And this year is gone and it is almost my blogversary too! Many (but not too many) are the recipes I have proposed you across the past 12 months and it was very hard to choose some that have stuck in my flavors library.
After skimming my picture catalog I have reduced them to a Top 24. With one new recipe every two weeks may this list help you bringing a little more happiness into your 2012.
It all started few weeks ago, when my friend Jenn told me about a photographic competition hosted by the blog Culinographie. The challenge was to come up with a white & gold Christmasy composition.
I rarely shoot high-key compositions but I am esthetically attracted to them so I decided to give it a try.
Christmas goes very well with white naturally, think of flaky snow, powdery sugar or shining icing; white is as much Christmas as it is red. Still, I wanted to keep the color palette pretty basic and so I tried to concentrate my effort on choosing something golden to shoot as hero. Sweets were unfortunately out of the question but the necessity to have almost exclusively white props pushed me to choose tea as my main subject.
So it seems that the day has come... Nelly got hooked up. Nah it isn't for her endless ranting about the sprigs of mint over desserts and neither because of her magnificent contribution to the extintion of bananas
Murray finally asked her to be his lovely wife (blinkey-blinkey ring and all). But I bet you all know that by now, she was squeeking for DAYS! I had to use hamburger buns on my ears to avoid breaking my timpans.
Joke aside, Nelly is just on of the sweetest-jumping Dominican I have met so far. We know each other since 1 year but as all Twitter-relationships, we end up knowing each other more than we do our family. We do spend the best part of hour waking hours together after all.
I have to apologize with Stephanie from Groundcherry blog for having missed my aim at this month's Secret Recipe Club http://secretrecipeclub.com/how-it-works/. This happens when you get on doing as many things at once as your computer can bare.
I got originally assigned with her blog but in the process of looking for a recipe through the days I stumbled on a tab that had Winnie's blog on it and so I thought that was my to-be source (since it was opened already for a few days).
You see, I have been using my browser window more like a pin-board with as many as 10-15 tabs opened simultaneously at each session (and hence inherited by the next one until I deem them worth retiring).
I am going through a period when I just do not feel the sparks sparkle. New dishes may come out and find their way to paper but they stop there, there is no drive into cooking them or is it perhaps the photo shoot that somehow scares me?
To create compelling pictures you need a driving idea, a theme that is going to diffuse into your pictures. Most of my works so far have been concentrated in shooting the bare food, isolating it rather than making it part of an organic context.
Treating the plated food as a sculpture, an object of beauty with its own right to shine has always attracted me but now it doesn't seem to be enough.
Daily rhythms, recognised by ringing bells, chirping birds or simmering pots, are what shape our lives. Rhythms are inherently characterized by repetitions and so our days repeat one after the other often without an appreciable perturbation in their structure.
We do attribute time-milestone quality to activities that otherwise would be simply dictated by unpredictable Nature. Breakfast at 8am, Lunch at 1pm, Dinner by 8pm; they already define how your day will be arranged, its activities, its different paces and flavours.
A slow started morning soon metamorphoses in a sprint-running sequel of wash, tuck, buckle, open, close, run, run, run. Lunch gives us a breath of fresh air, when we do not choose to keep on running, this time on a tapis-roulant perhaps.
The slope leading down to 5pm is on sight. Dinner needs to be planned or ordered and then... Writing? Reading? Loving? Sleeping?
Sometimes sleep seems to love you sooo much that doesn't let you go. A fuzzy embrace of promises of wishful thinking and premonitions, as enchanting as the sirens' song. Where is the main-mast when we need it? Navigating through our lives we get swept from shore to shore by the inclement weather, a sparkle of sun in the distance our aim.
Bitter-sweet, sour-sweet, life has to be sweet one way or another. But what do you prefer to be coupled with it? bitterness or sourness? I'd say, give me some salt and I am happy with both.
I do like sour things, they give me a high. Have you ever sipped apple-cider vinegar (for health reason not just because there was nothing better to drink at home) when you are sleepy? You can almost feel your heart speed up. Sour things release Hydrogen ions in your body and that is like eating a battery; new electricity runs through your veins and make you buzz!
Does Photography really steal souls? Probably not steal but capture it.
Capturing, stealing, what's the difference? Probably the fact that we can't capture the whole soul of a place but just bits and pieces of it. So when we go on a holiday, visit a new restaurant, bar or anything alike and take snapshots of it, do we really capture its soul or just what resonates with us, what we already know and are able to recognize.
To me capturing through photography tends to be the harder and more isolating day after day I try doing it. Isolating in the sense that often I'd like to be invisible sitting on a bench or at a cafe so to be able to observe for as long as I need without causing concern (or being asked to pay the bill).
