Monday, February 22, 2010

Magnetic Poetry Monday

It's a fine tradition in our house . . . so every Monday will now be Magnetic Poetry Monday at Erzulimojo. . . and it's good to start with the knowledge that spring is in the air.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rainy Day: in and out

The day started with some determined organizational urges.  I want to jettison all, um realistically, most of the ugly plastic tubs we are using for storage. Even though we sent a good half of our things to storage before we left Virginia,  we still brought too much.  No basement + no garage + no attic = no storage.  We don't even have an extra room.  For this packrat, especially this crafty packrat, it's been challenging.  Here's a photo of my effort to go from six plastic tubs of fabric to three.  I put a good many pieces in the donation pile . . . m-u-s-t n-o-t r-e-v-i-s-i-t t-h-o-s-e d-e-c-i-s-i-o-n-s. I've controlled myself thus far.

After destashing and a few loads of laundry using my trusty, squeaky dryer (oh the indulgence of that in this land of clothes lines), cabin fever started to set in.  Everyone bundled up and we headed for the Pozzuoli waterfront.  Pozzuoli has two waterfronts: one is the harbor area which curves round Pozzuoli bay and the other is a straight rocky stretch with an esplanade seen in the below photo.

We usually gravitate to the more convivial and commercial alleys and streets of the harbor, but today we turned decided to brave the wind on the esplanade.  Thus, you find us storm tossed; Monte de Procida providing a scenic backdrop. Emily, taken with the evocative view, didn't hear the call for a quick shot.

All good outings end at a cafe. On this afternoon, we took uncertain shelter under a cafe awning for sodas (or cafe macchiato in my case) and a plate of nibbles.  Lily had brought Flora with her as you can see below.  Can you believe that accident prone doll had another mishap?! This time she plunged into a puddle.  Thankfully, she's recovered nicely.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Flora gets her groove on.

Lily's next sewing venture included making a casing and inserting elastic.  And she created a dress that suits her pink-haired revamp of Flora a bit better than yesterday's flowered frock.

Valentine's Day at home

A steady rain was falling this morning, so my friend Molly and I were deterred from our now regular outing to the nearby Sunday flea market.  We took consolation in a local thrift store which resulted in fur acquisitions for both of us. I know, I know.  But they are secondhand . . . and I'm not a vegan and only a sometime vegetarian.  The particulars are a fluffy black coat for Molly and these black furry boots for me.  They are so warm and comfortable that I've had them on all day.  The kids like to pet them.

In the afternoon, Jon and I implemented a "divide and conquer" strategy.  He headed off with the older two and friends for a showing of Avatar, while Lily and I made ourselves busy in my craft room.  We had some serious hospital work to do on a doll that had had an unexplained misadventure with scissors, to include the near amputation of a leg.

Lily and I collaborated on a complete restoration of Flora who had come to us originally from Colonial Williamsburg, donning a mob cap and apron.  Lily thought she should go in a different direction.  After some restuffing, leg repair, and replacing of her locks (in PINK!), Lily picked a rosy pink floral cotton from my scrap bag for a new dress.  She handed the fabric to me and then started away to busy herself with her stuffed animals.
"Lily, I think you can sew this dress yourself for Flora," I told her.
"But I don't know how to sew." she replied.
"Well, let's teach you now. You can do it," I said.

We cut a simple tunic shape from the folded fabric and then I helped her sew up the sides and sleeves, stitch by careful stitch.  A quick turn to right side out and the addition of the ribbon belt completed Flora's new look.  Lily was overjoyed with the results.

She and I set a lovely Valentine table (featuring my other thrift shop find -- a Scandinavian looking vase), some fabric and pipe cleaner napkin rings designed by Lily, and a vintage embroidered cloth.

Then I set to work on a dinner of Giada di Laurentis' Fra Diavola Shrimp, Pumpkin Risotto, and a big green salad (liberally festooned with buffalo mozzarella).  With perfect timing, Jon, Emily, and Quinn arrived home with much to talk about.  It was a lovely Valentine celebration.

