Tag Archives: food

Raclette: Another Way to Eat Swiss Cheese

The Swiss are a nation of cheese eaters, and have ways of eating cheese that involve special appliances – but are very easy and tasty once you have the equipment. Raclette was traditionally a (large) half wheel of cheese placed with its open face near an open fire so it would start melting. The melty Read More…

The Swiss are a nation of cheese eaters, and have ways of eating cheese that involve special appliances – but are very easy and tasty once you have the equipment.

Raclette was traditionally a (large) half wheel of cheese placed with its open face near an open fire so it would start melting. The melty layer would be scraped off and eaten while you waited for more to melt. You can still have raclette that way at restaurants and mountain refuges, but you can also have it at home, with the handy-dandy raclette cooker shown above, and cheese that you buy in convenient bricks or slices.

You put a slice of cheese into the little tray, put it under the raclette grill, and wait for it to melt.

waiting for the cheese to melt

In the meantime, you heap your plate with boiled new potatoes and pickled vegetables. You must drink hot tea or cold white wine. To drink cold water with any melted cheese dish will cause the cheese to curdle in your stomach and make you sick. The Swiss firmly believe this, and who are we to buck tradition?

The little wooden spatula shown above will be used to scrape the cheese out of the tray.

raclette

^ Here the cheese is almost melty enough to eat.

raclette - ready!

And here we are! Paprika and fresh-ground pepper have been sprinkled on top. After this I stopped photographing and started eating!

In the Kitchen at Spankyville

Julia’s grandmother’s recipe for Chinese barbecued ribs, AKA “Sticky Chewy Ribs,” as demonstrated by Julia in her gorgeous new kitchen, presided over by the ghost of Spanky. Including the amazing KitchenAid mixer, custom-airbrushed with red hot chili peppers! buy the music You might also like: Nighttime Music Diwali Celebrations

Julia’s grandmother’s recipe for Chinese barbecued ribs, AKA “Sticky Chewy Ribs,” as demonstrated by Julia in her gorgeous new kitchen, presided over by the ghost of Spanky.

Including the amazing KitchenAid mixer, custom-airbrushed with red hot chili peppers!

buy the music

An American Thanksgiving in Italy

Our Thanksgiving dinner was, if I say so myself, epic. I printed out the menu in that fancy font that restaurants always use, so people wouldn’t have to ask me what they were eating; here, of course, I’ve added extensive notes. Antipasti Vari (various antipasti) – Paola brought mini breads, we supplied salame. I didn’t Read More…

Our Thanksgiving dinner was, if I say so myself, epic. I printed out the menu in that fancy font that restaurants always use, so people wouldn’t have to ask me what they were eating; here, of course, I’ve added extensive notes.

Antipasti Vari (various antipasti) – Paola brought mini breads, we supplied salame. I didn’t do much on antipasti because so much other food was coming.

Tacchino al Forno (oven-roasted turkey) – The guests were mostly Italian, many of whom had never seen a whole turkey cooked American style. By American standards, this was a very titchy turkey – less than 13 pounds. In the US you can select from a whole range of turkey sizes; here in Italy, you either take the small female (which I did) or the humungous male. The smaller one turned out to fit all right in the 40 cm roasting pan I had bought.

I used some American technology, a Reynolds oven bag that I bought in the US two years ago on Sue’s recommendation. I filled the turkey cavity with mandarin oranges, onions, and herbes de Provence; we didn’t eat this filling, but it helped produce marvellous gravy.

Ripieno di Pane al Mais con Marroni (cornbread stuffing with chestnuts) – A Martha Stewart recipe, bless her. Martha expected me to have canned or frozen chestnuts. Here in Italy, in season, you can find fresh chestnuts in the woods yourself (difficult – everyone else wants them, too!) or buy them at the supermarket, which I did. I then roasted them in the oven and peeled them. Labor-intensive, but worth it. In my opinion, roast chestnuts by themselves smell a lot better than they taste, but when you cook them with meat or in a stuffing like this, they’re heavenly. Stuffing is unknown in Italy, and turned out to be very popular.

Insalata di Finocchio e Mela (salad of fennel and apples) – Another thanks to Martha. Everyone loved the unusual combination.

Puré di Broccoletti e Spinaci (broccoli and spinach puree) – Recipe from The New Basics Cookbook by Rosso and Lukins. Not the most popular dish on the table, especially with my family since I had made a test batch last week and we’d already had enough of it, though we liked it a lot the first time around. I’ve frozen the leftovers to eat when we’re no longer sick of it.