Probably this is what it's all about, snap and snippets of a place, of a history, of a soul.
What do I really want to talk about in this post, I still ask myself. I have been working on these pictures for the last days, a whole week actually, without really being satisfied with their appeal. I know I could have re-staged them but nah, that would be too easy nevertheless I ended up posting them here (not that I have any hope any of them will ever make its way on any of the food-porn sites we all know) but sometimes showing a failure can be more teaching than contemplating a perfect shot come out of Vogue's food section (if they ever had any that is).
Free food... What is the power of food offered as a gift? Does it depends on the subtlety of the offer or is just linked with the food itself? Is our ability of evaluating a meal influenced when it is offered to us?
Naturally it is different if a sibling, friend, colleague offers us a morsel of his/her sandwich as answer to our starving-puppy eyes or if the meal is offered by complete stranger. In this case, do we always approach food guided by our instinct of self-preservation?
Food has deep power toward any living being. As rooted into our DNA, food inherently means life and we will always be grateful to anybody who offers us some (that doesn't make us sick).
I have just finished to listen to an episode of the "Crimes Against Food" podcast on "Free Food" and it just resonated with me.
As blogger, we are often offered goodies to sample or to review. Rare are the occasions nowadays when this offer comes honestly without any analytic or critical duty attached.
Two months have passed since I last shared something with you and last time it was actually Nelly who gave us a glimpse of her baker's (actually frier's in that case) creativity.
In this period not much has happened except the visit of my family and a lovely trip to London. First things first, in August my family payed me a visit for almost the entire month while my sister was following a language course here in Bonn.
We had a lovely time all together, sharing the daily rhythms. Between one shopping spree and a restaurant to visit, the days flew by fairly fast without much of the feared stress. All went smooth also because the weather was quite mild, though as every good Italian would do, we didn't stop complaining it was either too hot and wet or too wet tout-court and duvet worth.
Writing from the Dominican Republic she keeps most of ours twitter sessions alive with tales of bananas, bacon, chocolate and baking (with the occasional pilates-sore-muscles rant).
You see, she has graduated from the CIA in New York as pastry chef so she is partial to anything that can be shoveled into a hot oven. This doesn't mean that she bakes only sweets, looks like that they are part of her mother's duties; at least this seems to be true for the daily tray of brownies that Nelly keeps beside her to make us more jealous.
Just because of this I asked her to bake some brownies for us but... well, she is unpredictable so let's read what she came up with.
For this month Secret Recipe Club, I got to pick a recipe from Laura's blog "This is how we eat". Faithful to its name, her blog is pretty a straightforward account of family recipes that punctuate daily meals carried out with that touch of inventiveness that can make a little kid eat her veggies.
Going through her articles, I found a few that sounded particular interesting in terms of flavors and news to my repertoire. The one I chose sounds quite American in the essence and a perfect disguise for greens for your kids: peanut noodles.
The past days have been again pretty devoided of any creativeness of sparkle.
Don't get me wrong, give me some nice ingredients, challenge me with a "I will never ever eat XX with YY" and I will be more than happy to try and change your mind creating a nice recipe for your palate. The hardest part I found these days to be writing the forewords to the recipe itself.
I have been made you used to have often almost a novel preceding the recipe itself. Being it a story telling or more often educational in nature, I like to have a deeper drive to my posts than simply "XX and YY go quite well together, try this recipe". This actually could be another nice series of pithy posts but I am not sure how you would receive them; leave me a comment and let me know please.
Call it the crazy weather, the lack of sun or of farmers’ market strolls, the result is that I haven't had any summer fruits till this week. Summer is the best fruit seasons for me. Peaches are above all my most beloved fruits of the whole year but they somehow need a warm weather, sun and breeze to be enjoyed at best.
This post is actually about apricots since I haven't find nice peaches out there yet.
Time passes by faster than we realize and it is July already.
Half year has slipped through my fingers with probably nothing concrete to show that I have made the most of it. The past days have been pretty gloomy in this side of the world. Weather has turned itself into November mood as did I.
Closed as a clam shell, surrounded by a silent and quiet sea of apathy I find myself cornered in dark places. It is hard to escape reaching for the surface. No baits or fisherman plunging his hands into these waters to bring me to a different future and I can't swim.
In these days of senseless sadness I just wish to retire under the blankets and sleep, hoping for dreams depicting a better reality, a more meaningful one perhaps.
Eventually the sun comes lurking out of the clouds warming up our bodies and hearts.
Today the sun is out.
This month Secret Recipe Club has been brought you by Robin of Penny-Pinching Provisions.
When I got assigned Robin's blog as my monthly virtual cookbook, I started going through her posts to look for something that would make me want to cook right away. Can't deny that her Babka's recipes were pretty tempting (what about this Nutella Babka for instance??).
