Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sushi lessons in Italy

The purpose of us moving to Italy was for me to be able to learn about food and true Italian cooking. Well, since being here, I have learned about more than just Italian cuisine. In the language school I was attending, I met friends from all over the world. Some of these friends happened to be from Japan. One night when I had a bunch of people over for dinner, one of the girls, Honoka, brought some sushi that she had made. I was very excited because at home Justin and I definitely like to go out for sushi, and I hadn't had any since California. I was very impressed that she made her own. All of the Japanese girls promised me that if I could make my own ravioli, I could definitely make sushi. So, Honoka promised me a sushi lesson! The next week, as part of a farewell dinner for everyone leaving Italy, she showed me how to make sushi, and I showed her my tiramisu. I was very excited to make sushi and can't wait to try it again!

All of the ingredients ready to go

Honoka showing me the first one
My turn to try one. First the rice.
Then the filling. In this case, cucumber and tuna.
Then roll it up.
A finished sushi roll! I was excited about this as you can probably tell.
The finished products. YUM!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tastes of Christmas in Italy

What a weekend for food here! Justin and I have been eating very well here this entire Christmas weekend. I just wanted to share a few pictures of our Christmas meals.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Buon Natale! Merry Christmas!

Buon Natale!! Merry Christmas everyone!!
It is finally feeling quite like Christmas here in Italy. Justin and I are having a very quiet, but also a very nice Christmas here together. Last weekend, we bought a little tree, and have it set up on our kitchen table. It looks like Santa has already been here, and there are quite a few little presents under the tree for us tomorrow morning. Our stockings are hung on the wall and the Christmas cards that we have received are hung on our door. We have enough food and wine to keep us here for a couple of days, and we have some nice little Christmas dinners planned. I just wanted to make a quick little post to say Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family everywhere around the world!! :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

snow in siena!

Snow in Siena!

So last week, I wrote about how Siena was becoming a little Christmas city, but that we were missing snow. Well, last Friday we got the snow! Just as I was leaving my class on Friday it started to snow, and continued all night. In the end, it wasn't too much, but definitely enough to cover everything and make it pretty! There were snowmen, people trying to sled down the streets, and of course snowball fights. From what I have heard, I think it is unusual to have this much snow at this time of the year. Some years they don't see snow here at all. But as quickly as the snow arrived, it has disappeared. Today was 56 degrees and nice. So, we will not be having a white Christmas, but at least we got to enjoy the snow for a couple of days.

I have a lot of pictures that I took of the snow, but for some reason it won't let me upload anything right now. So for now you just have to read about it. Check back later for pics!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

a trip to Florence and down memory lane

piazza della repubblica

a view of firenze from the boboli gardens

Justin and I in the Boboli Gardens

on the Ponte Vecchio

in front of the Duomo

Boboli Gardens

This was the spot where Justin proposed to me 3 1/2 years ago.

The restaurant where we had dinner before the proposal. Still one of my best meals to date!

San Lorenzo and the mercato in Florence.

You might be wondering why I am posting pictures and stories from Florence again. Last time I went, I went to meet Angela and I went without Justin. This time, we went together and revisited some of our favorite places in the city.
I have a great connection to Florence today. Florence is the reason that I am living this year in Italy now. In 2004, I spent the summer in Florence for a study abroad program at Central Michigan University. During that time, I fell in love with Italy and promised myself that I would return again someday for longer than just a summer. Well here I am. :) That summer meant a lot to me and still holds a lot of very fond memories.
Jump forward 2 years to May 2006. This time Justin and I were in Italy together, on our first big trip together after graduating from college. We spent a couple of days in London and Germany, but of course, we had to go to Italy, and more specifically, Florence. We spent a couple of days walking around the city, the markets, the gardens, and the churches. One night we decided to go out for a nice dinner and ended up at Perseus, a small restaurant filled with locals. We still remember this dinner as one of the best we have ever had. Even more special than the dinner though was after the dinner as we were walking back to our hostel. It was in the Piazza della Liberta that Justin proposed to me!
So, last weekend, when we went to Florence, we revisited all of these old spots that mean so much to us. It was a very nice trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It's hard to believe that Christmas is next week already! How does it always sneak up so quickly?! Christmas is always one of my favorite times of the year, and in Siena, it is a very nice time as well. In the last month, this city has been transformed with Christmas decorations. There are sparkling lights hanging over the streets and you can't walk very far without seeing a Christmas tree. All of the shop windows are decorated and there is a little market that sells different crafts for gifts. Also, gelato has been replaced with roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate. The only thing missing is a dusting of snow.
During the palio season, as I wrote about a few months ago, each contrada is decorated with their flags and colors. For the Christmas season, each contrada has a Christmas tree decorated with their colors. It is neat to see all of the different trees in each neighborhood now.
This year will be a simple Christmas for Justin and I. We will be staying in Siena. The flights to go home would have been over $1700 per person! So it will just be the two of us here. We are not sure exactly what we are going to do yet. We don't even have a tree or any decorations in our apartment yet. I want to buy a small tree so at least it seems a little more festive here. For now, I am just listening to Christmas music all day! And I have no way to make cookies! I don't know how we will have Christmas without cookies! :( we do have a mailbox though, HINT HINT ;) and in case anyone is wondering our address is:
Viale Vittorio Emanuele II n.48
Siena 53100 Italy

