10 August 2008

This blog has moved FOREVER

Finally! After 2 months of intese coding, here is my new home!

The move was smooth and painless!

I would like to thank you all my followers here, and asking them to kindly change the link to my new blog! You'll find everything there, even new stuff, wow!

I would like to thank very much mr. Blogger, but after I briefly met mr. Wordpress during the WordCamp in Milan, last May, well, what can I say, wordpress rule!!! Code is poetry, afterall!

See you in my new home!

30 July 2008

Daring Bakers: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

I grew up in a home surrounded by a garden. Just outside the window of my bedroom there was, and still is, a big hazelnut tree. simple branches during the winter, but a lot of leaves from spring! It's one of my favourite tree, not because is beautiful or anything, but simply because it witnessed a lot of what was going on in my life! I used to do everything in my bedroom, except eating and watching tv :)
I remember entire afternoons spent picking up hazelnuts from the ground, together with my dog... I remember entire afternoons eating them too! :)
And I remember one of our dogs eating them with much pleasure! He was cracking the shells with his teeth and eating the hazelnut inside, all happy for the compensation of his efforts!
All this to state that hazelnut were part of my everyday late summer life for all my childhood!
Since I don't live any more with my parents hazelnut appear in our home only during Christmas time. A big Italian tradition is to end every meal during Christmas and New Year celebrations with a dish filled with nuts, to crack them while chatting around the table or playing cards...
So I wan very pleased when I saw this new Daring baker recipe!!!

And the final result was astonishing! I made it for the 60th birthday of my dad and all my family was superpleased! My aunts and uncles were all happy :)

Daring bakers make the world happy :)

PS: I know the picture is not up to the normal standards, but we were in a crowded restaurant and you know how people react when you take picture of food, don't you? But it shows the layers :)

PS2: I know it's 1 moth I do not update the blog, I know I haven't yet finished the Morocco Series, but I started a new job and I still have to find a routine... But I will! :)

29 June 2008

Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

Danish braid

One summer afternoon, Sara-Piperita goes to her usual Support Group: Anonymous Daring Bakers Challenged With Some Basic Preparation, ADBCWSBP (meetings every end of the month, day vary).
As usually, she meets with her fellow companions (some very skilled!!!), but this time is her turn to step in front of everybody and speak about the dreadful challenge of all...
"Hi, my name is Piperita and I'm puff pastry (and similar) challenged..."
A cheerful "Hi Piperita" comes from the audience...
Then she begin, tears dropping form her eyes, to tell her story...
"My problems with puff pastry began many years ago. Everybody love to make puff pastry. And many people told me that it is so simple that even a child can do it... I never could... I was always too hasty, or too afraid, or the room was too hot, or the pastry simply wouldn't puff...
I tried many recipes, work it in many ways, but nothing: I simply couldn't... It has always been one of the big flaws of my life..."
When she finishes, everybody stand up and begin to hug her... She feels sightly relived...
Then Kelly and Ben come up to the group and they begin to explain that they have the perfect recipe for Danish puff pastry. [Danish is slightly different form "normal" puff pastry, as it uses yeast to boost puffness...]
Piperita begins to cry again, mummling: "No, no, I possibly cannot... I even tried Nigella Lawson's recipe for Danish, where she allegedly says it's possible to make it with a mixer, with not so many turns and time, but even with that easy peasy recipe, I couldn't!"
Kelly and Ben try to comfort her, to convince her to give a try...
She finnaly surronder...
Sara- Piperita gave a try to Kelly and Ben Danish pastry...
Sara-Piperita isn't anymore afraid of Danish pastry or puff pastry!
Sara-Piperita succeded!!!
Now she can concentrate on the rest of her unberable flaws...


23 June 2008

The world of wine would be safe forever if everybody would work like...


Marco Sara, a young wine maker from Friuli, one of the eastern region of Italy: he has just 3 acres and he make just 3 wines: Picolit, Mufis and Verduz! One better than the other! My husband, who is a sommelier and he's acknowledged among our acquaintances as a fierce wine critic, after trying them, said: "Astonishing!" That was a first, I can tell you! Thanks to Filippo Ronco, who told us we should try them!
Marco Sara's wines

Or like Emidio Pepe, a wine maker from Abruzzo, making bio-dynamic wines that will last for ever, like the astonishing Trebbiano d'Abbruzzo 2001 we were lucky enough to have at La rucola in Sirmione: a white that had no problem to cast all its flavors even over roasted lamb.
Emidio Pepe's wines

Or like Villa Corniole and its bronze colored Pinot Gris, made from a maceration on its skins for a few days : a color and a taste that you'll remember for the rest of your life...
Villa Cornelie's wines

We had the pleasure and the honor to try those and many other wines at Terroir Vino, an interesting fair of wine producers mainly from Italy (but there were two French, and you could feel the different approach with communication: French are, astonishing enough, so nice when they come to wine speech!).
Forget Vinitaly and its Barnum circus: get back to basic! A desk, few bottles of wine, some pieces of Ligurian focaccia, and your glass: that will make your day and your tasting experience!

12 June 2008

Day 5 to 6 Meknes and the King

Bab Monsour and Sunset

[Discalimer: I know I came back from Morocco like ages ago, but I know you want to know more about our adventures there ;) and by the way, I'm cooking almost nothing lately, so... :P]

Leaving Fès, I decide to enter fully in Moroccan life: I bought a newspaper! We consulted our guide on which newspaper we should buy: not too much on the side of the king, not too Muslim, not too rightish... I know: we are crazy! We always look for the local counterpart of Manifesto or Liberation!!! And in French, of course, as neither of us could read Arab...
I anyway ended up with the wrong one (I'm capable of forgetting the title of a newspaper in 10 meters walk), on the side of the king, whom, by the way, is a very cool and good looking person, so it was kind of ok!
And we discover, just 4 minutes before to take the train to Meknes that the king would be there, in Meknes, for the agricultural forum during the same days we would be there! How exiting!!! On paper... Because at the end we just had two glimpses of his car and nothing else...
Back to our trip!
By the time we arrive in Meknes I have the biggest flu of last year: hate Moroccan thermal excursion! So I don't remember much from the city...
I reckon it as something beautiful, with no too many tourists and all festive for the king...
I think there were some amazing monuments, as usually, but I was sniffing my nose constantly...
There is one thing I remember vividly: the Riad we went to!
Riad Feloussia, and Lionel and Sonia, its owners!
The Riad has only 2 bedrooms, one more beautiful then the other! the restoration of the Riad was undertaken by the owners altogether with Moroccan architects and carpenters, using traditional materials and trying to preserve the original feeling of the place! The bathroom in our room was bigger then our sitting room at home!!!
They even have a terrace looking on the main square: a treat you'll want to enjoy even under the midday sun!
Uh, something I remember: not far from Meknes lays Volubilis, a Roman archaeological site! Very nice... Very hot and sunny, but very nice!

Volubilis and a French man with an italian hat! ;)

Uh, something else: Christians prisons! Creepy!!!

Christian prisons

Ah, and of course we got lost, somewhere, looking for an exit, but fooling ourselves inside a labyrinth of streets and covered alleys... We really felt inside a scenario of Prince of Persia! (actually I was constantly saying it... ;D)

We ate both on the street (in Meknes they have the best bread we ever tried in Morocco), in restaurants (Le Collier de la Colombe, where we had as a dessert a Pastilla au lait which was AMAZING!!!) and at the Riad.

Pastilla au lait

At the Riad we had the pleasure to eat camel tajine (actually dromedary): kudos Zora, the Moroccan girl who cooked it!!!

For more pictures, here!

30 May 2008

Food 2.0 NomNomNom

Give me cake!!!!

Sunday 18th May 2008 I was here, teamed with her, doing this.
We cooked all this.
We where among other people, all cooking astonishing meals!
Everything was organized by her in partnership them, with some outstanding sponsors!
I spoke about it here and here (Italian version) and there we published our entry even here (recipes included!!!And thanks to Julia for the wonderful job she did!)!
We had fun! Loads of fun!!!

Now, after the tasting competition (which we won!!!!! Yeah!), there is the on-line competition. And as you have just one food blogger in your mind, and you love her so much, GO and vote for us! We Need you!!!

P.S. I know this entry is kind of cryptic, but is there a best way to oblige you to go around the net than giving you cryptic hints???? ;)

28 May 2008

Daring Bakers: Opera


Opera is a dessert I always wanted to try, but never found the courage! It is one of those dessert so complicate dan with so many different passages and layers, that, honestly, if it wasn't for the Daring Bakers, I would probably be still here wondering about it!
Funny thing is that before to make it, I wanted to compare the given recipes, a mix of Dorie Greenspan and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty's recipes, with the French recipes, but I couldn't find it!
Among my cook book collection, I have to French desserts bibles: Ph10, by Pierre Hermè and Larousse de desserts. None has the recipe for Opera. And that looked strange, given the fact that both books are filled with monstrous recipes, so difficult that sometimes I read them, I think about them I dream them, but I do not dare making them (and I'm not revealing which one is the most dreaded, because it will be my choice for the Daring bakers challenge I'm going to host in 2009!)! I wanted to have a look at the French recipe not because I wanted to change the recipe of the challenge, but just for comparison. Has it never occurred to you to have in front of you a recipes, especially desserts, and want a "second opinion", just to be sure, just to have a different view? To me it happens all the time!!! :)
So my only reference for this traditional French dessert were American recipes! Perfect! I mean, my French husband wasn't so sure about it, but I mean, is HE the daring baker??? No, he's not, he's just French! :P
And as the recipe turn out PERFECT, he could say nothing!!!!

The only problem I had was the fault of the white chocolate: I like the taste (even if sometimes it tastes too much of vanilla!) but I hate working it! It spoils in a matter of seconds!

I did a big rounded cake (jelly rolls are rare and difficult to find in Italy), and bakes the joconde in 3 different pan: 2 of the same size and one tinier, as I had only 2 pan of the same size.
But I solved the discrepancy among the 2 different size with blueberries!
My layers, from bottom to up:
- joconde, big size (wet with syrup)
- buttercream
- joconde, little one (wet with syrup), with a round of blueberries on the side
- buttercream, covered with blueberries
- joconde, big size (wet with syrup)
- chocolate mousse
- chocolate glaze

As it was made of different joconde size, I had to restrain the cake in a ring, so I could fill it in a easier way.
Of course, as usually, I unmoulded to fast, and the chocolate glaze went on the side... After this challenge I can say with no doubt that I'm not cut for good and perfect looking desserts: I just cannot! I'm a pasticciona!!! (that in italian means kind of goofy but that makes mess all the time!)

19 May 2008

Day 3 to 4 Up and down Fès


First we went down, then up, by another street, and then down again, to the bottom, and then, too tired to go up again, we took a petit taxi to go up... And like this for 3 days. And we didn't get tired of it... I would go up and down in Fès for ever!
Even on a busy Sunday evening, pushed by everybody, shove by (stinky) donkeys and (rude) porters.
Because in Fès they push! All the time! And after 2 days you stop too to say "pardon" (French pronunciation, remember!)!

Medina, Fès

That's strange, because in Paris and Milan they push you all the time, but I don't stop to say "Scusa" or "Pardon" and I get always pissed by rude people all the time. Especially in Paris, in the underground: gosh, they are SO rude...
But in Fès no, they are not rude (except porters), they simply do not have the same concept of physical space we have: they are not afraid to touch a stranger in the street, they are not afraid of physical contact, they are not afraid of people. They smile, they chat, they walk around, for leisure or going to work or school, always smiling.

From the terrace, Fès

And if you had the enormous fortune to live in Fès, well, you would smile too!
We left our hearts in Fès! It is the most beautiful city we have been in Morocco, where we had our first understanding of Moroccan life, our first real touch of what life is there.
It's very difficult to describe it, but it's the most fascinating city I ever been too. You cannot see it or understanding in 1 or 2 days. Even 3 are not enough. It's tiny, but mesmerizing.