It/we are back!! Who? The Paperchefs naturally.
It has been quite some time since the last challenge was announced on the dedicated blog but as often happens, a temporary hiatus is a positive experience and something not to be feared. It helps clear up our minds and focus on part of our life that often we only perceive out of the corner of our eyes.
If you are new to this challenge, it is one of the nicest out there (except the Velveteers' one naturally). Out of a list of more than 100 ingredients, a random quartet is drawn and assigned for the monthly round. The creative time allotted for each challenge is rather short, from a weekend to up to a week on rare occasions. Thankfully this was one of the latter. I have taken part to a few rounds and I can assure you that it is a lot of fun!
Sugar; we all know this fella, don't we?
A mysterious substance able to give us pleasure; not guilt free unfortunately.
Coming in all the shades of brown, tawny to sparkling white we are used to sprinkle it on many of our food items to enhance their flavors. Present in many natural products it represents the way nature is able to store easily accessible energies; it won't come to any surprise then that it is made of just about the most abundant chemical elements present on Earth: Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen.
Since few years we have been coming accustomed to choose among different varieties of sugars. Being them of natural origins or artificial, the main reason driving research in this field is the delivery of guilt-free low caloric substitutes for saccharose.
If from one side we restrict our kids' sugar intake, we as society have been over-exposed to sweetness for the last century or so; the result is a sort of dependency on this chemical.
"A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!" sang Mary Poppins to the whining kids and that's what we tell to ourselves often and again.
This is being a year full of lovely friends and travels.
All started in April when I had the chance to meet sweet Pamela of My Man's Belly and hubby. Luckily enough they were in Düsseldorf for some business and that means below 1h of train of distance from me.
After convincing them in meeting up in Bonn instead of Cologne, we enjoyed a very lovely day coffee hopping and belly filling; usual routine for when foodies get together, right? You might say that only one thing might be missing from the foodie-madness picture and that is actually the picture taking itself; do not despair we did also that! You see, one of the reasons (or baits) I used to lure them into my German lair were the lovely Japanese cherry trees planted along my street that were in full bloom in that period.
The weather wasn't perfect, we actually escaped quite a few strong showers while prophetically sipping on some coffee but the sun pierced through the thick layer of clouds and we got some pretty nice shots of the pinkiness around us.
I guess somebody was in a street food mood lately, yeah I think so.
This round of Velveteers has been brought us by the eclectic mind of Asha from Fork Spoon Knife. Amidst her blog birthday and the plethora of guest posts she managed to put together for the occasion, she came up with the idea of challenging us in making Gyros ourselves....
What is Gyros? Come on, you know that! Oh wait, you might know it as Doner Kebab perhaps. In effect they are essentially the same thing and that is a huge conical pillar of meat roasted vertically on a skewer.
If you didn't know that Germany is famous for its sausages and sauerkraut, you would call Doner (contraction from Doener Kebab) the national dish. You find a "Doener Haus" almost every second corner around here and I would bet that 1/3 of the middle-aged to young part of the population almost entirely survives on it. If well done this fast-food item can be in effect quite a balanced meal.
My dear friend Asha some time ago asked me if I was willing to participate to her street-food month to celebrate her blog anniversary.
No doubts I wanted to be part of such fun and deserved celebrations though I was a bit doubtful about venturing into German street food. You see, what passes for street food here is mostly grilled sausages in a bun, with French fries or with a curried ketchup sauce. Not really my cup of tea as concerning experimentation.
Sicilian street food was the way to go.
Lately I have seen quite a number of Arancini posts around the blogospheres so I thought I should give it a try but in one of those blissful moment of inspiration I remembered of another street food that I simply adore:
It is time for the second round of the Secret Recipe Club. Already one month has passed since we opened the doors of this respectable and young establishment to all of you.
What is it about? Shall I repeat it? Yeah let's do it. Amanda (LINK) during one of her many creative surges came up with the idea of opening a Club of bloggers that would love to do recipe hopping. This gives us the chance to try one of the recipes posted by another member of the group.
Last month I had the opportunity of browsing through Avanika's recipes and picked up this fabulously soft and airy cake. Naturally we are granted creative rights on the original recipe so I came up with my own version that I also served for my birthday party; worthless to say that I had a real hard time keeping the sticky fingers of my friends from snatching a whole quart of the cake for themselves.
Often simple pleasures are those that can reach deeper into our hearts. May it be the right piece of music at the right moment, that subtle breeze that caresses our cheeks in a sunny spring day, the smell of somebody's home-cooking while coming back home from work; these light feathers of emotions are able to make our day.
As a foodie I tend to gravitate toward food in one form or another, to support me, to beat the time of my day and relieve me from the sudden dips and trenches were my energy could have fallen.