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Sorry I have not posted anything in awhile, but we really haven't been up to much, and I haven't had much to write about.
So today, being Thanksgiving, was quite strange in Italy. I went to class like any normal day. There are a couple of other American girls in my class who I said Happy Thanksgiving to, but for everyone else in Italy, today is a normal day.
A couple of weeks ago, Justin and I saw that our grocery store has little pre-roasted chickens that you can buy, something like a rotisserie chicken. We decided that this might be our best option for a Thanksgiving dinner. As I posted a couple of weeks ago, our kitchen is quite dysfunctional, and we don't have an oven, so roasting a turkey was out of the question. Also our grocery store sells turkey drumsticks and turkey breast, but we thought that the little chicken would be easier. So tonight for dinner, we had chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, dinner rolls, apple sauce (no cranberries here either), and a cherry pie (the only type of pie we could find). It was a very nice Thanksgiving dinner and I am very happy to have so much to be thankful for, even if I couldn't be home today.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and sage

I started writing this post quite awhile ago, but saved it as a draft, and then forgot about it for awhile, so I thought I should finish it and actually make a new post.

When I worked at Campanile, every once in awhile, we would have butternut squash ravioli on the menu. Every time that we did, I always ate them. These are one of my favorite ravioli! Lately, Justin and I have been on a fresh pasta making kick, so I thought I would try to recreate my favorite Campanile ravioli.

1. take a small-medium sized butternut squash. cut it in half length wise and scoop out the seeds. season with salt and pepper, a few pats of butter, and a couple of sage leaves. stick them in the oven until they are soft and tender and generally roasted looking.
2. take the squash out of the oven and let it cool for a minute. soon after it comes out of the oven, take a fork or a spoon, or whatever device works for you, and remove the squash from the skin. This should be pretty easy, but be careful it is hot! put this in a bowl aside while you make the fresh pasta.
3. fresh pasta is a basic ratio of 1 egg for every 100 grams of flour plus a pinch of salt. 2 or 3 eggs should probably be enough. you can always add more flour, this ratio is a starting point, not an exact measurement, it will depend on the size of the eggs that you use. make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. starting with a fork, scramble the eggs, slowly adding flour from the sides. When this is too thick to mix with the fork, it is time to get your hands dirty. start mixing in more flour and kneading with your hands until the dough is a nice smooth consistency, but not sticky.
4. cover the pasta dough with a kitchen towel and set aside. now go back to the squash. I added a small tub of ricotta cheese to the squash and also a few sage leaves chopped up. mix this well until it is smooth.
5. you can roll the pasta out with a pasta machine (easiest), a rolling pin, or if you are in a pinch, you can use an empty wine bottle (my choice). if using a pasta machine, roll it to number 6, if by hand, roll it as thin as you can. make the ravioli by placing a little spoon full of the filling on the pasta, folding it over, pressing around the filling to close it, then cutting around it in your desired shape. 6. the hard part is done. I served these ravioli with a brown butter and sage sauce. brown butter is basically burnt butter. when the fat solids from the butter start to cook, they will produce a really nice nutty flavor that goes with butternut squash really nicely. so, take some butter, put it in a saucepan, and let it burn. don't let it get too hot that it is smoking, you want it brown, not black, and you can use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to get the solids moving around. turn off the heat and throw a few sage leaves in. you can also add a little bit of the pasta cooking water to make it a little saucier, not just butter.
7. boil the ravioli in salted water. they will only take a few minutes, because this is fresh pasta. spoon the ravioli right into the sauce, and serve with a shaving of cheese.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Does it always rain in San Gimignano?

On Monday, we decided to take Angela to San Gimignano, which is a small medieval town not too far from here. Justin and I actually went there in September, but we thought Angela might like it too, so we went back. If you remember the pictures I posted from our September trip, they were also rainy. Every time we have gone to San Gimignano, it has been rainy. This time it was rainy and cold! Despite the lousy weather, we still had a good time walking around the city and seeing the Tuscan countryside. We were definitely not under the tuscan sun that day though! Also, San Gimignano is home to the world gelato champions. So, even though it was cold and rainy, of course we had to have gelato! There weren't very many people in the town that day, but the gelateria was still busy! I had a gorgonzola and walnut gelato that was very interesting and also very good. This particular gelateria has original flavors that you don't find in the average gelateria.