Pollo piccata

We’re traveling in Seattle and Vancouver right now  but I didn’t want to miss a post, so I’ll share a nice basic and quick meal to prepare and enjoy. Here are the basic ingredients  and just vary the quantities based on your preference.

Coat the chicken cutlets with flour  and sauté in heated olive oil on medium-high heat. After cooking on one side till lightly browned,turn   and salt and pepper the cooked side. Then, add some capers, white wine,  fresh  squeezed lemon and simmer for awhile.

Here’s the finished product with plenty of sauce to do scarpetta!  (It literally means “little shoe” but is the word for taking bread and dipping in the sauce that remains. I suppose it is like taking a little shoe and scooping up the sauce).

Buon appetito!

Spaghetti all’amatriciana

As I’ve said many times in my blog, Italian cuisine is about the local. Italy only became a unified country in 1868 (some would argue that it is still not unified – a big north-south problem, political parties that  espouse splitting off on their own, and the oft-repeated joke that folks from Sicily are from another country altogether)! Before that, Italy comprised city-states, often walled-in towns and cities that fought each other over the centuries. This meant that the food you ate came from very near-by.

I know I told you the story of Marco’s parents questioning why we once went to dinner across the river Po to Piacenza to eat when it was much better to eat Cremonese food. Every 30 kilometers there is a style of cooking, local wines, and a dialect that is unique to that particular zone. The further away one gets from ones home town and it is not possible to understand the dialect from the region. Marco cannot understand the dialect of Venezia (only 2 1/2 hours away). Remember, I’m not talking about different accents. . . but a whole new language.

So, we have spaghetti all’amaticiana. The best hypothesis is that this sauce comes from the town of Amatrice which is one hour east of Rome. It has since become a favorite Roman dish and a popular one in all of Italy. It originated in Amatrice with a base of guanciale, tomatoes, and pecorino cheese.

Amatrice in Italian means “she who loves” so this is another occasion to note how much Italians love to eat! It is not uncommon for Italians to discus what to cook for the next meal while eating the current one. In addition, one of the first questions an Italian will ask a friend who has just come back from a traveling vacation is “how was the food?” Good food is an important part of daily life and it is the center piece for gathering family and friends around a common table.

I looked at several recipes online and this one from “Blogging over Thyme” (click here) was my favorite but I ended up doing my version.

First, I sautéed the pancetta in olive oil for a few minutes.

I took the pancetta out and set aside to sauté the onions. Once they were beginning to get soft, I added the garlic and red pepper flakes and cooked a little more, browning the garlic, but not letting it burn.

I added the pancetta back in.

Then, I put the tomatoes in and simmered while the pasta cooks.

Buon appetito!

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 4 ounce package of Citterio cubed pancetta (I find at Trader Joe’s) (or simple use any pancetta cut up into cubes)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes (QB, Quanto Basta, “to taste”)
  • About 2-3 cups of diced tomatoes (I had some canned ones on hand and also had some cherry tomatoes that I diced)
  • grated pecorino cheese
  • 10 ounces Spaghetti

Process:

  1. the pasta water can be heating and you can cook the pasta while making the sauce (don’t forget the generous amount of coarse sea salt in the water- see past blog)
  2. sautee the pancetta in heated olive oil 3-4 minutes or to desired crispness
  3. with a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside
  4. sauté the onion till it begins to get soft
  5. add the garlic and red pepper flakes and brown the garlic
  6. add the pancetta back in
  7. then, add the tomatoes and simmer till the pasta is ready
  8. scoop the pasta out of the water and into the sauce and combine well
  9. sprinkle grated pecorino (parmesan will do if you don’t have pecorino)

Penne al mascarpone

People are alway commenting to us that they don’t understand how we make nice dinners on weekdays after busy days with work, school, and assorted extras. Our response is often the same, we keep it simple! Most of our weekday meals are prepared and ready to eat in 20-30 minutes. Simple meals, fresh ingredients, salads or roasted vegetables, and all made from scratch.

Here is one that Marco whipped up one night because we had mascarpone to use up. He sauteed pancetta in olive oil. Then he added some mascarpone and a little of the starchy water from the boiled pasta.

He gave it a stir.

Then, he added some salt and pepper.

Once the pasta was ready he stirred the pasta into the sauce and added some parsley (which we alway have on hand, chopped, in the freezer).

Buon appetito!

Mindfully delicious!

Julie Child said that cooking is about color, taste, and texture. Pretty simple isn’t it. The photo above is beautiful to look at and it was delicious to eat!  The green of the onions jumps out against the back drop of the various shades of brown. The salmon color of the clams gives another nice splash of color! Look at the various textures of the dish; the hard clam shells, the fresh soft clams, and the crisp green onion. And the taste, soy and ginger, sake and spice of chile, sweet and savory!

In my psychotherapy practice I am increasingly drawn to mindfulness. It is the simple idea that the best life has to offer is being present in each moment. We are anxious and depressed, losing sleep and rushing forward, dully our senses with drugs and ingesting chemicals to speed us on. Yet, it is a challenge at times to simple be.

So with cooking and eating, how do we enjoy all that the food can offer in the moment. The experience of preparing a meal and the simple pleasure of eating is enjoyed by the act of focus and attention to the moments. What if we attune all of our senses of touch, smell, and taste as we prepare the food? Imagine eating each bite refining our senses to the textures and tastes of our creations? And what if we enjoy a meal without the distractions of T.V., smartphones and tablets, computer screens beckoning us to busy-ness?

I recently discovered an excellent app. I was willing to pay the $5 for it (even though that felt expensive. . . compared to free)! It is “Buddify” (click here). The concept is simple. It has 80 brief guided meditations that go along with our daily lives from waking in the morning to falling asleep at night. One section is about eating. A calm and relaxing voice guides the listener through a reflection on the simple act of eating. The app makes it easy to practice mindfulness in eating, paying attention to the simple joy of enjoying the color, taste, and texture of our meals.

Marco discovered Manila Clams with Soy Butter one day and so he made it for us. We couldn’t find manila clams, but the ones pictured were fine. It was easy to make and yummy! The recipe is originally published in Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures on foodandwine.com (click here). It’s even a quick and easy dinner for a weeknight when we are likely to need our mindful moment even more!

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup sake
  2. 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  3. 2 tablespoons sugar
  4. One 1 1/2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, cut into thin match sticks
  5. 2 dried hot red chiles
  6. 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  7. 2 pounds Manila clams, scrubbed
  8. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  9. Salt
  10. Minced scallions, for garnish

Process: (Serves 2)

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the sake, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, chiles and garlic and bring just to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the clams, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the clams open, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to shallow bowls; discard the chiles and any clams that do not open.
  4. Add the butter to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until incorporated, about 2 minutes.
  5. Season the sauce lightly with salt, then ladle over the clams and garnish with minced scallions; serve right away.

Buon appetito!