foodhappiness

Puff, flaxseeds and apples

The silence of an early morning provides for an unparalleled broad sense of possibilities. It's one of those delectable moments that seem limitlessly stretched - if only for a flash of time - and freely filled with impromptu ideas, some of which you know from the start you're not likely to turn to reality because too difficult or too extravagant. But ehy, it's that daydream stream of consciousness that matters. It's a habit of calling upon opportunities. And that's the impulse of creativity, to me.

In daily life, one gets so hung up with what people think or say that I often feel the need to compensate. In that sense cooking feels like an intimate discovery. Engaging in the making allows you to grasp the moment like nothing else can.

When cooking is meditative, every step of the way is revelatory. #foodhappiness is never too far.

Here is a rhapsodic preparation made of puff pastry: I love to watch how the layers amplify when cooked, leaving generous air pockets inside. The pastry itself has such reassuring versatility, used for both sweet and savoury dishes. Yesterday I found the most delicious golden apples in an open air market; they looked, crisp, heavenly and irresistible.

Having about 1 hour before heading out to my meetings this morning, shop-bought puff pastry worked just fine.

A flaxseeds apple pie

  • 10 gr. butter to grease
  • 2 whole butter puff pastry blocks
  • 1 lemon, the juice
  • 4 golden delicious apples
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 100 ml. eau de vie/grappa/any liqueur will do

Preheat the oven at 180°. Grease a 20 cm cake tin with butter and gently line it with one of the pastry blocks, before blind-baking it for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each half into rough chunks. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the sugar, cinnamon, thyme and mix with a wooden spoon to combine evenly.

Heat the liqueur in a pan for a few seconds, then add the apples mix and let simmer gently for about 15 minutes, covered.

Sprinkle the flaxseeds over the lightly blind-baked base of the pie, then smoothly envelop it with the apple mix, making sure to keep the cooking liquid aside.

Cover the apples with the second pastry block, and seal the edges manually as to not let any of the apple chunks ungracefully coming out of the pie. Finally bronze the pie with a brush of the apple's cooking liquid and bake in the oven for 35/40 minutes until crunchily brown. Enjoy at every moment of the day.

My book "As The Romans Do" is a wrap

I missed you, too. After much food-writing, food-styling, food-testing back and forth between the stove, my computer, my publisher's HQ in London, David Loftus photography studio, and my beloved Rome, it's  finally a wrap. Some amongst you could follow the much hectic process through my Instagram. My debut cookbook, "As The Romans Do" has gone into production now and will be released on June, 2nd 2016. How could I know just a year ago that so many pieces needed to fall into place in order to make this happen? Well, I simply had no idea.

There has been the book proposal, followed by the content brainstorming - a plethora of things to say and just so much space (blame the author's irrepressible ego).

Recipe testing: three to four times in order to perfect each recipe to satisfaction, thanks to a wide range of very hungry and incredibly patient friends and my clients, both corporate and private through La Belle Assiette (more to come in the book's Acknowledgements).

Then the very reserved moment of actually filling up those blank pages, often with elaborate anecdotes to transmit the very cinematic context in which my recipes were created - I mean, we're talking seriously Dolce Vita Rome, guys. And the recurring questions: "Did I express everything I needed to say, was it clear enough for the audience to grasp?"

A little later, the most exciting time arrived: the photography for the book. We've been in Rome for the outdoors and in London for the studio photography, shooting up to 10 recipes a day with the help of an incredibly brilliant team. There was a food stylist making sure the cherry was always on the cake, Emily Ezekiel, a prop-stylist delivering the atmosphere of a Roman home into the studio, Linda Berlin along with an amazing in-house art director, Juliette Norsworthy. And numerous helpers that have proved valuable in cooperating especially during those quite inevitable yet crucial: "We're missing a piece of Parmigiano" moments.

Copy-editing was next, followed by the layout decisions. This entire experience has shaped my artistic voice into exactly who I want to be, right at this stage in my career, and I couldn't be more honoured for being able to send my message across so vividly to such a wide audience.

And that I owe to my brilliant online community, YOU.

It's good to be back to blogging, a dimension that leads my creativity to explore unknown places hence providing me with an always wider sense of what's possible.

My book is now available for pre-order on Amazon, just click on the link here to have it at your door right upon launching date.

I hope you'll forgive my temporary absence, but it was for the good cause and I'm now back in track with loads of new adventures to share in the near future.

And I cannot wait to experience it with you.

Baci & abbracci,

Eleonora

Capri & The Amalfi Coast

You would immediately sense a fragrance of lemons as the ferry boat drops anchor in the island of Capri. But that is just a hint, a prologue to all feelings of reflection and deep restoration to be experienced once you step on top of Marina Piccola and into one of the few bars displaying all kind of tartines, a sort of eternal aperitivo time only to be distracted by a dive into the sea or a stroll through those glorious shops selling coral jewellery and handmade sandals. villagiusso2

I stayed at a small and gloriously charming house - the casetta, as everyone calls it there -  that was once inhabited by Marguerite Yourcenar. Rumour has it that she conceived the first manuscript for "Memoirs of Hadrian" during her time in the casetta. And no wonder: this captivating island has been for centuries a favourite shelter for an intellectual and cosmopolitan, extremely over the top community. I found a telephone bill to her name, which makes me wonder about her, possibly long conversations linking a mature Marguerite to the real world from her buen retiro in the Neapolitan island. In this house, I also conceived part of my debut cookbook, As The Romans Do - going from high prose to food writing I do hope Marguerite will forgive me. But, oh, If I enjoyed this place's voluptuous embrace.

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Giovanna Rispoli is the charming lady behind the good keeping of this typical house - with colorful ceramic tiles (pictured alongside octopus and clams in the photo above) and a blue theme finding its echo in the wild sea approached from the balcony - where al fresco dining is the epytome of a perfect day spent walking and cooking.

