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Category Archives: vacation

Chop chop

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Have a last look. At my glasses. This is the last of the sexy librarian look for me. I get chopped on Friday morning. WHAT?!?! šŸ˜‰ I don’t know what I was looking forward to more about 3 weeks back, our two week long trip to Morocco (some photos up to the right over there in the Instanibble feed, sorry, none of me lounging in the sun with my glasses on), or the laser surgery to correct my vision I will have on Friday morning now that we’re back.

People keep asking, “aren’t you scared?” and really the answer is no. I look at it perhaps a bit too logically? One in 3000 cases is a problem. And the doctors tell me that those cases tend to be the ones where the person wasn’t careful for the couple weeks after the surgery. And why wouldn’t I be careful? The only thing I am mourning right now is the fact that I am not supposed to do any sports for two weeks after the surgery. I can’t imagine that. Morocco was hard enough in the past two weeks where I mostly abstained. First came the election and who can run after those results came in? You just want to lie in bed curled up in a ball. And then there was the fact that I was in a reasonably conservative Muslim country, where I was maybe a bit too self-conscious about putting on the jogging tights and t-shirts in front of a population that might really have an issue with it. I only managed twice during the 12 days we were there. And they were both uncomfortable experiences. Again, maybe just me.

Anyway, we’re back now and IĀ  am cooking again, focusing on vegetables! So much chopping, so many veggies being chopped to smithereens under my sharp knives and thrown into the hot pan. Because oddly enough, even though the Moroccan diet is very healthy, when you go out as a tourist and eat in the restaurants, you’re getting the richest, most calorie laden food out there. Low on vegetables, high on meat protein. Some days I thought about what we had eaten all day and was really disappointed and craving vitamins. Even the cooking class I did there didn’t offer up much in the way of vegetables, which was a bit disappointing.

So yesterday, there was a bastardized version of ratatouille.

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All the basics in there, the eggplant, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, parsley and thyme. But also some chili, some saffron, and in the end I even chopped up a potato finely to help remove some of the burn of the chili. (I was overzealous with chili.) Really simple food, but oh, so satisfying. Meat is off the menu until Saturday evening, when we will celebrate a late Thanksgiving with our American friends here in Munich. A turkey will be served.

I still wanted some more protein in the meal, so I made some Parmesan toasts and sliced a hard boiled egg on top. Perfect light dinner.

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Cooking with Ghosts

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Happy Halloween! Well, a day late, but I started this post yesterday and then got waylaid.

First things first: yummy discovery, care of Christian, who posted a photo of the Chinese junkstreet food goodie he had a few days back and which I then needed to try. Jianbing.

Ummmmmm.

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Basically, a wheat flour crepe, with a fried egg coating…and inside a bit of ginger chicken, a spicy garlic sauce and a crunchy fried cracker to make the eating experience especially toothsome. Pour some nice ginger vinegar sauce on top and you are good to go. Very tasty – being served up at LeDu at Karlsplatz, just a couple S-bahn stations from where I work. But I went over there Monday, a day off – yes yes yes…I am finally getting some holidays, a big relief – during my shopping and running around. There are a couple of them apparently, scattered around Munich. Le Du’s, I mean.

And they must have inspired (?) my dinner this evening. The whole food wrapped up in a pancake thing. I had a craving for Indian food – because of the second source of inspiration, which came from the NYTimes’ special food article for Diwali, where they must have posted about 30 really good recipes for various dishes. And then there was the third inspiration. The Ghosts.

Namely, the Carolina (Ghost?) Reapers, given to me by my friend, Kurt, who knows I like a challenge.

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Look at those babies! Cute! So cute. And so deadly. These are currently the HOTTEST pepper in the world. People try to eat these things whole and go to the hospital.

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I cut one of the itty bitty ones Kurt gave me in half and then in half again. See. No, I didn’t dare to put that in my mouth. I lightly crunched a sliver of that between my two front teeth to see how bad it would be. I spit it out after about 5 seconds and went to find a cracker. It was that bad. But they were indeed very flavorful, if insanely hot. You breath fire for a few minutes, but it is a very fragrant sweet sort of fire. You don’t know what I am talking about…yeah, well, come over for a pepper, needless to say, they are not going very fast. But they’re keeping well.