"At last we meet!" told he to the bowl in front of him. Filled with a creamy syrup, it hosted little white sponges. What were they made from? "Cheese", somebody said.
The history of me and this sweet, rich Indian dessert dates back to at least two years ago when exploring the meanders of a virtual video gallery, I stumbled upon this video from "Show Me The Curry":
This is the first of hopefully a long list of posts.
Few weeks ago through the Yahoo-group foodbloggers Amanda of Amanda's Cookin made us think about how many people actually tried our recipes leaving perhaps a comment with a feedback on our posts.
Many of us felt the same in affirming that we love when this happens, we do this for you guys after all; we do enjoy our food but the ultimate word is spoken from our guests and readers. I guess this is a special application of the old saying "If a tree falls in a deserted forest would it still make a noise?".
With our posts we often don't do anything else than throwing a pebble out there in the big lake of news, ranting, opinions and recipes. Sometimes we ourselves are attraced by one of these same pebbles shining through the "increspata" surface of this lake so to pick it up and add our special touch to it before sending it back. There are way too many pebbles on this lake's bed and some gets out of sight pretty easily so it is nice when we have that special pair of goggles that allows us to isolate a group of them from the rest.
Amanda helped us in doing just this by setting a new monthly bloging event: "The Secret Recipe Club".
German gastronomy is pretty a mystery to most of us, I have been living in Germany for the last 5 years and still eludes me. Walking around the streets of Bonn or Cologne, you rarely see restaurants specialized on German food. Mostly they are brewery offering rich creamy meat dishes, stews or schnitzel to have with their beers.
Few weeks ago wondering around the web, I guess through StumbleUpon, I stumbled on Priya’s blog “Now Serving...". The landing page couldn’t have been more fit for the days I was going through.
Since few weeks I am trying to spend some of my working time designing cakes so to build up a portfolio for the Cake Designing part of my future consulting business. I have to say that these have been lovely hours spent with some good designing book and with the pencil back in my hand. It has been ages since I last draw something for fun. Going into the digital world has meant that all the space on the table was taken by the laptop.
I was missing those creative times when you just need an eraser to clear up a mistake; a ruler and a compass are sufficient to frame and regulate your thoughts.
You know when you feel blank, like somebody has wrapped your brain in a comfy duvet that doesn’t let anything escape? Perfect, now you can get why this cover story might be silly and laughable; the main point here is that I want to share with you all a very yummy recipe for my perfect digestive cookies.
Lately I have been eating quite light meals, trying to avoid meat when I can. This is quite hard when I keep on dreaming of juicy, steaky beef cooked in tomato sauce with vegetables like a ragú would. I would so gladly live on beef or pork products cooked in tomato sauce with celery, carrots, onions, garlic, white wine and potatoes, wouldn’t you?
Fish is my meaty outlet; few days ago it was the turn of salmon, but how to cook it?
Before loving the others we must be able to love ourselves.
I don’t know who said this, because I am sure that such a deep truth must have come out in human history quite a few times.
I am loving myself and my life more and more these days. Something has changed, something that can’t be touched or described or interpreted; me for one I am not sure of what happened. The only secure thing is that it isn’t the effect of drugs, except my daily cup of coffee I am almost vices free (sigh).
It just happened this week, last Tuesday to be precise; after a dreadful weekend of self commiseration and depression I sort of started seeing the sun shining again. In total truth I believe that this “miracle” has a cause but one step after the other.
It has been quite long time since my last post; it has been a long pregnancy but finally here I am.
Yesterday night I felt the need to get back to cooking for you all, creating new unusual and enticing dishes for your table, memories, dream (nightmares?).
When I came back from Sicily, last Saturday night, I bought a head of broccoli and few other things to be able to survive on Sunday. Half of it went into a reshaped classic: soupy broken linguini with broccoli, garlic, olive oil and parmesan; a soul food of my childhood that speaks to me of my mother and our meal together when I wasn’t able even to cut a slice of bread. The time of happy, free thoughts over a sparkling future, run in the grass with my neighbour friends, cry over a scratched knee after a fall, laughter watching my baby sister running on the hallway with her puffy diaper and head full of goldie locks.
We want to grow up; we do it eventually. We take the sceptre from our mothers preparing those simple meals that made us what we are.
Do not worry, this post isn’t about “pasta e broccoli” rather risotto with broccoli. Not any risotto though! Scavenging my freezer I found a bag of sweet prawns to use and…some Valrhona chocolate was still lying around.
Is that enough to entice your curiosity? Come on; say yes… you won’t be disappointed, promised!
Here I give you my:
Risotto with broccoli, poached prawns, roasted sesame seeds oil and dark chocolate shavings