2012 in review

Better late than never…

Wishing everyone a wonderful and inspirational 2013! Am currently back in my home state of Florida but soon enough we will be off to “The Big Apple!” The highlight of 2012 was giving birth to our son Julian Nicholas, who was born in Turin, Italy last June. He has dual citizenship; what a lucky guy he is! I would like to thank everyone who has been following my blog the past few years. My next adventure, at least for now, will take place in NYC. Buon appetito!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Soul Food Recipe Exchange Vol. 2: Sweet Potato and Pecan Pie

This gallery contains 7 photos.

This post follows in the footsteps of my collaborative series with Enrica of Cervellifuori called Soul Food Recipe Exchange. It’s a way for me to pay homage and to share some of my favorite soul food recipes all the while … Continue reading

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A Day Trip to Lake Orta

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Italy is filled with beautiful landscapes and the region of Piedmont does not disappoint one bit. With my birthday quickly approaching and being that I am in the last trimester of pregnancy, I felt the urge to take a day … Continue reading

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From Turin to Vienna

Just the other day I was reminiscing about the weekend trip I took to Vienna a few years ago to visit my dear Cousin Anna who has been living there for a few years. The roommates in her flat were throwing a house party and it was sure to be in unforgettable experience. I offered to do some prep work for the massive amount of chili (to feed 100 plus) that was to be cooked for the party,  (I still don’t quite get it how chili is popular in Vienna) but this way, I would be free to wander around and take in some good eats the following day.

It couldn’t have worked out any better for me. My cousin lives in the 13th or Heitzing district and it turns out it is the district with the most greenery. My journey began with a stop in a local chocolate shop and then it was on to Schönbrunn (“beautiful spring”) Palace.

Schönbrunn Palace

I must have walked around for hours that afternoon, including a hike up the hill on the southern part of the palace so I could get an overview of the grounds. On my way back down I took the wooded path to relax in the shade a bit. It goes without saying that I worked up a huge appetite, with pictures to prove it!

About a 15-minute walk back toward Anna’s apartment I stumbled upon a biergarten or beer garden. I honestly can’t remember the name of the restaurant but instead will try to highlight some of my favorites of Austrian cuisine. Tafelspitz is a boiled meat dish. Thinly sliced meat is cooked gently in a beef broth with vegetables.

For a perfect pairing I opted for rösti, (crisp, potato pancake) served with apfelkren  (a sauce of apples and horseradish) and some sort of tomato-based mayonnaise.

And to finish my meal, kaiserschmarrn, the ultimate comfort food. In Austrian-German kaiser means “emperor” where as schmarrn has many definitions such as “mishmash, crumbs, rubbish or nonsense.” It’s basically a buttery pancake batter that is fried resulting in tiny, crispy puffs of delight served with powdered sugar and a fruit sauce such as apples and raisins or in this case plums.

To finish my meal I decided to have a Viennese coffee or melange at Café Dommayer. A melange is similar to a cappuccino but the coffee base is milder in comparison. Café Dommayer is famous for its cakes, pastries and it’s where we all had brunch together, literally only a couple of hours after the party ended from the night before. Ciao Vienna, until the next time!

 

 

 

 

 

Café Dommayer:

Address: Dommayergasse 1, 1130 Vienna, Austria

Phone:+43 1 87754650

Posted in An American in Turin, Family History, Restaurants in Vienna | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Recipe from Ragusa: Pasta with Capuliato

For one of our wedding gifts, some friends of ours put together a picnic basket filled with all sorts of Italian goodies that were just waiting to be transformed into culinary delights. But one homemade item stood out from the rest. The recipe comes from the region of Ragusa in the southwestern part of Sicily. In Italian it is called capuliato (cah-pool-yah-to) or tomatoes that are sun-dried with olive oil and then finely diced into tiny nuggets of pure tomato heaven. Capuliato can be made a number of ways: dried with basil or hot red pepper flakes. My friend Rosita made them only with olive oil, as to make them kid-friendly and here is the recipe for them:

The tomatoes are peeled, sliced and seeded. When they are left to dry in the sun, they are dried along with the addition of olive oil. This helps to naturally keep the tomatoes moist. After 3/4 days they are then finely diced or when made in large quantities they are put through a meat grinder.

