time one needs to boil water and make al dente pasta! Anyway, in celebration of the Less is More mentality:

Spaghetti all'olio, aglio, e pepperoncini.

Ingredients for two people
Olive oil
Half cup of Frascati wine, or any Italian white.
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 cloves of pressed garlic
2-3 dried red peppers
Sea salt for boiling water.

Heat up olive oil and wine to a low simmer, and throw in garlic, red peppers, and let them simmer for about 1 minute

Then throw in the quartered cherry tomatoes. I used beautiful tomatoes from the hillsides of Vesuvius, which are very sweet and full of volcanic minerals. But I imagine your garden tomatoes would be even better.

Boil water and throw in about a tablespoon of coarse sea salt when water comes to boil. Then add spaghetti and cook for about 7 minutes to make it al dente. Of course remember everyone has their own definition of al dente the roman version is quite hard.

While spaghetti is cooking, simmer the tomatoes at a medium heat.

Drain pasta, put back in pot and add the sauce to the pot and stir. Some people add fresh Italian parsley at the end. Stir everything together, serve in pasta bowls, and ecco!! You have an Italian classic.

I always drink Frascati with this. Producers I recommend are Castel De Paolis and L'Olivella, both of which are vegan and organic

Have fun!!