St. Patrick’s Day (all’italiana)

This St. Patrick’s Day we had a big celebration. The plan was simple enough: invite a few friends and neighbors for Irish Coffee. Along the way I managed to spend half a day shopping and two days cooking. Not a single Irish dish, but almost everything was green or had some green in it, other than the apple Sharlotka and the orange-almond cake.

Among the various savory and sweet dishes, the green hummus was a big hit. Best in show, though, went to the homemade salame.

salame incartato

The half that didn't get consumed on St. Patrick's Day

a peak at the salame

When I brought it to the table, someone asked if I really made my own salame.

Looks like the real thing, doesn’t it? And it even has some green it it, courtesy of the pistacchi.

salame al cioccolato

Only after cutting a few slices it became clear that it was a vegetarian salame. :)

By the way, I’ve been thinking about those Italian lessons, but haven’t had any time to get started. Mostly it’s that I want to figure out a plan of attack and I am not sure how to proceed. In the meantime I leave you with a few Italian words:
• salame al cioccolato = chocolate salami
• pistacchi = pistachios
• all’italiana = Italian style

In Italian we say salame, not salami, when we talk about one item. Salami in Italy means more than one salame. Several Italian words that have made it into English have been modified and often Americans use the singular where Italians use the plural and viceversa.
We say lasagne (plural) and Americans say lasagna (singular). Just so you know.

Happy Spring!


Piadina romagnola

Piadina romagnola

Hey, thanks for the comments and emails. :) While the knitting languishes in a dark corner, I am trying to figure out where to put my energies next, ’cause by the way my jeans don’t fit anymore it’s clear that I need to do at least

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something that does not involve food. In January I tried 16 new recipes; in February 17. This can’t go on, though Ben is not complaining. YET. Maybe he will when his jeans stop fitting.

Piadina e coppa

Piadina e coppa

Someone suggested I revive an old idea that I explored briefly in my old food blog (tantarobina) — teaching a

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little bit of Italian. I remember that preparing those few posts took a lot of time and planning, but I did enjoy it. I am not sure if I would have an audience… are there really that many people trying to learn Italian? Most people I know are more interested in Spanish, but then this is California and that makes a lot of sense.

Piadina romagnola

Let's not count the calories, shall we?

I think my dough is ready to be rolled. Making my very first piadina today. We’ll see how that goes. ___ My piadina was not perfect, but definitely edible. In fact, we consumed most of

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it. Buon appetito!

Inspired by Mozza

It seems that I always preface our dinners with some kind of disclaimer (I overcooked this, I undercooked

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that, there’s not enough salt, there’s too much salt, I burned the garlic, it’s not right…), and Ben’s usual response is “Can I enjoyed it anyway?”


Mozzarella di bufala, pesto, slow roasted cherry tomatoes, crostone with homemade ricotta.

In this case ricotta is a misnomer and I am using the word only because that’s what everybody calls this kind of homemade cheese. Real ricotta is the byproduct of cheese making, where you use the whey left over from making mozzarella. This ricotta is made with milk, heavy whipping cream and — dare I say it? — lemon juice. If you can’t find good ricotta, this is a good alternative. If I seem fussy about ricotta it’s because I know what the real thing tastes and feels like; the texture is different and so is the flavor. My favorite ricotta happens to be made

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with sheep milk, and that adds to the difference. Not that there were any leftovers, mind you.

Pesto and olive tapenade

Pesto and olive tapenade on the side.

So much pesto… I think we’ll have pasta al pesto tonight.
Caprese Mozza style

The photos are bad, but the food was good.

Pesto, tapenade, homemade ricotta and slow roasted tomatoes were all inspired by recipes from The Mozza Cookbook and for the most part I followed the recipes exactly (I replaced burrata with mozzarella di bufala and I was missing an ingredient in the olive tapenade). The styling leaves much to be desired. What can I say… by the time everything was ready to be assembled I was too hungry to bother with style.

Tea time

100°F is what we got home to the other day, and it’s been like that since. Fortunately, waiting for me among the inevitable bills and junk mail was a tea care package I won a couple of weeks ago by leaving a comment on Nate’s food+knitting blog: knit 1, eat 1. The package from Mighty Leaf included a big pitcher for iced tea and a selection of tea bags presized for the pitcher.

Bodum pitcher and Mighty Leaf tea selection

Bodum pitcher and Mighty Leaf tea selection

If you are a tea snob like me, your nose probably went up an inch when you heard tea bags. Well, these are not the tea bags of my childhood — sad little paper things with staples and a dry heart of tea powder left over from the better selections destined for tins. These are beautifully crafted translucent sachets revealing a select lose leaf content. They are stitched in unbleached cotton and biodegradable.

Ginger Peach tea

Super fragrant

Iced tea caraffe

Hot water first, then ice

Peaches and tea

If I add peaches, can I call it tea sangria?

Ready to combat the heat

Ready to combat the heat

Thank you, Nate!

Home again

Catch up time for me after a twelve-day road trip and close

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to 3,000 miles. I thought I would blog a few times along the way, but I was either missing the time or a reliable internet connection. After three days in the Bay Area to attend the color workshop at Janine‘s house in Berkeley, we drove to Eugene (OR) where we stayed at a sheep farm with Elissa, an old friend from my spinning days who moved from Los Angeles a few years ago and now lives with two dogs, five miniature donkeys and ten sheep.

at Elissa's farm in Eugene

at Elissa's farm in Eugene

hay bales

Hay bales, unfortunately rotting in the field after the rain

Elissa and the beasties

Elissa and the beasties

Gina, the miniature donkey

Gina, the miniature donkey

Elissa's sheep

Elissa's sheep

Oskar the sheep

Oskar was the only sheep who would get close and be petted. He's a sweet fellow with a beautiful fleece.

Dinner time

Dinner time

From there we drove to Lakewood (WA) making a quick stop in Portland (OR) along the way. More like a blitz, really, and no time to get together with friends though we managed a strategic stop at Knit Purl, easily the best yarn store I’ve ever set foot into. Half their stock wanted to go home with me and I had to be firm to make it out of there with only four skeins of Isager Tvinni, two skeins of Shibui Cloud and one supersized ball of Kauni.
Marianne Isager Tvinni

Marianne Isager Tvinni

Shibui Silk Cloud

Shibui Silk Cloud, color "Suit"

Kauni EC

Kauni EC

We spent almost more time trying to get out of Portland than we spent in Portland because of a major accident on the Interstate Bridge.
Even the rest areas are impressive in Oregon

Even the rest areas are impressive in Oregon

A bridge in Portland

A bridge in Portland

Another bridge in Portland

Another bridge in Portland

In Lakewood we stayed with Lorette and John and experienced the most marvellous hospitality which included a guided tour with ferry trip to Bainbridge Island (7-minute visit at Churchmouse Yarns & Teas), extensive stop at Pike Market and a spice shop nearby, and gourmet dinners at their place. Half the extra pounds I came home with were put on in those two days. Not complaining!
Bundled up on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

Bundled up on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

Not the right day to go on the Space Needle

Not the right day to go on the Space Needle

Puget Sound from the ferry

Puget Sound from the ferry

Ghost mountain

Now you see it, now you do't.

Fish stand at Pike Place Market

Fish stand at Pike Place Market

On the knitting front, the only activity was mindless scarf knitting in the car. I’ve been working on the Wild Apple scarf that goes with the hat. The scarf is all in plain broken rib and let me tell you how boring that is to knit, but just what I needed while we were driving 5-8 hours at a time. About 42 inches into the scarf (14 more inches to go) I can see why no one on Ravelry has added that project; they all had more sense than me and worked on either the sweater or the hat. More pics in a couple of days. Now I have to take care of laundry, grocery shopping, and other odds and ends.

Gold quest

No, really. The man has gone off gold prospecting in Northern California for a long weekend with two of his oldest friends. This

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is his big birthday year after all, and Scuola di pizza was our own celebration, while the quest for gold is his manly pursuit for a long weekend of driving, bending under the sun in creeks panning for gold, going back to a cabin for the night with the comfort of beer and scotch and brotherly company. I contributed two trays of slow roasted tomatoes to the cause and gracefully declined the invitation so I can spend four days knitting, reading, watching tv, and overloading on kitty love while indulging my pledge to consume almost as much alcohol as the guys — my booze of choice being wine, of course. And since I can’t drink without food, there will need to be substantial dinners as well. <non-sequitur> By the way, is there a word in English that translates the Italian companatico? Italian has this expression — pane e companatico — which means “bread and that which goes with bread.” Basically, companatico means any food that is not bread and all the attempts at translations I found online are, well, wrong. I should start a list of untranslatable words; I amuse myself in odd ways. </non-sequitur> To kick off the long weekend in style, I visited two yarn stores and bought four balls of Classic Elite Kumara that I plan to turn into a huge wintery scarf. I did say huge, right?

Classic Elite Kumara

Classic Elite Kumara

What else is new? Yesterday I sent off the pattern I’ve been working on for a first round of tech edits so my test knitters can get a better first draft to knit from. I am also putting in some time into learning my kanji, mostly at breakfast, before I have to deal with issues of tiles and grout color and type, toilet sizes, cabinetry, and the like. Will the construction downstairs ever

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end? Oh, and I am obsessing again about different cast-on and bind-off methods. Which brings me to the big question of the day: does anyone know of a matching bind-off for the Channel Islands cast-on? I’ve seen suggestions to use a tubular bind-off, but it doesn’t look all that close to me. I am starting to look at picot bind-off techniques instead. Hmmm, what is the correct plural version of cast-on: “cast-ons” or “casts-on?”

