28 February 2006

On This Icy Tuesday~

Well, my first entry from work, I thought I would post another image of Siracusa. In this icy cold weather, it does the body good to think about summer holidays in Sicily-- funny thing is that when I am walking or driving about in Italy, I have to work hard to restrain myself from taking thousands of photos like this one, of flowers or people or ancient chairs or hanging laundry on balconies. Antonio doesn't quite understand my captivation with these little domestic vistas, and his nonna Enza was perplexed when I asked to take a photo with her lowering her basket affixed to a string down from her balcony. She uses it to purchase things from the street vendors who begin yelling about the quality and prices of their wares at about 7 am!

I think my affinity for these picturesque balconies has to do with the fact that they are emblematic of a life lived out in the open air. Maybe also with being nosy about how others homes are ordered and how others live in general! Also there is something to be said for surrounding one's day to day life with little bits of beautiful things--I think this is something that was lost in the planning and architecture in North American towns and cities. Although I love our apartment for its character and age (I believe the building was built in the 1920's), I miss having a balcony dearly--for placing flowerpots and sipping the morning's coffee, or just for sitting and reading in the sun. I told Antonio that when we move to Italy, a balcony is mandatory, even in a rental, and he assured me that it would be hard to find a place without one.

On the marmalade I made on Saturday night: I cut the peels very thick, and while it made a nice syrupy concoction, it is too sweet for me and will be reserved for baking (and Antonio's toasts). I have since concluded that I went wrong by using seedless navel oranges in a recipe for Seville orange marmalade--I would like to try a recipe that uses the peels but also the ground up pulp of the oranges, like the one I found in Bitter Almonds (which calls for a meat grinder--maybe I can use the food processor?) On a weekend shopping trip to Highland Farms, I got a hold of some Seville oranges, those ugly things, so any recipes (or links to such) for a good marmalade would be appreciated!

21 February 2006

Muesli Bread and A New Job~

I made this kamut- dried fruit sunflower seed bread today (with raisins, apricots, figs)-- it's going to be amazing in crunchy toasted, buttered slices...

I got called for a temporary job downtown as these loaves were cooling--while I will miss my time spent cooking, baking and waking up slowly, our coffers will thank us for the boost, especially considering our trip! I don't like eating out of containers at all though, especially since I distrust the microwave as a method of warming, and thus am stuck eating room temperature food. Also--where to get a good, after lunch espresso? I'll have to buy a thermos to bring my homemade coffee!

19 February 2006


This is a photo of Siracusa, Sicily, a place that we are going to visit this June--and a place where we sometimes say (daydream) we will move to. Check out this website for more photos that I think capture the spirit of this city quite well (though I'll have to verify this after our visit!)http://www.tiralongo.it/Siracusa/album_siracusa.htm

Sunday dinner for two~

Being that (1) we are both feeling under the weather; (2) have had Sunday lunch at my parents'; (3) cooking fruit always plays a part in a quick recovery--we got home and I began to cube all the apples we had left in our fruit drawer. I put the apples in a pot, added some frozen orange juice concentrate, water, the juice and zest of a lemon, some cranberries that I had holed up in the freezer, and a few spoonfuls of brown sugar and let the apples cook until soft. I served it over my favorite organic yogurt "Liberty" (favorite for its smoothness and creaminess) and it made a satisfying and curative supper!

Sore Throat: Spice Lemon Infusion~

I recently caught a sore throat from Antonio and have been gulping down the following concotion like it's goin outta style:

~Boil some water for 5 or 10 minutes with peeled slices of ginger, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick, a good dose of honey, and some peeled slices of lemon
~Strain and drink warm

Does anyone else have a favorite sore throat remedy? Please share!

The other thing that I find works well is gargling salt water...

17 February 2006

Un caffè

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Torta alla Ricotta: the filling~

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Torta alla Ricotta~ freshly covered in chocolate~

I am somewhat loath to admit that we finished this incredibly delicious cake in two sittings-- it was so good that I must have eaten 4 consecutive slices...I will certainly be making this again. Check out the recipe on my site and try it yourself! What makes it so different from the typical overly sweet (store bought) cake, is the yellow lightness of the crumb, the subtle sweetness and lightness of the ricotta cream, the tang of the orange peel gemstones, and the bittersweet chocolate espresso crust covering it. It is not a looker, although the creative among us could figure out something for the top (perhaps candied orange slices), but the taste more than compensates...
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16 February 2006

Steel Grey Skies and Honey Spice Cakes~~

Today is one of those days: freezing rain outside, steel grey skies, warm and cosy inside with my yellow orchids, my cook books and my day dreams. I just may not go out until spring rolls around or our trip to Sicily, which ever comes first...