But….a little bit went into a dish of dal. A bit went into some sauteed cauliflower….a whole small one went into my pressure-cooked chicken. And all in all, we were not gasping for breath at the end of my meal.

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After cooking the chicken, I broke it down into bits and cooked it with some onions and herbs,

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Defrosted some pizza dough and turned it into fake naan…

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And served it up with the cauliflower, dal, some yogurt and an apple and tomato salsa for some Indian Burritos (patent pending šŸ˜‰ )

Which were quite ok.

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How’s that for cooking with ghosts?

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Curry Overload

This is way way overdue. Many apologies. I wonder if I should back-date it, just so there is not a big gaping hole in the blog record. šŸ˜›

And because I am so terribly behind, I will keep this short. Shorter than it should be, especially considering how many different impressions were gathered, sights seen, runs sweated through, flavors tasted, etc. over the course of the two weeks we were in Sri Lanka last year. However, I also don’t want to bore you.

Fruit stand near Columbo airport

Fruit stand near Colombo airport

Did you know that there are over 15 kinds of bananas in Sri Lanka? I didn’t.Ā  My favorite, and I didn’t make my way through all 15 varieties, though I would have loved to have, was the “sour banana.” I wish we could get sour bananas here in Germany. The ones that I eat now taste bland and mushy compared to the fresh, just off the tree sort that we got every day there. Sour bananas are not aptly named – they simply have a nice fruity note to them that “normal” bananas here don’t have. Perhaps a bit of an apple tang. The photo above was taken just minutes from Colombo airport after we arrived there. Our driver-guide pulled to the side of the road and bought us coconuts to drink, bananas to eat, and began to tell us the story of Sri Lanka. Over the course of the next two weeks we heard a lot of stories as we traveled around the country, moving from Colombo to Kandy to Hatton to Galle to Negombo and then back home. But since this is a food blog, I’ll focus there….

Fruit platter for breakfast

Fruit platter for breakfast

Ah – I suppose I could manage one of these every morning here in Munich, but it would be ungodly expensive, take too much time to prepare every day, and wouldn’t be special anymore after a few weeks of it. This was an instance of a fruit platter at our hotel near Hatton, but it looked similar everywhere we stayed – full of mango, passion fruit, papaya, pineapples…

The landscapes were breathtaking, almost everywhere you turned. It rained every day, although we were there during the beginning of the supposed dry season.

River near Kandy during a morning run

River near Kandy during a morning run

Lagoon near Galle I passed when walking to the nearby town, Hikkaduwa

Lagoon near Galle I passed when walking to the nearby town

Dog enjoying view - overlook near Kandy

A friendly dog enjoying view – overlook near Kandy

Same overlook

Same overlook – before the fog cleared

 

The rice paddies near Kandy during morning run

The rice paddies near Kandy during a morning run

An African Tulip tree down the hill near Hatton

An African Tulip tree down the hill near Hatton

The tea plantation hills near Hatton

The tea plantation hills near Hatton, snapped during a morning run

Lake overlook in the Hatton hills

Lake overlook in the Hatton hills

Stormy weather waves in Galle

Stormy weather waves in Galle

Waiting for the train to Hatton in Kandy

Waiting for the train to Hatton in Kandy

And so what you must know about food in Sri Lanka is that there is curry and rice…or rice and curry. Ok, it’s not that extreme. We enjoyed a lot of amazing food – egg hoppers becoming a fast favorite from day 2. What we didn’t know is that if you order a little curry for lunch…just thinking…one dish…you get something like this:

Light lunch - fish curry ordered

Light lunch – fish curry ordered, 6 curries received

And that night for dinner, we had already pre-ordered the curry at breakfast. So we were met with this:

10 curry dinner

10 curry dinner – you get used to not finishing everything they put before you…

There were some common curries that we saw over and over again – chicken curries, red beet curries, coconut sambals, banana flower and casava root curries. But there were also some favorite unique ones – the cashew nut and pea curry was a favorite, as well as the okra curry.