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She is also the owner of a masseria, a typical fortified farmhouse (I've already talked about one here) which is located in the Amalfi Coast - on the hill of the delightful Vico Equense town.

At Astapiana Villa Giusso , a former monastery, guests can enjoy a medieval privacy surrounded by 13 hectars of land overlooking the bay of Naples and the Sorrento peninsula.

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There's nothing more energysing than an excellent night sleep at Annunciata Flat, followed by some initiation to harvesting in the park. You can smart up your breakfast cappuccino with the introduction of some fresh milk , just squeezed. Elevenses couldn't get any better while tasting handpicked fruits and vegetables.

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Then, I loved to immerse myself in the historical background of this unique place which changed so much throughout the centuries: first a monastery, then a crown place, then a factory, finally a manor house. And it's all detailed within the in-house museum where antique furniture and paintings from 17th and 18th century, a glorious majolica kitchen, the family’s chapel, a 17th century wine and olive oil cellar with original barrels and jars, a luxuriously decorated early 18th entertainment room styled in fine gold Damascus silk fabric are all displayed.

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A feast for the eyes and the stomach alike, since I could also enjoy a refined homemade extra virgin olive oil tasting. In the evening, we all made pizza together, and as the dough was rising, I curled up in the living room while reading The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe. Not only #foodhappiness then. To get to what you're good at in the best way, there's a universe of creative inspirations out there, which the Amalfi Coast people are masters at providing. Switch off and get surprised.

Love,

Eleonora

Relais Astapiana Villa Giusso, Via Camaldoli, 51, Vico Equense NA, Italy

Website: www.astapiana.com

For reservations: info@astapiana.com

Puglia style fava beans purée

I always say that. My #foodhappiness is all about experimenting with senses and flavours, developing new, familiar habits, bringing gastronomical culture further. To participate, to share, to bring my enthusiasm on yet another level. I had been digitally acquainted with the talented Emiko Davies for a few months now. What I love about being part of this incredible global food community is its lively interaction, its exuberant mutual support and a sense of sharing that I've never seen in any other category. And that is such a blessing.

This fifty-fifty Japanese/Australian charming woman comes fully equipped with an adorable 2 years old toddler, Mariu, a camera which she masters to perfection and a strenuous dedication to the background history of Tuscan food. Just like me, Emiko will publish her debut cookbook too next year, and I cannot wait to do some promotional events together: here is her story. As I already did in the past with Rachel Roddy and Elizabeth Minnett, we decided to meet for a shared foodie experience. Here is her version of our exchange, along with a delightful recipe for Octopus and Potato Salad that we also made on our morning together.

We hugged like old friends as we met for a cappuccino and a morning pastry at Porto Ercole's local breakfast bar. This small town is located in the Argentario area, a place a little more than 100 km. north of Rome. It's a must visit if you want to get spoilt for either seaside, countryside, or thermal pleasures, you name it: the Silver Coast has it all. And that's where Emiko is currently living with her young family.

I let my dried fava beans rest in abundant water overnight. This is the classic fava bean purée of Puglia, enjoyed alongside olive oil-smothered greens.

In popular culture there are many widespread beliefs  related to the fava bean. In the lands of Gargano, in Apulia, on the night of St. John the Baptist, all girls of marriageable age put three fava beans under the pillow , one with the peel, another one without and the third slightly bitten at the top. During the night, each girl would take a random one: the first (the one with the peel), would hold the prophecy for a rich life; the second (without the skin), would destine the girl to a poor existence and finally the third (the bitten bean), would lead her to a mediocre life.

Because the fava bean has the tendency to swell during cooking, it has always evoked, in rural culture, the idea of a pompous man with an inflated self . There's a saying, still popular today, "to kill two birds with one stone", the literally translation of the stone being the fava bean, that is to say that you can get two benefits with one effort.

Try and find dried fava beans imported from either Italy or northern Africa, for the most legitimate gusto and texture. This has been sustenance food in Puglia for ages, and remains today one of the region's typical dishes.

Fava beans purée and friggitelli peppers (serves 4 people as a main course)

For the fava beans:

  • 250 gr. dried split fava beans
  • cool water to cover by 2 inches
  • 1 small Charlotte potato
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50 ml. excellent extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt flakes

For the greens:

  • 1 kg. Green Friggitelli Peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint

Soak the beans in copious cool water and cover with a cloth overnight at room temperature. Drain and rinse them well.

On a wooden board, peel the potato and dice it in small pieces.

In a large, heavy pot, place the beans, the potatoes, fresh water to cover by 2 inches and finally the bay leaf. Set over low heat and bring to a boil.

Simmer, covered, until very tender, for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, making sure never to stir it. Using a perforated spoon, skim off any foam that rises to the surface of the water.

You'll realize your fava beans are done once the whole water has been absorbed and the texture is very much like polenta: creamy and heavy, not runny. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, control that the base of the pot is slightly burnt, then shake the casserole manually up and down. This way, the puree will detach itself from the pot. If needed, add a bit of water to thin it out. Sprinkle with salt and oil.

In the meanwhile make the friggitelli: let the oil warm up in a large frying pan, then splash in the mini green peppers, the juice of a lemon and its zest. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring continously. At half cooking, add some chopped mint.

Drizzle the fava bean puree and the peppers with some more olive oil.

Thoroughly enjoy until sated.

With love and fava beans,

Eleonora

Photo Credits © by the brilliant Emiko Davies

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#Martini4Milano adventure

My  bag is ready, my passport slightly scratched from my many travel adventures, the imagination flowing free. On the agenda, a couple of days of full indulgement in my most beloved Italian delights, aka the magical three: food, drinks and culture. My kind of summary #foodhappiness. Only two dresses and my best spirit. I’m travelling light because I know that I will bring back loads of goods from the city hosting the Expo.

