Gratin di Zucchine (Zucchini au Gratin)

Hello friends!

When I came home from snowy, beautiful, whimsical, musical, delicious Vienna and Salzburg, all I could think about was vegetables and the recipe that I had just made last week in my Mediterranean Diet class that I will be sharing with y’all today. The food in Austria was unreal – Goulash Soup, Wienerschnitzel, Apple Strudel, Sacher Torte, ribs, potatoes, rice, meat, meat, and more meat. However, at home I am almost vegetarian, eating very little (if any) red meat. But, since I was travelling to a land where red meat and potatoes were basically the foundation of ever meal, I felt I needed to indulge in order to truly get the proper cultural experience. I’ve also decided that the best way to experience culture while travelling is essentially to eat my way through Europe, and I think I’ve been pretty successful at it thus far.

I toured around the beautiful architecture and beloved markets of Vienna and then went over to the smaller and quaint Salzburg, where The Sound of Music is based. The rolling hills, beautiful lakes, and Mozart souvenirs (it is where he lived) made the trip very worthwhile and something I will never forget. Plus, I drank beer everywhere, so how could I not love the Austrian culture?!

Well, anyways, as a way of getting back into the Florentine way of things, I am posting a vegetarian, (relatively) health(ier) recipe for Zucchini au Gratin (or Gratin di Zucchine in Italian). This recipe serves 4 with generous portions!

Ingredients:

  • 600 g (20 oz) Zucchini
  • 250 g (8 oz) Emmental cheese – a type of Swiss cheese, so use something of that nature if you can’t find this exact one
  • 1/2 liter (2 cups) milk
  • 250 g (8 oz) cream
  • 4 eggs
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  • wash and slice the zucchini so that they are approximately finger-length rectangles
  • butter a making pan and place the zucchini in it
  • season the zucchini with salt and pepper and bake at 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes, or until just about tender
  • cover them with the Emmental cheese and place back in the oven until the cheese melts
  • beat together the eggs, milk, cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and pour over the zucchini
  • bake until golden

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Can’t wait to tell you about other recipes this week! Happy eating :)!

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Paris!

Hi friends!

So, this last weekend I was in Paris from late Thursday night to Saturday evening, a very short trip..so we had to squeeze everything we possibly could in! This was my first real weekend excursion during this semester abroad and I was beyond excited when we were on our way to the airport. First of all, we were flying RyanAir, which is a budget airline that allows you to get really cheap flights for destinations throughout Europe. However, the airports that they fly in and out of are more remote airports usually an hour or so outside of the city center. So, you need to take shuttles to and from both your departure and destination airports. It lends itself to a lot more travel time than necessary, but saves you some money most of the time.

I originally wanted to study in Paris, convinced that it would be the best place to gain culinary experience and knowledge. However, there was no program there that would transfer credits back to Cornell, and the program in Florence looked awesome. So, I settled for Florence (poor me…). Anyways, I had several foods on my list that I felt were typical Parisian/French foods (whether that is actually true or not..) that I needed to try while in the massive, beautiful city of Paris. And, of course, there are endless amazing landmarks, museums, churches, and other tourist attractions that I wanted to go to also.

By the end of it, I felt that I had eaten and seen everything I “needed” to while in Paris. To name a few sites, we went to: The Louvre, Notre Dame, the Love Lock Bridge, Montmarte, the Opera house, Lafayette Galleries, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. Additionally, we climbed both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. We didn’t let a moment go to waste, as you can tell.

And then there was the food! Literally, I don’t know if I’ve eaten so well consistently for an entire weekend in my life. I probably gained 10 pounds on this trip, but I did not hate it one bit. Every single ounce was better than the next. I had lots of cheese, lots of wine, crepes, MACAROONS, baguette, steak frites, beef with bernaise sauce, a tartiflette (ham, cheese, and potato gratin), and this amazing lamb shank cooked for nine hours with whole prunes in it. Some food pictures are below:

Cheese! Slow-cooked lamb with prunes Tartiflette Beef with bernaise sauceMacaroons!!

Gotta go pack for Vienna and Salzburg!!! What is my life? I’ll check back in this week with a recipe or two!

Pollo con le Prughe (Chicken with Prunes) & other Florentine adventures

Hi friends!

So, last weekend was my birthday weekend and I had a really fun time frolicking around Florence with my roommates. We went to dinner on my birthday to this really great place on our street and I had pear and gorgonzola fiocchi in a cream sauce with red peppercorns. It was SO good, but I completely forgot to take a picture of it (such a bad blogger, I know…). Then, on Sunday, we went to the grocery store and bought fresh bread, cheeses, and prosciutto and headed up to Piazzale Michelangelo, this amazing place on the other side of the river where you can see all of Florence and the surrounding mountains and smaller villages tucked into the hillsides.

