And I Came Home...

And I Came Home...

Just over a year ago, I decided I needed a hiatus. A change. A chance. Something new. Utterly different. Something to slap me in the face and wake me up. A few months ago, an opportunity landed on my lap; it sounded too good to be true. And, it was! Too Good and Too True! :)

The long and short of it, is that I spent 9 months living outside US, for the most part based in Italy, traveling Europe, Asia and collecting information about cultures, peoples' values, real life experiences, what food means to people in different spaces in life and the world,.... and, yet how similar we all are.

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A Frontyard Picnic

A Frontyard Picnic

So, I had this all planned out. I was going to make this awesome picnic spread with the products the lovely folks at Trois Petit Cochon sent across. Their picnic basket makes for a fantastic board as is but I decided to dare it up further. Then, me and partner were going to carry it to Astoria park, sit amidst the trees with a view of the bridge. I was going to uncork a nice bottle of chilled Rosé, pour into proper flutes (we don't do paper cups in our thirties.. we buy hampers with checkered cloth liners and leather straps to hold things together... #noirony), lean back and enjoy the afternoon. It was the pre-Memorial day picnic just right to ease into the Summer groove.

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Mushroom Carbonara

Mushroom Carbonara

If there is one thing I have learnt living in Italy for nearly a year and being in close contact with the original Italian food culture is that they are very protective of it and very very attached to the past and the old, traditional way of doing things. Which means, limited to zero tolerance to changing their beloved dishes.

The question in my mind is where is the line between innovation and tradition? When is it unnecessary to tinker with something that isn't broken and when is the need or desire?

Meanwhile, I present to you an ultimately blasphemous dish to you... Mushroom Carbonara. Which, is one, vegetarian and two has rosemary in it! Shhh! Yet, the mushrooms offer a earthy groundedness similar to what the guanciale would. If you are an orthodox Italian, I beseech you to try it before you turn your nose up at it. :)

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Emilia Romagna senza Parmiggiano!

Emilia Romagna senza Parmiggiano!

During that hike when I was in Castelnuovo dei Monti, I picked up some pepperoncino pecorino. Yes, that would be the influence for the quintessential American pepperjack cheese! Paired with Italian staples - cured pork (truffle sausage here), bread (Sardinian Pane Carasau, the flat bread typical of the region) it was a match made in heaven! Lunch then was a simple affair of quick cooked sauce tomatoes with a little hint of chilli, sliced sausage and then topped with steamed broccoli and shavings of pecorino with a side of the pane! 

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Tart or Crostata?

Tart or Crostata?

On the face of it, it is simply fruit ensconced in pastry. The French call it Tart and the Italians call it Crostata and well... while we are at it, the Americans/Brits Pie. Beyond that higher similarity, though, there are deep differences - in technique, meaning and reflection of each culture. The Tart for example is the most technical and the crostata the most forgiving and the pie in between, a blend of technique and comfort. 

Today's subject is a simple fruit pie made with a pastry is slightly French, slightly Italian, inspired by the amazing prune (jam) crostatas I devour here and the lattice design they typically have on top!

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