To understand a part of Turin‘s history and culture, one must know that back in the 50s and 60s there was a huge influx of “immigrants” that arrived in Turin from Sicily, my husband’s family included. In fact, Sicilians arrived in Turin with the hope of finding work and a better way of life. Denis was born in Turin and remembers very well when he invited some of his friends from school over for dinner one night. His mom made pasta alla Norma, a typical Sicilian dish from Catania with fried eggplant, tomato sauce and ricotta salata, or salted ricotta. To his mom’s surprise Denis’ friends who were from Turin had never even heard of the dish!

If you love the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes as much as I do, here’s a recipe for spaghetti col capuliato. If you would like to read the recipe in Italian, click on Rosita’s blog: Questo mondo è una zuppa. 

Ingredients:
Serves 2
 
150 g. Spaghetti, in my case I used linguine
2 tbsp. Capuliato
1 Clove garlic, peeled and minced
Fresh Italian parsley, finely minced, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
Bread crumbs, homemade
Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
 
Procedure:
First, prepare the bread crumbs. I used stale whole-wheat bread along with the crust and placed it into a food processor.  This made approximately 3/4 cup of bread crumbs. Then I gently heated a pan with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and added the bread crumbs along with sea salt, freshly grounded black pepper and dried oregano; all to taste. Stir the crumbs constantly until toasted. Set aside.
 
Prepare the spaghetti in properly salted water but finish the cooking process 2 minutes before the pasta is done. Let sit in the pasta water and begin preparing the sauce.
 
In another sauté pan gently cook the garlic and parsley until you can smell the aroma from the garlic but without browning it. This takes only a minute. Turn the burner off and add the capuliato. Add a ladle of the pasta water to finish the sauce and then add the drained spaghetti and bread crumbs. Combine well until most of the liquid of the sauce is absorbed into the pasta. Should the pasta become too dry, add additional olive oil. Optional: Pepperoncini flakes to taste.
 
Garnish each plate with freshly grated pecorino to taste and serve.
 
Tip: Resist the urge to add more of the capuliato, otherwise the delicate balance of the dish will be overpowered by them.
 
I’ve used capuliato to garnish other pasta dishes where I am looking for an extra hint of tomato flavor or to garnish an assortment of fresh cheeses accompanied with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
 
 
 

Linguine con capuliato

Posted in An American in Turin, Italian recipes, Rachel a Torino, Rachel in Turin, Rachel Steckler O'Kaine | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Soul Food Recipe Exchange Vol. 1

Having grown up in a multi-cultural city like Miami, my “love affair” with soul food initiated at a young age. But it wouldn’t become solidified until I moved to Denton, Texas where I attend the University of North Texas to work on my bachelor’s degree in music. It was there that I was exposed to soul food of another dimension and it became an instant source of comfort food.

And so when Enrica asked me to put some recipes together for her next blog post featuring recipes from foreigners in Italy, I thought that soul food cuisine would be the perfect match. Soul food is nowhere to be found here in Turin; that is, unless you happen to be a guest in our home! After Enrica and I finished our cooking set, some friends were invited over to partake in my culinary adventure. Soul food can tend to be a bit on the heavy side for those not used to it but Piedmont’s cuisine is also quite heavy in comparison with other regions in Italy.

The first stop on my soul food voyage brought me to buttermilk-fried chicken. There are lots of traditional recipes out there, but this one (http://norecipes.com/blog/best-buttermilk-fried-chicken-recipe/) appealed to me the most. One needs to plan ahead when preparing this dish.

