Going to Miami and then Grand Cayman Islands–departure tomorrow!! See you next week!
Hope you all all had a nice Easter! Things were quiet here: on Saturday I purchased my first power tool–a weed wacker. It was only €30 but works really well (thank God Luca is an electrician because we would have spent €100 on a long-enough extension cord!). On Sunday, armed with the wacker and a new shovel, we started cleaning up the garden in preparation for tilling. Hopefully the garden scene will be a happier one this year.
We had Monday off and to celebrate fired up the barbeque for the first time in 2008. It was a success.
My trip to the eye doctor on Saturday was also a success–my eyes have changed quite a bit since the last time I went, so I’ve got to get new contacts. Strangely (I thought) I can’t get them from the eye doctor, but have to find a store that sells them. The hunt begins…
Last week I had my first meaningful experience with an Italian dentist.
It was Special.
The story begins last month when I decided it was high time to get my teeth checked out. I hadn’t been to the dentist in over a year, and for some reason (could it be my obsession with dessert?) my teeth are prone to cavities.
After consulting with the local experts, I decided to go to the faithful Badellino family dentist. The dentist recommended I get a panoramic xray before coming in for a cleaning and check-up, so Rosanna made me an appointment at the local hospital, and a week later I was in the x-ray room with a panoramic x-ray machine that looked like somthing out of the Planet of the Apes. (I later learned that the hospital itself is over 200 years old, so it’s possible that the machine actually was prehistoric.) Four days after my x-ray, I had to go back to the hospital to pick up the panorama and pay €23 (a pretty reasonable fee, though they did make me wait 45 minutes at the first appointment).
With panorama in hand, I was now ready to actually go to the dentist. We called again to make an appointment and once again stressed that I needed both a cleaning and a check up. Another week later I find myself in the waiting room, eager to have my teeth cleaned after a year of neglect and maltreatment. Once again, even though I have an appointment, I have to wait for a good 30 minutes before the dentist calls me into his office. There were actually two dentists–one in his late forties: very tan with white hair; and another in his early sixties, the spitting image of Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future. The tan one right away says, “what a mouth! You don’t need to be here!” and Christopher Lloyd says, “I don’t see any wisdom teeth…” as he holds hold my panorama up to the light coming in from the window. They take a glance at my teeth, find a small cavity, and in less than three minutes, I’m out of the chair with another appointment to return for the cleaning and filling.
A week later, I’m back in the dentist’s chair and the tan one is telling me he’s going to try and fill my cavity without giving me novacaine. “Oh God!,” I’m thinking to myself, “What’s next? Shouldn’t they be doing the cleaning first?” But not wanting to tell these guys how to do their job, I let them drill away. They fill the cavity in five minutes, and once again I’m on my way. They’ve refused to clean my teeth, even after three requests!
What does a girl have to do to get her teeth cleaned around here? Well, I’ve taken matters into my own hands and am being very conscientious about brushing and flossing.
Tomorrow I’m going to the eye doctor. Wish me luck!
On Monday night I made the best eggplant dish. It’s not anything new or exotic, just another version of eggplant-parmesany, but it was soo good. In the past, I avoided cooking eggplant because of the way it soaks up oil like a freaking sponge and never looks very pretty (or even appetizing) once cooked. But after this success, I know I’ll be making it more often.
I was inspired by a recipe in Julee Rosso (of The Silver Palate)’s Fresh Start: Great low-fat recipes, day-by-day menus–The savy way to cook, eat and live!, which my Mom let me steal from her cookbook library at Christmastime. The recipe was for Individual Eggplant Towers, but Julee’s method of layering “1 piece of eggplant, 1 Tbsp sauce, 1 Tbsp mozzarella, 1/2 tsp garlic, 1 tsp parsley, 1 tsp parmesan, and 1 tsp basil” –repeat twice per tower, seemed like an awful lot of measuring for two measly towers. Plus, I didn’t feel like dirtying a bunch of dishes and measuring utensils. But I liked how she prepared the eggplant by slicing them and (on parchment paper) baking them in the oven for 10 minutes per side. She said to spray your sheetpan with olive oil, but I don’t have a spray olive oil, so I just used parchment paper and it worked out fine.
*Note to traditional eggplant parmesan lovers: sure, you lose that oil-soaked, egged & breaded goodness, but if you want to cut calories, this is the way to go. Plus, you save time because instead of standing over hot oil for 15 minutes, you have 20 minutes (in a 400°F oven) hands-free to prepare the rest of your meal. ding!
Anyways, while my eggplant slices (which I cut thick–about 1/2″ each) were baking away, I mixed 2 cans of tomato chunks and some leftover pesto in a bowl. When my eggplant (I used 3 medium) was done cooking, I layered it in the bottom of an oiled glass baking dish, put some very thinly sliced mozzarella on top, spooned some sauce over top, and repeated. I grated a generous layer of parmesan on top and popped back into the oven for at least another half hour–until the top was nice and browned. It was so tasty–and the two pieces we had left over were even better the day after.
I was trying to explain to Luca what corned beef is all about and came across this recipe from The Virginia House-Wife by Mary Randolph, (1824 – Download the free Ebook here). Apparently corned beef was a big hit in colonial America because it was a cheap and effective way to preserve meat. Here’s Mary’s recipe:
“To corn beef in hot weather
Take a piece of thin brisket or plate, cut out the ribs nicely, rub it on both sides well with two large spoonsful of pounded salt-petre; pour on it a gill (about 4 ounces) of molasses and a quart of salt; rub them both in; put it in a vessel just large enough to hold it, but not tight, for the bloody brine must run off as it makes, or the meat will spoil. Let it be well covered top, bottom, and sides, with the molasses and salt. In four days you may boil it, tied up in a cloth, with the salt, etc. about it: when done, take the skin off nicely, and serve it up. If you have an ice-house or refrigerator, it will be best to keep it there.–A fillet or breast of veal, and a leg or rack of mutton, are excellent done in the same way.”
We’re totally obsessed with avocados lately. Guacamole at least once a week at our house. I can’t eat enough tortillas either. Man, I love eating food that’s wrapped in those chewy white rounds. Especially leftover guacamole and sliced turkey. Oh, yum.
A couple of weeks ago (still working out of my February 2008 Bon Appetit until my new subscription kicks in [thanks Aunt Joan!]) I made the Asian Spinach Salad with Orange and Avocado. An attempt to get avocado into the week in a new way…I couldn’t find baby spinach at the supermarket, so I just got regular spinach and turned the cold salad into a warm salad by wilting the spinach right before serving. We happen to be going through a ginger addiction as well, so this salad had all our favorites. Luca was skeptical when he saw the ingredients, but was begging for more at the end of the meal.