One of my favorite pictures of the view:

Florence

 

So, now for the recipe of today… Pollo con le Prughe! It’s a traditional dish in Tuscany made up of chicken and prunes that I made in my Florence Food & Culture Experience class! It was an unlikely pairing in my opinion, but turned out to be so so good! It was a perfect combination of sweet and salty. Because of the time constraints of class, we didn’t marinate the chicken, but it was still so delicious. Our teacher said that it was a little drier than if it was marinated, but I didn’t notice the dryness.

chicken with prunes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized chicken, cut into small pieces and make sure excess fat is trimmed off of the pieces (leave the skin on and bones in)
  • 200 g (7 oz) prunes, soaked in hot water to soften them
  • 250 ml (1 cup) dry red wine
  • 30 ml (1 oz) white wine vinegar
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 60 g (2 oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh rosemary and sage
  • 10 small white onions
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  • Rinse the chicken pieces and marinate one hour with wine, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and sage
  • Heat the oil in the saucepan (after marinating), add the garlic, rosemary, and sage from the marinade
  • add the chicken pieces and brown them
  • Transfer the chicken to a baking dish, add the rest of the marinade and the small onions. Bake covered for about 30 minutes.
  • Uncover and back for another 15 minutes.
  • Add the prunes and finish making for another 5 minutes.
  • Serve immediately! Enjoy!

Risi e Bisi (Traditional Tuscan rice and peas soup)

Before I get into the food, I have to tell you all about VENICE (or Venezia, as the Italians call it). It is so amazingly beautiful I still can’t get over it. We went for Venice Carnivale, which is basically this long celebration before Lent where people dress up in fun and crazy costumes and masks and parade around Venice taking pictures with tourists, competing with other costumed people, and having a good time. Literally all my life Venice has been the one place that I have been dying to go to. So, when I found that my friends here wanted to go also and that we would be in Italy during Carnivale, I was beyond excited. Venice did not let me down, in fact it exceeded my expectations. My only complaint was that it was super crowded and the prices are a lot higher than in Florence because it’s mainly a tourist location.

Before going, I got a mask at the Central Market here in Florence and accidentally stumbled upon the indoor food vendor portion of the market. I was in awe! They have all sorts of meats and cheeses, every single type of dried fruit you could ever think of, fresh pasta, breads, produce, prepared foods, everything you could ever want. I’ve heard their sandwiches are really good, so I’ll definitely be going back for that sometime soon!

So, anyways, in my Italian Vegetarian Cooking class, we made two types of traditional Tuscan soup. We were split into groups and each group was assigned a soup to make. My group was assigned Risi e Bisi and it came out so so well and was really easy to make! The recipe probably made a solid 8 servings, so I would definitely cut the recipe if I make it again at home. Also, I apologize to my American followers for the metric measurements..it’s how the recipe came.

photo (7)

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Originario rice
  • 1 kg frozen peas (unless they’re in season, then use fresh)
  • 50 g EVOO
  • 50 g butter
  • 100 g parmesan cheese, grated
  • vegetable stock, as needed
  • 100 g white onion, diced
  • parsley to taste, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • saute the onion in a half of the oil and add half the butter
  • add peas and 1 ladle of stock, simmer for 2 minutes
  • and the rice and cover the mixture with stock
  • season with salt and pepper and simmer to cook the rice completely (it will be consistency of more of a risotto or a thick soup)
  • once the rice is soft, take it off the heat and add the parmesan cheese, parsley, and the rest of the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the butter is completely melted and everything is evenly mixed.
  • Serve it hot in bowls and enjoy!!

Tuscan Rice and Peas Soup

I’ll check back in very soon to post about some of my favorite places in Florence thus far! And I’ll keep the recipes coming!

Greek salad (Insalata Greca in Italian)

Florence so far has a serious whirlwind. I’ve met so many amazing people, eaten such delicious food, and made some really amazing memories already, and I’ve only been here for 10 days. Crazy! For example, last night I went to dinner with friends at a restaurant that serves free wine for students. At first I was thinking, this restaurant is probably not going to be that good..but I honestly don’t think there is a restaurant in all of Florence that isn’t delicious. It was so so good. I got asparagus risotto and finished with a warm chocolate cake. Both were absolutely divine! I had never really had real risotto and am now in love. It’s so creamy and the asparagus paired perfectly with it. And then there was the chocolate cake…SO rich. It was dense and warm and was smothered in chocolate sauce. I didn’t want this meal to end, but when it did I was so full I could barely breathe. I needed a good meal like that!

