italy

To each one their own madeleine

Marcel Proust, the autobiographical narrator of the most renowned multiple (oh, those tomes!) piece of French 20th century literature "In Search of Lost Time" has it, my grandmother has it, my favourite beekeeper has it, the laundry woman working and singing below my apartment has it and I have it too. It's the Madeleine, that is, that involuntary memory that arises once we are faced with the most eloquent elements reminding us of long times gone; suddenly, all our senses awaken and we are taken back in time to a moment so intense that we would have not suspected of it existing in the back of our mind, had we tried to remember it rationally. Proust's narrator laments that such memories are inevitably partial, and do not bear the essence of the past. Back in Italy these days for some pop-up projects, I can't help but being somehow drawn by these lines which I'm re-reading these days in my new Parisian life. My childhood days in Puglia gave me strenght, an unbearable feisty attitude, a love for the wild sea and loads of crunchy and creamy pasticciotti. I don't want them to be just partial memories but entire new memories to grasp for you, so here it is, the whole traditional recipe spread out for you. I love to devour 2 of them with my morning cappuccino. Pasticciotti with custard and black cherries

  • 330 gr. super fine OO flour
  • 150 gr. of dairy butter
  • 5 free range egg yolks
  • 1 free range egg
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 2.5 dl. of fresh organic whole milk
  • 160 gr. of caster sugar
  • 120 gr. black cherries in light syrup
  • 50 gr. icing sugar

Prepare the dough. Arrange 300 gr. of flour in a large bowl, distribute the cold butter over cut into small pieces and work quickly the two ingredients with your fingertips in order to form a crumbled mixture. Merge then 100 gr. of sugar, 2 egg yolks and the whole egg. Mix together, form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Make the custard. Engrave half of the vanilla pod, lengthwise, put it in a saucepan, pour over the milk and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, assemble the remaining egg yolks with the caster sugar, using a whisk. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, alternating it with a ladle of milk. Stir with a wooden spoon and complete by pouring the remaining hot milk. Cook the cream over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is quite dense. Butter and flour the moulds.

Arrange the ball of dough between 2 sheets of baking paper, flatten it with your hands and then, using a rolling pin, work it to obtain a layer about 3 mm. thick. Line half of the dough at the bottom of the molds and then fill them each with the cold custard. Lie in the center one or more cherries in syrup and cover the molds with the remaining dough, making sure to well seal the edges. Sting the surface with the prongs of a fork and bake in preheated oven at 180° for 20 minutes. Let your pasticciotti cool and cover them with icing sugar before serving.

With love and pasticciotti,

Eleonora

Neither fish nor fowl

For some reason, the expression being neither fish nor fowl characterizes those individuals who don't fit a specific criteria. For their uniqueness and peculiar features they don't rightly belong. I call it having a personality and the courage to be oneself, which, in my view, makes up the very essence of a life worth living. Most importantly, the rule n.1 is to never behave like a fish out of water, like this Red Snapper is doing here in the following recipe.  I love this recipe because the flavour of the fish is rightly  enhanced by a beautiful sauce born from the combination of fennel, spring onions and gorgeous extra virgin olive oil. You can use winter vegetables as suggested below but, may you find yourself on the other side of the emisphere, you can definitely get  your creativity at work with some colourful foodie options, like radishes, abricots  or zucchini flowers. Red Snapper with winter vegetables

  • 1 whole fresh red snapper about 1.2 kg
  • 3 spring onions
  • 150 gr. shelled fresh fava beans
  • 100 gr. of shelled peas
  • 150 gr. natoora Italian monk's beard
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 bunch wild fennel
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of pepper

Preheat the oven at 200°. Chop the fennel with one spring onion. Transfer the mixture in a bowl with salt and pepper and add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. To clean the fish, get rid of its scales and entrails, wash it well, dry it, stuff it with a little fennel sauce and place it in either a large baking dish or, alternatively, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Practice a few cuts on the transverse surface of the fish and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sauce, then let marinate for half an hour.

Clean and wash the peas and vegetables, then slice the remaining onions and carrots. Bake the red snapper at 200 ° for 35 minutes, mixing it often with its sauce. Meanwhile lightly brown the garlic in a pan with the remaining oil, add the peas and vegetables, cook on high heat for a few seconds, then add salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat for 7-8 minutes. After the indicated time, combined the prepared vegetables to the fish with the remaining fennel sauce and simmer for about 10-15 further minutes. Serve the snapper with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and accompany it with vegetables.

