Thursday 21 June 2007

Summer's in the air...

Rome and the whole of Italy have been hit, at last, by the summer heat wave and boy are we sweating here!
I love summer and I love the heat, but the down side is it makes cooking a cumbersome time.
After a long day running round like a headless chicken getting the little tsunami to kindergarden, then rushing to work, smashed and mashed between an array of other bodies fighting their way into the hot hot hot subway, and then, after hours spent in a warm office, going through the process all over again turns the idea of slaving infront of a stove a gruesome dream.
And so...what to serve on the table this evening?
Dear husband is on a mission to lose weight (he doesn't need it, believe me. At 39 he's got a great muscular figure, he's a bit of a hunk, if I say so myself, but then again I know what cruel judges we are of our own bodies), and every meal has become and ordeal for me!
It's far from easy to concoct a light yet tasty meal every evening, so the one time your man is not in, I can finally eat whatever I want to my heart's content.
Tired, sweaty and hungry as I was last night, I decided I was in no mood to turn the stoves on a second time, the first havig been to prepare pasta with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and basil for the little tsunami - and so opted for an old time Roman favourite, Parma ham (prosciutto) with fresh fruit.
You'd be amazed how versatile Parma ham is. It tastes lovely, and looks lovely too, casually draped over slices of juicy orange melon, and is, for me at least, at it's best when accompanied by sweet mushy figs.
These two delicacies are at their best though when squashed between two slices of pizza bianca alla romana, or on foccaccia.
Of course living in Italy it's easy as pie to get your hands on a good piece of white pizza (I've got 5 pizza shops lined up one after the other just across the road from my house!!!), but following is your basic pizza dough recipe, which can easily be whipped together in a big batch and used to your heart's content. My advise is make a lot, prepare some for dinner and freeze the rest of the dough for another occasion.

Pizza with Prosciutto e fichi
300 gr. 00 flour
20 gr beer yeast
250 ml water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pour the flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast and a little at a time luke warm water. Gently start mixing all together with a fork starting from the centre of the well and moving out. Add the olive oil and start kneading the dough with your hands until you end up with a smooth ball of dough.
Place in a bowl, score a cross on the top, cover and let it rest until it has doubled in volume.
At this stage you take a good sized chuck of, gently flatten the dough (the best way is to work it with your fingers to get the air out), to about half an inch. Remember you want it to be high enough and soft enough to cut through it add the filling later.
Place on an oiled oven dish, add a pinch of salt, and some fresh rosemary, and pop it in the oven at full blast for aprox 15 minute, or until nice and golden.
Wait for it to cool, cut across, and fill with slices of Parma ham and wedges of very mature figs.
Serve with chilled sparkling wine, prosecco is lovely, or, for a more relaxed evening, a big pitcher of lager beer.
Nothing nicer then an evening to yourself having dinner on the terrace, Portishead on in the background, a good book in one hand, a glass of almost frozed white wine in the other and a mouth full of Parma sharpness and the sweetness of figs. Not the lightest of meal, I'll admit, but one deserves to indulge in these anti-diet joys once in a while.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

I'm a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown

..not true really, or at least not most of the time, though I must admit this has been so far a pretty exausting, if very fulfilling, year and am therefore really looking forward to taking a whole month of in August (it's a first, believe me!!!).
Plans for the summer? not even one. We'd talked about spending a couple of weeks in Pantelleria, where my husband's family is originally from, but alas, little money and no beaches on the island rapidly turned our dream into an impossible fantasy.

And so the plan is to spend a couple of weeks at my in-laws house, not far from the beach in Nettuno, and then lover boy and I might, and I do wish to stress the word might, spend a couple of days in Senigallia, during the Summer Jamboree week. (check the website
What week, one may wonder....for a full week this summer resort on the adriatic coast plunges back in time to the good ol'1950s, with tiki parties on the beach, vintage cars, vintage clothes, and oh boy vintage hairdos, Elvis stile and all!!!