From the terrace, Fès

And our personal advice is to save money, eating in the street, to be able to go and eat to Le Palais de Fès, on their terraces! The food is amazing, but the view is what is important... That view... It will never leave my mind... Ever... Le Palais de Fès does not have sign outside his door. Once you arrive down down and you arrive at R'Cif, and it looks like you are going out of the Medina but you are not, you arrive on a main street (don't bother to look for singpost: there aren't), follow it, and soon you'll find on your right a cinema. There is a little square before the cinema. From the center of the square, cinema on your right, main street behind you, you'll see a door, surrounded by green ceramics. That's the entrance to the restaurant. Then you go up and up and up...
Palais de fés collage

And be brave and go down until you find a part of the city tourist less, le quartier Andalous, on the eastern border of the Medina, and you can see real Morocco... And you eat a lot of nice, simple and tasty stuff, for nothing, as usual!!!
So tasty I couldn't wait to take a bite of the potato puff before to take the picture!!! :P

The Fry Fair of Fés

P.S. There is a way to enjoy Fès without the pushing: take a walk around 8am! Unforgettable!!!

Outside the Medina, Fès

For the whole set of pictures, here!

15 May 2008

Day 2 Rain going to Fès

Sunset in Fès, Bab Bou Jeloud

We took the bus at 6.45 am and leave Marrakech on a cold but sunny morning.
We have in front of us 8 hours of bus ride, in the mountains. Fun!
As soon as we leave Marrakech and we begin to go up, the weather changes and it becomes grey, rainy and cold!

On the road to Fès

We freeze in the bus, we freeze during the 3 stops we are allowed to go out of the bus to eat!

Mint tea and not as good as it looks pastry

First stop in the middle of the mountains, for breakfast: mint tea and some kind of patisserie. And, on the contrary of what you can think about looking at those pictures, the best thing was not the pastry in the back of the tea, but the rounded mega biscuit, that we called polentone: made mainly of butter and semolina, it's delicious!


Back in to the bus, next stop in Kenifra for lunch (no picture, too cold!).
You have to know that on our first draft of our tour we wanted to make a night in Kenifra, just to cut in two the long journey to Fès. When we went to consult the lady of the Moroccan tourist office in Milan, she asked us why on earth we would like to stop there, as it was a city (more village) with nothing to see. My answer was (with a dreaming tone!): Because we want to watch real moroccan life goes by... She gave me one of the strangest look I've ever seen!
On second thought we decided we couldn't waste 1 entire day there, so we ended up doing the whole trip at once.
And, honestly, I do not know if it was the rain or the mud caused by the rain, but thank god we decided not to stop!!! Let's say we didn't have the best impression of the city and the tourist office lady was absolutely right!
Then the road again, the rain again and at last, Fès!
I do not want to spoil you all the wonderful thing we saw and we did in Fès. Allow just to say that if one day we really decide to go to live in Morocco, Fès will be our first choice, above ALL.
I give just a bite for now! Mind: it was sunset!
Sunset in Fès

Sunset in Fès, Bab Bou Jeloud

And then we ate our first Moroccan sandwich, made of marinated meat (with onion, garlic, coriander and other spices difficult to sort out), grilled in front of you, and actually in front of the butcher too, and filling the wonderful Moroccan bread (you can see it in the back) all together with a spicy sauce! Delicious!!! Shall i tell you how much was it? I dunno, because maybe you won't believe me... We ate in the street, walking, and we bought from a stall where there was all moroccan people... And I think we pay it anyway more then Moroccan do, but it was 2 euros for 2 big sandwiches... Nothing!


For the whole set of pictures, here!