At our second hotel, I ran across this cookbook in the public living room of the place and immediately started snapping pics of interesting looking recipes to try when I got home.

Sri Lankan food cookbook to order?

Sri Lankan food cookbook to order?

And at two of the hotels, I asked for the secret recipes of relishes I really enjoyed – a tamarind relish and an onion relish – both amazing and easy to make.

Upon arriving home, our friends demanded a Sri Lankan dinner as soon as possible. And I swear, after eating curry for two weeks, I was still willing to try out my hand.

Recreating curries at home after the trip

Recreating curries at home after the trip: banana flower, cashew and pea, casava, dal, spinach, rice

One well worth passing on to try is the cashew nut and pea curry. Super simple, and comes together very quickly. Despite the fact that the recipes say you should soak the cashews, there is really really no need.

With a bit of rice or a coconut roti, this alone would be simple savory sweet dinner.

INGREDIENTS

150g cashew nuts
75g frozen peas
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon each: coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder (or more to taste based on how spicy you like it), mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
Curry leaves – nice big handful
2 inches cinnamon stick
3 small red onions (chopped)
Salt to taste

METHOD

  • Saute onions in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until they begin to brown (about 10 min)
  • Mix cashews with all the curry ingredients and cold water then add to the onions and boil until soft (about 15 min)
  • Add peas, mix well, cover and cook another 10 minutes
  • Lastly, mix in the coconut milk and check the seasoning and simmer about 5 minutes
 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in vacation

 

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The girl with half a tongue

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, I admit. In the last weeks I’ve faithfully photographed a number of delicious meals with every intent to post them, and yet….motivation was lacking. But here we are. Motivation found.

So let’s catch up. Miss sourpuss up there was obviously pissed as hell at me for leaving her in the care of a cat sitter for a week. Granted, she always looks a bit pissed off, but there was a note of evilness in that glare that was even a little scarier than usual. While we were off cavorting in the sun (amazing view from the terrace of the house we rented):

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(Dad and Michal probably talking about politics in Israel.)

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(a church in Porto San Paulo I ran by each time I ran on Sardinia),

and moping a bit in the rain:

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(Just before a downpour at a beach about 100 km south of where we were staying)

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(No point in leaving the house that day)

for a week in Sardinia with my parents, the cats sat quietly waiting for our return. And our cat sitter took a photo of them every day and sent it to me…

Ahhhh….Sardinia.

I think this must have been my favorite meal there:

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In just 4 hours I will be at the starting line for the half marathon I am running today. The six weeks of training were rather grueling, mostly the heavy protein diet to quickly drop 10-12 pounds. (Done!). The running felt almost easy compared to that. So the week of pasta in Sardinia was especially wonderful. I must have eaten it every day. Up there – a local pasta shape, I don’t even remember the name of it, with a lamb ragu. Every bite heavenly.

And I came back…and am running a full 45 second per kilometer faster. Hopefully I can hold the tempo for the 21 kilometers today.

I have a date with a pizza tonight. Already I can imagine it…even if I will only be able to taste it…halfway. I still have only “half a tongue,” due to a little accident that my dentist had in my mouth a month ago…when he punched through a nerve with his needle, partially severing it, while giving me anesthetic for some tooth fixing. He tells me…”it should come back (feeling in my tongue, which completely mutes the taste buds on that side and makes half the tongue feel like a giant slug in my mouth) in no more than six months.” By now, I’ve gotten used to it. But….I wish it hadn’t happened.

Getting nervous – a little bit – now…and am busy downloading music to my phone to listen to. And packing the bag I can pick up at the end of the race. And hydrating hydrating hydrating.

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(Can you spot Sardinia?)

Next magnet to come in December: Sri Lanka! šŸ™‚

 

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When it rains in Spain

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I will be the first to admit that the vacation in Spain did not go as planned.

Although, the rain, when it appeared very infrequently, was rather a lovely break from the hot sun, and only once a small inconvenience that can hardly even be called that as the night was over and no one gave a hot damn anymore about if my hair frizzed in the humidity. If they ever did. ;-).

