Friday, May 31, 2013

Week end links

We have a busy week end ahead of us with lots of playdates, most of which the fun kind: the kids in one room playing and parents in the other enjoying cocktails and finger food. What are your plans?
Here are some links to things I am liking these days. If you are having a lazy week end moment, enjoy.
Dreaming of a getaway in one of these (minus the reality show).
Getting ready for an amazing Monday night reading this and watching this. According to weather reports, looks like we won't be singing "Who'll stop the rain".
Look what I got in the mail yesterday. My next read.
I might just have to take my kids to try these. After opening temporary stores in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Shanghai, they are now open in Milan until end September. Choose your own flavor, coating and topping.
Who ever said carrots are boring? Or eggplant?
Have a good one!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Garlic miso chicken wings

Chirp, chirp, chirp.
My exchange with my interlocutor was abruptly interrupted by a cricket. What was a cricket doing in my office in the center of Milan? I ignored it and kept arguing my point.
Chirp, chirp, chirp.
Boy was this little guy insistent. And loud.
Chirp, chirp, chirp.
Suddenly I was in my pjs, under a warm duvet and it was raining outside.
Chirp, chirp, chirp.
I reached for my phone and turned off the alarm. I listened to the pouring rain and willed myself to get up.
As I dragged myself to the bathroom I was surprised how tired I felt. I went out last night but I got home early and didn't even have a glass of wine. I must be getting old, I thought as I yawned.
After showering and dressing, I dragged myself down the stairs. I opened the front door and looked out: still raining, but not too much, and the sky looked light and promising.
I slipped on my rain cape and biked to work. When I got there, I was happy to be one of the first to park my bike. On a rainy day this did not come as a surprise, but still I was happy knowing I wouldn't have to wrangle my bike out of the knot of handlebars and bike locks when I went home in the afternoon.

I moaned when I saw the front door to the building was still locked. The last thing I felt like was looking for my keys in my bag under my cape in the rain. It was certainly not the first time I had arrived before the concierge, but it usually only happens when I get to the office at 7:00am, not on the days I go at 7:30am like today. She probably got stuck somewhere waiting for a less crowded bus. That is why I prefer my bike, especially in the rain, I thought smugly.
However, when I got up to my floor and noticed the slip in the door that night surveillance leaves after their customary check I got suspicious. I badged to open the door and in front of me stretched a long, omniously dark hallway. Everything was quiet. I turned on the lights and walked to my office wondering if I had slept through some apocalyptic event. Or was I still dreaming?
And then it hit me. I checked my watch.
Yup. I'm that girl in the romantic comedy that does stupid things that you scoff at with your friends. "Yeah right, like anybody in real life would be stupid enough to get up, get ready and go to work without ever looking at their watch or noticing it was the crack of dawn!".
Only, when that girl does it she is cute and funny (and beautiful and in her early twenties). I am just a sleep deprived forty year-old with ruffled hair and bags under my eyes.
I am the idiot who set the wrong alarm on my phone, the one right on top of the one I wanted, the one  I noramlly set to go running. The one that rings exactly an hour earlier.
In my defence, despite the fact that I am wearing a turtleneck to work today (I am serious), it is spring and it is already light at 6:10am and there was enough traffic to not make me suspicious. And it was raining and I was wearing a rain hood under my helmet and so I was not really looking around enjoying my ride, taking in the details. So yeah, in my defence...

Totally unrelated, but delicious nonetheless, here is a great go-to recipe from Nami's blog, Just One Cookbook. I am sure you already know her but just in case you don't, I highly suggest you visit her RIGHT. NOW.

