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.

firenze with Angela

Last Sunday I took the bus to Florence to meet Angela, our former exchange student from 6 years ago, from Germany. We spent the day in Florence. We climbed the campanile, went into the duomo, walked around a lot, went to Santa Croce, and went up to Piazzale Michelangelo. It was very strange for me to be in Florence because I lived there for the summer in 2004. I thought I would be more familiar with the city and know my way around. But I guess 2004 was 5 years ago and I have been to many other cities since then. It's a good thing Angela had her map! We really didn't have too much time there, so we didn't go into any museums, but Florence is only about an hour away, so I will have plenty of other opportunites to check them out.
After going to Florence, I am glad that we are living in Siena. There are so many tourists in Florence, even in November. Siena seems like a much easier city to live in. But Florence will still have a special place in my heart from 5 years ago.

Dysfunctional kitchen

While we have enjoyed living in Italy so far, there are a few things that have been quite frustrating over here. One of these things for me is our kitchen in our apartment. I posted some pictures of this kitchen a couple of weeks ago, so you can see what I am talking about. This kitchen is basically a closet. It has doors that you can use to close it up when you are done cooking. It is without an oven, has a refrigerator that you might find in a college dorm room, a leaky sink, and then there is the range. We have 4 gas burners. One doesn't work at all, one is too close to the wall, so when you turn it on, the wall starts burning. There is one that works perfectly fine. And then, there is the front right burner. This one has such a strong flame that when you use a certain saute pan on it, the flame pushes it right off. This happened to me just a couple of nights ago when I was trying to make a nice dinner for us. I had a sauce in this saute pan for my pasta that was cooking. I turned my back for a minute and I heard a crash, only to turn around and find my dinner on the floor. I was quite frustrated with this tiny little dysfunctional Italian kitchen. You would think that with all the great food that comes from this place it would be easier to cook!
This is just a little rant, sorry for going on about my kitchen. I will post more later about Florence and vising with Angela.