Author Archive for Phyllis

Our Never Ending Italian Learning Curve!

Buon anno everyone!  Before next spring rolls around and before we head back to Italy, I better post this!

I definitely think I need an eyebrow make-over! Everyone seems to have amazing, immaculately groomed ones, even some of the guys! It seems that one simply has to have amazing eyebrows!  Wonder what the next fad to strike will be?

All the research I did sussing out delicious regional foods while preparing for our first excursions into Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna, yet we never did find those lovely sounding Piemontese style meat stuffed zucchini blossoms known as Caponet.  Or for that matter, other seasonal veggie preparations in the Osteria/Trattoria’s we went to! Maybe the Michelin starred places get them all!

We prefer out food jazzed up and not just because our taste buds are getting old either! Who could not love the raw veal, cooked veal, salumi and truly amazing cheeses as well as Tajarin, a speciality pasta of Piemonte, on offer?  However, seeing them over and over again on a daily basis wore a bit thin…even though they are all fantastic products! In Emilia-Romagna it’s sooo easy to over-indulge in the fried dough, Crescentine/Gnocco Fritto and the smallish, round flatbread, Tigelle (lightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, that is stuffed with any one of the regions’ amazing salumi or lardo).  Of course there is always a Fettuccine Bolognese to be had and no matter how good that ragu can be, and it can be outstanding, we were looking for things that surprised and/or wowed us. We would have hoped to see oh-so traditional restaurant menus offerings modernized, even just a bit, perhaps a chalk board with seasonal specialties, like those stuffed zucchini blossoms!  Just saying.

Finding tartufo was impossible (except as an ingredient in salami) but expected as we weren’t there for the crazy season (Alba white truffle season in the fall)…so no tartufo for me, not even summer tartufo and I was really desiring pasta with shaved tartufo…and I mean seriously desiring!

The lunches we enjoyed the most in Piemonte were in Alba, at a funky place called Osteria dei Sognatori and at Osteria dei Ca`tari in Monforte D’Alba where we sat outside on the patio under a “roof” of brightly coloured umbrellas. That was so cool!

We can’t help but love the food of Lazio and of Rome, (no surprise here) because the flavours are pumped up. And being artichoke central doesn’t hurt one little bit, despite those dreaded anchovies…it’s a minefield for us anchovy haters! No fear of peperoncino here either! Bring it on!

A quick day-trip to Florence to have lunch with Judy Witts Francini reminded us of how much we enjoy and have enjoyed the good eats of Tuscany…gutsy stuff!  And the express train from Bologna to Florence takes 32 minutes!!!

Time spent with friends in Rome was definitely way more fun than attempting to check off all the items on our ever expanding bucket list! Why do we even bother with that list? Oh, I know, because of all the restaurant recommendations that just keep coming, that’s why!  On top of the “off the beaten track” things to see and do of course!

Long line-ups are not what we are about…no matter what! So, 4 trips to Rome later and still no Vatican! And guess what…we just decided the other night that we will probably give it a miss again…did I say we hate line-ups?  And yes, if there was another way to go besides lining up we would love to!

We are experts at getting lost, case in point: the intent one day was to walk to Trastevere but one wrong turn, or should I say that bridge over the Tiber (I know, I know you don’t go over a bridge from our side of the river) and we ended up near Piazza Navona…as fate would have it, this error turned out to be an extremely good thing , because very close to Piazza Navona is Piazza Pasquino where one of our favouite enoteca’s, Cul du Sac is located….so we settled in with a lovely bottle of wine and a platter of delicious salumi and cheese! You have to love mistakes that turn out so well! And then what should have been an hour’s drive from Torino to Alba turned out to be 2 ½ hrs.  Like I said…we’re experts!

Borgo di Prati is a cute area, very close to the Vatican.  Just wish it weren’t not so overrun with Vatican-ites (either coming from or going to)…it would/could be fun…maybe at night! Glad we went though, as it’s been on the list since 2010!

Our new favourite neighbourhood, Testaccio! It’s Friday night and things are hopping around the Piazza di Testaccio, where we are to meet up with friends, Jo and Pino who we hadn’t seen in over 2 years at Palombi Enoteca across from the Piazza. Although we went to Testaccio in ’15 to “worship” at the altar of Volpetti, this trip found us exploring the area 3 times.  We shared an amazing lunch on one visit with our friend Wendy at Osteria degli Amici after a wandering around the “new” Testaccio Mercato for some photo ops. The Osteria is just across from Monte Testaccio (a hill that was created from broken pottery by Romans during the era of the Roman Empire).