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I guess I could run through the long list of disasters that befell us all, although our stolen luggage was certainly the biggest unexpected blow.

So…for the record and posterity, I will allow the stolen luggage story and all the aftermath of that to simply exist as a “big and very expensive lesson learned,” not unlike the Prague wine story of 2002, thankfully a full dozen years in the past now and continuing to live on through the power of story telling. The upside is that I have a bunch of new clothes, desired or not. Hmm. Anyone ever told you never to leave suitcases locked in a car in a parking lot at a Spanish beach – even for just a quick lunch – take this advice and drag the suitcases into the restaurant, regardless of how ridiculous you might think you look. Your insurance DOES NOT cover much.

But moving on to more important reminiscing.

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The house (thank you, Mom and Dad!) we stayed at was gorgeous, and so wonderfully cool during the day when we were there.

And the horse in the front yard, whatever its name was, provided some great comic relief, as he galloped to greet us every time we got back to the house. Or at least the smell of him did, if he didn’t himself.

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And as we always do, we figured out how to deal with a kitchen that could plate up dinner for 50 if you needed it to, but which sorely needed a coffee maker and some fly screens on the window. But hey, we all learned how to be pretty inventive with a single espresso maker and pots of boiling water. šŸ˜‰

We did manage to cook one Spanish recipe while we were there (thank you, Amy, for bringing the cookbook).

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And I really enjoyed cooking the few nights we did. Spanish recipes or not. California bay leaves, direct from California, made the stews we made heavenly. (Again, thank you Mom and Dad.)

Going out was also largely successful, and I think my favorite meal was the mid-day beach lunch of razor clams, spinach salad, and of course, Paella.

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I was not sorry that I decided against tasting the original ice cream flavors one Gelati store offered up. (Tomato, salt and olive oil ice cream? Hm, no thanks. I’ll stick with cucumber.)

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A tasty finish, even if my sisters were not overly impressed, was the octopus we ordered on the last night. Damn it, maybe wasabi isn’t a Spanish ingredient, but we just don’t get octopus like that in Germany, so I’ll remain happy. šŸ˜‰

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Of course all the eating had to be balanced with exercise (one of the first purchases I insisted on when we started to buy the contents of our stolen luggage was running shoes…which ultimately made me really happy.) Today’s run back on the banks of the cool and shady Isar proved to me that it makes sense to challenge myself more on occasion. Five days of running gentle slopes up and down the Spanish country roads in 33 degrees made today’s jog feel like flying. Hoping the feeling lasts a few more days. (Ok, I know it looks flat, but trust me, there were plenty of non-flat stretches.)

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Best of all, of course, was getting to hang out with my family and see how much all three of my nephews have grown, and how crazy they all are. šŸ˜‰ (Or at least look…in my sunglasses.)

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I wish we’d had a little more time to explore a few towns like Girona. Walking the narrow brick streets was fun, and I look forward to doing it again at some point, after I’ve slept in my own bed for a month at least.

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And that is all. So good night.

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Arancini are for Girls

Roast your beet

Roast your beet

I really wanted to try this recipe. I found it over here, and I do like beets a lot. But they are such a mess to cook, that most of the time I don’t bother. I first had Arancini a few years ago but wasn’t really thrilled. They are basically leftover risotto, which is then rolled up into a ball, breaded and fried. Sometimes they stuff things in the middle, which adds a dimension…and a nice surprise. They can be quite heavy, but a nice sized one can make a good lunch. If they’re not warm, even hot, don’t bother eating them. But when they are, you’ll love them. In Sicily a few weeks back, I tried a bunch of different ones – Ragu filled, spinach and cheese, etc.

I don’t even know if they would do something like this one in Sicily, but they should. šŸ™‚

Roasted beet arancini with goat cheese. Yes, you need some time for this, and it would be best if you made the risotto and then let it sit chilling in your fridge over night. Because rolling these suckers, and then dipping them three times (flour, egg, breadcrumbs), is a tricky thing when your rice is still warm and oozy. Which is of course what I did because I couldn’t wait.

