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Friday, July 25, 2014

Multigrain seed no-knead bread

 
 
More questions from a five-year old.
 
Son: "Mommy, what does your saliva taste like?"
 
Me: "...".
 
After some thought:
 
Me: "I'm not sure, pretty neutral. I guess like yours".
 
"So does everybody's saliva taste the same?"
 
"Yes, sweetie. I think so". I wasn't about to tell him I had made my small contribution to research on that in my day.
 
What I do know for sure, however, is that  not all breads taste the same. Definitely not.
 

 


I've posted recipes for no-knead bread before. A wholewheat recipe and a wholewheat oatmeal recipe, but this is my favorite to date. So I had to let you know about it.
 
I followed a general recipe from this website (which only slightly differs from my usual recipe in quantities and rising time) but using my own ingredients. I really liked the mix of flour and grains I used but I am sure that the extra proofing time was key for the lovely crumb.

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oat flour
1 cup 6-grain rolled cereal
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 1/2 cups luke warm water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
 
In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast. Add the water and stir until your dough looks shaggy.
Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (I put it in my oven) for up to 24 hours (the recipe says between 8-18 but I left it for almost 24 hours).
Preheat your oven to 450°F/225°C.
Turn the dough (which will have risen considerably and look bubbly) onto a well floured surface and shape into a ball, making sure you dust flour on your hands beforehand. Cover again with plastic wrap.
Thouroughly heat a Dutch oven/Le Creuset in the oven for about 30 minutes and then proceed to put the dough in.
Bake covered for thirty minutes and then another 15 minutes uncovered so the crust turns a nice golden brown. To be sure it is ready, tap it: it should sound hollow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Raisin, caper, browned garlic and anchovy sauce

 
 
Having kids means you will hear a lot of funny and often embarassing questions being asked.
 
My son recently asked me I take my breasts off at night.
Say whaaaat?
It turns out he actually meant my bra, but it made for a pretty funny 10 minutes.
 
Yesterday he asked the new girl who helps us with the cleaning if she has a job. I immediately went in for damage control because I had a feeling where this was going. I explained that what she was doing was her job. So he answered he meant a real job, in front of a computer. I told him there are many jobs and only a small part entail sitting in front of a computer. I reminded him of our book that tells us about all the different jobs that people have, and how important each and every job is to make the world go around. She added that she has a computer but she is lucky enough to be able to use it to play instead of work.
 
Then, later, when we were at the supermarket at the cured meats and cheese counter, after listening to the girl who was serving us complain that she practically lives in the supermaket because she has been working so much lately, he asked her where she slept. On the floor or on the crushed ice of the fish counter (maybe he thought it was the coolest spot in the supermarket).
 
Recently we bumped into the father of a classmate of his and he asked him if he was her grandfather.
 
 
 

 
 
On the other hand, my kids never embarass me when it comes to food. Whether we are invited somewhere or in a restaurant, they eat pretty much everything they are served. I can experiment any new recipe and they will usually eat it without a problem. Of course there are things they are not crazy about, but they are not many and if they have to they will eat them.
 
When it comes to my husband, there is really only one thing he doesn't like: raisins. So even if this  simple, yet very tasty sauce made with capers and raisins had caught my eye on Lorraine's blog a while ago, I had to wait till his soccer night to try making it.
 
I set off with the idea of exactly replicating it but ended up making some changes and came up with a pretty different sauce altogether. Very good, if not promising in looks.
 
The first change I made was to fry the garlic slivers until golden brown because something about the idea of raw garlic simmering in water put me off. I then set aside the garlic-infused olive oil and blended it with the other ingredients instead of using plain olive oil as indicated. My last variation was to add anchovies. I felt the sauce could use a little extra savory punch and that the anchovies would nicely balance out the sweet and sour.
 
Lorraine's sauce was definitely more appealing to the eye, with its bright green and reddish brown flecks, but this one's flavor was good enough for me to insist you try it before I find a way to make it look more stylish!
 
We had the sauce with roasted zucchini, raisins and quinoa. Since we had some leftovers I ended up drizzling some on red peppers as an appetizer a few evenings later and husband grabbed one before I could warn him. Once he was chewing I didn't have the heart to tell him... but he really seemd to like it. Surprise honey!

 
Ingredients (makes a small jar's worth)
35gr capers, rinsed
35gr raisins
4/5 anchovy filets
1 small clove garlic, thinly sliced (but use more for a more pronounced flavor)
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 to 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt, if needed
 
Pour the olive oil into a small saucepan and when it is hot, fry the garlic slices until golden brown. Set aside the garlic infused olive oil for later, leaving the garlic in the saucepan.
Add in a cup of water, the previously rinsed capers and the raisins and bring to a low simmer for about 15 minutes (add some water if it gets completely absorbed).
When the raisins have plumped up nicely, transfer the ingredients to a blender. Add the garlic infused olive oil, the vinegar (I added it a tbsp at a time because I wanted to make sure the vinegar in the capers wasn't too strong), the anchovy filets.
Blend until it is smooth. Taste and add salt or vinegar if needed.
You can serve this on roasted vegetables or with raw vegetables as a dip, or any other idea that tickles your fancy.




 





 



Friday, July 4, 2014

Cold peanut soba noodle salad


 
 

Happy 4th of July to all my American readers!

Here it is a day like any other, but I thought this recipe would be handy for a last minute idea to take along to a picnic or BBQ (or a delicious salad for any other occasion if you are not celebrating Independence Day today).

It has been a while since my last real post, so forgive me, but last week we were away enjoying some of the glorious sea and beaches Italy has to offer.
 