Sorpasso on Via Crescenzio didn’t disappoint once again…great tasting food that’s really creative…would/will go back in a heartbeat!  And our favourite wait person is still there! She’s amazing! I think both her English and my Italian have improved in the last couple of years!

Are all the towns in Piemonte the same? We have to know about two that we visited…Alba and Barbaresco. Do they hire staff to lick the streets clean at dawn??? Definite a bit of a shock for us, having come up from Rome! Not a dog turd to be seen anywhere! Seriously!

Lessons learned:  rental homes/apartments, in our experience, have lousy bathroom lighting. I mean wouldn’t it be nice to apply your makeup and head out the door knowing you don’t look like a clown!

Just because the description of your rental accommodation says there‘s a pool doesn’t mean that it’s actually a usable one that isn’t full of all debris and bugs floating on the surface! Yuck!

Although Rome may be in need of some TLC, we love her anyway…but guys, get the roads and the flaming buses fixed/replaced…what about using all those coins from the fountain??? We actually heard the Mayor being quoted, when asked about some of the issues Rome is facing, say “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” A Roman friend almost fell over when we told her that one! She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

We needed to spend way more time in Bologna!!!

We have way better toilet paper in Canada! Just sayin’…no we are not taking it with us next trip!!!

Christmas at Number 5

Just a quick little post to show off our lovely “pot-luck” Christmas dinner!

Christmas is about sharing with family but also being with good friends, so it was a pleasure to spend the evening with Andrea and Kevin.  Kevin decided it would be an excellent idea if he were to roast a prime rib using the fabulous Kamado Joe charcoal barbecue.  How can you have roast beef without Yorkies I ask you???  You’ll see from the pics.  they turned out beautifully, light and crisp, just waiting for the Andrea concocted.  And to finish…the crowning glory, Christmas pudding with fluffy brandy-clementine infused sauce…warm pudding and cold sauce…perfect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas as much as we did!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I would like to wish you all and happy, healthy and prosperous 2019…Felice Anno Nuovo/Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasta Rules!

I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something wrong with me!  Here’s why…

An article I was recently reading in a local magazine included a photo not unlike this one, minus the basil leaf, of white spaghetti topped with a huge dollop of tomato sauce. And as soon as I saw it I had a visceral reaction; not in a good way! It was just plain wrong! There were other lovely photos accompanying the article; a mound of flour on a board with eggs sitting in the centre, just waiting for hands to knead it into pasta dough and another one of pasta dough that had been flavoured with beets, shown being run through the pasta machine with glorious bright pink pasta sheets coming out the other side… so sexy!

Readers may know that I simply adore pasta…and when in Italy, I get to indulge by treating myself almost every day to my favourite food on the planet…the other one is tomatoes! You can ask my husband! So that normally, when I see a picture of well-dressed pasta it makes my mouth water and I instantly start craving some! It’s the only food that has this effect on my senses!

Now us Italophiles know that there are food rules and “thou shall toss your al dente pasta with the sauce adding pasta cooking water to achieve a wonderfully sauced plate of pasta” is an important one!
Was my reaction over the top? What I’m thinking is that slowly, slowly I’ve been embracing Italian food rules. I never thought this would happen to me but…

Ellis Barnstable, a Vancouver based writer, wrote an interesting and fun story about learning to enjoy pasta and how to cook it after growing up in a home where “pasta” was a tin of Chef Boyardee. She had a boyfriend, who had “spent months in Italy,” to teach her. Alarm bells starting ringing when I read that he had cooked angel hair pasta and tossed it with hot Italian sausages, strips of red bell pepper, dried basil, fresh parsley and then topped the whole thing with Parmigiano, instead of the way it’s normally eaten in Italy which is in a broth, or perhaps I made into a sort of custard based flan and baked.

There are good reasons for the pairing of certain shapes of pasta to certain sauces as opposed to others shapes and in this case the angel hair would be completely unable to handle the type of sauce he made. Boyfriend definitely dropped the ball on his pasta choice for this one!

Now I must admit that in the summer when the cherry tomatoes and basil are at their finest, I make an uncooked sauce of them using lots of olive oil, garlic and fresh basil, letting it marinate at room temperature for a few hours which, by then, as the tomatoes exude their juices, the whole thing becomes rather lovely and sort of soupy.  Then when tossed with hot, freshly cooked angel hair it becomes more like a warm salad really.  Utterly delicious! The boyfriend gets points, though not forgiven, for introducing her to Marcella’s Tomato Sauce…you probably know the one, right?  And here I thought I was the only one not to throw away that gorgeous, velvety lump of oniony goodness!

