A flashback in photos

I have been meaning to look through old photos for a while, and what I found brought back incredible memories. I apparently really LOVED gelato. See for yourself.

I used to go over to my grandpa’s house after school and dig through the freezer. There was always something for my brother and I in there: gelato, ice cream cookies, Calippo, and ghiaccioli. On those hot and sticky summer days in Milano, nothing was better than eating my ghiacciolo with my friends in a field of red poppy flowers. My last trip home was traumatic. Those fields are no longer there…poppy flowers, which used to grow so easily around my small town, were nowhere to be found. I guess I was trying to keep those memories intact and relive those fun and innocent days. Thank goodness for these photos…especially the gap in my teeth in the first one and the gelato drop on my nose. Classy!

B as in Banana Bread

What’s the best food combination? Chocolate and bananas, of course! Bananas are delicious, healthy and perfect for baking. I love bananas for breakfast, especially coupled with strawberries and blackberries; for a quick eat-at-your-desk work lunch and to satisfy that sweet tooth after dinner. I discovered banana bread in college. I was skeptical of a savory bread—the ones I had tried before were either too sweet or not sweet enough—but I was blown away. I’ve tried multiple versions of this recipe, but this is my favorite. Happy baking!

BANANA BREAD

5 Ripe bananas

1 3/4 Cup of flour

2 3/4 Teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon of salt

2/3 Cup of light brown sugar

2 Eggs

1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract

A hint of honey

When I have ripe bananas laying around the kitchen, I freeze them just for this purpose. I use a lot of bananas, if you like a less dense bread, you can use 4 bananas. Let them thaw until tender. In the mean time, preheat the oven at 350F.

In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Now, for the wet ingredients. In a mixer, combine eggs with light brown sugar and mix until a light and fluffy cream is formed.

Once the egg mixture is ready, peel and smash the ripe bananas and add them to the eggs and sugar. Stir the bananas for about 30 seconds until the new mixture is uniform. Add the vanilla and the hint of honey.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the egg and banana mixture and stir until well blended.

I try to incorporate chocolate in all of my baking endeavors. So, I dusted off some semi-sweet chocolate chips that I added to the dough a little bit at a time.

Pour the batter into a greased 9×5 loaf pan. Add chocolate chip to your taste.

Bake in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes.

And here it is! It is the perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, or, if you are like me—I love a big breakfast—this bread is an excellent addition to your breakfast regimen. Enjoy!

Vocabulary:

Le banane – bananas

L’estratto di vaniglia – vanilla extract

La farina – flour

Il cioccolato – chocolate

Il miele – honey

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I had never really seen a vegetable shaped like the butternut square before moving to the United States. I’ve eaten plenty of winter squash, but the round looking kind. In Lombardy, the region where I am from, winter squash is a friendly face. My mom used to make a killer squash risotto, which I hated until I was old enough to really appreciate the distinct sweet taste. Big chunks of zucca in a juicy layer of steamy rice – how can you go wrong? Another prelibatezza, delicacy, is the revered ravioli alla zucca, squash ravioli.

For this task, however, I wanted to soup it up. I came up my own recipe. The result was surprisingly good.

Heart-shaped goodness

 

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

1 Medium-sized squash

2 Shallots

1 Big carrot

1 Leek

Celery

2 Blue potatoes

3 Cloves of garlic…(I’m Italian, I can’t resist)

1 Cup of chicken stock

2 Tablespoons of heavy cream

Hint of wine

Salt and Pepper

Before prepping the squash, pre-heat the oven at 400 F. Wash and cut the squash, place it in a baking sheet and season it with salt and pepper.

Season for success

I decided to roast the squash to enhance its sweetness and give it a more defined flavor. Leave the squash in the oven for about 40 minutes or until tender.
In the meantime, dice the shallots, celery, potatoes, carrot and leek and add them to the pot with garlic and olive oil. I chose to use blue potatoes because of two simple reasons: they are adorable — I mean, they are blue — and because they have a sweetness that I thought could pair well with the squash.

Ready to go

Splash the veggies with a bit of white wine and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the squash. Season the ingredients again and add the roasted squash (after it cooled). Cook together for another 5 minutes and add the chicken stock. The last step is to add the heavy cream. Let the ingredients come to a boil and cover the pot for about 10 minutes.

With a hand blender, puree the ingredients until desired texture.

Pour it in a bowl, sprinkle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and Italian parsley. Buon Appetito!

 

Delicious and velvety

 

 

Vocabulary:

La zucca – winter squash

Le patate – potatoes

La cipolla – onion

Il sedano – celery

Il porro – leek

L’aglio – garlic

La panna – heavy cream

A first: Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberries are the cutest fruit there is: Small, round, juicy, healthy. I love to eat them right out of the basket, for breakfast and as a snack, but I wanted something more. So, I searched for a recipe that would elevate the blueberries’ sweetness without overpowering it with unnecessary ingredients. I found the perfect recipe on allrecipes.com, the right combination of fruit, sugar and butter. (Although I made a few changes…less sugar and less butter).

Blueberries in all their glory

BLUEBERRY COBBLER

2 Cups of blueberries and 1/2 Cup of frozen blueberries

3 Tablespoons of sugar

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

2/3 Cup of flour

1/3 Cup of butter

1 Egg

1/2 Cup of sugar

1/4 Tablespoon of baking powder

Vanilla extract


First off, pre-heat the over at 375 F (190 degrees C). After washing the fresh blueberries, I added the 1/2 cup of frozen ones in a squared baking dish.

I added the sugar and the lemon juice and mixed the goodies together. Now, onto the crusty goodness. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix together. Slowly add baking powder and flour until the dough is sticky. Drop and spread the dough onto the blueberries. It’s important to try to spread the batter onto the entire surface, so that the blueberries are completely covered.

At this point, the cobbler is ready to go into the oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is a golden color.

Ready to enjoy

I had no idea cobblers were this easy and this tasty. To complete the dish, I had to splurge on some vanilla ice cream. The hot and juicy blueberries are the perfect match for the cold ice cream.

Vocabulary:

I mirtilli – blueberries

Lo zucchero – sugar

Il burro – butter

La vaniglia – vanilla

Il gelato – ice cream

Holiday Cookie Exchange

I have never exchanged cookies before. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but I baked cookies only once before, a long time ago. A good friend organized an exchange party and I couldn’t resist.

I decided to go for a traditional chocolate cookie but add a kick: Nutella icing. Yes, I am doubling up on the chocolate and not looking back. I followed a recipe from a baking cookbook I’ve had for years but never used. I should have practiced. From the start, I knew my creations would come out “interesting.” They looked nothing like the picture…isn’t that annoying?

My beloved cookies looked like big, fat turds. I thought that, maybe, a thin layer of Nutella icing would do the trick. They still looked like turds. And, aside from the unappealing exterior, they didn’t even taste like cookies. The experiment, in short, failed. But I had a blast at the party.

Right before the oven. Kinda sad, right?

Ta daaaaaa. Nutellicious. Still, kinda sad.

This experiment made it clear that baking is not easy. Cooking, for that matter, is not easy. But there is no crying in the kitchen. You get right back into it. (In this case, I am taking a small hiatus from baking cookies …) The actual joy is in learning by trial and error. I promise you, my next batch of cookies will be out of this world.

Vocabulary:

Il biscotto: cookie

Il cioccolato: chocolate

La crema: cream

La festa: the party

L’amica: female friend

Viva il pane

Il pane has been one of my best friends since childhood. I used to make myself decadent snacks: ciabatta bread slices loaded with pounds of my other best friend: Nutella…who can say no to that?

All of my memories, turns out, have something to do with food. But with bread, the connection is different, deeper. Bread is the protagonist of every Italian meal. I still remember my great-aunt Cesarina beeming while showing off a smooth, soft pagnotta, loaf, (it was still warm) specifically bought for my grandpa. “Che bonta’!”

I sincerely do not remember a meal at my family’s dinner table without bread. Funny thing is, when I turned 15 and I began thinking about fashion, body image, I started being cautious of how much bread I ate. My grandmother found out, looked straight through my eyes, and said, “Chiara, that’s nonsense,” and she handed me a panino.

Bread can do no wrong in my book: sotf, hard, sweet, savory, yeasty, non-yeasty, French, Italian. With the help of the amazing Joy of Cooking book, I tried making baguettes. Experiment succeeded. Delicious.

Turns out, bread is one of the earliest prepared foods…dating back about 30,000 year ago.

The babies right before the oven.

And here it is. Gorgeous baguette!

Vocabulary:

Il pane – bread

La farina – flour

Il lievito – yeast

La pagnotta – loaf of bread

Buona Festa del Ringraziamento!

In Italy, the closest to a Thanksgiving celebration was the Romans’ feast Cerelia, in honor of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, grain, fertility and of autumn. It was celebrated on the Fourth of October. I don’t remember ever celebrating Ceres, but I would have liked to give thanks to the goddess of agriculture since my paternal grandparents were farmers, and really good ones!

I still remember my dad’s stories about an adolescence spent running around la Malachina, the farm he lived until he was 20. Only ruins remain today, but the memories are still fresh in his  mind.

So, not to be overdone by my American friends, I have decided to give a Thanksgiving favorite, the apple pie, the Italian treatment. I am giving you my favorite Italian dessert, one that my mom has taught me when I was a little girl: Italian apple cake. No crust, but oh the goodness!!

TORTA DI MELE

2 pounds of fresh and yummy apples

150 gr of sugar

3 eggs

200 gr of flour

1/2 cup of milk

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 cup of baking powder

Pinch of salt

 

Join sugar and eggs in a bowl and stir them until a nice, thick cream is created.

Add the flour, vanilla extract and baking powder.

Add milk to the mixture so that it’s creamy.

Peel the apples and slice them in thin layers.

Pour the mixture from the dry and wet ingredients in a pan and add the apples.

Sprinkle sugar over the apples.

Bake in the over at 350 F for 5o minutes.

And, voila’.

Buon Appetito!

 

 

La festa del Ringraziamento – Thanksgiving

L’autunno – fall

L’agricultura – agriculture

La mela – apple

Lo zucchero – sugar

Il latte – milk