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

September. Time for new season's resolutions, full body scrubs to keep our sunkissed skin tight...and preserves. Loads of them, may they be fruits or vegetables based. Over the summer I spent a good amount of time food researching in my native land, Puglia, and spent entire afternoons picking the most luscious gastronomic delicacies. Wearing a straw hat, which I often filled with enchanting tomatoes, I would go to my favourite fig tree and laid there with a book. It was full midday heat one august fine day when, after a few pages and far too many mosquito bites I headed back home, and I came across a recipe idea that could convey both the figs deliciousness and the summer freshness. I posted its result on my Instagram feed and I am now publishing its sought after recipe following my lovely followers request.

Figs Pie

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • 500 gr. all purpose flour
  • 250 gr. cold butter (not the spreadable version)
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon zest
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80 gr. caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 350 gr. fresh figs
  • 100 gr. almonds
  • 1 lemon

Start off by preparing the shortcrust pastry. In a mixer place the flour, a pinch of salt and the butter right out of the fridge, cut into chunks. Blend all the ingredients until the mixture is sandy and chalky-looking; place the obtained mixture on a work surface (or alternatively in a bowl) and add the sifted icing sugar.

Make a well in the center and pour in the lemon zest and egg yolks (you can also flavor with orange zest, the seeds of vanilla bean or cinnamon). Start to mix the ensemble with a fork first, then when the eggs have absorbed the flour you can continue by hand. Knead briefly, just long enough to compact the mixture so that the crust doesn't get too hot with the heat of your hands and thus remains brittle. Form a dough and flatten it before you wrap it in plastic wrap; store it in the refrigerator to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Unwrap the figs from their skin and put them in a pan, leaving 3 fruits aside for decoration; with the help of a mixer, mince finely 80 gr. of almonds until floury, then add them to the figs, spray the juice of a lemon on top and let the whole ensemble cook on a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.

Have a pie tin of around 20 cm. of diameter ready. Take the shortcrust pastry off the fridge, remove the foil and tap the dough with your own hands on the pie tin. Fill the pie with the figs conserve and decorate with slices of fresh figs and the remaining almonds, roughly chopped.

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. That's how I remain, often enough, at the site of my Italy. Gaining access to astonishment is ever so easy, just by turning a corner from a tiny pedestrian sidestreet to a magnificent Renaissance style landscape, just keep my eyes ready for surprises over and over again. Knowing that the season will be delightful and the best... oh yes, the best is yet to come.

Love,

Eleonora

A day at the bakery

The morning was crispy and fragrant, like fresh bread, when I headed to one of the oldest bakeries in town in order to learn the secrets behind the Italian essential for excellence: il pane. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

5:30 a.m. A ray of light touches Piazza Del Pantheon and, as the breeze caresses my, brrrrrr!!!, too summary outfit (there’s still quite a temperature shift from night to day) giving me the shivers, I realized, once again, that Rome in the morning holds the most dazzling of secrets: it looks like it’s been built a moment ago, for your eyes only. Oh my, what a bliss.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As I walked by the narrow roads, the Roman cobblestones, i sanpietrini, leaded me to the most sumptuous tiny squares, as greeting as a lively living room. I went through the Ponte Sisto and found myself in the bohemian Trastevere district. Having been an authentic Roman for my entire life, I still find it quite hilarious to get lost in the melting pot of side streets to the point that, after my first coffee and with my head clear enough, or so I thought, I still couldn’t’ quite find my way to the oldest baker in town, turning flour into bread with lievito madre (sourdough), which makes it fluffy and lasting for over a week.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

But then Gina appeared: imagine a lady dressed in black, all frowned and focused while peeling potatoes, who told me, unflappable: “You obviously got lost my dear, it’s the most wonderful thing I can tell you”, which only added to my feeling of inadequacy in front of Rome, a city where one always feels either too big or too small.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Abandoning myself to that overindulging feeling, I finally found my way through the most iconic of senses: smell.

Dusty, floury, and oily, bread is usually to be found in every Italian table, a synonymous of hospitality and prosperity. Back in the old days the well to do families would consume nothing but white bread, as a symbol of their accomplished wealth, whereas the brown bread would be left for the agricultural working class.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The head baker Giampiero is an institution at one of the very few last bakeries in town. He and the boys treated me like an equal for the entire shift, and that included handling packages of 25 Kg. flour and bite the pizza dough to make it flawless and crusty. I felt as happy as ever when I finally got my hands on my first filone (Roman style loaf of bread) ever, even though I burnt a finger in the process, since it was too irresistible and I simply couldn't resist. But that's part of the game, I guess.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I brought a bunch of bread loaves on my basket, they look like a well decorated bouquet of flowers. I jumped on my bike, thinking about the millions sauces that will accompany it for brunch tomorrow. Let the weekend begin.

