Tag: italy

A Sunday Salad 

Italy has been on my mind over the last couple of weeks. I bought Rachel Roddy’s beautiful cookbook, FIve Quarters and have been happily cooking my way through it. Peperonata, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, grilled eggplants, pasta and more pasta- making the most of the sweet, ripe produce lying in the sun at the market on Sundays. We watched this episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix which reminded me of the absolute love and respect Italians have for food. And I have been storming through Eleanor Ferrante‘s engrossing Napoli series as I sit and feed and feed this hungry baby. She is taking me in to 20th Century Italy with a woman’s eyes- political control, marital control, family control. Passionate and powerful writing I would definitely recommend.

Sometimes though, you need a break from Italian food. Here is a quick and easy salad I made for dinner last night – fresh and tasty but still satisfying. We had it as is, but it would be great with grilled lamb. 


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Herby quinoa and rice salad
Serves two for dinner with enough left over for two lunches the next day

1 cup quinoa
1 cup basmati rice
1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
1 lemon
A handful of each- parsley, coriander, mint and baby spinach
4 spring onions
A handful of pistachio nuts
100g feta
1 green chilli
Olive oil
Sea salt

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Cut the eggplant into small cubes and bake on a well oiled oven tray until golden brown. While these are in the oven, cook the rice and quinoa then set aside to cool. Chop the herbs, spinach, chilli and spring onion and put in a large bowl with the pistachio nuts, feta, a generous slug of olive oil, salt and the juice and some zest from the lemon. When the eggplants have cooked, combine everything together and serve. We had this salad at room temperature which worked well and meant the heat of the eggplants, quinoa and rice didn’t discolour or wilt the herbs. Perfect with a glass of cold white wine at the end of a busy weekend.

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Tonight for dinner? Pasta of course!

Baking the Perfect Cake to Remind us of Italy

For the whole of 2013, Ollie and I were doing the big LD. He lived in Taipei, Taiwan and I lived in Auckland, New Zealand. We figured it was worth it as it meant I got my teacher’s registration and he got us a visa for the States, but it was pretty hard. To break up the year, we met in Europe, visited my sister who was living in Paris and some good friends who were honeymooning in Italy.

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While we were in Italy we drank lots of coffee and red wine, we ate obscene amounts of pasta and we looked at beautiful churches. We stayed with Courtney and Craig in a beautiful farm house in Tuscany, recommended by an Italian friend in Auckland. When we arrived, the dark clouds threatened rain and the countryside around us smelt of earth and the start of autumn. Stepping through the old doors, we were welcomed by a warm olive oil and lemon cake sitting on the big wooden table, it smelt incredible. We had espresso and cake and looked out over the olive groves as the sun peeked through the clouds. It felt like we were in a postcard. Italy.DSCF1691DSCF1604

DSCF1556DSCF1607Since then, both Courtney and I have been obsessed with olive oil cake. I made one the other day that tasted like disinfectant, but she sent me through the recipe for this one I made today. Heaven.

Olive Oil and Lemon Cake

3/4 cup of olive oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
I vanilla pod
1 1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 2/3 cup brown sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

DSCF3796Whisk all the wet ingredients then add the flour and baking powder. Pour into a greased loaf tin and cook in the oven for 45 minutes at 180. Both the lemon and olive oil make this cake taste really fresh, mellowed by the vanilla and yoghurt. Perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, but it would also be delicious with vanilla ice cream after dinner. 

You can also add finely chopped rosemary to this recipe for the ultimate cake.

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P.S. The pretty Europe photos are by Ollie. You can see more of his stuff here.

 

Pasta al Pomodoro

Yesterday I talked with a friend who is back in the stifling summer heat of Milan for a wedding. I was taken back to my time living there and how the two of us realised we were living just down the road from each other, friends from school who had fallen out of touch. I could see her as clearly as if it was yesterday, in gumboots on the side of Viale Gran Sasso in the slushy grey snow as she waited for me. We were getting our first of many espresso together in the city we Kiwis were choosing to call home. Sometimes it seemed like we were the only sane ones in the whole city, other times it seemed like we were the ones creating all the drama. I was taken back to the friendships and the adventures, the flavours and fragrance of an Italian kitchen. The bag of tomatoes in my fridge were calling to me and I knew what I had to do with them.

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Last Night’s Pasta al Pomodoro

A generous glug of olive oil
1 big garlic clove
2 anchovy fillets
A sprinkling of chilli flakes
1/2 red onion
6 big fresh tomatoes (I had a few yellow cherry tomatoes I threw in too for good measure)
A peeling of lemon skin very finely chopped
6 green olives
1 Tbsp capers
Salt

Cover the bottom of a thick bottomed pan with olive oil and then add your whole garlic clove. When you can start to smell the garlic, add the chilli flakes and anchovy fillets and slowly slowly fry these until they dissolve into the oil making a delicious salty, spicy and garlicky oil (I have been known to finish here and coat the pasta with the oil for dinner. If I learnt one thing from Italy it is that simplicity is always best). Next, finely dice the red onion and add this with the lemon zest to slowly soften in the oil. Fill a bowl with boiling water and drop your tomatoes in. Leave for 30 seconds and then pull out and peel the skin off. Chop the tomatoes up and add these to the onion. There will be a lot of liquid from the tomatoes at this stage, so you want to leave them to simmer and thicken until you are left with a deep red sauce. Add the capers and stoned and cut up olives and you have yourself a sauce. Cook your pasta – I think something long and skinny is best for a sauce like this – and combine them. You don’t want your pasta to be swimming in the sauce, but nicely shiny from it. Top with grated parmesan to really make your meal amazing.

The beauty of pasta al pomodoro is that there is no one way to do it. I am sure there are many nonne out there who are shaking their heads at this recipe, but there seem to be hundreds of variations on eating tomatoes and pasta together. It can be as simple as oil, garlic and a tin of tomatoes. Either way, you know it is going to taste gooooood. It is my go to food, my comfort food and my favourite dinner in the world. Plus, I can put away serious amounts. Very happily.

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While the pasta cooked, we had a little marinated zucchini salad which was a lovely combination of fresh crunch, zingy vinegar and soft mozzarella. 

Marinated Zucchini Salad

Half a green zucchini
Half a yellow zucchini
1/2 clove of fresh garlic minced
Olive oil
The juice of a lemon
Salt
A splash of white wine vinegar
Handful of fresh basil, torn
A few balls of fresh mozzarella
Handful of baby spinnach
A few pieces of prosciutto torn into smaller pieces

Finely slice the zucchini and put in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, basil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Leave these for a couple of hours to marinate. Just before you serve, add the baby spinach, prosciutto and mozzarella. Easy as that.

Buon appetito a tutti. And Livs, I wish I was there with you x

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