I've decided to lounge about a bit in my night clothes, after my coffee and milk, if only to prolong the experience of finally getting a full night sleep.

Things to think about: having a cold cellar or root cellar or pantry lined with one's own preserved fruits and vegetables and running ones' hands over the rows of jars, living in the country and waking up to a full view of the day's sky, one's own apricot trees, one's own goats and thus, one's own ricotta.... sigh

I'll probably push myself to take a walk later, for the want of fresh air, but may compensate by trying out Rosa's Torta with cocoa and a ricotta filling--I'll post photos if it turns out.

Here then is the afore- promised recipe for a lovely and comforting cake for a rainy day, a winter day, a fall day, a less than perfect day, especially since it perfumes the house:

Honey Spice Cake

- 6-8 inch cake pan (oiled)

-1/4 cup sugar

-1/4 cup vegetable oil

-3/4 cups honey

-2 eggs

-1 1/2 cups flour

-1/4 tsp each of baking powder, baking soda and salt

-GROUND SPICES: 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cloves

-1/2 cooled espresso (or strong coffee)

-1 tbsp coffee flavoured liqueur (optional)

1) With oven preheated to 350 degrees, cream the oil and sugar together in a large bowl, then add the honey and eggs and mix well

2) In another bowl sift together the dry ingredients and the spices, then add them to the wet mixture, along with the coffee and liqueur and mix well

3) Pour into the prepared pan and bake until tester emerges clean (depending on pan size, 35-55 minutes) loosely covering cake with foil if it browns too quickly

4) Cool cake in pan on rack for 15 minutes, place on serving plate and dust with icing sugar if desired

Note: This recipe is easily doubled (actually I reduced it to serve our 2- person household) and made in a 10- inch tube/ bundt pan, but use 3 eggs not 4 (could take up to 60 minutes to bake)

15 February 2006

Yellow flowers from Antonio; Pasta with Winter Greens~

Valentine's morning brought Antonio to the door, just as the coffee was coming up and with me still in pjs, he handed me these yellow orchids and this hollow dark chocolate heart (from my favorite chocolate maker Frangipane) which contains inside it little chocolate hearts and truffles! I was actually very surprised (probably since I hadn't had my coffee yet) because A usually calls me if he is going to come by in the morning--so I can make him a coffee! The chocolates are a real treat, I think they are the best quality in the city...

This morning I got up around 4:30 am, not having slept well last night. I was feeling puffy and confused so I took action: after A left at 5:30 I put fresh sheets on our bed, threw open the windows in our apartment, showered and washed my hair, and then finally prepared a sustaining breakfast of coffee, yogurt, a ripe pear and some country bread spread with butter and homemade marmalade...as you can imagine, I'm feeling much better now! Today's plans are: "au marche" or food shopping, cooking a squash risotto for lunch, planning an English tutorial session that I have later on tonight, and maybe studying some Italian future tense for my class next week!

I've added a new link for Carlo Middione's shop in San Francisco--if you can get your hands on a copy of his book La Vera Cucina you won't regret it, it contains many rustic and authentic Italian (especially southern) dishes that are easily made by the home cook.

These things said, I would like to record this recipe I've come up with to combine winter greens with pasta--it's very tasty and easy, and it makes a good first course followed by fish or eggs or cheese.