I have already made these twice. The first time I used a ckicken breast that I cut into bite-size pieces and then skewered, yakitori style. Very good, except I mixed red and white miso paste as suggested, but my red miso paste is really strong and it left a bit of a bitter after taste. This time I went the chicken-wing way because we all love our crispy chicken skin here and only used white miso and it resulted in a more delicate flavor.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Strawberry cheesecake popsicles

Last night I skyped with my sister. We had a bad connection and we couldn't hear each other, so after trying to connect over and over we just resorted to making silly faces at each other, laughing with no sound and then hung up. That made me feel closer to her than a thousand words. There are not many people in the world you can do that with after the age of 7.  
When my new favorite workout song came on during my run early this morning, I felt elated and pushed a little harder, my legs burning, feet thumping to the quick beat of the tune.
My daughter woke up earlier than usual this morning and sat in the bathroom watching me put on make up. When I finished using the blush brush, she smelled it and said: "oooh, that smells soooooo good. It smells.... (pause to think), it smells just like you Mommy!"
After I hugged F good bye before I rushed off to work and he to the airport to catch a flight, I felt closer to him than I sometimes even feel when we are in the same room.
These are little things that make a day, a life, special. Especially today, especially when I think of families in Oklahoma. I am so fortunate. I send thoughts and prayers to them.
Make these creamy, slightly tangy popsicles and share with your family on a warm summer's day.
Adapted from here.
Ingredients (makes about 8, depending on mold size)
8 ounces/225gr cream cheese (I used a 200gr tub)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
about 6-8 strawberries
4-6 standard sized graham crackers or Digestives
1 tbs melted butter

In a food processor add the cream cheese, powdered sugar  and milk, process until well combined and then add the strawberries. Pulse to combine.
Pour mixture into popsicle molds, leaving about 1 inch of the top empty for the crust and tap the molds to remove air bubbles.
Melt the butter. In a food processor add the graham crackers/Digestives and pulse until they are fine crumbs and add the melted butter while it is running. The mixture should be the texture of wet sand.
Divide the crumbs evenly between the popsicles and press down to compact. Insert the popsicle sticks and freeze.
The crumbs will loosen while eating, so I suggest eating over a plate and dipping the popsicle in the crumbs as you go along. Soooo good!
A few notes: this is more of a guideline than a recipe. You can use more or less strawberries and sub frozen ones for fresh ones. You can use any kind of milk or sugar, although you may have to play around with quantities. Also, if your strawberries are sweet and ripe, you will probably need less sugar. I used a little less. We don't get graham crackers over here, but Digestives work fine.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blueberry apple pie

I will be honest with you, I made this pie about three weeks ago, so it has taken me more than a while to post about it and if I wait any longer, berry season will be over although it is just starting!
Blogging has taken a bit of a back seat in the past week or so. I have been spending long hours in the office and a lot has been going on. I feel like I am stuck in some TV show where people wear power suits and talk about mergers, acquisitions, migrations, black out periods and financial jargon that I don't even know how to use appropriately most of the time. So far so good, but I suspect there will be some ugly susprises ahead.

The few moments when I did have a chance to blog, my absolute priority was reviewing Tori's book because she had been so sweet to send it to me immediately and I was afraid that with everything that was going on it would, unjustly, sit on my desk for weeks before I got another chance.

So here I am now, posting about pie when pie is the last thing I can eat these days.
The time has come for me to cut down on calories and get in some extra exercise. It has been raining so much lately, I haven't been keeping up my normal running schedule and the winter months (I like to convince myself it was just them) have left their mark. My tummy is growing at an alarming pace and seems to have taken on a deceptive shape.

You know your no-pie time (perhaps this is a good instance to use the phrase black out period???) has come when two people (men for Pete's sake!) in three days enquire about your, ehm ...ripening state.

So, fine. You laugh it off when the octagenarian hanging out on a bench while you are helping your kid with his dangerously melting ice cream cone asks you whether your next one is a boy or a girl (trying to ignore the fact that this is usually a question people ask when you are visibly pregnant, definitely more than 4 months). After all, said octagenarian has little else to do all afternoon and he did witness the combined lethal effect of bending over AND forgetting to suck in your stomach whilst concentrating on dark dark chocolate dripping all over the place. It has happened before and it will happen again (although admittedly you had hoped not quite so soon). Big deal!

But when you are on your morning run and another runner crosses your path and gesticulates at your stomach with a surprised yet admiring look as if to say "expecting and running - you go girl!"...
That, Mr., is what I call crossing the line. Why the f*** do you think I am out running at 6am if not to get rid of that belly which, incidentally, is not THAT big???

