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Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

Thanksgiving in Rome is tricky. On one hand, there’s no acknowledgement of the holiday whatsoever, which really makes you want to celebrate it in some way, but, on the other hand, it’s a lot of work to pull together a meal resembling an American Thanksgiving dinner. To try or not to try? That was the question.

In the end, we compromised. We threw together an American Thanskgiving lunch, and went out for a fancier than usual Italian dinner.

From the picture above, you may be wondering if we actually were able to procure a turkey in Rome. The answer is no. Our Italian oven has a height of, at most, 8 inches. After several animated conversations where we mostly spoke English and the butcher mostly spoke Italian, we learned that it would be impossible to find a turkey small enough to fit in our oven.

So, we picked out a nice looking chicken, and said yes when the butcher asked if we wanted him to clean it out for us. This meant chopping off the head and feet in front of us, and offering us the eggs which were still inside the chicken. Things got a bit too real for me in that moment.

We picked up some bread, sausage and veggies for the stuffing at the Testacchio Market, and were on our way.

I have to say, the stuffing was my favorite part of the meal. No surprise there, since this is true for me in America as well, but it was super moist and flavorful.

We made our own breadcrumbs, which was a first for me, and cooked them with browned sausage and sauteed onions, carrots and celery.

We were unable to find brussels sprouts at the farmers’ market, so settled for cauliflower. Sauteed with olive oil, garlic and white wine, this dish turned out to be another (accidental) favorite.

As for the ambiance, importantly, we’d been given a turkey centerpiece by a friend’s mom, which took center stage on our small table.

The Italian sports channel kindly played an American football game (the previous Sunday’s Pats-Chiefs game).

Complete with naps on the couch and too frequent checks to see if the turkey (aka chicken) was done, it almost felt like home.

Because of the size of our oven (see above), we abandoned any attemps to create a pie and settled for a dessert of macaroons I’d picked up in Paris earlier in the week.

All in all, I have to say: I think the lunch was a success.

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Southern Style Pesto


I’m still dreaming of this Southern-style pesto sauce we made in cooking class last week. It was so bright and fresh, and better yet, it’s really, really simple to make. There are only six ingredients, and with the help of an immersion blender or mini food processor, all you have to do is buy the ingredients and blend them together. 

 

It’s great to use as a dipping sauce for any kind of fried starter (which is what we did in class), or as a sauce over your pasta, or even drizzled over some fresh mozzarella.

Basically, an excellent and deceptively simple way to impress guests while doing hardly anything at all. I love deceit! A win-win for everyone!

Southern Style Pesto
(courtesy Chef Andrea Consoli)

Three handfuls, cherry tomatoes
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Handful of almonds
Pinch of salt
2 garlic cloves
A few leaves of fresh basil

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.
If the sauce is too liquid, add some parmesan cheese and blend again.
Bow. Serve.

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The Flower Truck

I know I write a lot about flowers, but they make me happy. I can’t help it.

I’ve been seeing a bunch of flower trucks around Rome recently. They are so adorable! The driver will either drive around making deliveries, or park on a street corner and sell to passersby.

It’s one of those things that’s just so incredibly simple and beautiful and European. It always puts a smile on my face.

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Time Out

Usually, I try to be pretty positive in this little corner of the internets. At the moment, I’m taking a siesta from work, living in Rome and traveling around Europe, eating good food, drinking good wine. I know I’m lucky. Life is very good. So let’s be real: I don’t have that much to complain about. And, really, no one would want to hear about it if I did.

That being said, I hope you’ll offer me this one small minute and allow me a brief venting session. A little time out, if you will.

Sometimes life in Italy is just hard. As I often hear from people here, la dolce vita has two sides.

The food here is, for the most part, excellent. But the service? It generally ranges from indifferent to flat out hostile. Many waiters seem genuinely annoyed that you’re at their place of business, expecting them to take your order and bring you food in exchange for money. Yesterday at lunch, I waited 45 minutes for someone to offer me a menu or a glass of water. Two hours later, when I got my check, it had a “cover charge” on it (aka a charge just for sitting down at a table, in addition to the service charge which is included). That’s been illegal in Rome for years, but no matter, I’m not an Italian, so charge me anyway if you please!

Even worse, over the weekend, we went to a restaurant with a Michelin star, and waited close to an hour for a waiter to come over and take our drink order. When he did approach the table, it was with a fake smile (really, more of a sneer), that he said “I suppose you know everything you want, now?” Yeah. We did. We’d been staring at the menu for an hour. Oh also? When we asked if we could order cocktails, the answer, simply, was “no.” Okay then. Onto wine it was. The food was good, but I was so disappointed. I’d been looking forward to going to the restaurant for so long. I thought surely if this place had a Michelin star, the service would be different than what I’ve become used to in Rome. Nope. The experience had totally been ruined, and I felt totally taken advantage of.

Also grinding my gears is Rome’s residential trash system. It’s insane. Yesterday, I went to take my trash out, and a guy on my street screamed at me in English, “What are you doing? Don’t you know it’s not time?!” Yeah, I did know that it wasn’t technically time to take my trash out (note: the appointed time is between 8:30-9:30am). But there are no trash cans outside for you to put trash in; you’re apparently expected to keep your trash festering inside your tiny apartment aside from the one hour window it’s allowed to be on the street.

And, to make it even more complicated, there are five different categories of trash and a different pick up day and trash bag you need to use for each. So, be sure to keep five separate trash cans inside your small residence. And, if you have organic waste to throw out (aka food), there are only two days a week, for a one hour window, that you can put it outside your apartment for pick up.