For those of you who still didn’t get it, I’m heading to Milan, where I’ll join 3 fellow bloggers to spend a weekend filled with aperitivo and off-the-beaten track itineraries.

It’s #Martini4Milano, a great opportunity to discover Milan differently.

You know by now of my collaboration with the most eligible and cocktails trendsetter brand. MARTINI, official partner of the Italian Pavilion at the World Expo Milano 2015,  launched the operation # Martini4Milano.

On the program: secret walks in the streets of Milan, visiting the World Expo, introduction to proper aperitivo, Italian dinner and, if all of that was not enough, discovering the new  Terrazza Martini designed by the famous Italian designer Pininfarina in the Italian Pavilion: not to worry, the pleasure of a traditional Martini Tonic is on the menu, too.

May you want to enter the contest and have your try to win an all-inclusive weekend for 4 people at the World Expo in Milan 2015 visit these Facebook and Instagram pages during the months of June and July:

So, to recap.

get on the Facebook page:

answer the questions on the brand;

mention the 3 friends who you would love to go with you.

Subscribe to MartiniFrance Instagram account:

regram pictures of # Martini4Milano, and add in the comment the name of the 3 friends who you'd like to share this trip with.

And now. Let the adventure begin. I will keep you posted.

With love and aperitivo,

Eleonora

Polenta panini

Cornmeal has been for generations the alternative flour option as opposed to the more refined wheat. Boil it into a porridge and you will get polenta, which has been for centuries the staple food of entire populations in north of Italy areas. A large dish of polenta accompanied by mushrooms and, in the holidays, by wonderfully sticky sausages, was very common in peasant tables. When white flour was hard to spot, for children's snacks, polenta was offered with the addition of milk and sugar. I love the idea of turning a huge traditional dish into a miniaturized heavenly version with an assured yummy effect. In this aperitivo snack that I created exclusively as part of my collaboration with Martini, which I previously talked about here, I combine the tastiness of cotechino Modena (a fresh sausage made from pork, fatback, and pork rind to be found in specialty stores) with Taleggio cheese's mountain piquancy. The mouthwatering result will be an instant success for your spring parties in #foodhappiness mode on. Want to give it a try?

Polenta Panini for Aperitivo time

Ingredients for 4 people:

• 1 Italian cotechino (500 gr.) • 350 gr. Polenta Valsugana type • 4 lt. plain water • 250 gr. taleggio cheese • 1 pinch of pink peppercorn •1 pinch of fine salt and a handful of rocky salt

In a large pot, boil 1.5 lt. of water at medium fire. When the water gets to a boiling, add  a handful of rocky salt, lower the heat and pour the polenta in. Stir carefully for about 8 minutes and always in the same direction, with a wooden spoon. Spread the polenta cooked on a large dish and let cool for about an hour.

In another saucepan, boil 2.5 lt. water. When the water gets to a boiling it's time to add the cotechino in. Let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cut the cold polenta, cotechino and cheese into rounds using a small pastry round cutter. Divide the polenta slices, 2 by 2, and fill each sandwich with a slice of cotechino and one of taleggio cheese. Heat the polenta sandwich in the oven at 180 degrees for 3 minutes (enough to melt the cheese). To serve, place a stick on each sandwich and sprinkle with pink peppercorn.

With love and polenta,

Eleonora

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The End of the World in the Loire Valley

As an Italian person, one of my most developed senses is Smell. Oh yes, we like our aromatherapy in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, what I absolutely love about food shopping in any open market in Italy, is the herbal goodie bag that comes with it: gorgeous thyme, rosemary, curly persil or the inevitable basil, you name it. They'll all be part of the deal. The positive health effects of culinary herbs have been renowned ever since the dawn of civilization. It's common knowledge that Venice, for example, has for centuries been an authentic door of spices interchange between East and West. Lately, I've been wondering around the Loire Valley, and I came across the most exclusive botanical garden & restaurant. Located in Berthenay, near the wonderful Chateau of Villandry (one of the seven wonders of the world), this river estate is surrounded by a garden of aromatic and edible plants. While Benoist introduced me to the wide variety of culinary herbs from all over the world, Emmanuelle would be cooking up a storm inside the adjacent cute little cottage.

I discovered that each region has its own plants that bloom like a symphony depending on the climate. To activate digestion, best served in form of infusion or soup are : fennel, mint, lemon balm, sage (also used as an antiseptic). We went for a walk in the domain, and came upon the wild plants along the Loire: oregano, die, bay leaves, tansy, Moorish. The taste of these herbs is enhanced by sun or humidity. I've been lucky enough to get a full on description of a whole area dedicated to mints. The best flavouring herb? Marjolaine shell. In the workshops run by Benoist, one can learn how to grow these delicate plants in their own gardens or, for the more citizen-types, like me, on the balcony.

Just adding up one herb to an otherwise ordinary meal will bring a whole new meaning and character to it. So have fun, mix up, create, and try for yourself the art of combining herbs with the kitchen. Back in the cottage, Emmanuelle prepared an unforgettable nettle soup. No, it didn't itch.

On the contrary, it was the end of the world.

Consume without moderation.

With love and nettle,

Eleonora

Frittata rolls with courgettes and green sauce

"Ma parla come mangi!" In other words, speak the way you eat. Be simple. Don't be rethoric. In Italy we also use food as a cultural or social paradox. When I was a child, I would be served frittata (i.e. omelette) whenever at home everyone was too tired to cook. As simple as it is (ok, maybe harder than boiling an egg), there were few things at the time that made me happier than my grandmother calling me at the table: "The frittata is done"! Later in life I found out that, figuratively, this phrase is used when some huge mess occurs. Also, the act of "turning the omelette" (a stage of cooking) is associated with an alleged attempt to slip away from a discussion. It turns out, at home I should have watched my plate and watched my mouth, too.

