Tag Archives: food

Mm is tasty.

Or it might be better said it makes you go “mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm”

Mm or Mm! is the name of a favorite seafood restaurant in the center of Catania.

Today, I’m going to defer to the story-telling prowess of my friend Nick.

Click this link to check out his description of Mm at his blog, Sicily Ciao.

Buon appetito!

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Finocchietto Selvatico and frustrated cats

Finocchietto Selvatico is wild fennel – a wonderful Italian addition to the vegetable palate. Say it with me like you say pinocchio “finocchi-et-toe” “sell-vah-tee-koh” – then get ready to say “Mmmmmmmm.”

Tonight, we prepared finocchietto selvatico in a cultural hybrid recipe – incorporating Calabrian sausage, fresh ricotta, and (for me) Sicilian oranges with the fragrant wild fennel. The cultural hybrid was the grain – quinoa. The recipe that sparked this dish called for pasta, but we substituted quinoa and used about half of the recommended meat portion.

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Fresh bundle of finocchietto selvatico, wild fennel

I washed the fennel and snipped the ends of the stems before throwing the fennel into a pot of boiling water for ten minutes. The delicate anise-fennel scent that arose from the snipped ends was intoxicating.

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As I removed the fennel from the water (reserve the water!) – Dave was browning the Calabrian salami (a fresh salami, akin to sausage), and mincing the cooked fennel. In the meantime, I measured out the reserved fennel water for cooking the quinoa (and did the dishes). The quinoa calls for a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio. Eventually, we mixed it all together for a final mesh of flavors in the cast iron – only 1-2 minutes for that final flavor mesh.

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I opted to add a few bites of fresh oranges, too.
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As you might have noticed in the photo above, we also had fresh ricotta on hand – go ahead, hate me now…I will be reading this in two years and will probably shed a tear for the ricotta!!! Anyway, so we added the ricotta tableside.
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It turned into one of those – “uh, yea, let’s go ahead and try this…” dishes into an “oh wow, I’m full but I want more” dishes in the amount of time it took me to chew halfway through my first bite. We managed to set aside enough for lunch tomorrow, but it was tough! Another wonderful gift from the Sicilian countryside – finocchietto selvatico. Yummmmm!

For anyone who is still waiting for a laugh at this point, check out the link below…
While I was typing this post, Dave was giggling at this:

This is Why the Job Search Sucks.

Buona sera a tutti!

Ciao,
Jill

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Maratona di Roma in my Soul

The Rome Marathon weekend is a little ways behind me, here is the recap.

Due to the conclave at Vatican City, and the timing of the marathon coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day, and an Italy-Ireland rugby game, and myriad other events happening that weekend, Rome was a complete madhouse when we were there. It was great! Dave and I stayed in the Trastevere neighborhood, just across the Tiber River (tras = across, and “tevere” is the Tiber) from Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). We had easy access to the start and finish of the race, which are based at the Colosseo (The Colosseum).

We arrived on Friday and dined at one of several cute and well-regarded restaurants in our neighborhood, Taverna Trilussa.
Dave Taverna Trilussa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my all-time favorite Italian pasta dishes is Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and lucky for me, it is a Roman specialty. Bucatini is the name of the pasta, which is a dried pasta along the lines of a thick spaghetti that is hollow like a straw. The Amatriciana sauce is made of tomatoes, guanciale (a fatty bacon made of cured pork cheek) and pecorino cheese; I prefer versions that also include garlic and onion, which I saw in the three versions I have eaten in Rome. The dish does not need much cheese though, so if you try it and you are usually a cheese-heavy person, I recommend taking several bites before asking your server to add more cheese. Adding some spice with red or black pepper spices is also common and is the best way that I have enjoyed bucatini all’Amatriciana.

On the Saturday before race day, Dave and I traced our path from our Trastevere apartment to the race start, and then joined our friends on the trek to marathon village. We registered and got our swag bag, signed the marathon wall, and carbo loaded.
Jill and Dave_Marathon Wall Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night, we met up with other members of Dave’s command for another pasta-rich dinner. We had several experienced marathoners in the group, so we all ate pretty lightly, and enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing our race histories, theories for success, and pre-race jitters.

Race day came quickly enough and we set off without a hitch. About 16,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchair/hand-bikers participated in the race, and you can imagine the porta-potty lines! It was a wonderful atmosphere, and as total amateurs, we were deep in the pack of the final group to launch. We crossed the start line about 10-minutes after the gun start, and with the beeeeeeeeeep of our chips engaging, our Maratona di Roma start was official!

Dave hung in with me for the first 5k and then headed out with a bit more speed. My body was dragging, and I settled into making my goal of running the entire first half. I made it to the halfway point with my wits about me, took several walk breaks to accept that my time was going to be pretty far off my personal best, and then re-engaged with vigor. As I got rolling into the second half, I faced many of the demons that plagued me during races when I was more strongly positioned to perform – panic attacks, sudden surges of emotion, and balancing the pain and anger I felt as the race progressed. Dave coined this stage “painger” and you know when you’ve entered the zone because you transition from thinking “Thanks crowd” to “F**K off, and stop smoking in the street!”

I practiced some coping strategies and though my time was a half hour longer than my Lago di Garda marathon, I feel like I learned lessons that will carry forward into my physical, spiritual and professional life.

We re-connected after the race, showered and scavenged our neighborhood for food. Luckily, we were right by a bread shop/pizzeria La Renella, and we quickly had bellies-ful of freshly made pizza. Our apartment was equipped with entertainment features, so we watched Ghostbusters and settled into our post-race stupors.

As I reflect on my third marathon in six months, I find myself asking more questions than anything else. How did I maintain mental focus? What am I running after? How will I know when I really come to my physical capacity edge? What is next? Some of these musings lead to deeper philosophical questions, like how much more do I have to give? And, from what springs my desire to find my edge?

From among bloggers I follow, I found this article to be an interesting entry into seeing how other exercise enthusiasts are trying to answer these questions in more urban settings: Is this a rave or a race? Intriguing fitness trends.

All in all, the marathon is a wonderful event and Rome definitely puts on a great show. We tracked along the Tiber River for much of the race, and passed so many notable piazzas and historic sites that I cannot begin to mention them all here. Noteworthy to my Roman soul were running through Piazza Navona, around the neighborhood where we stayed with my parents in October, and running past the Trevi fountain and throwing my coin from the race route. Finally, at the end, we received lovely medals, which I wore all night.

Rome Medals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciao a Roma, and Ciao to you!

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Mmmmmm…seafood.

Tonight we had the distinct pleasure of dining with the parents of Jonathan Wakuda Fischer, Ed and Akemi.

Based on a previous experience and the Fischer clan interest in seafood, we ate at mM or Mm, depending on where you look. The awning reads “mM” but the online reviews read “Mm”. No matter the spelling, “mmmmmm” is sure to be moaned while dining.

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We were so enjoying the company and the food that I forgot to take photos until we had nearly demolished the seafood antipasti delight! We had five varieties of raw fish, five of fried fish, a cozze (mussel) stew, filet of fried fish, and boiled polpo (octopus).

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The pesce fritto misti (mixed fried fish) included crustaceans as well as calamari (squid). Buon appetito!

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Pizza Norma

Mmmmmmmm…

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Tomato sauce, eggplant, olive oil – all baked in a wood-fired oven, then topped with freshly grated ricotta salata (salty).

Direct from our neighborhood pizzeria -Via Va!

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Cool, creamy and delicious lite: Gelato Festival, Take 2

Last year, I made a solo trip from the temporary housing residence hotel in Motta over to Cefalu for the International Sherbeth Festival.

The article linked above explains that ‘sherbet’ comes from the Arabic word for the concoctions that have evolved into sorbet and gelato. The festival creates five pockets of booths within the center of Cefalu, include two points on the sea. This was the sixth year of the festival and it was going strong, including extras such as “Gelato University” – perhaps a venue of research for blossoming ice cream makers out there?

The flavors, textures, and high quality ingredients of these gelato samples were simply amazing. With a few bites, I was tempted to forgo lesser quality frozen products for life. (Yes, I have since come to my senses.) The hot sticky air of charming Cefalu was a great complement to the cool, creamy deliciousness of the gelato.

Buon sherbeth!

And to all a buona notte!

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Kiwis in Italy


Kiwis growing at the home of my colleague and friend, Armando
Viagrande, Sicily
2012

Growing up, my mother often peeled and sliced kiwis for our special weekend breakfasts. She had them available at other times, but I mostly remember eating those bright green slices on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The fruit usually accompanied her famous blueberry muffins, my personal favorite! Of the muffin, I loved biting into a berry that was still hot and juicy. Of the kiwi, I loved the crunch of the inner ring of seeds and the complimentary but distinct sweetnesses between the flesh and the seeds.

Over the years I have grown to tolerate the skin on certain kiwi, and to eat less-ripe kiwi than the soft, juicy kiwi of my childhood. Sometimes the less-ripe kiwi is a crunchy delight, though it tickles my mouth more with that sticky-itchy feeling I get from eating too much pineapple in one sitting.

You may be able to imagine my surprise and delight to find an abundance of kiwi in the stores and markets in Sicily. Come to find out, Italy is the global leader in kiwi production. Italy has no shame in adopting new fruits and vegetables (ahem, history of the tomato please), and incorporating them so deeply in Italian food culture as to be a part of its food identity. Seriously, can we talk about Italian food without mentioning tomatoes? I think not.

I mean, I could go on and on about certain dishes, but if it is a comprehensive discussion, tomatoes are going to be covered…I digress.

The kiwis pictured above are flourishing in the four-cornered gazebo canopy of Armando’s mini-farm. He grows nearly every traditional Italian plant you could think of if you listed the first ten Italian plants to come to mind, and then he keeps birds, rabbits, beautiful ferns and luscious trees. One could mistake his grounds for a veritable utopia, especially when the fragrant wine he produces lulls you into submission. You submit yourself to the soft hum of insects working around you, the muted chirp of night birds, and the sparkling stars overhead, and just like that, you are one with the earth and lost forever to the innocence and magic of Armando’s garden.