With bread and tulips,

Eleonora

Viva la pappa col pomodoro!

At the end of what has been a boiling hot week in Rome, let me wish you a very joyful weekend through a couple of videos displaying the Italian attitudes for excellence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ5Zwrcvvaw

"Viva la pappa col pomodoro" is a very popular song interpreted by Rita Pavone, a sort of "enfant prodige" back at the day, who acted as Gian Burrasca in one of the first tv-series:"John Gale, the bad boy". This nickname, which the family gives to him because of his restless behaviour (more for exuberance than malice), has become proverbial to indicate an unruly kid.

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

"Che Bambola" by Fred Buscaglione is the epytome of the Roman piacione, a guy who would typically go after all pretty girls by assuming a forced captivating attitude. A typical experience for any gal going around an Italian town.

Off to an Italian weekend, enjoy yours!

Eleonora

It's #romanity. Sneak peek #8

Once upon a time I was grocery shopping on a vintage Vespa. As I jumped on it, I realized that the colours and smells of this incredible city that is Rome were way more vivid. I could touch the walls as I escaped a tiny street to get into the wonders of yet another square glorified by historical monuments. Rome is truly an open-air museum. So I decided to tell you about the flawless feeling of flying through it. Ladies and gentlemen, here is a #romanity tribute to our favourite Roman means of transports, and madness. vespa8

First, there was the bicycle. Coloured in pale green, blue or red, originally it had no speeds, so it was a courageous and awesome act to climb on the seven hills of Rome on one of those. I am always amazed at the wonderful baskets, that I love to fill with groceries, and the magnificent flowers that go with them. Those means of transport, as simple as they may be, become sumptuous when laying by the side of a Roman column. And the poetry begins. Buy or rent it at Collalti (they will also fix it for you at any given time), either way you'll look terrific!

vespa1

Then came the Vespa. 500 Special. Oh If that's something.

vespa7

Often found side by side, these two means of transports are the epytome of #romanity. They make a significant part of the charm within the city.

vespa9

Running through the city on one of those helps reviving those images of daily life that would go otherwise unnoticed. Try the Trastevere neighbourhood on one of them on a peaceful early afternoon, then tell me your daydreams.

vespa2

When I say everyone uses them, I mean it. Priests and monks alike can be seen playing among the urban traffic before reaching the Vatican City, the state within the state of Rome.

vespa3

Talking loud in the city is a measure for affection. Enjoy those discussions that stop the traffic of an entire city. On a Vespa special they can sound justifiable.

vespa4

But, ehy, there's nothing more fun than strolling around the city with a special 50 that drive your fears (and hairs) away.

vespa6

Among solitary roads and spacious angles, a very Italian means of transport is always going to be a safety nest.

vespa5

Have a lovely weekend,

Eleonora

Amazing photos, right? Look no further, it's the de-lovely Cucina Digitale

It's #romanity. Sneak peek #7

In a world where opinion leaders /development leaders, even impatient leaders thrive to handle worldly opinions, being a cauliflower leader is as near to #foodhappiness as #romanity can lead me to. That's the state of the art, for me at least. Do you get the message?cauli1

And so, I often find myself giggling through the eternal city's narrow streets, in search for the perfect spot to stop by for a well deserved crowd-rescuing moment.

cauli2

The best places in Rome to find solitude are the least visited. Look for them outside the beaten-track, just like the arty and sooo ever-green Caffè della Pace, only steps away from Piazza Navona, yet totally inserted in a bohemian and exclusive atmosphere. Don't mind Dolores, the cuckoo lady who stops by , her entertaining stories, fire red lipstick, as well as her decadent allure are part of the whole charm.

coli3

In a city where the past comes as a glorified and refined definition of the eyes who see through it, finding yourself can be as easy as climbing the Roman symbol for excellence: the Colosseum. You might even be taken for one of its inhabitants, if you don't pay attention at details like closing the door before leaving any kind of space. You would otherwise be shouted at: "Ehy, what is it with you? Do you live in the Colosseum?".

coli4

The most inspiring place to reflect and observe the moveable feast of our life (as Hemingway would put it), is the church, any church in Rome really, the city has over 900 of them. Their history define the artistic, religious and intellectual soul of the city. Between many abbeys, 4 papal basilica, the Medieval, the Gothic, the Renaissance or the Baroque styled, the choice is huge, and always a corner away from anywhere in the historical centre of town.

cauli5

And as the situation calls for it (in Rome as in life more in general), always stay grounded, but with your eyes up!

Eleonora