I enjoyed Ellis’ story about her journey a lot. I think I’ve just about gotten over that photo! Well maybe the thought of it still lingers!

How To Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Who me? All it takes is a visit to Trout Lake Farmer’s Market on a lovely Saturday morning in July/August and we are now loaded us down with pounds of plum tomatoes among other goodies. I’ve been saying, over the past few months, or rather my husband has been banging on about how I need to simplify the amount of cooking I’m doing and stop trying to do so much. You know Phyllis, keep it simple. Read…you’re not 40 years old anymore! Back to those tomatoes and cutting back on my work load!

And then there’s my friend, Judy Witts Francini who insists on posting photos of what she’s making in her kitchen in Certaldo and there I am adding things to my market list because I love what she made or she’s reminded me of something I had planned to make but forgotten about!

But how can I resist? Seriously challenging right? Resting quietly in the freezer as we speak, are several containers of one of my favourite summer pasta sauces, fragrant tomato sage.  Because, don’t you know it, my sage is huge and I’ve got a lot of plum tomatoes!  A very good thing…all I have to do is make homemade spaghetti when I decide to thaw a container for dinner! Then there’s the tomato-apricot-ginger chutney (wonderful.) You simply must make it!   And what the heck, may as well roast up a pan of tomatoes too. Don’t you just love roasted tomatoes?

Did I mention that I have arm loads of the basil in the front garden waiting for me? We know what that means, right: pesto, basil butter, basil/EVO cubes for the freezer for a hit of basil to be added to something on a crummy day in the winter. Or that one of the vendors I buy from has local eggplant available…so guess what’s for dinner…eggplant timbalo! At least there were only 4 of them to prepare and luckily I had containers of  sauce in the freezer at the ready!

Oh and let’s not forget dill pickle Sunday last week!  Aah…the smell of dill weed!  At least I can feel relieved that I no longer make hundreds of jars of jams, relishes and chutney’s! I kind of miss seeing all those jars of jewelled toned goodies though.

Good thing this year our little apple tree took a break or it would be applesauce time before long! The saving grace is I’m not like Italians who are canning tomatoes and making passata during the hottest months of the year…whew…they must have a crew of paramedics waiting to take care of the fallen.

And then the fall veggies begin appearing…can you say pickled red cabbage? I’m trying, Joe…I really am trying but you can see the problem!

Scandinavian Apple Cake

Check out this new recipe!  Deliciously comforting apple cake…great with coffee or tea and also as a dessert with, perhaps a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream!  Or if you are really wanting to live dangerously…for breakfast!  For the recipe click the “Recipes” tab at the top of the page.  And as they say on The Great British Bake Off“BAKE”

Sweet or Savoury?

 Yes Please!

My mother was known to tell people that she could bake anything inside a pie crust and her family would love it!

And my Russian mama definitely had that down right! Although…it may have had something to do with the fact that MOM WAS AN ABSOLUTELY AWESOME PIE MAKER! And I don’t care if you think your mom’s pies were the best ever either…so there! And…another tidbit…my husband didn’t really like pie…that is until he tasted mom’s!!

When summer fruit is upon us…my thoughts…well, let’s say my cravings, turn to pies. Although I have to admit, my thoughts do have a tendency to turn to pies at other times of the year! As a matter of fact not long ago members of the Melton Mowbray Pie Association were interviewed on “Britain’s Best Bakery” and now I can’t stop thinking about making a savoury pie! BTW and FYI the Melton Mowbray Pie makers, all 9 of them, were awarded Protected Geographical Indication status in 2009! And…drumroll please, click HERE for the link to the 2017 winners!

So, off to the kitchen…time to crank up the oven and make a pie or two! How about blueberry?  Click HERE for my recipe.  B. C. is well known for their amazing blueberries and I think that a pie would be in order, don’t you? And this week I testing a recipe for lamb hand pies…although I may use beef instead simply because the freezer says so!

I could go on and on…pizza rustica a two crust pie filled with all sorts of goodies and absolutely scrumptious when shared with friends at a picnic…with appropriate wine of course!

Or empanadas, click HERE for the link to my recipe. Again fabulous served either warm or at room temperature. Goes down a treat on a hot day!  Make the dough and filling the day before then bake them the next morning…done and dusted!

ENJOY summer and treat yourself to a pie and not one of those frozen things from your nearest supermarket. I haven’t been yet but we have a shop here called “Pie Hole.” I wonder if it’s time for a little research?

