Monday, May 30, 2011

Just like Heaven: Pistacchi Trevani

     Though the odds were against me today-transportation strike in Rome, a train that was 50 minutes late and no buses to be found-I managed to make it on time to lead a culinary stroll throughout central Rome.  We usually wander around the markets, get some amazing coffee at CafĂ© S. Eustachio, eat treats in the Jewish Quarter and then have a Grattachecca, or Roman ice.  Today, my clients had already done all of those things, so I had to find a foodie paradise, and fast.  We took a taxi to a gourmand’s paradise, and they went to town.  All I could think about was whether I would be coming up to another 3 kilos of zucchini and if I did, what the heck was I going to do with them.  I admit, I was spaced out.  Until Mr. Gourmand had us tasting the 25 yrs old  Aceto Basalmico Tradizionale di Modena, which was itself quite divine.   If I believed in a god, it would be only under such circumstances as having tasted something so divine.  But no, the taste of heaven I had today were the pistachio cookies I sampled and of course, bought, that come from the town of Trevi, which is near Perugia.  
     Finding delicious cookies or sweets in Europe that are not full of eggs, butter and cream can be difficult, but in some parts of Italy, they are common.  These cookies are not at all beautiful; they are bright green with nuts falling out of them.  They look like oatmeal cookies on acid.  They do not, however, taste anything like oatmeal cookies, or any cookie on acid.    They are called Pistacchi Trevani, or Pistachio of Trivia.  They are made of a simple blend of almond paste, pistachio paste, and pistachios.  The paste from the nuts if made from the shelled and skinned nuts mixed with sugar until a heavy paste is formed.  They do not contain any flour, gluten, eggs, or dairy.  They are very rich, so one is, by far, plenty.  They are slightly baked on the outside, pasty on the inside and have an extra crunch due to the pistachio nuts that are added.  I love that they are bright green and look messy.  They do fall apart very easily.  What makes them special is that they have lovely sweet and nutty aromas. 
These were a pleasant surprise to discover while working.  These culinary tours will end up costing me more than I will ever make.  I can’t help myself.  At ever corner in Rome there is amazing tasty food that just begs to be sampled, from pizza Bianca (white pizza) to Roman shaved ice to fried artichokes.  I can barely walk 5 minutes without having to stop and eat something because it either looks so good from the window or there is a decadent aroma coming from its kitchen. 

I think these cookies would be fairly easy to make.  When I was looking them up I found many blogs referring to the pistachio cookies from Sicily that taste like heaven.  In fact, I do think they seem more Sicilian in origin than Umbrian, as Sicilian desserts often rely on nut pastes instead of flour.   Luckily, Ettore did not think they were Just like Heaven, and that translates into...more for ME.  

I think these would be extra special with a chilled passito, such as a Passito di Lampedusa.

Wherever they are from, they are DIVINE.  

Note: Some Almond Paste Contains Eggs.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Swimming in Zucchini

2011 has been a fruitful year so far in terms of our garden.   The zucchini are the most productive vegetable of the entire garden.  Yesterday I harvested over 3 kilos of zucchini, and that was after I had harvested the zucchini patch two days prior.  They grow so fast I can't keep up with them.  Planting, caring for and then harvesting these vegetables has been very gratifying work.  I have long hot days in Rome and I look forward to digging in the earth, tending to the garden and being able to harvest fresh vegetables for the dinner table.  I love knowing where my food is coming from.  I also enjoy being a guest at a friend's house and instead of bringing a store bought bottle of wine, I bring vegetables I have produced.  All of my local friends can look forward to receiving lots of zucchini as there is no way we will eat them as fast as they are growing.
     On some days I will pick zucchini in the morning and go back in the late afternoon before sunset and there are already more to be picked.  I plan to leave a few on the plants so I can have larger ones for stuffing.  There are so many great vegan recipes that use zucchini, and I imagine I will have to use as many as I can so that I do not get bored with eating these lovely vegetables that are an excellent source of fiber, potassium. vitamin A, and magnesium.  
     I am looking forward to summer pasta salads with zucchini, zucchini bread, pickled zucchini, blending them into a smoothie for added nutrition in my diet, eating them raw with hummus, and more.  What are your favorite zucchini dishes?