Tips:

  • If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, not to worry. For every cup of buttermilk needed, measure one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and place into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to equal one cup and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. When the milk has curdled, it’s ready to use for the marinade.
  • The chicken should be marinated in a non-reactive container, such as glass, overnight.
  • I adapted the recipe to suit my taste and because some ingredients simply aren’t available here. Meaning, I didn’t use any celery seed or onion powder and used fresh rosemary rather than dried.
  • For frying, I used an iron-skillet (cast-iron is difficult to find here in Turin) because it evenly maintains heat. For those who haven’t worked with an iron-skillet before, here’s a word of caution: the handle also conducts heat very well so resist the temptation to touch it with your bare hands.
  • To fry the chicken, I used a mixture of peanut and grape seed oils and brought the temperature up to 350°F before placing the chicken in the skillet, skin side down.
  • Cook the chicken until done and one can finish the cooking process in the oven if the pieces are on the thick side.
  • To serve the chicken, add a drizzle of honey on top!

If you are interested in brushing up on your Italian, here is Enrica’s Italian version. All photos are courtesy of Enrica Crivello.

The marinade

Prepping the Flour

Prepping the flour

Double-coated and resting...

Into the iron skillet they go...

Posted in An American in Turin, Rachel a Torino, Rachel in Turin, Rachel Steckler O'Kaine, Recipe Exchange | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Day Trip to Florence

The last time I was in Florence was almost two years ago. I went there, only for the day, to assist as a translator for my dear friend Yolanda who wanted to meet her Italian-side of the family for the very first time. Since it was such a short trip, I always knew that someday I would visit the beautiful Tuscan city again; to bask in its architecture, cuisine and history.

And so, a few days before Valentine’s Day, Denis surprised me with a fabulous idea: a day trip to Florence! Tren Italia was offering  a special: 2 tickets for the price of 1 on their high speed train.  This meant it would only take three hours to arrive in Florence from Turin. How could we possibly pass this up?

It was a gloriously crisp, winter day in Florence and unlike Turin, snow was nowhere to be found! Our first stop was The Duomo  and then it was Uffizi, which is one of the most famous museums in all of Italy. While we walked along the outer corridor of the museum Denis posed to take a picture with Niccolò Macchiavelli and I took one with Amerigo Vespucci, whom the Americas were named after.

At Uffizi with Amerigo Vespucci

One can walk practically all of Florence and so by this time we were ready for lunch. When Denis asked me to pick a place for lunch I knew right away where I wanted to go. Years ago, a former neighbor/chef  recommended Sasso di Dante. It’s a small restaurant so making a reservation is a must. Sasso means stone in Italian and it lies just next to The Duomo in the Piazza delle Pallottole. It is said that the great poet Dante used to go there to relax and watch the construction of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or the Cathedral of Saint Mary’s Flower.

Sasso di Dante is the perfect non-touristy restaurant in Florence and then some! The food is outstanding, seasonal in typical Florentine fare and the price is exceptional for the value. I ordered their tagliata di maiale di cinta senese con cavolo nero e mela. Cinta senese is a special breed of pork that comes from Siena in the southern part of Tuscany. This particular type of meat makes for some good eats. The pork was cooked to perfection: crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. It came with due contorni or two sides; sauteed kale and apples.

Tagliata di maiale di Cinta Senese

Denis ordered the maltagliati alla chiantigiana. Maltagliati (mal-tahl-YAH-ti) in Italian refers to the shape of the pasta, almost like a free- form pasta which consists of thick strands that are cut in a random fashion. Braised slices of beef were cooked in a delectable red wine (chianti) sauce and the combination was simply devine!

Maltagliati alla Chiantigiana

Sasso di Dante, Piazza della Pallottole, 6r,             telephone: 055 282133

Posted in An American in Turin, Italia, Rachel Steckler O'Kaine, Restaurants in Tuscany | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments