Marmellata di Peperoni

peppersRosanna, Luca’s mom has been making this AWESOME sweet/hot red pepper marmalade lately that I am totally addicted to.  Though pepper season here just about ended with our first big snow this weekend, I’m looking forward to making it next fall (and eating my way through Rosanna’s stock in the meantime).

It’s best with caprino or robiola cheese on bread or grissini, I think.  Luca likes it with drier, aged cheeses, but I think it covers up their flavor too much.  I like the contrast of the hot spicy marmalade and the cool creamy soft cheeses.  It’s so beautiful, you can’t help but fall in love.  Sometimes (okay, only when I don’t have either cheese or bread on hand), I open up the jar just to look at the shiny red pepper gem-iness.


1kg Red Bell Peppers

2.5 hg Hot Red Peppers (the little, perfectly round ones)

1 cup Vinegar

1 kg. sugar


1.  Clean and weigh ingredients.

2.  Dice the peppers into small pieces and cook for 10 – 15 minutes with the vinegar and sugar.

3.  Transfer the mixture to the mixer and blend.  Replace the mixture on the stove and cook until it’s dense.  Transfer to sterilized glass jars while hot.  Close the jars and turn on their tops for ten minutes.  Place jars right side up and let cool.

 These pictures don’t do the marmalade justice, but maybe you can get an idea…




On Eggplant

EggplantOn 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.

Saint Patrick’s Day

Corned Beef and Cabbage CupcakesHappy Saint Patrick’s Day, guys.  No corned beef here.  Luckily Mom and Dad hooked me up while I was home for Christmas.  We did all the holidays in one shot.  (Thank you!)

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.”

Mmm.  I feel brining meat is always a good thing.  Speaking of good things, how about corned beef and cabbage cupcakes.  Yeah, pretty sure I’m voting for ol’ Mary’s recipe over this one…



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.

Thanksgiving 2007

turkey.jpgthanksgiving07.jpgHere are some snaps from Thanksgiving 2007.  I made stuffing (that was way too salty, but still scrumpscious with plenty of crumbled sausage in it), smashed potatoes, an untraditional turkey (just two gigantic pieces  of turkey bird) with bell peppers and olives, and apple crisp for dessert.

I attempted a festive harvest centerpiece with some mini pumpkins…okay so I put some mini pumpkins on the table and called it a harvest centerpiece.

Isn’t this tablecloth hot?  I love it.  It’s my favorite tablecloth at the moment.  I found it at the market–already made and the right size too–for only €7!  Score.

I Miss the Toaster

bagel.jpgWe don’t have a toaster.  They do exist in Italy.  We just haven’t got around to purchasing one yet, mostly because we don’t know where to keep it.  It’s a pain to have to put a mini-appliance away and then take it out only when you need it; you end up not using it as much as you would if its home was permanently on the kitchen counter.  But I’m on the verge of missing toasted goodness enough to bite the bullet and get one…

When I was at home last month my Dad totally hooked me up with a continual bagel fiesta.  (Thanks, Dad!)  Brueggers for breakfast everyday, baby yeah!  He even furnished the household with corresponding cream cheeses (family favorites include Chive Onion and Honey Walnut).  In addition to the toaster, we own the original Bagel Biter, which slices through bagels like a Chef Tony knife through butter.  It makes the morning bagel ritual quite enjoyable, less messy and quick as a jiff.

In other news, I’ve been going crazy with the Bon Appetit recipes lately.  For Christmas dinner I made their “Dessert of the Year,” a bittersweet chocolate pudding pie with crème fraiche topping.  Yum.  It was great, but move over Macaulay Culkin, but this dessert is richer than richy rich! 

My only complaints, other than the fact that you can only eat a tiny little piece before sinking into a slothen chocolately state, is that the crust was a little too crumbly–add some more butter if you make this recipe.  Also, there wasn’t quite enough chocolate to cover the entire crust; another ounce or so would have been better.  And last, but not least, it’s pretty stupid if you’re at all culinary inclined to just melt the chocolate and then have to wait for hours until it hardens. Depending on your culinary expertise & velocity, you might be better off tempering it. 

luca_cauli.jpgIf you can’t find crème fraiche, use my Mom’s great recipe that works like a charm (thanks, Mom!).  For 1 cup of crème fraiche, combine 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt and 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a bowl.  Leave out at room temperature for a few hours.  Sweeten as desired.  Ding!

cauliflower.jpgTonight I made the Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Puree.  Kind of a pain recipe for a weeknight, but now that I’ve made it and tasted, I would say it’s worth the effort.  (Next time I’ll just make the steaks.)  They were both great!  The puree was extremely delicate, and the steaks were like real steaks–something about searing them and then finishing them off in the forno (oven) gives them a truely meaty consistency and intense flavor to boot.  I skipped the step of drying the florets for the puree in the oven.  Sorry, but you’re already making me dirty two pots and all the blender parts people.  I do not need to be washing a sheet pan on top of it!  Enough is enough.  The puree came out fine anyways, I just didn’t add the extra cooking liquid the recipe called for.  I recommend searing the cauliflower steaks in a pan one at a time, otherwise there’s not enough room and they don’t brown properly.  A big hit–we’ll definitely be making this one again.

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