The markets here are unreal, also. I went during the week and got a huge thing of tomatoes, a cucumber, a head of lettuce, and an eggplant for only 5 euro! And it’s so fresh that it tastes so much better than the produce back home. So, when I was thinking of what I should make myself with the ingredients I had chosen, the first and best option came to mind, greek salad! I have been eating so many carbs here between pizza, pasta, and bread that a salad would be refreshing and hit the spot perfectly. Greek salad is super easy and a pretty classic set of ingredients, but the salty-sweet combo that is created is so so delicious!

greek salad

Ingredients:

  • kalamata olives
  • a head of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 a cucumber, cut into half circles
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • fresh cracked pepper

Toss all of the ingredients with the balsamic and olive oil and enjoy! Super simple!

My first week in Florence (and Bruschetta!)

Florence is the most amazing city I’ve ever encountered (not that I’m really all that travelled…). Literally, people do not know what they’re missing! It’s breathtakingly beautiful, small enough to walk the entire place, super fun at night and during the day, and not nearly as cold as home or school right now. Not hating it at ALL. The only issue I’m having right now is the language barrier. But, I had my first lecture for Italian class today and I’m pretty pumped about it. I went to the supermarket today and the lady told me how much it was using Italian numbers and I knew exactly what she said! For the win.

Anyways, back to the food. We’re still trying to figure out the times that places close, because a lot of them close in the middle of the day for a few hours. And, both my point and shoot camera’s and my nice SLR camera’s chargers were left at home (good work, Jess..), so my iPhone is my only camera at the moment. So, excuse the quality. I tried to use as steady a hand as possible.

Had my first cooking class yesterday, Italian Vegetarian Cooking. It was the best 2.5 hours of class I have ever experienced. This adorable, nice Italian chef guided us through making Pinzimonio, a traditional Italian appetizer consisting of fresh, raw vegetables cut and dipped in olive oil with salt and pepper. Sounds so simple, but I would have never thought to do it before, and thought it was one of the most delicious things ever. Definitely helps that the produce here is so fresh! We prepared celery, carrots, fennel, and red and yellow bell peppers. I don’t usually raw fennel, but it was so good and different dipped in the oil. But, the peppers definitely took the cake. We also made bruschetta. SO amazingly tasty! The recipe is below:

traditional italian bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 10 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • handful of basil, chiffonade
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • loaf of favorite crunchy bread (in Italy, they don’t use salt in their bread dough mixes..weird but still so good)

Directions:

  • Cut tomatoes in quarters and cut out seeds and insides. Sprinkle salt on the pulp and turn the tomato quarters upside down. Let sit for half an hour. This will extract the excess moisture in the tomatoes.
  • Slice the bread and stick it in the oven for 10 minutes to warm and toast it a little at 300 degrees. Check frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • After 30 minutes, cube the tomatoes and put into a bowl with a sprinkle of olive oil, basil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Toss together with your hands or a wooden spoon.
  • Let it sit for a little and then sprinkle olive oil on the bread slices. Distribute the bruschetta mix onto the slices. Enjoy!

I also got gelato last night for the first time since I’ve been here. Don’t know how or why I waited so long. It was SO good! I got half pistacchio (pronounced pistakio apparently) and half torrone (which is like cream, nuts, and chocolate). Well, I’m sure you’re super bored of my rambling by now, so I’ll just leave you with a little evidence about the true beauty of Florence. Ciao!

photo (9) photo (8) photo (7) photo (12) photo (11)

Ciao, Firenze!

For those of you who didn’t know, I just got to FLORENCE, Italy and will be here until May studying culinary arts! (Basically, fulfilling my wildest dreams). I got in a few hours ago and met my roommates (who seem really cool) and unpacked my life. For some reason, I felt it would be a good idea to fly into Pisa because it was cheaper. While that was all fine and good, I didn’t think about how I would have to navigate a train with more luggage than I’ve ever had in my life. But, with the help of a very nice man, I was able to get all of my stuff on and off of the train with little stress.

Another challenge I faced was that I don’t speak a word of Italian. So, getting in a taxi and trying to tell her my apartment number turned out to be a bit of a struggle. But, we figured it out and I got here in one piece!

From what I’ve seen of Florence so far (which was basically from the cab window), it seems like the most beautiful city. Not to mention that the train ride from Pisa was breathtaking the entire ride. The houses are so cute and tucked into the most amazing mountains (I will look up what mountains they were later).

Once I have more adventures, I will post again! I hear the best market in Florence is minutes away from our apartment, so I’m really excited.