Fagiolini con Gorgonzola e Noci (green beans with gorgonzola and walnuts) – New Basics again, easy and tasty.

Puré di Patate (mashed potatoes) – Everyone loves €˜em. Fortunately, I had help with peeling and chopping 4 kilos of potatoes.

Selezione di Formaggi con Salse (selection of cheeses with chutneys and honey) – One of the guests brought cheeses, and I had also bought some, plus I had made two chutneys, tomato and dried apricot. Don’t be overly impressed – chutney is very easy to make. These recipes were from Madhur Jaffrey. We also had dark honey (from chestnut flowers), which goes well with many cheeses.

Dolci (sweets) – Maryellen brought a wonderful pumpkin pie which she made completely from scratch (canned pumpkin is not widely available here), Elisabetta made a scrumptious chocolate cake with pears – You’ve never had that? It’s an Italian tradition. You put thin slices of fresh pear into a fairly standard chocolate cake (it may be necessary to correct for moisture; I have not actually done this myself) – it’s a wonderful combination. Rossella had made chocolate chip cookies and brownies, but we never even got to the brownies. Her classmates have been happy to polish those off for us.

Recipe Links

Martha Stewart (and many others)

Other Madhur Jaffrey recipe books

Italian vs. American Diet

^ ravioli at Lanterna Verde – yum! One of the most boring things in the world is listening to people talk about their diet (hearing them complain about their weight runs a close second). However, in America today there’s nothing to discuss, because everyone is on the Atkins diet (no carbohydrates, but you can eat Read More…

^ ravioli at Lanterna Verde – yum!

One of the most boring things in the world is listening to people talk about their diet (hearing them complain about their weight runs a close second). However, in America today there’s nothing to discuss, because everyone is on the Atkins diet (no carbohydrates, but you can eat as much of anything else as you want).

Food companies and advertisers have been swift to adapt. In the supermarket I saw “low-carbohydrate bread.” I did not read the label to learn how they accomplished this miracle; I had a feeling it would involve chemicals I’d never want to put into my body.

Magazine articles, books, and news items give alarming statistics about obesity, and offer ways to combat it, both in yourself and your children. It seems to me that maintaining a healthy weight is not rocket science, and doesn’t require a diet plan that you have to buy a whole book about, let alone pre-packaged diet meals with counted calories etc. etc. Didn’t we all learn the basics of nutrition in school, the four major food groups and all that? The major lesson I remember is that it never hurts to eat more fruit and vegetables, especially when those replace starches, fats, and sugars in your daily intake.

Perhaps what Americans really need is to revise their attitude towards food. Food seems to occupy two diametrically-opposed places in American consciousness. On the one hand, food is simply fuel – you shovel in whatever comes to hand, to keep you going. It’s this attitude that leads to families rarely eating together, as everyone is rushing off to their extra-curricular activities, grabbing whatever they can to eat along the way.

But food also has a psychological role. Cookbooks, menus, and people tout the concept of “comfort food,” which, when eaten, is supposed to make you feel secure or loved, perhaps by reminding you of your childhood. (Never mind that most of us never had this mythical comforting childhood or that kind of food with it.)

Comfort is a very dangerous role for food to play. You hear the same story over and over again: “I wasn’t overweight, but then I went through a rough patch and felt depressed. I turned to food for comfort, and became a blimp.” At the blimp stage, food is re-cast as the enemy, the secret sin, and the indulgent reward for good behavior (most often, diet-related good behavior: “I was good today, I only had salad for lunch, so I’m entitled to have a brownie now”).

The attitude towards food is one area where Italy really gets it right. This attitude is made explicit by the Slow Food movement, but I think is pervasive throughout Italian culture. In Italy, a meal is neither mere refueling nor comforting self-indulgence. It’s a time for a family to be together, to enjoy good food and each others’ company. It’s not something to be rushed through, neither in preparation nor in consumption. So dinner is eaten far later than in the US, usually around 8 pm. Meals are spread over at least two courses, which also slows you down. You have time to appreciate the food and wine, and to talk to each other. And there’s no rushing through the meal to watch TV afterwards. (I have never heard an Italian, not even a child, leave the table on that pretext.)

The Italian style of family meal has several beneficial side effects. On the nutritional side, everyone tends to eat a more balanced diet, in part because parents are at the table with their kids to ensure that they eat what’s good for them. Taking your time over a meal also ensures that you digest it better. And spending time together is good for families: you know what’s going on with each other.

Needless to say, the Atkins diet is not taking off in Italy, the home of pasta, risotto, polenta, and tasty, crusty bread. Thank god.