Here's my Pumpkin Risotto recipe:
1 medium onion
2 tbsn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 can pureed pumpkin
1/4 tspn nutmeg
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
Combine water and broth in large pyrex measuring cup and warm in microwave for 2 minutes. In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in the butter and oil until transparent.  Add the Arborio rice and cook a couple minutes to coat rice with butter and oil.  Add wine. Cook until absorbed, stirring often.  Add one half warmed broth/water mix and cook, stirring often, until absorbed. Add second half and repeat.  Add the pumpkin, nutmeg, cream, and cheese.  Stir and cook a few more minutes.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We still make our own pizza . . . even in Italy.

It's a joy to go out for pizza here, especially the first six months. I've learned so much about the language of pizza . . . what's a quattra stagioni, a romana, a purist's margherita, and how great melanzana (eggplant) tastes on a pizza . . . and that there is even a common pizza (an abomination) with sliced hot dogs and french fries on it.
It's impossible not to admire the elaborate pizza ovens, usually beautifully tiled and prominently displayed.  They are wood-fed kilns that fire the beauty that is Napoli pizza. Soon enough it's time to branch out into the pastas and the salads.  There will be be one culinary revelation after another culinary revelation  And then it slowly dawns . . . uh, where's the Chinese food, the Thai, the Greek, the Japanese, the Indian, the MEXICAN!!! And this jaded American palette will pine for the great inclusiveness of our restaurant fare, indeed, even our supermarket fare. (woe is me, why can't I pick up some stuffed grape leaves from Whole Foods)  And it's a pining that must remain unrequited by a restaurant or ready-made food here.

Italians are devoted to their native cuisine -- all that talk about latin infidelity? Nonsense!  They are food monogamists, unwaveringly true to Mama's cooking.

Fortunately, I love to cook (most nights), so we savor mostly Indian, Mexican, and Chinese fare in our house . . . I have a pretty extensive repertoire in each of those beautiful food disciplines and am always seeking more standards to add to my range.  Also, we shop at the commissary with its extensive stock of ethnic staples (completely unavailable in the markets here).  One telling moments occurred our first week here when an Italian cashier at the commissary held up my fresh ginger and asked me earnestly what it was and how I cooked with it.  I told her it was used like garlic (and with garlic) for flavor and mimed grating it.  She looked unconvinced that it was a food and not a flower tuber.

But now we've even resumed cooking pizza at home  . . .  a frequent occurrence back in Virginia.  There I invariably used Ken Haedrich's earthy whole-grain dough (from his book Country Baking).  But influenced by the purists that are Napoli pizza makers, I more often use a standard white flour dough here with
1-1/2 cups warm water
1 tbspn dry yeast,
3-1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 tbspn olive oil
a sprinkling of salt
Let the  yeast and water foam for five minutes, add everything else -- and if you are lazy like me, you turn on the old Kitchenaid mixer (mine dates from 1972 -- an amazing $10 garage sale coup) and start chopping salad stuff.  Or knead steadily for several minutes.  When it looks and feels like an elastic dough, stop kneading or stop the Kitchenaid, and watch last night's Daily Show on the computer . . . then divide the dough in two and roll, toss, press, or otherwise convince the white stuff to cover two medium pizza pie pans (liberally sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina flour if you have it on hand).
This is the moment when being in Italy has its definite advantages.  Last night we loaded our pies with  buffalo mozzarella (Naples is famous for it), aged Asiago cheese, prosciutto, chopped green peppers and wonderful marinated mushrooms that I found in a big jar at the local market. Bake these for 20-25 minutes in a 500 degree Farenheit oven -- pans on bottom rack.
I forgot to take a photo before everyone dug in, but this is what remained.

You can see our pizza pans have been lovingly used for many years . . . indeed I got them from our Italian neighbors when we lived in student housing at U of Michigan.  Thank you Agnes . . . they have served me well for 10 years!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Post Birthday Determination

I've scuttled a year of blog possibilities in Italy this year. And I'm kicking myself. But it's time to move forward and recommit to this venture. A quick recoup of the year in travels since we arrived in Naples in January '09. I'm limiting myself to a single picture from each destination. But this overlooks so much and so many other occasions -- wonderful visits, local adventures, and mundanities. Yet I'm using this as a way of wiping the slate clean so I can lurch forward, and make room for such reveries and musings as this new year begins. Quaranta sette: bring it on!
Germany (March '09)

Croatia (July '09)

Crete (October '09)

Rome (October '09)

Florence (November '09)

Padua/Euganean Hills (December '09)