08 May 2008

Day 1 Marrrakesh, a first bite

Riad An nur, Marrakech

We left home on a Friday night, heading to my parents home, in Varese, where we left the cat and we slept few hours before leaving for the airport (Malpensa is much nearer to my parents house then to our home in Milan) at 4.30 am on a Saturday.
3 hours flight with EasyJet from Milan to Marrakech, just the time to chat with a nice Moroccan woman living in Italy and traveling to her parent's house in Beni-Mellal, half way between Marrakech and Fès, as we will discover the day after...
We land in Marrakech the early morning of a wonderful sunny saturday (Morocco is two hours behind Italy) and we catch the bus heading to the city.
It's a short ride, 20 minutes at most, to arrive to the souther part of the famous Place Jemaa El Fna, which we do not explore then, but we begin to look for our riad: a little treat we indulge ourselves, as it will be the most expensive of all our trip.
The riad is on the map of the Guide Vert Michelin, but we soon discover, in the wrong location. Really in the wrong location!
But mind: we are still naive, we do not yet know how to act with "helpful" Moroccans...
And you have to know that Medinas, the Moroccan old city centers, are a labyrinth of noisy, narrow and cul-de-sac streets, with few exits and you get easily lost. And there isn't street names... And when there are street names, they are in Arab alphabet...
We were approached in the street by an old lady (you can normally trust women in Morocco, but they rarely speak to strangers) whom speaks only arab. She's trying to help us, we understand. So when she turn to a young guy explaining him (we suppose, as the conversation is in Arab) we are trying to find Riad An Nur, we gladly think that in the end, what all the travel guides tell you, is not really true: people in Morocco are genuine helping strangers in the street...
And of course we were WRONG. The young guy put us in the hands of another young guy who tells us to follow him. We of course follow him. But after 20 minutes going endlessly around the labyrinth, with no clear aim and we the feeling that he's just trying to making us feel even more lost, we decide we do not need is "help" anymore and we prefer to call the riad for specific directions.
But this guy is still following us, saying he know where to bring us, he knows where the riad is, he's helping us...
We kindly tell him, please, don't worry, we call the riad and they'll come to pick us up, thanks for your help... Nothing. He doesn't go away. And I tell you that the situation is beginning not only to piss us off, but to worry us...
We call the riad and the gentleman on the phone tell us to wait for him in front of the "bureau de tabac" (tobacconist). Only we do not find a bureau the tabac, because the guy that was trying to "help" us listened to everything, he's ahead of us and (supposedly) saying to everyone to give us wrong direction. We asked to the bureau de tabac if it was one, but they told us, no, sorry, we are not... But they were!
After looking around for 20 minutes, always followed by the guy, we finally find the riad gentlemen, Faissal whom get rid of the strange guy in a sec...
From that day we learned that never, under any circumstance, you should trust anyone who's approaching you in the street in Morocco. They seem nice, they smile at you, but all they want from you is money for nothing. They do not care about you, they do not care you are lost. They are just after your money, as a tip or a percentage on a selling or a room, in a way or another they just want your money. Sure they are not just trying to help.
Anyway, after this weird start, we enter the riad, and WOW!

Riad An nur, Marrakech

First of all, there is silence.
Then it's fresh, calm, clean...
It's a paradise, with a luxurious garden, wonderful suites, shadowy patios and sunny roof top...
And then,suddenly, we are affected by what we called "The Riad syndrome": you don't want to go out any more. You just want to stay there, lying on the bed, or on the sofa, or on the terrace, taking a refreshing shower, or a nap, or just reading... You want the riad be your home. Forever.

Riad An nur, Marrakech

But deep deep inside you, you know you cannot...
And so you go out of the door and boom: another world, another dimension! Noise, children loudly playing in the street, mopeds with their noisy horns, people trying to get you in their shop... But you begin to adjust and you like the outside too, because at the end you know you have a refuge...
Anyway, we forced ourself to go out because we had to eat and to buy the ticket for next day bus to Fès.
So we go to the bus station. And suddenly, again, people asking us, in any language "where do you have to go?" And I'm almost starting to answer, but then I think why someone should care? And so we decide to ignore them: we knew, from the travel guides, it was better to travel with CTM, because all the others companies have very poor services. We find the CTM ticket counter and we buy our tickets for the day after 7 am bus to Fès: 8 hours of bus riding...
Then we head to Place Jemaa El Fna to eat.
We survey some stalks (constantly harassed by everybody, trying to convince us to eat at their place) and we chose one full of Moroccan people.
We have our first tajine de poulet au citron (Chicken with confit lemon Tajine) and grilled meat, with bread.
Bread was the most amazing discover of Morocco: the best we've ever tried! And you know why? Simple: is cooked in a wood oven. But I have time to tell you all about it!
Finally we can head back to our paradise!
A paradise with a kitchen, where, for not too many dirham (at least not compare to Europe, but a lot compare to the Morocco), you can have your dinner, cooked expressly for you by the riad cook (whom is normally the woman housekeeping the whole facility too). Moroccan cuisine, of corse! Salads, tajine, fruit salad, mint tea.

A luxury we'll experience again during our trip!

Minaret, Marrakech

Next, Day 2 Rain going to Fès

P.S. Let's say I wasn't SO inspired when I wrote this entry! ;) I hope to be less boring and more catchy with the following! :)