 
 
 
 
We try to take days off every once in a while throughout the summer to get our kids out of the city, summer school and the sweltering heat (although we have been very lucky thus far) since we both work well through August. I will save you the whole spiel about the guilt of being working parents in a city where summer vacation lasts three months and it is normal for kids to spend most of them away in the country, mountains or at the beach with grandparents who double as fulltime baby sitters (and yes, I am aware this is a first world problem), because I already did that here. But the guilt remains and so we try to whisk them off whenever we can. 
 
 
 
 
 
This year, however, to be honest husband and I really needed it too.
Those who know me personally can confirm that I am not one to usually complain about feeling tired, worn out or unwell and I am always looking for things to do or places to go. I am usually quite happy being busy, but the past couple of months really knocked the wind out of us, for no particular reason, might I add. It was more like an accumulation of lots of little things: busy days in the office (at a job that is doing its best to suck out every last ounce of my normally positive attitude recently); the last month of school with its endless recitals, fundraisers, open-classes, parties, parent-teacher meetings, report cards, good-bye dinners, drinks, week ends and what have you. The related stress of constantly having to ask for time off from work to go to all the abovementioned gatherings and the running back and forth from them to work multiplied by the number of kids you have (how do you moms with more than two kids do it???) blablabla taxes in multiple countries blablabla bureaucratic deadlines for summer school, regular school,  after-school, you name it, we did it blablabla free lance jobs blablabla a birthday party to organize blablabla...
 
*yawn*
 
I am even boring myself, so I will stop boring you. But you get the idea, right? Because we all have periods like that, whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, whether you are a parent or not. Periods when you just feel wrung out.
 
 
 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We're back!


 
 
We were here, but now we are back and I am working on something for you! See you soon!
 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gnocchi di ricotta

 
 
This recipe was a cinch. It took no more than ten minutes to prepare and under three minutes to cook.
 
I served them with pesto, because I always keep some in the fridge for emergencies but - if you want to keep things simple - I think they would be great with a fresh, quick, summery tomato sauce and lots of basil or even just butter, sage and Parmesan cheese (and maybe a sprinkling of poppy seeds for extra crunch?).
 
If you are looking to make something a little fancier, these will taste great with pretty much anything. A tomato-based seafood sauce, a slow-cooked ragu, zucchini and saffron come to mind, but there is so much more you can do with them. Just be creative! 
 
 
Look at the concentration and tension in that little left hand!
 
Back to our dinner, or even further step back.
 
The fact is, my four year-old has been going through a bit of a phase  lately and has been acting up a little, so I have been making an effort to spend some quality time alone with him. 
His sister is a true companion to him and he would be happy to be with her and follow her around all day long (sound familiar sis?). However, despite being a caring older sister, she has a personality that matches her charm and looks, so I feel like he sometimes needs some space.

Also, the last month of school saw me spending a lot of time with her in the kitchen doing homework and preparing for tests while he played in his room or hung around the kitchen table waiting (and making me feel guilty).

So, that is how I got the idea to cook with him one afternoon while my daughter was out at a girlfriend's.

Maybe yielding a sharp knife during,  ... let's call it an 'undomesticated phase', doesn't sound like the right approach. But I can assure you that, naturally under my close supervision,  it was exactly what he needed: it made him feel like a big boy and not just the baby brother.  
 
  
 
 
 
End of story: he had fun (and was extremely proud throughout dinner), I had help, and the family enjoyed a good meal.
 
Perfect solution.
 
End, end of story: did the meal serve its purpose, magically turning my son into the calmest, most obedient of children?  No, certainly not. Just yesterday his kindergarden teacher told him off. But I am more than happy to keep making these in order to reach my goal ;o)
 
 
 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nun, Taste of Middle East


 

 
 


I just can’t seem to get back to a normal pace of things.
I have gone to bed more than once in the past weeks thinking “finally tomorrow I have a couple of free hours to finally post on my blog” and then something unexpected happens at work, or the kids’ social life takes over as usual and it just doesn’t happen. For the same reason, things have not been particularly active in the kitchen lately either (or on FB, IG, Twitter for that matter), so now that I have finally gotten around to writing something, it is lucky that I had these pictures of a great little place we discovered recently sitting in a folder waiting to be published.
 
 
 
It is not a fancy restaurant. It is not even a restaurant per se, and it does not serve Italian food, so it will mainly interest those who live in the city (because no matter how delicious Italian food is, and it is, we are allowed to sometimes crave other cuisines, n'est pas?) or tourists that have had one too many plates of pasta, if that is even possible. 
There are three reasons that make it noteworthy, the first being that it is pretty much always open (Tuesday to Sunday, 12:00-23:00 - or 11:00pm)... refreshing given that so many places  in Milan close between lunch and dinner. The second being that it is cheap. The last, but not the least, being that it serves all those Middle Eastern staples that I often crave, homemade and fresh .  
 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Persian rice Tah Cheen (or Tah Chin) style, step-by-step tutorial

 
 
The other day, while we were having dinner, my son asked me why nests don't fall off of trees.
Besides the basic grasp - if not understanding - of physics (balance, gravity and all that jazz) behind the question, which surprised me to a degree, it once again made me realize how much more for granted we take things compared to the average four year old.  
 
He usually asks the best questions at the table.
 
Once he was staring quietly at his hands with great interest. He then proceeded  to ask me what the lines were, pointing at the wrinkles on his knuckles.
 
Another question he asked me recently at the table that made me smile: why do they put plastic on eggs? He was eating sunny side up eggs and pointing at that transparent film that forms around the edges. Basically he had been eating it his whole life convinced it was Saran wrap (or cling film for those of you non Americans).
 
Not to mention he calls all meat chicken, so a normal enquiry at dinner will be: from what animal does the chicken we are eating come from?
 
 
 
I guess we can all agree that the questions a four-year old asks are priceless. But us adults have questions too. One of the things I always wondered about was how Persians make that delicious crunchy layer on their rice.