Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pistachio Lime Bars

After my trip to Sicily, I arrived home with a bag of pistachios from Bronte, the home of (according to the Sicilians) the best pistachios on the planet.  I actually have to agree with them, they are pretty special.  I wasn't sure what I would do with them, but today I decided that I would try and make some lime bars using the pistachios in the crust, and in the filling.  I'm adapting a recipe I'd seen for lemon bars in the New York Times, but using limes since I love the flavor and I think it will be quite delicious with the pistachios.  The recipe is for a 9-inch square, but you could easily double it to make it in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.  Make sure to use pistachios from California or another trusted source, since there are quite a few from China heading into our markets.  The pistachios from Bronte tend to stay in Italy and the rest of Europe.  In Bronte the trees grow right out of the lava in the foothills of Mt. Etna.

Pistachio Lime Bars
Makes about nine 2-inch squares

For the Crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small bits

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of a 9-inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a mixing bowl, using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is grainy.  
  3. Press the crust into the pan, and bake for 20 minutes.  

For the Filling:
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
confectioner's sugar for garnish

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, baking powder, flour and lime juice.  
  2. Pour over the hot crust, and sprinkle the top evenly with pistachios.  
  3. Bake another 20 minutes, until the filling is set.  
  4. Remove from the oven and immediately cut the bars into squares.  Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, and cool completely.  The bars will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Serve at room temperature.  

Press into the prepared pan

Bake for 20 minutes

Pistachios from Bronte

Sprinkle the pistachios on top of the filling otherwise if they are in the filling they will steam instead of toast
20 minutes for the filling and you are done
Cut them immediately, otherwise when they are cool you will lift off too much of the filling when you cut them
A sprinkle of confectioners' sugar and your are ready
If you would like to use lemon instead of lime, the NYT recipe called for 1/4 cup lemon juice and some zest, since lime zest is frequently bitter, I opted for 1/3 cup lime juice and no zest.  These could also be made with orange juice following the same recipe.  I've got just enough pistachios left to be able to make another batch sometime soon, and maybe use the Oro Blanco grapefruit from Specialty produce.    Ciao for now.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Alternative Potato Salad

For the Fourth of July, my menu had a definite Mediterranean theme; a cheese platter with Italian cheeses, and assorted accouterments,
Roasted Halibut with lemon and garlic
Caponata (the Sicilian eggplant dish)

and a potato salad with green and yellow beans.  When I posted photos on my FB page the recipe for the potato salad was requested, so here goes.  I didn't photograph every step because I wasn't planning on posting, but you can get the idea of how to put this together.  It is a mash-up of the traditional salad Nicoise, using oregano, and an immersion blender for the dressing.

Alternative Potato Salad
Serves 6

1/3 pound green beans
1/2 pound yellow beans
6 medium red potatoes, scrubbed
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup packed fresh oregano
2 sprigs Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

In a steamer, steam the potatoes for 45 to 50 minutes until tender.  Cool.
Snip the ends of the beans, and bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.  Boil the green beans for 5 minutes, and remove from the water.  Add the yellow beans and cook for 4 minutes, drain well with the green beans, and season liberally with salt and pepper in a colander. (the salt will draw water out of the beans, and make your salad watery, keep the beans in the colander until ready to toss with the potatoes.  
When the potatoes are cool enough, cut them into bite sized pieces.  If the skins aren't gorgeous, peel the potatoes, then cut into bite sized pieces.  Add the beans to the salad bowl.  
In a 4 cup measuring cup combine the vinegar, oregano, parsley, garlic, zest, and lemon juice.  Using an immersion blender, blend until the garlic and herbs are broken up.  Add the oil, and blend until smooth.  
Taste for seasoning and adjust using salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.  The salad can be served at room temperature.  If you plan to refrigerate the salad, remove it from the refrigerator 90 minutes before serving, and re-toss with more of the dressing.  
I hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday.  After 2 1/2 months in Europe you know that I have a lot to catch up on now that I'm home, I'm hoping to post more photos and stories in the coming weeks.  Ciao for now.

Friday, June 30, 2017

By the Sea

For our friends last full day in Rome, we took off for the beach, and Sunday lunch at La Vecchia Pineta in Ostia Lido.  When the weather is hot, the Italians hit the beach, with gusto.  Each beach seems to charge a fee, but that will get you a lounge chair and a place close to the water.  We took the train from Piramide station to Ostia, and then walked the path to the restaurant.