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Wisconsin Has Olympic Fever

Well, at least Ellsworth Creamery does…

For those of you who are out of the cheese curd loop, the cheese curd is a delectable nugget of cheese that is served squeaky fresh or lightly breaded and deep-fried. (Note: “lightly breaded” is perfection when it comes to cheese curds, sometimes you get stuck with thick crusty breading and those cheese curds are silly imitators…).

Like most finger foods, the food item itself is important, as noted above – not too much breading!!! However, the fanfare and flair come from the accompanying sauces. Don’t get me wrong, cheese curds are delightful on their own, or with a slight dusting of salt (for bland bread batter), and of course, the red ketchup bottle is the ubiquitous companion to the dive-bar cheese curd dish. However, garlic sauce, hot sauce, and homemade concoctions around the state offer a nice twist on the standard curd experience.

If you go for the fresh curd, you will find even more variety. Garlic & Dill. Jalapeno. Chipotle. The list goes on and on. Just thinking about it makes me long for Wisconsin!

In Madison, Wisconsin, check out the cheese curds at The Old-Fashioned for a light, popcorn like cheese curd experience, the Blue Moon for a traditional serving, or drive to any dive-bar-looking joint and order cheese curds. They often come in a plastic basket lined with some version of wax paper, you know, like the popcorn baskets, or the cracker baskets in some supper clubs.

What? You don’t know about supper clubs either? I hope you know about Wisconsin Friday Night Fish Fry…if not, you’d better start planning your next trip to Wisconsin! Who knows, maybe you’ll see some Olympic swimmers there, gnoshing on cheese curds.

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Nomnomnom

Cooking for lunch and dinner tomorrow.

I love the internet. I found the braised veggie recipe by googling “recipe green cabbage carrot.” Boom, braised veggies. In retrospect, braising cabbage, carrot and onion isn’t really rocket science and I probably should have thought of it right away. Yet, the internet provides. Thank you, internet.

This is a lame blog week because I just wrapped up a super busy month of work. The government’s fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 30th. That means all of the projects I am working on are getting a big push for completion in the next six to eight weeks. I like to get ahead of the curve, to get out in front of the ball, to be proactive…you get my drift, so I worked longer hours in July to be prepared for the August and September push.

I am sounding more dramatic than it is. My friend Dan, sadist that he is, regularly works twice as much in a week; yet, to me, it IS dramatic. Part of enjoying this life in Italy is taking the time to live it fully. To work, yet remember to live.

Braising duty calls, hope you have a lovely summer day today – we’re already deep into the summer months, enjoy the sweaty moments while they last!

UPDATE:

Mmmmm…braised veggies…

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Cheerful Cherries, Green Beans and Quinoa

After a lovely Sicilian day of a hot morning run, a long day’s work, and a pleasant commute home with my hilarious husband, I turned to the refrigerator and said,

“MAKE ME DINNER!”

The fridge just sat there humming.

I assumed the Charlie Brown defeat pose and pulled open the refrigerator door.  

I reached in and withdrew a bag of fresh green beans and ripe cherries. Dave had purchased them on Friday for a new salad recipe I had planned to try out over the weekend.  It was now time to use the fresh ingredients before they started to turn bad.

When the produce deterioration has progressed to the point where I cannot eat the product fresh, I will brainstorm how to salvage the edible parts and cook them into a casserole, soup, or a fruity dessert. Thanks, Mom!

Inevitably, there are times when I have miscalculated or failed to keep track of certain fruits and veggies.  At that point, I usually feel deep shame and regret when I eventually toss out the fruits and veggies. No thanks, universe!

Since I am a person who is strongly shame-and-regret averse, I work hard to use the fresh fruits and veggies we have before they become inedible. Thanks, me!

These rituals and procedures are at the forefront of my mind lately, because my friend Millie has adopted a whole foods approach to her eating lifestyle. She eats quite healthy most of the time, but has been talking about cutting out processed foods and food products in an aim to eat even healthier. This immediately got me thinking of my blogger friend Sara, who recalls her disgust at eating steaks with fake grill marks as impetus for her eating lifestyle change. Sara’s change led, in part, to her delightful blog, Real Fun Food.

Sara posted her recipe for Cherry Balsamic Bean Salad, which inspired my dinner tonight. However, I failed to read the entire recipe, failed to buy all the ingredients, and failed to prep beans for the salad. I succeeded in following Sara’s inspiration, I succeeded in salvaging my beans and cherries, and I succeeded in making a delicious dinner from whole foods (mostly), with enough left for lunch tomorrow. WINNING!

I followed Sara’s ratio, substituted quinoa for mixed beans, green beans for snap peas, and the pièce de résistance…I added some V8 Berry Splash for the cherry jelly! That was my inner Lucy guiding my Charlie-Brown-defeated self to dinner victory.

Buona cena!

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