Does all this trash stuff sound too annoying for Italians to keep up with/care about? It’s because it is (at least in my neighborhood). My Italian neighbors leave their trash on the street corner whenever. It’s no big deal. But if you’re me, the American? Keep it inside, you idiot!

Lastly (this is it for now, I promise), these pictures I’m posting here? They may look pretty, but in actuality, I was kinda disturbed as I was taking them. Lately, around dusk, there have been massive swarms of birds zooming around the treetops, squawking crazily, and worst of all, pooping everywhere. You’ll see people walking around with umbrellas up. It’s not to keep them dry from rain. It’s for the bird s**t. And it’s black.

I literally got stuck in a sh**storm on Monday night. It seemed the perfect representation of how totally crappy I feel like foreigners are treated here a lot of the time.

But, I spent all day today in cooking class. Tomorrow, I’m going to Naples pretty much just to try the pizza. I’ll be ok. And I hope you’ll forgive me for this bratty tirade. Grazie mille.

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Ok, maybe it’s kind of embarrassing to host a taco night in Rome. We should be eating all Italian food, all the time while we’re here, right? Before I arrived, if you’d asked me that question, I would 100% answer yes. But the reality is that sometimes I’m hit by some serious cravings for other flavors.

As good as Italians are at making their own cuisine, ethnic food is not their strong suit. We’ve had good Asian food at a couple of places (namely, for sushi, Take on viale di Trastevere and SOMO on via Goffredo Mameli, and for Chinese food, a place I cannot figure out the name of or find online, labeled Ristorante Cinese on via Florida by Largo Argentina), but decent Mexican cuisine is seriously hard to come by.

When we hosted some friends at our Roman apartment last week, the number one request we got was for food other than Italian. No problem. I had brought some Old El Paso taco seasoning packets with me from the states, and I figured it would be relatively easy to find ground beef, tortillas, tortilla chips and the ingredients to make my own salsa and gaucimole. And with all the farmers’ markets nearby, I thought that all the fresh ingredients would go a long way towards boosting flavor.

4 supermarkets, 2 specialty shops, 2 farmers’ markets and approximately 7 miles covered on foot later, I’ll tell you: it was not that easy. I was able to find basics like hard shell tacos, soft shell tacos, salso con queso and tortilla chips, but they were not cheap. The soft tacos alone ran me 4 Euro per package! And cheddar cheese? Finding it in Rome is nearly impossible. Luckily, after googling several word combinations, I ended up at Franchi in Prati, near the Vatican, and bought the biggest chunk of cheddar cheese they had. For 19 Euros. There’s a reason why people eat local, my friends.

Man, I missed cheddar cheese. I had no idea how much until I snuck a bite while I was grating it. Anyway, a couple of big lessons learned from taco night abroad:

1 – Uncle Ben’s makes tortilla chips and salsa. They taste about how you’d expect. Passable, but I just wanted a Tostito.

2 – The imported Old El Paso goods found in specialty stores here is not imported from America. The salsa con queso was basically inedible!

3 – Avocados found in farmers’ markets in Italy are not as flavorful as those in the US (sounds obvious now, right?) I found this out the hard way when the fresh lemon juice called for in Ina Garten’s guacimole recipe completely overpowered the avocado taste, even when I used half the amount.

4 – Taco night abroad still gets weird. I may still be hungover. That is all.

 

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I took a cooking class at a restaurant in Trastevere in Rome today. I loved it so much, there really aren’t too many words for the experience aside from that. So, I think I’ll let some pictures do the talking, ok?

In class, we homemade pasta (first time for me)! And tiramisu, and tomato pesto, and fried pumpkin flowers.

The class, which I signed up for upon the advice of two of my fabulous readers (check out their blog about food & drink in New Orleans here) is taught by Chef Andrea Consoli, at his family’s restaurant La Fate Ristorante.

You, and a group of 11 others, make a four course lunch under Chef Andrea’s direction. Then, you sit down to eat it, along with wines paired with each dish.

All of the ingredients were local (in keeping with the zero kilometer philosphy, or what we’d call locavore in the states).

We started with fried pumpkin flower blossoms two ways: stuffed with fresh mozzarella and eggplant and stuffed with fresh mozzarella and proscuitto.

Fried in sunflower oil, they were delicate and creamy and meaty all at once.

One of the biggest revelations of the day for me was the southern Italian style tomato pesto sauce they were served with. Cherry tomatoes, basil and walnuts were the only ingredients, and it was unbelievably tasty.

Revelation No 2: I must get a pasta machine when I return to the US. Homemade pasta was surprisingly easy to make, and of course, even easier to eat.

One of Rome’s most famous pasta dishes, all’amatriciana, is so simple, yet so flavorful.

In Rome, meatballs are never served with pasta. They are a secondi, and that is it. And they are way smaller than you see in America.

Chef Andrea insists on using fresh bread soaked in milk for meatballs, and it made a huge difference texture-wise.

 Rolled in flour and then simmered in tomato sauce, they were so tender.

I’m not a dessert person (except for gelato, of course). But this tiramisu was to-die-for.

I actually think I may be able to make this at home.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this class for anyone visiting Rome for more than a few days. It’s such a fun break from sight-seeing, and Chef Andrea and his wife, Erica, are truly passionate about food and are wonderfully friendly and informative.

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I go take a long nap. Recipes to come.

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Happy Halloween

From this evil cat who lives on my street. He’s spending the day curled up in a beach chair. What are you doing?

Also – doesn’t this cat totally look like he’s going to kill me at some point? Just saying.

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