But, nonetheless, a frittata can be so crunchy and delicious that I might as well just roll it. That's what I did for a French video production project. My other videos from this same adventure can be viewed here, here, or here, to name but a few. I love the idea of capturing the moist of the egg with the cirtusy green sauce. If you find watching the video tempting enough, then you'll be even more thrilled at the idea of reproducing it with the instructions below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhvSdfY4GL4

Frittata rolls with courgettes and green sauce

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 4 fresh free-range eggs
  • 1 courgette
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 50 gr. sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Pour the eggs into a bowl, add the salt, the pepper and the rosemary. Whisk them until fluffy. In a pan, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and splash the beaten eggs in. Let the egg dough curdle from 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat the operation on the other side and cook for the last 3 minutes. Place the obtained omelette on a plate.

Cut the courgette into slices. In a pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the vegetables at low heat for 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, cut the sundried tomatoes into strips.

Evenly place the slices of courgettes and tomatoes on the omelette. Roll the omelette and cut it into rolls of about 3 cm. each. Mildly prick each roller with a cocktail stick.

For the green sauce, finely chop the parsley and place it in a small bowl. Pour the remaining olive oil in and finally add the lemon juice. Mash the mixture  Add a teaspoon of green sauce on each roll before serving.

With love and eggs,

Eleonora

The weekly Food Parlour

‘Food crisis responder’ Marsha Smith takes surplus produce from supermarkets in Nottingham, explains The Guardian, and cooks it for those in need. In a city suffering from food poverty, she is trying to shake up the system for good. Not bad for integrating #foodhappiness, for a social eating advocate. Shopping on an empty stomach? Go and eat something quick! People buy far more stuff and spend more money when they're hungry than when they're full, and that extends to non-edible goods, too, according to a study of the association between our bellies and our belongings discussed on the New Scientist. One day in 2007, Alison Jing Xu, who studies decision-making at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, sat down at a mall restaurant and suddenly regretted everything she had just bought. "I wondered why half an hour ago it had seemed like a good idea to buy 10 pairs of tights, not just the two I needed," she says. So what's going on? When we are hungry, our stomach releases a hormone called ghrelin. This acts on an area of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in reward and motivation, making people want to seek out and consume calories. Jing Xu suggests that ghrelin's effect also spills over into non-food domains – prompting you to acquire more of everything when you are hungry. "We'd like to make consumers aware of the possibility that if they go shopping on an empty stomach, they might spend more money that they intend to – so better feed themselves before they go out," she says.

DIY is taken to a whole new level, as the Daily Mail confirms that workers could save £1,300 a year if they made food at home rather than buying sandwiches and snacks from shops. More than 60 per cent of Britons who buy their lunches out spend an average of £1,840 a year, based on 46 working weeks, the research reveals. In comparison, those who prepare food at home spend just £552 over the same period - a saving of a whopping £1,288. Think of what the surplus could be spent on instead. It could even equate to an extra holiday.

A food supplement first developed by NASA could help fight depression. Brain Food is a supplement rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which has been proven to improve concentration, co-ordination and memory. Steve Ahearne Managing Director of Scholars Nutrition developed the formula, as told by The Express. After reading research linking the chemical with improving brainpower, he decided to develop it into a food supplement to help tackle depression. "Some people still consider depression to be trivial or not a real illness but it can be a crippling mental health condition so any preventions you can take against it are vital," he said.

According to the Independent, people associate the luxury of an expensive restaurant with sexual pleasure, while eating tasty food in a cheap diner is more likely to be compared with drug addiction and physical trauma, scientists found. Diners at luxury restaurants praise the “orgasmic pastry” and “seductively seared foie gras”, whereas patrons of less salubrious establishments justify their food choices by claiming “the fries were like crack” or that they are “addicted to wings”. The findings come from a language analysis of more than 900,000 online reviews of 6,500 restaurants across seven American cities. The study compared the wording people used in giving good and bad reviews, as judged by how many stars they gave to a restaurant.

With love and pastries,

Eleonora

Healthy peas & asparagus soup

I've always been fascinated by fairytales, their moral turn being the ultimate measure of the do's and dont's in my childhood life, and later, holding the balance of power in my view of people and situations. I am one of those people who live life running through the same bewilderment I find in movies and books. Call me naive, but there's something terribly comforting in clichés. The Princess and the Pea is about a girl whose royal status is established by an assessment of her physical receptiveness by placing a pea in the bed she is offered for the night, covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds. In the morning, the princess tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed.

Last night I've been kept awake too, by some love serenade under my balcony (addressed to the neighbour, of course), which kept me up and running all over the kitchen and, for courtesy reason, unable to complain: this morning I had two  bags under my eyes so big I'd go shopping with, and a brand new recipe to be conceived in my 8 m2 kitchen. Could I be considered a princess, too?

Pea and asparagus soup

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 250 gr. of split peas
  • 1 fresh carrot
  • 1 fresh celery
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 25 gr. fresh mint
  • 1 lt. vegetable broth
  • 100 gr. fresh asparagus tips
  • 50 gr. medium mature cheddar cheese/any aged cheese
  • 50 ml. of extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 gr. bacon cubes
  • a sprinkle of salt

Soak the split peas in cold water for at least 3 hours. Finely chop the carrot, the celery and the onion and put them to fry in a large saucepan with the garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Add the peas and the asparagus tips to the pan, add a sprinkle of salt, stir to flavor and then cover the vegetables with the hot vegetable stock.

Cook over low heat until the peas and asparagus tips are tender and begin to unravel, it will take about 60 minutes. As a final touch, you can sprinkle it with some grated aged cheese. Once the soup is cooked, put the bacon in a pan and cook until crisp.

Serve the pea and asparagus soup with crispy bacon on top.