 

They Call it the Blues

Here at #5 the kitchen is bursting with blueberries! The Gelderman family has come through yet again with another outstanding crop of berries and there are more to come next weekend. They grow two types of blueberries, one harvested in July and the other in August. Both are great but we find the August berries pull ahead in the taste department by a nose!

Just a few blueberry recipes for you to check out and try out…now I’m back to the kitchen for more berry action! Good thing baking is my thing, cause this week it’s been blueberry scones, oatmeal blueberry squares and of course muffins!

Without a doubt you couldn’t put together a list without pie and this is our house favourite!

And then to prove there’s more to life than pie…

Blueberry Muffins
Blueberry Lemon Loaf
Blueberry Almond Cake
Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Blueberry BBQ Sauce (which is awesome)

Happy blueberry eating to you!

 

The End of July

And that means putting on those thinking caps figuring what to cook for that special Leo celebrating a birthday.  In this case, me!!!  It’s no longer July…but it’s still summer and just think of all those people you can impress by inviting  them over to share an alfresco dinner!

What that meant, here at #5 was putting our heads together and figuring out our next challenge on the Kamado Joe! This birthday girl had the idea of a brisket roaming around in her brain for a few weeks.  So…when that was suggested it was a “GO” from everyone.

And all that remains to be said is WOW the K J rocked it big time!  Our hipster butcher texted that it looked awesome!

Our menu:

Brisket with Ancho chili dipping sauce, corn on the barbecue and onion/cheese/poppyseed rolls made by the birthday girl.  We used the recipe for the rub and sauce but changed up the way we cooked our brisket as this recipe uses a Weber.  We made notes if you would like them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s no longer July…but it’s still summer and just think of all those people you can impress by inviting  them over to share an alfresco dinner!

 

 

 

 

No Money Trees in Vancouver

When you meet up with friends or strangers what is the hottest subject being discussed???  

If you live here in Vancouver, it’s real estate and the ridiculous prices! Will interest rates go up? Will prices come down? Detached home prices seem to have fallen a bit but not the condo/apartments/townhouse market.   Sellers won’t even consider subjects such as “subject to financing” or “subject to inspection”…what???

When I was a kid there was something called The Irish Sweepstakes.  And I remember hearing the dreams and seeing the stars in the eyes of ticket holders at the thought of winning $100,000! Isn’t that incredible? Back then, in our minds, when we thought of $100,000 we saw a wheelbarrow overflowing with money! It’s chump change these days! Like what would you do with such a huge $100,000 windfall? Ha!

Just about everyone we know are real estate millionaires. “Millionaire” has a nice ring to it! Remember back in the day, fantasizing about how great it would be when you had your first million? Well, those dreams have definitely become just that, dreams for the average buyer. In Vancouver near the downtown core, where we live, 2 bedroom apartments are ringing in at over 1 M. and these are not high end places!  And often require renovating!  These are scary times for not only us but a number of our friends who need to find a new home.

We sometimes watch a programme called House Hunters. OMG…I mean a whole house for a few hundred thousand…you must be joking…reality check time…here it would be several million dollars.

You might ask…How do most people afford to live in your lovely city? I don’t know. Another thing I don’t know is how the hell are first time buyers going to be able to buy in the lower mainlaind.  Vancouver is the third most expensive place in the world to buy housing. Click here for a recent statement by the head of the Royal Bank of Canada to see more.  And click here and here for more info. on where we might “hopefully” be headed in this market!

How do you fit 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms into 800 square feet anyway? Oh, I know…you actually can’t fit a bed into the bedrooms or open and close the doors.  MY GAWD!

Rant done!  Wish us luck!

2 “R’s” of Spring

Ramps and Rhubarb!

Yes, we are up to our knees in both! We fired up the stove at #5 this week stocking up our larder and freezer using these delectable spring delicacies.

You can’t go wrong with rhubarb muffins or rhubarb coffee cake.  A must in our house is making the annual batch of rhubarb ketchup.

Ramps aka wild leeks are hard to get in some areas but if you do have a “connection”…by all means try out a few of our favourites!  For my money they have more of a garlicky flavour rather than the taste of leeks.

 

Ramp buttermilk biscuits are another springtime must around here. And then there is an amazing “pesto” that we toss with spaghetti and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs. Not to mention a ramp Italian sausage risotto.  Or, you might consider chicken braised with ramps…sort of “white coq au vin.” Certainly went down a treat here!

If you would like to learn more about ramps, check out my blog post.  Click here for the link.