Mental note to self: don't feel too good about yourself when all that running you have been doing starts giving you more shapely legs because apparently when the whole of you was out of shape, at least you looked fat and not pregnant!

So yes, I am not eating pie these days, but a girl can dream, can't she? Delicious flakey, buttery crust, warm cinnamony apples, juicy bursting berries, sweet crimson juices and cold vanilla ice cream... just make it because you can, will ya?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Have you packed your spatula? A book review and pea, mint and feta fritters

I thought I was going to start this post telling you how I had been eagerly awaiting a package for weeks, checking my mail day after day but when the Royal Mail is involved, things arrive at your doorstep rather sooner than anticipated. That is not to say I wasn't impatiently waiting, even if it was just for a handful of days.

My excitement upon carrying the red and white parcel upstairs was palpable for a variety of reasons, the first being that it is not all that often that I receive tangible evidence of the people I communicate with every day in the virtual world. It is nice to know they actually exist in the flesh and not just in some crazy corner of my mind (do you ever wonder if the blogging world is all just a figment of your imagination?). The rush of pleasure that I experience upon opening a new cookbook, or any book for that matter, is not a secondary factor. I know you know what I mean, that slight crackling of the binding when you first turn the pages, the anticipation of pages filled with words, colorful photographs and enticing recipes yet to be discovered.

Last, but certainly not least, my excitement was generated by the opportunity handed me by an extremely talented blogger to review her first baby, the one in print that is. Although it actually isn't her first book, as she already has an e-book out on no-carb eating.


Tori, in case you don't know her yet, is an Australian food blogger based in London, married to the Hungry One. After going through a white food phase in her earlier years, she turned into a travelling omnivore once she met her soulmate. They set off to discover the world with a "wish list scribbled on the back of a boarding pass".  After wandering to the farthest reaches of Asia from their home in Sydney, in the past years they have started visiting more of this side of the hemisphere (but not only) taking advantage of the endless low-cost weekends on offer. Their wish list turned into a baby bucket list and as the months went by, more and more items got crossed off. Not that having a Stowaway (yes, the baby already has his very own blogging alias) has really stopped them, as they travelled to the Americas in the throes of morning all-day sickness. As Tori's belly grows into various stages of fruit and vegetable, her trips have been getting shorter. Not a bad thing for those eager to learn more about the beauty England has to offer.

If you are a reader of her blog, you already know she is  as partial to pink wine as the Hungry One is to black forest cake (of which there is a mouthwatering cheese strudel version in the book) and she can get evangelical about pulses. She loves spread sheets and nuts in all shapes and sizes.

Her book is an extention of her blog, like the bonus dvds with great extra content you get when you buy a movie you love. Except better. It is so much more than just eye candy: it is a travel journal and a good read, peppered as it is with the author's trademark evocative phrases that conjure images of irresistible meals: yolks bleeding like a sunset over sand, pale plumes of ricotta, tomato fritters as dark red as a British backpacker's neck, sauce as soothing as a squeeze from your mum, fish flesh as pink as pinched cheeks.

She not only gives us pointers to the best hot dogs in the world, her pages are filled with recipes that are vibrant in color and texturally intriguing. She intersperses them with advice like joining a long food line "because locals are always waiting for a reason"; or "if something has been washed it doesn't mean it is clean" (especially if it was washed using local tap water, might I add!). She teaches us what any traveller needs to know: after suggesting we pack the now-obvious spatula, trusty black flats and a scarf that doubles as an airplane blanket or pillow  in her blog, in the book she advises taking along an open mind and an insatiable curiosity and appetite. But beware, it might lead you as far as tasting evil in the form of fish protein.

Do you need any more convincing? I didn't think so.

Expect to walk through the markets of Paris with a heavy backpack strapped to your sweaty back in search of some perfect picnic nibbles to then quickly change into a black dress and those flats you packed for a night out in a Michelin-starred temple. You will lie with her on the beaches of the Pacific and watch people ski by you whilst resting on the deck of a chalet in Switzerland.


Mind you, your journey will not end there.