With love, pillows and peas

Eleonora

Honey glazed salmon fillet

In Roman habits, friday is a non-meat day. The tradition is linked with the Bible and the general precept of the Catholic Church that imposes not to eat meat on Fridays, the day of the Passion of Christ. Green light then to all kinds of fish and vegetables. When strolling around Roman's open air markets, such as the one in Campo dei Fiori or Testaccio, any respectable fishmonger on this day would scream out loud its generous supply of blessed cod with chickpeas (baccalà co' ceci). In order to grab attention, they would accompany it with a typical Roman stornello, an often emblematic folk song containing lyrics on a romantic and mockery tone, like these ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k-S3onbVyk

Even if you're rolling on deadlines before the end of the week, believe me, this no-fuss recipe will only take 5 minutes to make. I love how the citrusy flavour tickle with the rich drops of balsamic vinegar. What's more, this sweet and sour salmon is easy & quick to perform and will give the impression of an elaborate dish. I worked on this video as a collaboration with a French production company, hence subtitles may be cryptic. However, images do speak for themselves, and if you want to give it a go, you will find below all the details.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWDd9KbkzX4

Honey glazed salmon fillet

Ingredients (serves 1 person):

  • 150 gr. salmon fillet
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 30gr. honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 gr. of fennel seeds
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

In a bowl, first press the orange and the lime. Pour the obtained juice into a large bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, the honey and the olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Grate the fennel seeds and add them to the mix.

Place the salmon fillet in the obtained marinade. Cover with foil and let rest in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes.

Warm up a pan, then cook the fish fillet aller-retour, 1 minute each side. Next, lightly drizzle with the marinade and let the sauce reducing for a couple of minutes. Put the fish on a dish and pour the sauce on top with a brush before enjoying it with a side seasonal salad.

With love and salmon,

Eleonora

Kluger, Fabrique des Tartes

I love to meet and greet with likeminded people in the food sector, discover and learn from the places I go to. Honestly Paris never fails to impress, its vibrant food scene being a constant inspiration for me; I recently came across the very talented Catherine Kluger. A former lawyer turned tarte guru, Catherine decides to leave her legal job, in order to totally focus on the sweet & savoury art of French pies, initially thanks to the help of pâtisserie consultant Nicolas Bernardé. Whether quiche lorraine, carotte-citron confits or courgette-feta-crumble au parmesan, these tartes are a head turner, and her factory is a step into paradise. Why pies? "Because it's easy, useful and practical. Because they are part of French culinary heritage. Because, deep in our memory and our taste buds, lies the taste of a pie. Additionally, they can be easily adapted to urban nomadic life". Mrs. Kruger signed multiple deals over these past few years with French Marabout editions, publishing four books revealing the underside of her recipes, while keeping her store open and running and keep being a busy mom of three. What's more, she's been heading pop up restaurants, collaborating at hundreds of events, and she even managed to launch a Parisian food-truck. I call that the feminine French art of martyrdom.

This lady speaks to us through food, a language that we are all willing to learn. And the Tartes Kluger are, oh, so luscious. Flavour is deep, complex and utterly compelling. What's more their taste is an incredible barometer of the ingredients' authenticity. And the fact that it doesn't take any more than buying her latest book in order to reproduce some of these beauties, makes it a joy. I'm a huge fan of quiches, and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to interpret this traditional dish. For a picnic, a quick lunch, or a earthy party, these tartes are just the perfect fix. I love to have my cake and eat it too along with a warm, comforting soup. Catherine uses organic flours for the pie base and, I must admit, the overall taste does thanks for it.

For a few weeks more, until February 8th, as a result of a collaboration with natural store Sol Semilla, Katherine is snipping in her pies all kind of seeds @ her store at 15, rue Trousseau. The whole idea is to restore vitality and energy with a great powered menu. This, for me, is the magic ingredient here. We are in total healthy territory. Even if, it would be more accurate to say, superfoods heaven. And then there's the sweet version. Yes, I know we are still in the detox month for excellence, yet...every rule gets broken when things are brilliant. On with the dance.

Flan pâtissier*

For a flexible and elastic dough:

  • 250 gr. strong white bread wheat flour
  • 185 gr. very cold dairy unsalted butter
  • 25 cl. whole milk (warmed up)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar

For the cream:

  • 225 ml of whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 45 gr. caster sugar
  • 15 gr. of cornstarch
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp Indian chai spices
  • 30 gr. dairy unsalted butter

Start with the dough: first of all, mix flour and salt, then add the vanilla sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces. With your fingertips, roll it delicately into the flour until it becomes nice and sandy. Keep your hands cool so not to heat up the butter: it should melt as little as possible. In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg and the milk with a fork. Dig a small well in the sandy mixture, pour the beaten egg in. With the flat of your hand, form a homogeneous dough by working the ingredients very cautiously.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap forming a ball and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. After that, flatten the dough by tapping it with a rolling pin. Flour the work surface and roll out the dough until greater than the size of the mold disc. Gently pick the dough with a fork. Generously butter the mold and let the dough stick to its entire perimeter. As it is, let it rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven at 170°. Line the pastry with baking paper, ideally cut into circle. Place on some dry beans and precook the pie for 35 minutes at 170°. Then free the pie from its shell. Brush it with some egg wash and put it in the oven for three further minutes, in order to dry the gilding and thus make it solid before garnishing it.

Preheat the oven at 210°. Realize the custard: heat the milk, then pour a small amount of whipped eggs with sugar, spices and cornstarch. Pour this mixture into the hot milk and stir until the cream thickens. Pour the custard in the precooked pie shell. Bake it for 10 minutes at 210°, just the time for it to color nicely. Let cool completely before serving. It's better to make this dessert ideally the day before.

With love and flan,

Eleonora

* This recipe is taken from the book "La Fabrique des Tartes" by Catherine Kluger.

