Roasted brussel sprouts 

Here’s a simple side dish that we introduced at our family Thanksgiving gathering. However easy it is, there are many ways to make it! Some recipes suggest sautéing in a pan and several call for an oven-roasted treatment. As you all know, I favor simple, so the oven-roast is the way I go!

Process:

  • prepare the Brussel sprouts by slicing off the base and cleaning
  • if the sprouts are on the larger side, slice in half
  • spread them in a baking pan or casserole dish
  • then, thinly slice or cube some pancetta
  • drizzle with olive oil
  • also, mix about a quarter cup of olive oil with some balsamic vinegar and drizzle
  • sprinkle salt and pepper and mix all together
  • roast on pre-heated oven at 400 for 30 minutes or until browned and to preferred texture

Buon appetito!

Who is your tribe?

In my work as a therapist, I use a holistic perspective, understanding the psychological, biological, and social aspects of my clients. The problems that ail us cannot be seen in isolation, but are best understood by taking this bio-psycho-social approach. In my beginning sessions with people, I gather information, and, for me, one of the most important questions is about social connectivity.

Recent studies suggest that social isolation is as dangerous to one’s health as obesity or smoking cigarettes (see here). I see this over and over again when I ask the questions about social support. I hear my clients tell me that they have no one. They live lives estranged from family, living alone, and without friends. They are coming to me for depression, anxiety and other health problems and they are alone in the difficult journey of life.

A book I often quote in this blog, The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest, comes to the same conclusion about social connectivity. This book, written by Dan Buettner, explores several places all over the world where people live long and healthy lives. After studying each region, he proposes several lessons for living. One of them is about surrounding ourselves with meaningful family and friends. Buttner states, “social connectedness is ingrained into the world’s Blue Zones.”

This also reminds me of the lifestyle I’ve grown to know and love in Italy. Our home away from home, Cremona, is a place where most people live and work 5-10 minutes from all of their family and friends. Many friends are one’s that are known since childhood. The family often has Sunday lunch together. Regularly, colleagues head out for a pizza and beer. Marco’s father plays cards with the same group of friends at the local community center, 5 minutes walk from the house. His mother has her local group that knit for charity. It’s rare to take a walk downtown without bumping into someone you know.

The lesson for my clients and all of us is to cultivate the connections in our lives. Beginning with our families, what are the ways that we prioritize our time together? What about our social circles of friends? Buettner terms this our “tribe” and invites us to surround ourselves with like-minded people. In a culture and time when technology and modernity keep us apart, what are the ways that we live our lives connected to others in meaningful ways?

 

Simple pork tenderloin marsala


Last week, I wrote about our recent first course of pumpkin ravioli with mushrooms and pancetta. The second course was this simple pork tenderloin Marsala. With hardly any prep time, cooked easily in minutes,  and a short list of ingredients, it won’t tax your culinary  skills but is a flavorful and tender meat dish.

Many blog posts ago, I referred to Suor Germana (click here). This dish is done in her style and can be replicated with many types of meat. We chose pork tenderloin because other types of pork cuts can be tough if not cooked just right. It can also be prepared ahead of time and then reheated just before plating it.
Ingredients (can serve 4 as a second, but adjust quantities as needed):

  • 1 pound pork tenderloin (sliced thin and on an angle so the meat is long and thin)
  • Flour for dusting
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine (we used dry)
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley

Process:

  1. dust both sides of tenderloin slices in flour
  2. sauté in olive oil that is already heated on medium high till the oil has waves
  3. sauté for 2 minutes and turn, sprinkling salt and pepper on the browned side

4. Add the wine, letting the alcohol burn off (about 2-3 minutes)

6. cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes

7. I forgot parsley in this recipe, but sprinkle a little towards the end and it will give a nice touch of color

  

Buon appetito!

Pumpkin ravioli (ravioli di zucca)

There’s one thing I enjoy about the arrival of Fall, Marco and I cook more! It’s also time to cook the heavier dishes to fatten us up a bit for the winter cold. And, I love our Sunday tradition of the three-course meal beginning with pasta, followed by a second course, and finishing up with dessert and espresso.

Here is a pasta dish that perfectly reflects the spirit of this blog; it is a wonderful marriage of Italy and New England in the Fall. Italy only has one type of winter squash, zucca, pumpkin. In America, we have many winter squash: pumpkin, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and many more. Today’s recipe uses the pumpkin, a sweet version of the winter squash and the recipe is a local invention from Lombardia, the region of our beloved Cremona.

The filling for the tortelloni is made with roasted pumpkin, amaretti (almond flavored slightly bitter cookies), and mostarda Mantovana. Here are the pumpkins which are rubbed with olive oil and roasted at 350 for 45 minutes or until soft when poked with a knife.

Cremona is known for its Mostarda. I’ve tasted it only once and think it’s disgusting! It is a sweet and spicy combination of candied fruits, spices, and mustard seeds. In this traditional recipe from Mantova, tortelli di zucca Mantovani, the mostarda is made with apples and pears. Combine this with the pumpkin and cookies and you can imagine a sweet filling for our tortelloni! Needless to say, the mostarda doesn’t turn me off of this recipe!

Here, Marco rolls out the pasta and places the filling on top.

He seals the filling in the pasta and cuts them into individual pieces.

The sauce for the tortelloni is a combination of mushrooms, pancetta, olive oil, and white wine.

Here is the finished plate. The sweet of the filling is a wonderful match for the savory pancetta and earthiness of the mushrooms. Check out the full recipe below!

Buon appetito!

The pasta recipe was made in an earlier blog post and can be found by clicking here. The only difference is that this time, Marco tried all 3 cups of flour bring the “00” type of flour and we liked it much better!

Ingredients for the filling (this comes from a blog Memorie di Angelina which is referenced here).

  • One ‘pie’ pumpkin or butternut squash, about 500g (or 1 lb.)
  • 30-60g (1-2 oz.) amaretti cookies, finely crumbled
  • 50-100g (2-4 oz.) grated parmesan cheese
    50-100g (2-4 oz.) mostarda (pears and apples only)
  • Nutmeg, salt and pepper, q.b.
  • Breadcrumbs (if needed)

Process:

  1. cut, spoon out the seeds, rub with olive oil, and roast the pumpkin wedges for up to 45 minutes on 350° until they are soft to the cut with a knife
  2. once cool, scrape the pumpkin flesh into a food processor and add the cookies, cheese, and mostarda
  3. use the breadcrumbs only if the mixture needs to be thicker
  4. add the spices (don’t forget, q.b. means quanto basta or “as much as is enough” – to taste)

Ingredients for sauce:

  • 8 ounces of mushrooms
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Parsley

Process:

  1. heat olive oil
  2. add pancetta and sautee for 5 minutes
  3. add the mushrooms and sautee at high heat for 3-4 minutes
  4. add the wine at medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it evaporates
  5. salt and pepper to taste (q.b.) and add a little parsley near the end