Social again

Yesterday an invite to Google+ dropped in my email box and I got sucked right in. Thanks Andrea! After multi-quitting my social apps last year and making a slow comeback on Ravelry and restarting the blog, I still kept off Facebook like the plague. Now with Google+ I hope to set up a better system. I can tell already that I like it much better than Facebook; the circles alone are worth the switch. Let’s see… I already have a whopping five people in my circles and sent out invites to four more; Lady Gaga’s got nothing on me.

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To populate my account a bit I posted a few photos. Here’s what we did one night this week to celebrate Ben’s big birthday: Scuola di Pizza! It was a great treat for one evening to be at Mozza’s Scuola di Pizza for a demo on how to make pizza and a bit of hands on in shaping the dough. At the end our chef prepared ten different kinds of pizza and we all got to try each one. It was fabulous. I am hoping we can take the pasta class together at some point.

House of ragù

I blame Elaine. Since she posted about grinding her own meat, I bought the meat grinder attachment for our old KitchenAid and made three big batches of ragù in 15 days. In the pre-grinder days I would make a batch, have garganelli al ragù for dinner, and file the rest of the ragù away in the freezer in double-portion packages that would last us a few weeks at the rate of one package per week. Those days are over. The first two batches of home-ground ragù never made it into the freezer. We had pasta al ragù, Sloppy Joes, crostini, and even ragù taquitos. You’d think we’d be sick of the stuff already but I had a new batch bubbling slowly on the stove all day Tuesday. The interesting thing about grinding my own meat has not been the improvement in taste and flavor (that was expected), but the fact that now I

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can keep ragù in the fridge for a week without any discernible degradation. With store-bought ground meat, you could tell the ragù was not freshly made after 36 hours. The only downside to grinding meat at home is the added work — more prep time to remove unwanted fat and cut the meat into chunks, and more cleaning time to disassemble and wash all the parts. It’s worth it.

Carrot, anyone?

Paper cut bunny

I'm late, I'm late

Paper rabbit and Alice cut from templates

for a very important date

I promise, I didn’t eat any bunnies

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for Easter this year. In fact, I haven’t done that in ages. I stopped telling people that rabbit is my favorite meat when I got tired of getting the kind of look that is usually reserved to pedophiles. I actually eat a lot less meat than the average American, even though I am not vegetarian, but somehow I often manage to gross out the locals when the topic of food comes up. Yesterday, at a wonderful get-together with some friendly neighbors, someone mentioned fish, so we started comparing notes on what and where to buy. Suddenly I was aware of two pairs of eyes staring in my direction. Uh-oh, what have I said this time? It turns out that I mentioned baking branzino and someone asked what kind of fish it is and in the back and forth of conversation they figured that I bake it whole. It never even crossed my mind that anyone would find that gross. Besides, it’s a lot more flavorful when you bake it whole — no innards or anything like that, just with its head and tail on. It seems that a lot of people find that disgusting or disturbing or both. Something to do with the eyes apparently. I wonder if that is why the few places that sell frogs here actually don’t sell frogs, but only frog legs. Never mind.

Easter bunny

Politically correct bunny

I did get a bunny by the way, but it’s a chocolate one. Nibble nibble…

Orangettes + reflections

Today is an anniversary of sorts: 19 years since I moved from Italy and the beginning of what promises to be another full year in Los Angeles. There are so many great things about living in Southern California, but I can’t shake the sense of loss at having been away for so long from the environment that shaped me. Every year on this day I reflect on my situation and it’s always a bittersweet affair.

To go with the event I made orangettes, candied orange peels dipped in chocolate (bittersweet of course) from a recipe at The Italian Dish.


My first orangettes

Oggi sono 19 anni che vivo in California e da come buttano le cose arriverò senzaltro a venti. Vivere qui presenta molti lati positivi ma non riesco a scuotermi di dosso il senso di perdita che provo quasi giornalmente per il semplice fatto che manco dai luoghi in cui sono cresciuta. Ogni anno, il 31 marzo è un giorno di riflessione ed è sempre una cosa dolce-amara.

Per l’occasione ho fatto delle scorzette di arancia candita al cioccolato (amaro naturalmente) da una ricetta sul blog The Italian Dish.

It was more work than I had bargained for, but so worth it. We’ve already tried the orangettes and they lived up to expectations. In between things I squeezed in an apple–yogurt cake so this will be a super-carb day.

Ci ho messo più tempo del previsto ma ne è valsa la pena. Abbiamo già provato le orangettes e si sono mostrate all’altezza della situazione. Fra una cosa e l’altra ho anche fatto una torta veloce alle mele e yogurt così oggi sarà una giornata ai carboidrati.

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