PORT EN BASSIN – The cradle of Normandy Impressionism PART 2

There are the seagulls, the walks along the D-day beaches, the low tide, and then there's Port-en-Bassin, where coquilles Saint-Jacques meet shabby chic. A few weeks ago, I interrupted a tale on this post with a - to be continued - tag. Because half of the pleasure lies in the procrastination. Just like the preparation of a good meal, with several of the ingredients needing to be poached, resting, and rising well ahead of time. normandia1Port-en-Bassin is a small fishermen town, counting 2000 inhabitants only, located in Normandy, precisely in the area where apples abound, leading the way to Calvados ageing. There, I stayed at charming velvety house La Maison Matelot, all sailor motif, grey floors and decorative ring-shaped life savers. As I woke up in the early morning in order to head to the local bakery for my usual breakfast ritual, I couldn't help but grin at myself as I listened to the angelic music diffused around the tiny, stoney streets. The majority of the locals are fishermen, that's probably why the service was slightly slow at the local bar, since there seemed to be a crucial backgammon match going on. So I embraced a slow paced weekend. Just like the fishermen, I waited for the tide to be high again, and waved goodbye to them before finding these Popeye-styled boats all coming back to the port around 10 p.m. That's when the show really started. Hundreds, what am I saying, thousands of kilos of pink, perfectly round coquilles Saint-Jacques waiting to be dispatched and distributed all over Europe. The lucky ones coming from this charming shore are haloed Red Label, a French official guarantee of superior quality. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to let me listen to the rustling of the waves inside sea shells. On a plate, that's the most common way they're cooked there, as told by my good friend Astrid.

Coquilles Saint Jacques, Port-en-Bassin style

  • 16 Saint-Jacques shells
  • 100 gr. unsalted dairy butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a bunch of finely chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

In a pan, melt 50 gr. of butter with the oil at medium heat; once the mixture is well cooked (that is, the butter has melted, looking all white and creamy), cook the coquilles for 2 minutes only on each side, not more, in order to still feel their melting taste. May some molluscs be very thick, cut each one of them in two in the vertical direction, then proceed onto the cooking. Before serving, sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of both salt and ground pepper. At the same time, gently melt in a small pot 50 gr. of butter and eventually add the lemon juice. Pour this mixture into a serving dish and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve it while it's hot, along with a wintery soup.

normandia3

With love and coquilles,

Eleonora

On togetherness

It's freezing cold in Paris. As I was cycling through its streets to meet with clients this afternoon, I couldn't accompany the illuminating city sight with the usual humming of "Sous le ciel de Paris", simply because my voice wouldn't come out, my face being literally masked out by the cold. The nice news is, though, that it only takes a few pieces of the loveliest brown bread, a basic flower arrangement (or a bunch of fresh parsley, in my case today) and a warm dish to make it all flawlessly cozy again. Tonight, let's make something that warms our hearts. Suppertime sacred togetherness. I'm all about pumpkin tortelli these days, which I made on one of my pop up events lately.

As to its origins , it is thought that the these particular ravioli pasta have Renaissance origins and have seemingly been designed after the European conquest of America because of the large amount of pumpkin available back then, that is the main ingredient of tortelli. Its heart is filled with this soft vegetable, spiced up with mustard and finely chopped amaretti (artisanal biscuits made with almonds and egg whites).

The, I'll allow myself to say it, utterly liberating ritual tied to the handmaking of pasta is one of a kind: it demands to be nurtured, wrapped, massaged and scented, just like our tired bodies would need at the end of a long, cold day. Italian writer Elsa Morante who, amongst many things, has been recognized for being at the forefront of  magic realism (a wave I very much embrace in my totally dreamy, Mary Poppins like existence) in the Italian literature, once said: "The truest love sentence, and the only one, is: have you been eating?".

With love and tortelli,

Eleonora

World food stories

To start-up or not to start-up? During these edgy times, many of you might be wondering what kind of business to launch. Well, look no further. Apparently, as The Telegraph suggests, the best small business entreprises are all about atypical cafés, Peruvian food and 3D engraved products. The future is looking cevichely good. For decades, Mexican cuisine was largely written off beyond its borders as an unsophisticated carb-rich mess of burritos and tacos. But then came the day, back in 2005, when Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers introduced Britain to the spicy flavours and textures of Mexican market food with the launch of her restaurant chain Wahaca in London. On The Independent, a tale of Mexican street food with incursions of radishes, delicate seafoods and a variety of beans.

Keeping genetic diversity within the world’s food supply is crucial to ensuring that humankind can preserve crop yields and adapt to climate change, however, a warming world places diversity at risk, a paper from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.

Food for Thought is a Guardian monthly series curating ideas on achieving the goal of zero hunger from leaders across the private, public and charity sectors. Among those nations, Brazil led the way. President Lula’s ambitious Zero Hunger programme helped to establish the right to food as a constitutional right in 2010. Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador were also at the forefront of legislating the right to food with similar laws and constitutional amendments. Across Latin America, change came out of successful campaigns led mostly by peasant farmers. In India, it was the supreme court that pronounced the right to food as an integral part of the right to life. The corporate control over food, and the consequent proliferation of low-quality junk food promoted by supermarkets, is widely acknowledged to be a large contributor to the global obesity epidemic – another and often under-appreciated aspect of malnutrition.

