27 April 2006

Breakfast Sins...

I took a day off work today to study for my last exam of my last course (Intermediate Italian Language) to finally finish off an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Toronto--about time! I started off at the Uni of Waterloo at the faculty of Environmental Studies, but transferred back to Toronto after an isolating year. I found Waterloo to be a nice enough town, but there wasn't much to do for someone with little affinity for pub crawls. My second and third years I finished pretty much full- time, then I began to work and study part time in the evenings.

Regarding the breakfasts, I don't know why but hearty sweets are so reassuring in the morning, serving to tempt you out of bed and onto a new day of effort. I always make sure to have a fruit in the morning (maybe to compensate) and another necessary feature has now become Kimbo espresso--usually a pot full! My favourite yogurt is Liberty plain organic, which is 2.5%, much, much more delightful than fat- free yogurt. This morning I was brought a bag full of goodies by my personal pastry delivery man (from an undisclosed source), and even though I swore I would eat only 1, the chocolate croissant disappeared in its entirety as well, as if by magic. "In the Sweet Kitchen" by Regan Daley made captivating reading...

After my exam is over with and I am facing a summer without evening responsibilities, I plan to finish my wedding album (yeah, almost 2 years later) and learn more about the various technical mumbo jumbo that may help me to improve the look of my blog. This may take me a long time...

For the Torontonians out there, enjoy the sun!

14 April 2006

Good Friday Masterpiece!

This is a large size version (full recipe) of Torta alla Ricotta, with home candied orange peels in the layers, and some candied orange and lemon slices as a garnish. I decided to make this for the Madonia Good Friday Pot- Luck at my Uncle John's, mostly because I wanted to show up my Nonna in the baking department!! This is a really delish not- too- sweet cake~ you can find the recipe through the link above...

Vegetable Stew with Fennel & Herbed Couscous

Can you tell I love my legumes? This dish is the product of an early spring frustration with the limited good- quality fruits and vegetables available. Does anyone else notice this phenomena? It's warmer outside so the longing for asparagus and creamy lettuce and the first strawberries and peaches begin, but all that are at the supermarket are rock hard pears, tasteless imported veggies, and the apples and potatoes and root vegetables that have sustained us through the winter.

I decided to put together a vegetable stew with the usual suspects, but wanted to include a head of fennel and two types of lentils, along with a sweet note of dried apricots. It was surprisingly successful, and with the 5 minutes needed to bring a bowl of couscous to life, we had a great dinner with some cold "spring- has- got- to- be- around- the- corner" beer.

~3 onions, chopped
~4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
~2 sweet potatoes, cubed small
~3-5 parsnips, chopped small
~3-5 carrots, chopped small
~1 head of fennel, chopped small (fronds washed, chopped and reserved)
~1 cup of unsulphered dried apricots, sliced
~1 white potato, chopped small
~2 cups of dried red lentils, rinsed
~2 cups of dried French lentils, rinsed
~about 2 liters of vegetable broth/ or soup cubes and water
~rind of any hard cheese
~1 1/3 cup dried couscous
~salt and pepper
~olive oil

To Construct:
1. In a small pot, combine the red lentils with the white potato and a soup cube with enough water to just cover them (or broth), bring to a boil and simmer until soft, puree and set aside.
2. In the meantime, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot, soften the onions in the oil for about 8 minutes, add the garlic and stir until you can smell it!
3. Add the chopped sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, fennel, apricots and the French lentils and a teaspoon or two of salt --stir until coated in the onions and oil, then add the cheese rind and enough broth (or water + soup cubes) to cover the mixture by about an inch. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for about an hour, or until everything is tender, stirring intermittently.
4. Add the reserved puree and stir to warm through, then season to taste with salt and pepper--meanwhile add 1 and 3/4 cups of boiling water, a pinch of salt and a good drizzle of olive oil to a bowl with a well fitting lid containing the couscous and chopped fennel fronds, let sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.
5. Scoop some couscous into large bowls and cover with a few ladles of stew. Mmmmmm....

This recipe will serve 2 hungry diners, with leftovers for maybe 3 or 4 more meals! Or, it could probably serve 8-10 as a main course...I guess I think big whenever I'm cooking~

09 April 2006

Antonio's baked polenta with white bean puree & rapini~

Some good news this week: after months of waiting, I finally got a letter stating that I was accepted into the one year Bachelor of Education program at the University of Toronto! So back to full time school next September, and back to living on one salary...

Last night on Antonio's suggestion, we made these tasty bites which we enjoyed with some Moretti beer. You can make the polenta rounds (or better: squares) yourself, but we found a pre- made roll at the supermarket. I sliced them into 1/4 inch slices and baked them at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. In the meantime we sauteed the rapini in olive oil, garlic and a few dried chilies, and made the white beans by pureeing a drained and rinsed 15 oz can with about 1/2 a cup of hot broth (we used mushroom), salt and pepper, and thickening it for a few minutes in pan over medium heat with some olive oil and sauteed garlic. To finish, we drizzled some olive oil over top (we Italians don't know when to stop) and voila!

05 April 2006


Blue Skies Somewhere

It has been a difficult few days for us, the grind of daily life heavier than usual...

Having subscribed to the "Sicilia.indettaglio.it" mailing list, I received the first one yesterday and was treated to some photos, including the above of a town called Collesano (in the Madonie mountains), and the one in the post above, Agira. Thought I would post them up as inspiration for what lies ahead, immediately for our trip but also down the road for our lives. We have been having some wavering of late regarding our move and the difficulties involved. I think the main challenge will involve finding occupations for both of us, in a place that is just right--not too large, not too small, and preferably on the sea!