We went three years ago with a big group of friends only to find even more friends when we got there, it's a really huge appointment in Europe, something not to be missed rockabillies and such.

We skipped the two following years first 'cos I was especting, then 'cos my little tsunami was just too small for it.

This year the plan is to go on the wednesday and I'll return on the friday, whereas he'll go up to Piemonte for a bicker fest. It is yet only a plan, as it would mean to leave my little tsunami with my mother for a couple of days and I'm not sure I can yet cope with the idea. Taking him with us is out of the question, he's used to going to sleep at 7.30 pm....that says it all!!!!

The wednesday night we'd be going to see Jerry Lee Lewis in concert (yea, I know, I thought he'd died long ago of old age, but I was wrong, eh?), and the second night, the one I'm most interested in, the Dita Von Teese strip show!!!!!

Ok, I've gone of on a tangent there, so moving back to the of my favourite movies, and one I'm planing to watch with lover boy this evening, as he's never seen it, and I'm sure he'll like it. I mean what's not to like about this movie???

Plus to really recreate the atmosphere, I'm planning on making Gazpacho Andaluz for dinner, which should keep him happy, as it's a light dish and he's braking my back with the whole 'I've put on weight, I'm on a diet starting from now' bull that I've been having to endure for the past three months.
Why do men simply not accept the fact that your body simply changes in time, and that he's moving towards forty, not twentytwo!!!!

Monday 11 June 2007

Summer is here....(or what to feed a picky kid!)

Is it really, though?
It's certainly hot these days, but just last friday Rome was absolutely flooded in rain and yours trully finally got back home from work drenched to the bones!
then again, the positive side is I didn't have to bother watering the plants, so that's one plus, I guess.
Anyhow....being that it's summer, and being in a summery mode I went food shopping on saturday (as you do) and bought a basil and a parsley plant, for the astonishing overall cost of 2.00 euro!!!!!
and so, fresh basil and hungry baby.....tadaaaa make some fresh pesto for his dinner.
if you're sick of cooking the usual soups and casseroles for your kids well then you really must try making them a plate of pasta with pesto.
I've still to meet a little one who won't go bonkers when presented with pesto, I don't know why!!!
And you can fiddle with pasta al pesto by adding cherry tomatoes or ricotta cheese to make it a one meal dinner - any mother will agree with me, they are absolute time and stress savers!!!
Pesto is sooooo easy to make, the most important ingredient being good basil, the best is certainly the genoese basil, with its small, oval, pale green leaves, and good extra virgin olive oil.
traditionally you should really make pesto with a pestal and mortar, but it can be a little more energy and time consuming then the good old magimix.

Pesto alla genovese
So what you do is take five big handfuls of basil leaves, three quarts a glass of olive oil, 3 spoonfuls grated parmesan cheese and three of pecorino cheese, 1/2 clove of garlic (the traditinal recipe actually calls for 2, but I think it's a tad eccessive, and could end up compromising your social life), one spoonful of pine nuts.
In the baby version you might prefer to leave out pine nuts if you're afraid of your child being allergic to nuts.
Just put everything in the magimix and give it a few short blasts. you want everything to be crushed and mixed together, but you also want it to retain a little of its crunchiness.

I didn't add salt to the recipe because I'm assuming you're making it for a small child. All you have to do is add salt and a little pepper (I know, it's not in the real and original recipe, but I add pepper to anything I eat) to the pesto destined to the adult's dinner.
My advise is to make a big batch of it, because pesto can really be used with and for anything.
A few spoonfuls on a caprese salad, mixed with cream cheese and spread over a baguette instead of your usual butter, on a bruschetta with slices of tomato, in cuscus....on white fish, on grilled prawns....I'm off on a tangent now!!!!!!!!!
But really there's no limit to it's uses, and again the great thing is that in one go you've prepared a great meal for a hungry little tsunami generally hyperpicky about his food, and dinner for the poor exausted parents, in no time and certain success.