Ena Baxter will always be an icon of conviviality. Just passed away, regrettably witnessed on The Scotsman, this eminent lady of the house founded and run with her husband the Baxters soup empire, worth more than £120 million. What few people know, though, is that, as a talented cook and researcher, she also worked to implement food rationing for the Ministry of Food during World War II. When this woman made soup, she only would have used the finest, handpicked ingredients, highland spring water, fresh vegetables, and herbs that bring out the true taste of the soup. Inspiringly green.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzC2OfvbzC8

With love and soup,

Eleonora

A brunch at Semilla

Sunday brunch time is one of those very volatile, very vulnerable moments of the week. Our energy flow is readjusting hence the choice of the meal is crucial to that roaring start of the week. I don't know about you, but when I wake up on the resting day of the week for excellence, the first thing I think of is either a scrumbled, an à la coque, or a benedicte style egg. When in Paris, Semilla is a place for indulging in sweets, freshly squeezed fruit juices, the unmissable sunday roast and, as they call it, all kinds of non egg's options: a lobster club sandwich served with toasted brioche and avocado or a very seasonal beet salad with spelt, fresh cheese and hazelnuts. On the hunt side - it being hunting season, chef Eric Trochon gets an exceptional delivery directly from the hands of his hunters friends - we tried a mouthwatering version of venison burger, moistened with currant juice, served with pak choi (the Chinese version of chard) and the quitessential new potatoes roasted to perfection.

Opened by the will and skills of trio Drew Harré, Jan Sanchez and the chef himself, Eric Trochon, this place, as other excellent ones in town, winks at bistronomie, this phenomenon très à la page that results from the contraction of bistro and gastronomy, applying to those tables combining low prices (with menus worth less than 30€), small team, small places and inventive cuisine made from good and simple products, often orchestrated by chefs trained in academic structures.

Very democratically, and here we go again with patrioctic values such as Liberté & Fraternité, also present à la carte if it wasn't clear enough, the menu comprehends a full list of the producers, often small realities, providing the food and beverages to the house. The wine, in general directly supplied from the grape scented hands of the wine maker himself, can be a Chablis Premier Cru la Forest or a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, both proven to be extraordinarily reassuring tastes.

Last but not least: those of you who know me by now are also well aware of the fact that I love my mascarpone. Either worked in a tiramisu or on a limoncello based cream, you'll know that I'll quickly access to the highest level of #foodhappiness. I reached new heights, though, when tasting the remarkable pears, mascarpone and peacan nuts pie. Powerfully happy before the week's madness.

Restaurant Semilla 54, rue de Seine Paris (75006) TÉL : +33 1 43 54 34 50 MÉTRO : Saint-Germain des Prés, Mabillon, Odéon

With love and peacan nuts,

Eleonora

semilla1

Roman style artichoke

This artichoke recipe is a typical antipasti issued from the gastronomy of  Lazio and in particular of the city of Rome. The artichoke has always been a very popular vegetable used in the Roman cuisine, which, moreover, also has a special variety, the mammola, very suitable for the production of this type of recipe. Among different dishes of artichoke,  I also love the Jewish-style artichoke, another typical dish of the Roman cuisine that has that can be enjoyed uniquely in the very heart of the Jewish ghetto. The origins of the dish once again can be found in the ancient times when, when making food, farmers used what their land made available for them: in this case, artichoke, with its body cleansing properties, soooo beneficial after Christmas blowouts, is thus suggested in drainage diets. I particularly like this recipe for the direct contact you get with the vegetable, but be aware! Its colour could easily stick on your finger, so in order to save your weekend spotless manicure please make sure you pour your fingers deep in half a lemon's pulp before getting on with the cleaning of this remarkable vegetable. Roman-style artichokes

Ingredients for 8 people:

  • 8 artichokes
  • 50gr.breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp fresh finely cut parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh finely cut mint
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh unwaxed lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic

First, proceed with the artichokes cleaning: remove the hardest outer leaves, with a sharp box cutter, working it down with a spiral movement going from the bottom to the top of the artichoke and finally, cut a part of the stem leaving only 4 cm of it. Spread the artichoke's leaves with your hands so you can remove the inside beard and place the artichoke, now cleaned, in a basin with acidulated water in order to prevent the formation of black parts.

Let the artichokes soak for a few minutes, while waiting chop the garlic, the mint, the parsley, then the breadcrumbs, a little olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.

Using a teaspoon, fill the artichokes, broadening their heart, with crumb stuffing. Add salt to the surface and place the artichokes in a nonstick pan bathed in oil and let it burn for two minutes, then add water to two-thirds. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

To understand if they're well cooked, prick them with a fork to check they are ready. Sprinkle with the cooking sauce and serve them warm or room temperature.

With love and artichokes,

Eleonora

Septime, or the temple of gluttony

The wide royal blue door is distinctive of a certain Parisian trait which can be assimilated with a voracious joie de vivre, containing in itself a profound respect for the tradition as well as a versatile step towards the "now" (why looking towards the future when the present can be so captivating). Set in a neo-urban epicurean valley of the senses, no wonder why Septime - a trendy restaurant in the up and coming 11th arrondissement of Paris -  is right in the spotlight these days. I didn't know what exactly to expect as I inspectioned their website before my visit earlier this week; on the desktop, only a logo and an address provided. Poorly described, I thought. Well, I had to change idea: on the contrary, I was in for a treat, because the food, the drinks and the ambiance truly spoke for themselves.

