Friday, April 29, 2016

Farewell to the Rome Sustainable Food Project

 As I sat in the garden waiting for the lunch shift to end today, I gathered my thoughts about the last few weeks, and knew it would be hard for me to say goodbye to the staff here.  The interns, and chefs, dishwashers, and wait staff have all been patient, and kind, with me in their faces with a camera and questions.  I feel like Nonna to the interns, and could not have wished for a better experience with a group of young people---they will all be stars no matter where they go when they leave here.  I think that the RSFP will be hard to top when they move on to other jobs.  Tonight there won't be a dinner service, because the staff and the Fellows are playing a soccer game. They are calling it Romans vs Barbarians!  I have considered not letting Dr. C. go, because I'm sure there will be some type of oral injury and he'll want to help. (think elbow or header to the face and you'll get the picture!)

L to R:  Chef Chris Behr, Leah, Jeremy, Michelle, Caspar, Tom, Clementine and McLane
Not in the photo is Chef Domenico Cortese, a gifted and talented chef who was more than patient with me as we exchanged ideas, and our love of food.  I worked my last night in the kitchen with him on Wednesday.  Wednesdays, at the Academy are vegetarian nights, and his main course was a baked risotto with artichokes, stuffed with artichoke puree and cheese, topped with a fonduta sauce, and fried artichokes.  Here are a few photos of that night, for some reason the photos of the spectacular panna cotta didn't come out, they are probably lost on the computer somewhere. 
Changing of the guard, lunch shift/evening shift exchanging information

Artichokes are dusted with a bit of semolina, then fried once, and then fried again--they are so crispy and delicious!  They were all calling my name. 

Beginning of the fonduta sauce--this one was a little "lighter" only cream and grated Pecorino

Domenico called this his antipasto di verdure; grilled romaine lettuce, fresh torpedo onions and fava beans tossed with wine viniagrette, garnished with toasted sliced almonds and sesame seeds. 

Twice fried

Building the plate, baked risotto with carnaroli, red rice, and farro

Building the plate, a bit of fonduta over the risotto

A bit of olive oil dressed arugula to round out the plate
My last night was perfect, working with Domenico, McLane and Clementine
 I am grateful to chef Chris Behr for allowing me into his kitchen, to the other chefs, and interns who so patiently answered my questions and didn't swat at me when I took their photos.  Grazie Mille, instead of goodbye, I will say, Ciao for now. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Afternoon with Kelly Medford

Two weeks ago, Dr. C. took a leap of faith and went on a sketching tour with Kelly Medford, a local artist here in Rome.  I'd arranged it before we came to Rome, when my friend Rick Breco (he of the birthday boy post) suggested it.  I knew with my being in the kitchen at the Academy some days that he might enjoy a way to pass the time here in Rome.  It was a hit!  He really enjoyed it, and has used his little sketch pad, and kit that was provided to do some more since he took the class.  

We asked Kelly if she'd join us for lunch, so this morning we took the bus up to her studio, got a tour and I finally got to meet her.

She not only works in water color, but also in oils, these are some of her creations.  I'm in awe of anyone who can do this, because it's not my forte at all.  (although she says you don't need any experience to do it,I prefer to differ on that score)
I loved both these photos of mentor and pupil!  Kelly is so approachable and talented, we had a fabulous time looking at her work.  We're hoping she'll come to San Diego and sketch there.  We were trying to seduce her with photos of the desert, and the ocean.....just could happen!
Kelly did some of the artwork for this guide book to Naples including the maps which she sketched---highly recommend it if you are going to Naples, it's actually a work of art.

Kelly shares the space with other artists, this one does paper mache, everywhere I looked there was another one. 

The other artist is a transfer painter (not sure what the technical name is) she paints onto plastic, then transfers to paper or canvas.  Here she's working with fish, we watched her doing the first one. 
After all the art, it was time for pranzo, and we headed across the street to Trattoria Da Cesare.
Of course, the food, the company and the conversation were so much fun. 

Eggplant meatballs

Fried gnocchi with caccio pepe sauce (on the table in heaven)

Tornarelli with meat ragu

Dr. C. with his standard Spaghetti alla vongole

Kelly had to pasta with vignarola of artichoke, fava beans, and asparagus with guianciale (amazing)

Panna cotta for dessert
Thank you Kelly for a great afternoon, I hope we'll see you in San Diego or when we return to Rome. 
I spent my last night in the Academy kitchen yesterday, working on that post for tomorrow.  Dr. C. and I have 2 more days here in Rome, then head to Spello for 2 weeks.  Although I've loved this experience, when I'm in Italy, I really am the country mouse as opposed to the city mouse.  Somehow I've lost my city-cred, and prefer the quiet life in the country.  Ciao for now.

Stolen Lemon Olive Oil Cake

While staying at the Villa Aurelia, there have been several receptions held here during the month.  In the lead-up to these events, the lemon trees that are in front of the Villa are rolled around from the front of the villa to different places on the property.  

One tree was rolled up outside of our door a few nights ago, and I couldn't resist availing myself of a few of these beautiful fruits. Truth be told, they let the fruit drop from these trees, and no one picks them up, rather than let them go to waste, I took the sustainable approach, and picked a few before they fell off the trees.  Just hoping the local Carabinieri don't come and arrest us before we leave on Sunday!
So with a few lemons, and being in a sustainable mood, I needed to use up some ingredients before we leave on Sunday.  I thought trying a lemon olive oil cake would be a great idea, since I'd used up the butter on the nutella bars.  We decided that this one is a winner, although I think it needs a lemon glaze, but confectioner's sugar seems to be non-existent in our local supermercato.  You can certainly sub in orange, lime, or grapefruit for the lemons, but it's a simple way to use up the zest and juice. 

Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Makes one 9-inch round

2 large eggs
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of a 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, juice, zest, milk and sugar.  
Fold in the flour and baking powder, mixing till it is incorporated and smooth.  
Transfer to the prepared pan, bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool completely and serve.  This is great with a cup of coffee or tea.  

Since I am working without a net here, this was the closest I could come to a 9-inch baking dish with the dishes in the apartmento, but it worked.  If you would like, you could make a glaze using confectioners' sugar and lemon juice to pour over when it's cooled.  Ciao for now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Nutella Addiction

They say that the first step is admitting it, and I will say that I love Nutella, the milk chocolate and hazelnut spread sold in Europe and making its way into the US.  Don't let them fool you, the US version isn't as delicious as the Italian version.  A couple of weeks ago, Dr. C. and I had lunch at a restaurant near the Vatican and they gave us a little bar cookie that was basically a buttery crust, with Nutella sandwiched in the middle and crumbs on top.  So yesterday I decided to try and make them in our little kitchen. 
Here is the recipe, which couldn't be simpler, and it goes together really quickly if you have a food processor, but I used my fingers to make it. 

Nutella Crumble Bars
Makes one 9-inch square pan

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chilled butter, cut into small bits
1 large egg
1 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of a 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
In a food processor combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder.  Distribute the butter over the top of the dry ingredients, and pulse on and off until the butter looks like small peas.  
Remove to a bowl, and add the egg, the mixture will be crumbly.  Remove about 1 1/2 cups of the crumbs, and pat the remaining mixture into the pan, in an even layer.  Spread the Nutella over the crust, and top with the reserved crumbs.  
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the crumbs are golden brown.  Allow to cool completely, and cut into squares.  These will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days, or frozen for 6 weeks.

Before baking


The lone leftover!
We had a friend over for dinner last night, she and Dr. C. gave them their seal of approval.  Hope you will try them, even if you can only get the US Nutella they are a winner.  Ciao for now.