Fusilli with Winter Greens
~easily serves 4 as a first course

~dry unseasoned bread crumbs (we get them fresh from the Italian butcher shop)


~1- 2 bunches rapini or swiss chard

~salt, fresh ground black pepper, red chili flakes

~500 grams of fusilli pasta (like Barilla or De Cecco)

~extra virgin olive oil

~ripe black olives

1. Toast about 1.5 or 2 cups of bread crumbs in a non stick pan over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper until browned 2. Bring a small amount of salted water to a boil, and steam/boil the washed and roughly chopped greens for a few minutes, throwing any tough stems into the pot first 3. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta 4. Drain the greens 5. Heat a good amount of oil in a deep saute pan, put a few red chili flakes and some large slices of garlic in the pan 6. Remove the garlic slices once golden and add the greens, cooking on medium high for a few minutes, adding some olives near the end 7. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain, preserving some pasta water 7. Add the bread crumbs to the greens and mix well, then add the pasta and mix again 8. Add pasta water (if needed) and some olive oil and pepper to taste 9. Serve hot and pass some grana or parmigiano at the table to grate on top 10. Don't forget the wine!

the sandbanks of our heart~

blanket the green earth, sole only, pressed on your body as on a pathway of smooth pebbles
as you sleep dropping the leaves of your breaths onto my untaut skin
vistages of the fall sky tremble uncertainly through the river of me
though certain in that basin of our sleep where
from your neck rises the perfume of baking bread
does your heart lack for fuel?
do our fingers, enlaboured, find peace in those fields, under those skies?

10 February 2006

Beds of Gemstones Aside, "Let's Bake!" and Other Stories

I've kept myself quite busy the past few days, baking till midnight, making yogurt, eating fish for the second time since childhood (David Rocco's recipe for "Baccala Alla Pizzaiola" ), organizing kitchen drawers to find space for our piles of mason jars (being emptied of our peeled tomatoes and sauce) and figuring out how to use the digital camera that we got for Christmas (the results of which are above)... Even though I'm thoroughly dedicated to my 30+ year old manual Cannon camera, I think this digi- cam will be of use to me for blogging, so from tomorrow on, pictures should accompany recipes! But for now, here is one fantastic and simple cake to bake when you crave something chocolate-y but not super- rich, and don't want to spend hours in the kitchen:

Chocolate Ginger Cake adapted from Moosewood's Book of Desserts

1 9- inch cake pan
3/4 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup yogurt/ buttermilk
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger root

for optional glaze: two squares bitter sweet baking chocolate, melted gently with chocolate or coffee liqueur, spread over cooled cake

1) Preheat to 350 degrees, butter the pan and dust with cocoa
2) In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients, stirring well
3) In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, then add them to the liquids, along with the ginger
4) Fill pan and bake cake until tester comes out clean, 30- 45 minutes, cool and top with optional glaze
5) Don't feel guilty about polishing off half the cake in one sitting, there is hardly any fat in it after all (Do I hear rationalizations???)

Recipes to come include: honey-spice cake, warm cauliflower and caper salad, the perfect frittata every time, white bean and squash stew, the perfect homemade yogurt, soup for nausea (this might take a while...)

05 February 2006


How I long for warmth, liquid flowing through me, pure water in my throat, hands working on some lovely creations (like those above, by Maria Grammatio from the book Bitter Almonds), callused feet below me. Gem stones to sleep on. Skies to breath in. A place to live the soul's life, the one where one's edges remain untouched.

Sweet Anise Raisin Bread on Sunday~

This morning we are determined to have a better day than yesterday, which was the day of missed moments. We woke up to a breakfast of espresso and milk, butter and marmalade on the sweet bread I had made and set aside for this morning. We pretty much finished off 1/2 a kilo! While A watches his soccer team (inter) on tv, I have decided against better judgment, to blog instead of studying for my test...

This is a picture of the pastry shop in Lucca which first produced (in large quantities) the bread we ate this morning

Here is the recipe:

sponge: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup warm water, 1 1/2 envelopes active dry yeast (or 1/2 oz compressed yeast)

dough: 2 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 2/3 cup warm water, 1/2 tsp salt, 2/3 cup raisins, 1 tbsp freshest anise seeds

1) For the sponge: dissolve the yeast in the warm (about 105 degree) water with a whisk, place the flour in a small bowl and stir the yeast mixture in, cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 1/2 hour

2) For the dough: place all ingredients save the raisins and anise in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, add the sponge and beat on low speed for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic (start with paddle, switch to the dough hook), add the raisins and anise and mix in until even, cover the bowl and ferment until doubled (3-4 hours)

3) Deflate the dough on a floured surface, kneading briefly. Form the dough into either a long cylinder (about 24 inches) and connect the ends to form a ring, or into two small rectangular loaves. Place on a paper lined baking sheet and proof until doubled (2-3 hours) covered with a tea towel