As I entered, I was warmly welcomed by wine expert and restaurant associé Thèo Pourriat, who presented us with a very small list of truly exquisite wines. He emphasized on the personal relationships developed with the vignerons (wine growers), the identification of which I was already introduced to on the other side of the river, at the Ile Saint Louis celebrated cheesemonger. A real fan on fine wines but totally against getting dizzy in the middle of the working day, I also opted for an infusion fait maison. In Septime there's an actual barman dedicated to the making of these restoring potions made to accompany the daily proposed menus. For me, it was orange, clementine, tarragon, pear and Acacia honey, all raw in a boiling pot.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThe lunch menu (uncommonly changing on a daily basis), is based on chef Bertrand Grébaut's inventiveness of the moment. I got lucky with a sumptuous Utah Beach (yes, the one of the Normandy D-day) clums soup with gourds and an undescribably refined Xeres vinegar aftertaste. The daikon - oh I dig those radishes -  was deliciously accompanied with mushrooms de la Maure along with exquisite black truffles from the Perigord area (duck and goose products paradise) which I shall absolutely visit soon.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetHaving recently taken part in the Cabinet de Curiosités of Thomas Herber, with showcases of visual artists, designers and chefs indeed, Grébaut now wants to focus entirely on his Parisian food scene, where he gives work and inspiration to an international, young and food-talented crowd. "There's an Argentinian, an American and a British, but we always speak français in the kitchen, that's mandatory" - explains Grébaut, a patriot at heart as all French admirably are, as I ask him about his producers, his rare food findings (like the radicchio from Treviso in the middle of Paris, a true gem) and his sources of creativity: "Sometimes it's the chromatic scale of a dish that grabs my attention first, but then it's the work on the affiliations to make it enjoyable that I have fun with". And that was, and surely will be again, a truly enjoyable experience.

With love and tarragon,

Eleonora

A tale of orecchiette

My southern Italian origins, which I already explained in previous posts, provide for a constant longing for all things authentic, honest and reliable. My upbringing, as the one of many children coming from my same area, was one deeply interweaving  sacred with profain, guilt with pleasure. As part of this Dostoyevskian-like legacy, the orecchiette talk more than words. As kids, we were all called to order like little soldiers by my greatgrandmother, as I explained here. May we miss the call, our ears were pulled. Poor little ears. Yes, just like the orecchiette that we would have then enjoyed for lunch (talking of subtle metaphor). But, what are they? Orecchiette are a type of pasta typical of the Puglia region, the shape of which is approximately that of small ears, from which the origin of its name. Widespread in Puglia between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries from then capital Bari, where it still remains as one of the top most typical dishes. In Bari's colourful dialect they are also known as "L strasc'nat" (dragged), a term deriving from the creation method with which the pasta takes shape when it is dragged on the working table. Throughout the whole region, orecchiette are cooked mainly with turnip greens, with cauliflower, broccoli and other vegetables, or simply and somptuously, with red sauce (tomato based) and the accompaniment of a very salty thick ricotta (cacioricotta), also used in Sicily for pasta alla Norma, which I shared with you here.

Their size is about 3/4 of a thumb finger, and they appear as a small white dome, with the center thinner than the edge and with a rough surface. In all variants, they are produced using solely durum wheat flour, water and salt.

Oddly enough, their origins are not to be found in Puglia, but most likely in the French Provence where, since the Middle Ages, a similar pasta was produced using a durum wheat from southern France. It was a very thick pasta, round formed, hollow to the center through thumb pressure: this particular form facilitated its drying, thus its conservation to face periods of famine. It also seems that large amounts were loaded on ships that were preparing to travel long distances. Later, they would be spread by the Anjou throughout Basilicata and Puglia with their current name , in the thirteenth century dynasty that ruled the lands of the regions. According to the legend - orecchiette pasta originated in the territory of Sannicandro di Bari, during the rule of the Norman-Swabian, between the twelfth and thirteenth century. It is possible, following the attitude of protection against the local Jewish community by the Norman-Swabian, that their creation had been inspired from some recipes typical of the then current Jewish tradition, like the ears of Haman, to be found in some Sephardic sweets, or in the Croisettes, a type of pasta prepared in the Occitan valleys of Piedmont, a distant relative of orecchiette also likely influenced from the Middle East.

This picture was taken from my father during Christmas holidays. What he cooked them with will be the subject of next week's post. Stay tuned.

With love and orecchiette,

Eleonora

Harry's Bar in Venice

It's an institution in Venice. Every smart-set occasion, it being the Cinema Festival or the Art Biennal, calls for a stop at this world-renowned bar & restaurant, a highly civil Venitian refuge and a place of rest. Women's rare fragrances and a certain ethereal aura fill up the place, at the counter the reassuring preparation of the most celebrated Venetian drink, synonimous of a decadent and stylish cocktail hour. Created in the '30s by Harry's bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani, he christened this white peach cocktail the Bellini (after Giovanni Bellini, the fifteenth century Venetian painter- on the occasion of the artist's exhibition in 1948). Marco, the chief barman today, probably stolen from a 007 movie scene starring Sean Connery, told me - with a decisively assertive yet uberdiscreet manner - many stories as I sipped one fragrant cocktail (which I duly accompanied with fresh water not to get my head turning too fast) and a cheese and ham tramezzino (a triangular sandwich constructed from two slices of soft white bread with the crusts removed) which bread had been cooked in scrumptious butter.

For example, the fact that, to start with, the bar's name had been coined after its founder, Arrigo, it being impossible to be called otherwise as prohibition time was in full swing. Marco told me how the bar counter is kept religiously as it once was, along with all the original paraphernalia, and how Mr. Cipriani decided not to serve beer after an accident occurred causing the cracking of the fine bar's marble in the late '40s and a total change in the clientele target - from then on nothing but the rich and famous, the so called crème de la crème. Ernest Hemingway used to sit at the corner table, its chair as the observatory of a universally glittering micro-dimension that seems to always keep its guard up while entering this timeless place.

As of the preparation of the Bellini, all the elements, starting from the glass, through to the Prosecco and the peach purée, should be as cold as possible.

  • 1/4 peach puree
  • 3/4 Prosecco wine

When the season calls for it, make plenty of white peach (only) purée ahead, but beware: never use a food processor as it aerates the fruit. As strange as it can seem, a cheese shredder might do the trick! Add 1/10 of white sugar to the peach mixture, and you'll have the original Harry's bar effect. Most off all, this is a drink which decoration is the horizon of your imagination, aka don't overdo with additional ingredients like peach schnapps or similar. Less is more.

With love and Bellini,

Eleonora