Roast your beet (a big one) in the oven for an hour on 450 F or so. Peel. Puree. Make a standard risotto,

Standard risotto

Standard risotto

and during the last 5 minutes as the rice is getting al dente, add the beet puree.See. Pink. Red. Brilliant. Girls like this color. (I do!).

Beet risotto

Beet risotto

Also feel free to add some chopped up shiso leaf – really delicious and a perfect foil for the flavor of the beet.

Spread the risotto out on a baking sheet to let it cool.

Cooling the risotto

Cooling the risotto

Ideally put it in the fridge and let it get nice and cold over night.

Next, roll the risotto into plum sized balls. Press a piece of goat cheese in the middle.

Making the balls

Making the balls

Stuffing with cheese

Stuffing with cheese

Roll up the ball to cover the cheese, and then roll the whole ball in flour, then scrambled egg, then breadcrumbs (ideally make your own – and keep them coarse to make the arancini crispy.)

Fry. You could deep fry them, but I didn’t want to heat quite that much oil.

Fried arancini draining

Fried arancini draining

Turn them until they are brown on all sides if you pan fry them. I need to see if I could do them in the oven instead.

Serve, eat and enjoy. The original recipe called for a balsamic glaze, but I think just a green salad would have been perfect.

Arancini for dinner

Arancini for dinner

 
 

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Tutto Bene 2

When you have super fresh fish — and I mean FRESH — caught an hour or two back by a local fisherman, sold directly to the fishmonger and put into your hands, freshly cleaned by said fishmonger seconds after you have pointed at it and said “one of those” (or several in our case), the best thing to cook with it is…not at all. And thus, we have the appetizer of Menu Number 2 at the vacation house.

Menu Number 2:
Appetizer: Tuna Tartar with fresh mint
Primi: Linguini Aglio e Olio with breadcrumbs and bottarga
Secondi: Peche Aqua di Mare – fish in water of the sea
Salad: lemons with anchovies
Dessert: Cactus fruit with citrus blossom honey, Granite, 2 kinds – purple mulberry and almond, local plums and grapes

We enjoyed this menu even more than the first – because quite a few of the dishes were really new for us.

Let’s get started. Have a drink of this:

Sparkeling rose to drink

Sparkling rose to drink

This turned out to be a huge surprise, because what happened was…my mother described the wine she had had at lunch to Giuseppe, telling him at length how much she had enjoyed it. He and Esmeralda asked a few questions, trying to identify it, showing her a few photos on an ipad, debating back and forth what it could have been. And then…Giuseppe mysteriously disappeared. And reappeared about 30 minutes later with the wine in hand! Crazy man! (Amazing host šŸ™‚ ). He had gone down to the local village and found the wine to bring it back to my mother and to all of us to drink with our dinner. Talk about hospitality….wow.
Anyway, time to get cooking.

Appetizer: Tuna Tartar.

Prepping the tuna

Prepping the tuna

Truly, there is not much to this. Chop up some fresh mint, chop your tuna into about centimeter-sized cubes. Mix both with some lemon juice and olive oil and salt. Put it in the fridge to rest a bit (perhaps 20 minutes) and then take it out. Drain off the liquid. Add lemon juice and olive oil again and mix. Taste for seasoning – add some fresh mint and a bit of salt if you need it. Plate it up with a slice or two of fresh fennel and some pillows of arugula. Serve with some fresh bread. Or even toasts with a little garlic and salt.

Tuna Tartar

Tuna Tartar

Ummmm. Fresh and good. Taste the sea.

Primi: Linguini Aglio e Olio. (With breadcrumbs and bottarga – tuna roe/eggs)

This is one of the most basic pasta dishes you can make. It only has around 4 ingredients in it. Pasta – boiled in salted water until al dente, as usual. In a pan, some breadcrumbs lightly browned with an anchovy for a few minutes (anchovy removed after) and set aside. Again, in a pan, warm some oil, a clove or two of garlic, and some chili – either fresh or dried – you want to flavor the oil, not toss the pasta with chilies. When your pasta is almost done, drain it and throw it into the pan after removing the chilli/garlic.