4) To bake: at 375 degrees, until a tester emerges clean (about 45 min for the ring, 30 min for loaves). Cool on rack, cover well with plastic wrap. Freezes well. [photo to follow]

02 February 2006

4 X 8 Meme from 'La Tavola'

4 jobs i've had

apprentice pastry chef
chocolate store girl

4 movies i could watch over & over

mamma roma
office space
facing windows
la vita e bella (for the kid)

4 places i've lived

little italy #1 (college west, toronto)
little italy#2 (st clair west, toronto)
perugia, italy (1 month)
corleone, italy (1 month)

4 websites i visit daily

chocolate and zucchini
my email

4 tv shows i watch

opening soon
david rocco's la dolce vita
c'e posta per te

4 favorite foods

good bread & butter
tart apricots
freshest ricotta

4 places i'd rather be

...sicily, in the burnt hills (actually anywhere in Italy)
in my red chair in the corner with a chamomile and a good book
lying in the sun outside (in the country or on the beach)
in the kitchen!

4 people i'll pass this on to

jaime at waterhalo
shay from blogspace
...haven't been blogging long enough
to know others to pass it to!

Sustenance for Movement

The dark is fading this morning
what will it be
more grey splayed shadows
clumped on the city walks?

The sky fades secretly
I can’t ever catch the instant when
the grey blooms and gapes like mould
over the roof of the neighbouring building
but it does, sure as ever
independent of my caprices
regardless of the energies that I choose to
release on the world—
or prefer to unleash within---
fibers undone.

Today, the poem of this expiring morning
of February 2, bears witness to a breakfast
of rough bread and butter
strongest coffee
floating through, perfuming the rooms
hair undone: a savouring of what may be to

How to move on the earth? Only of our
own steam, fueled by no movement
bread only
bread the train that will provoke us
slowly forward or slowly somewhere else
from here.

01 February 2006

Wednesday alone-- sweet bread from Lucca

Today I've been alone-- the pastry shop that Antonio delivers for (Patachou) is moving locations, and he has been working 12 hour days this week--not pretty for someone who gets up at five...

We have made the conscious decision to live on less for now, and I am able to stay home, until the middle of March when I will have to take temp. assignments more regularly. I find it invigorating to plan meals and keep down expenses when it means that I don't have to take the subway home from Bay Street at 5 or 6 o'clock! Antonio appreciates it too, because it means that when he gets home from work, he doesn't have to worry about preparing meals or about the apartment--he is relatively free to sit on the couch and catch whichever soccer game happens to be on. This doesn't mean however that I refrain from complaining about the Telalatino announcers whenever a goal is scored: they feel it necessary to increase the viewers' nervous excitement by yelling "goooooooooooooooooool" for as long as they can!

I found a great book at the library by Nick Malgieri called Great Italian Desserts. Today I am trying "ciambella Lucchese" or Sweet Raisin and Anise Bread from Lucca. I have formed two loaves instead of a ciambella ring, so that I can freeze one for later. It's in the oven now, and I'm just starting to smell it! It is a great, very simple recipe, and I'll post it up later should my results be good.

Right now I should be studying Italian grammar for the last course (Intermediate Italian Language) needed to complete my BA--luckily an elective. However, grammar is hard to take for more than five minutes at a time, and thus, this post.

Solitude is odd, in some ways lovely, and in some ways, a lack of the other/s. I don't tire from watching the lace ruffling through my lace curtain, or from sipping hot water and lemon while day- dreaming of far- away places. In fact, I think time spent alone somehow enriches us, allows us to develop our own particular character and thoughts...up to a point. But too much can also be stifling, cutting us off from the larger human pulse. When I take a walk by myself, I enjoy peeking into the front windows of houses, noticing peoples' mailboxes and yards, watching the drivers in their vans and the moms with their strollers. At the same time, I feel distinctly apart from all of the activity, as if I only really live inside the cave of my mind. Spending a lot of time alone made me realize that being with others for much of the day, as in a work or volunteer environment, actually necessitates that you carve out a distinct shadow of who you are, what you are about, where you stand on issues. These things are not required when you are alone, and you can start feeling like less of yourself in a strange way. It's ok for me though, especially since I know I will be very busy in the future, taking on more work, tests and assignments for my course, a trip to Italy in June, teaching at an ESL camp in July and August, and hopefully teacher's college in September!