Matteo’s veggies 

Each week, Matteo makes our pizza crust from scratch. It takes him about 5 minutes! He prepares the ingredients, combines them together in the mixer, does some additional hand kneading of the dough, and let’s it rise for an hour or more until we arrive home to prepare the topping. To learn how he does this through a video, click here.

In addition to this recipe, he went to Italy this past summer with the goal of learning more recipes from his nonna. While there, he learned how to make spaghetti alla carbonara and this vegetable mix. The vegetable medley became one of his favorite items and he reports eating large portions! He mastered the cooking process while there and returned home eager to retain the knowledge through practice.

I also took the opportunity to teach him a French cooking technique of “mis en place“. Literally this means to “put in place” and is simply the craft of preparing all of your ingredients ahead of the cooking process. Here you see him chopping all the vegetables and placing them in bowls. With more complex meals, it is helpful to place all spices and other ingredients measured out and near your cooking space so that you can grab and add as needed.

The rest is easy! He coats a sauté pan with olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, he put in the vegetables that take longer to cook. He begins with the potatoes, after a few minutes he adds the onions and peppers. Then after a few more minutes, he added the zucchini.

He continues to cook, stirring the vegetables now and then, until the vegetables are lightly browned and cooked to the desire texture. Towards the end he seasons with sea salt.

Buon appetito!

 


Trofie with sausage and tomatoes

Here’s another semolina pasta shape, trofie! This shape is typical of the region Liguria and is typically served with a pesto sauce. The word trofie may originate from the verb “to rub”, possibly from the method of forming the shape by rubbing or rolling the pasta along the work surface (click here for reference). Make it by simply rolling out some of the dough in a narrow tube and cutting the tube into pieces of about 1 1/2 inches long. Then, take two fingers, press and pull the dough toward you, move over and repeat, move a third time and repeat the rolling motion (click here to see an excellent video that shows 10 different shapes).

When we were in Puglia last summer, quite a distance from Liguria, we had trofie with sausage and pomodorini. We decided to make our own version. We use some fresh tomatoes.

Sauté a little garlic in the olive oil. Then, add the tomatoes and sausages.

Here’s the full ingredient list and our process:

Ingredients (for 4 people, but feel free to adjust as you’d like):

  • 3 – 4 ounces of fresh pasta per person, unless the past is a first course- then 1.5 ounces per person
  • 3 sausages
  • 20-30 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley

Process:

  1. heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the garlic slices till lightly brown
  2. add the tomatoes and sausage, cooking till the sausage browns
  3. add the wine and simmer, reducing the wine, for about 8 minutes
  4. salt and pepper to taste
  5. add some parsley towards the end
  6. once the pasta is al dente (about 15 minutes), add to the sauce, stirring in a 1/4 cup of the starchy water and mix well
  7. serve right away!

Buon appetito!

Instant!!! . . . or. . .slow?

I work with many clients who are addicted. . . to alcohol, opioids, food, video games, sex, gambling, and to the immediate. Instant gratification is probably the most common root of many of the ills that ale us. We want what we want when we want it. Or better yet, we “need” what we “need” when we “need” it!

In raising our son, any time he said “I need” we responded with a question; do you “need” or “would you like”? Notice the difference between the two:  the one thought based on needs may lead to anxiety and illness, the other thought expresses a desire, but it may not be possible to fulfill it. The first, if always satisfied makes the brain real happy, dopamine is fired, and a habit is formed. The second way delays the reward, uses the part of the brain that is more of a challenge to activate, and results in regulation and self-control.

I recently learned more about the neuroscience of addiction through the book, “The Biology of Desire:  Why Addiction Is Not a Disease” by Marc Lewis. He leads the reader through several stories of addiction, including his own, with the added commentary of neuroscience. He describes what is going on in our brains when we form habits and how the slow process of healing takes place by training the brain to use the self-regulatory functions.

I have a hard time remembering the science details, but through my work with clients suffering through addiction, I see this interplay between the habit-forming and self-regulation parts of the brain. The brain has “primitive” parts that are similar to many animals and are key to survival. The immediate gratification region of the brain, that forms habits quickly and easily is necessary for survival. So, if I come upon an apple tree when starving I taste the apple, love it, the brain fires dopamine, and I keep eating apples. The more evolved section of the brain is able to say, “I better save some of these apples for later!”

Today, when the food, drugs, alcohol, and Internet are available 24/7 it is so easy to give in to temptation. The neuroscience says that the brain does what it does best when we satisfy the craving by feeding the immediate “need” and are gratified by dopamine firing. It also says that the harder job for the brain is to think through the consequences of the action, “one more sweet, just once more drink, one more scratch ticket” may just lead to consequences that we don’t want. The sad fact about the brain is that the habit-forming part functions with ease. The part of the brain that plans beyond the immediate pleasure to a larger goal is much harder to activate.

This all serves as a segway to the culture of instant food and the reminder to practice the discipline of slowing down to cook real food. We are continuing our Fall project of making home-made pasta and experimenting with all kinds of shapes. Once again, the recipe is simple, two parts semolina flour, one part water, and some sea salt. For the full process, click here. It is a fun way for us to share time together and a reward of fresh and tasty pasta dishes made from our hands!  And, it’s good for our brains; delaying the gratification of the instant.

This shape called cavatelli looks a little like hot dog buns and hales from southern Italy. Roll out the dough in 1/4 inch diameter strips and then cut into 3/4 inch bite size pieces. Simply take two fingers and pull toward you to curl up the pasta as seen below.

Today, we make it with a simple sauce of garlic, olive oil, lobster, zucchini and red pepper flakes.

Add the cavatelli at the end and perhaps a little of the starchy water from the pasta and stir. This can also be made with shrimp instead of the lobster.

Buon appetito!

Ancient grain, contemporary cuisine

Before the summer’s over, I want to offer you this farro salad. It’s a great meal that is often eaten cold. It’s made with farro which is one of the 7 ancient grains and is sometimes called spelt in the U.S. Farro is a high-fiber complex carbohydrate which is also a good source of protein, B vitamins, and other nutrients. It has a nutty flavor and has a nice al dente, almost crunchy texture.

We first tasted farro in Italy where it is commonly used in the summer for a healthy lighter fare that is eaten cold on the hot days. The salads are often filled with whatever you have in the fridge. Olive oil is often in the mix as well as a vinegar such as balsamic or any wine vinegar. Basically, you can go crazy with it and add any items that you like together. It can help to imagine any of your favorite pasta recipes, but made with farro instead and that you will enjoy eating cold.

This recipe is courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis and I found it on the food network site from the cooking show, Everyday Italian. Click here to watch it being made.

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 4 cups water
  • 10 ounces farro (about 1 1/2 cups)
  •  teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion (recommended: Walla Walla) chopped
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Process:

  1. combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan
  2. add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil over high heat
  3. reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes
  4. drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool
  5. add the tomatoes, onion, chives, and parsley to the farro, and toss to combine
  6. in a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil
  7. add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat

Buon appetito!

An afternoon of work. . . a season of summer!

People ask us, “how do you have time for that?” . . . (about the cooking that we do). “How do you make home-made pasta?” “How do you prepare meals from scratch when you get home at 6:30 from work?” “How can you possibly?”

Well, first of all. . . it’s our hobby! Marco and I both love cooking and it’s a relaxing and zen thing to do as much as it is a requirement so that our family gets the proper nourishment for a healthy and enjoyable life. Secondly. . . everyone has time for the things that they prioritize. Think about your own lives. There are things that you do that take up a large chunk of time. Someone could ask. . . how do you have time for that!? Third, it is a family affair! Last Saturday, Matteo, Marco and I each played a part in the process of canning the tomato sauce. This year, we also had the added support from Jessica, our friend who wanted to learn first hand how to make the tomato sauce.

We all work together to prepare the foods that we enjoy. You all know that each Tuesday Matteo makes the best pizza dough ever! This past summer he added two new recipes to his repertoire when he learned from his nonna how to make a vegetable medley and spaghetti alla carbonara. We each have a role in our evening meals after long days at work and school!

It’s the time of the year to prepare our tomato sauce for canning so that they last through Fall, Winter, and into the Spring. Last year, we processed 40 pounds of Roma tomatoes. That effort resulted in enough tomato sauce to last through the end of April. This year, we used 60 pounds of fresh tomatoes hoping that we might get through June with our tomato sauce.  We all worked together to clean, boil, press, and jar the tomatoes. Click here to see the video of the process and written instructions.

We use the sauce for pizza topping, pollo a la pizzaiola (click here for recipe) and as a base for many pasta recipes. Each time we open a jar we can taste just a bit of summer even on the coldest of winter days. The 60 pounds of plum tomatoes made 30 jars of sauce that will give us fresh tomato taste all through to next Spring! So, even with the time that it takes, the result is priceless as a fun family event that keeps on giving.

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Buon appetito!