Tossing pasta with oil

Tossing pasta with oil

Let the oil gently coat the strands of pasta. Pour in a little of the salted water if necessary to finish the cooking process. When the pasta is glossy, toss it with breadcrumbs and plate it up. Either grate or sprinkle a little bottarga over the top (very salty and fishy – but in a good way),

Bottarga

Bottarga

and serve extra breadcrumbs on the side. Such a simple thing, and so satisfying.

Aglio e Olio with breadcrumbs and bottarga

Aglio e Olio with breadcrumbs and bottarga

And next we must discuss salad. I can’t wait to make this one again. Simple and mouth puckering good. When we discussed this salad, I explained I only knew a similar thing with oranges and fennel and olives. Esmeralda explained that what I was describing was a winter salad, not a summer one. And so here we have it, summer salad in Sicily: lemon salad with anchovies.

Lemon Salad

Lemon Salad

Slice the skin off all your lemons and then slice them thin. I will make them even thinner than in the picture next time. Chop up some green onions, chillies and anchovies. Sprinkle them over the top. Cover with some streams of olive oil. A little salt. Done. Sour! and Salty! but sooo soo good.

The secondi this time was a dramatic thing. Here we have a Pauro fish – local. Very flavorful, and this guy was big – enough to feed at least 6 people with all the dishes we had.

Paoro fish

Paoro fish

It was put in a big oven dish with a sheet of parchment covered with some olive oil. In went salt water – ideally you use sea water, but if not, just tap water with salt – and a big glass of white wine. A few tomatoes cut in half, a clove of garlic and a leaf of basil. Some sprinkles of chili. Turn your oven all the way up to 200 Celsius and let this fish bake for an entire hour. It will come out moist and perfect. Filet it carefully and pile the fish chunks onto plates along with a drizzle of olive oil and a little of the liquid the fish poached in. Also note: you can use that liquid in your pasta the next day as a base!

Secondi: Pesche Aqua di Mare

Secondi: Pesche Aqua di Mare

Pure flavors of the sea on a plate.

And finally, dessert. Three of them. (Oye!)

Peeled cactus fruit

Peeled cactus fruit

First one – go outside and pick cactus fruit from your cacti. You don’t have cacti? Pity. Because after you pick them, you carefully remove the skin and simply place a fruit on a plate with a spoonful of honey that has been made with citrus blossoms from your orchard. You don’t have a citrus orchard?! Waaaa? Ok. Buy some honey. Buy some cactus fruit. Or alternatively you might use….a kiwi? That might work. Dip the fruit in the honey. Lovely. Light. Refreshing.

Refreshing is the key word for the second dessert. The amazing local ices they call “Granite.” A million flavors. But the flavor you absolutely want is Almond. No question. All this stuff is, is sugar and ground up almonds/milk from almonds frozen into a slushy kind of format. You eat it with a spoon/you slurp it with a straw. They sell it everywhere. What we learned is that the Sicilians eat it for breakfast. No lie. They get it and pour a scant teaspoon of espresso over the top of it (sooooo delish), and scoop it up with sweet brioche bread. I didn’t try it that way but I can oh…so…imagine how lovely it is.

Mulberry and Almond Granite

Mulberry and Almond Granite

 

Or course for our hosts, ONE flavor was not enough. They treated us to two – Mulberry in Italian is apparently “Gelsi” – and you can get the white or the purple mulberries. It was very nice as well, but the almond with the espresso blew it away. Really, I could eat a scoop of it right now and it’s freezing here in Munich.

Apparently it’s quite easy to make with some marzipan. I need to look into a recipe and maybe even try it out on Thursday or Friday.

Our third dessert was fruit again – local plums and red grapes. Sweeet and refreshing as well.

And that’s a wrap. Our second amazing dinner with the D’ursos. Thank you again: Esmeralda, Sandra, Giuseppe. We look forward to cooking with you again!

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Italy, vacation, Wine

 

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