We had made a reservation and got a table ringside, as our friend Rick would say.  It was a gorgeous day, and there were regattas going on so it was fun to watch the boats, as well as the food that continued to come to our table.
We began with two platters of these---fritte miste---fried, crunchy everything, my faves are the tiny octopus mascardini

Scampi cream ristotto

Pasta alle vongole

Squid Ink pasta with vegetables and scampi
The fish cart is brought to the table, and you choose dinner

And then, hello gorgeous!  Roasted fish with potatoes, olives and lemon

They remove the bones, etc from the fish and serve you a plate
We lingered over the main course, it was exceptional.  Then we were trying to decide what to have for dessert, when our waitress said they had scgropino a delicious concoction of lemon sorbet whipped with vodka and prosecco---so we HAD to have that.
The perfect ending to a perfect day; we had to go back to Prati and pack up our bags for flights the next day, but this is a lovely way to end a trip to Rome.
Ciao for now.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

Good Night Rome

On our second to last night in Rome, we toddled down the street for an apperitivo before meeting our car and driver for a night time tour of Rome  If you haven't done this it is a lot of fun.  
I'm absolutely in love with the Aperol Spritz; Apreol an orange bitter and prosecco, lots of ice and a slice of orange.  Mama Mia!
Our tour started at 8:30 and it doesn't really get dark until about 9:30, so we headed out towards the Coliseum.  This is in fact Piazza Venezia, or as the locals call it the wedding cake.  A memorial to the soldiers who died in war, and to King Vittorio Emmanuale.  
The balcony in the middle is the balcony where Mussolini would stand and address the crowds.  Now a museum.

Although it wasn't dark, the light was really interesting here, as was a tour bus that pulled up next to our car.  It was a tasting Rome tour, and the bus had a kitchen where the food was being made.  

Next up was the Aventine Hill, and the Orange Garden.  This is a beautiful park, where the views are spectacular.  Unfortunately, they were closing about 10 minutes after we got there.  Right down the street is the Keyhole where you can look through and see 3 countries, Malta (since the keyhole is at the entrance to the Maltese embassy) Italy, and the Holy See.  

Our driver brought us back by the Forum, and we snapped away.  By this time, street lights were on, and the sky was cobalt blue.  

Having just gone through a multi-million Euro restoration sponsored by Fendi, the Trevi fountain is gorgeous, the problem is you have to go  in the early morning since there will be about 10,000 of your closest friends taking selfies all day long.  

On to the Spanish Steps which have also had a restoration courtesy of Bulgari.  You might ask why these fashion houses would pay for the restoration of public places and it is worth asking.  The fashion houses retain the exclusive rights to use the monuments/squares in their advertising.  I'd say it's a win-win.  

When my cousin took us to see Piazza Navona the first time, I was in love.  The Bernini fountain, the beautiful church, and the street scene were amazing.  Over the years though, it has lost a bit of its charm, due to the crowds.  It was still gorgeous at 10 p.m.  

I'm particularly fond of the Tiber at night, where else could you get these gorgeous views of the Dome of St. Peter's and Castel St. Angelo?  During the day the Tiber is a sluggy, green river of slime, but at night, it becomes magical.  

My all-time favorite spot in Rome is St. Peter's.  If we come to Rome I have to visit a few times, it is so big, and beautiful.  At night it becomes magical.  

After St. Peter's we headed up the Janiculum hill, where Dr. C. and I had lived last year when I was at the American Academy of Rome.  We stopped at the Garibaldi statue at the top of the hill (where they shoot off a canon at noon everyday---no joke) and then headed to the fountain half way down the hill. While I was snapping some not so great photos a Citreon roared by and I got a few shots while it was being filmed either for a video or print media. Only in Rome.  

Our last stop was really fun.  Our driver took us to a point above St. Peter's where when you look over at the basilica, it looks far away.When you drive away from the basilica it gets larger, an optical illusion which we all enjoyed.  Keep in mind these photos were taken in a moving car, sorry about the Blair Witch jiggle.  
Rome is a beautiful city, filled with art, history, culture, and amazing food.  This night time tour gives you a great perspective, and it is a lot of fun.  Ciao for now.