PIZZA! (the perfect final Italian post)

I can’t believe how fast this semester just came and went. I leave on Saturday (I have 2 full days left in this amazing city) to return the United States. This has been a semester unlike even my wildest dreams. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was. I met some of the most amazing, memorable people, ate some of the most delicious meals, visited 5 amazingly different countries and went to even more cities. I experienced culture and immersed myself in it and definitely grew as a person. I can’t wait to come back to Florence and to Europe in general. It’s really sad, though, to think that I really have no idea when the next time I’ll be anywhere near Florence will be. This has been my home for the past four months, and the most beautiful, perfect home I could have ever asked for.

Well, enough of that…on to the good stuff, PIZZA! We made it in my last class of my favorite class here, Italian Vegetarian Cooking. (yes, that’s a real class..my life is awesome) I love the group of girls in it and our teacher is hysterical and so cute. This recipe serves about 4 people.

Ingredients:

  • 500g hard flour
  • 20g extra virgin olive oil
  • 10g salt
  • 10g brewer’s yeast (fresh yeast)
  • 250g water
  • toppings as needed

Directions:

  • melt yeast in water that is lukewarm from the stovetop, let it sit until there is a froth on top
  • put the flour in a bowl and make a well in it
  • add the yeast-water mixture in thirds, mixing after each addition. With the second addition, add the oil.
  • knead the dough until it is smooth
  • allow the dough to rise for about an hour
  • roll out pieces of the dough to desired size and thickness (traditionally in Tuscany, the crust is thinner)
  • dress with whatever toppings you’d like! We used tomato sauce, mozzarella, green olives, sauteed bell peppers…be creative!
  • bake in a preheated oven at 230 degrees Celcius
  • ENJOY!

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Carciofi alla Romana! (Artichokes Roman Style)

Hello friends (or strangers I should say..it’s been too long…again.)!

The past few weeks have been so amazing! Two weekends ago, I stayed in Florence for what turned out to be an absolutely beautiful weekend! I did a lot of reading in the sun and just enjoying the background noise of the Florentine culture. I love just sitting on the steps of a church, people watching, and taking in everything around and how amazing the city I live in truly is.

Then, last weekend, I went to visit one of my best friends from home, Lindsay, where she is studying in Copenhagen, Denmark. I am SO glad I was able to make it up there, regardless of how much colder it was there than in Florence! It was so awesome to see her abroad life because not only is Copenhagen such a cool and beautiful city, she lives in a host family, something I had yet to experience. When I was looking into studying abroad, I thought long and hard about whether or not I should do a host family. I thought it was be a very interesting and enriching experience where I could immerse myself in the culture, but found that Florence wasn’t the best city for host families. I am extremely happy with my decision to live in an apartment, but the Danish family that Lindsay lives with definitely made me jealous. They were so welcoming, hospitable, and kind, I just couldn’t get over it! They invited me to dinner both nights I was there, and I was very happy that we took them up on it. The food was amazing! And, it was really cool to hang out with the Danish people, they are so nice, speak great English, and are really entertaining and funny!

After Copenhagen, Lindsay came back with me to Florence. It was so great to have her here, show her how I live, and be able to tour around Florence and do things I hadn’t yet done! Then, we traveled together to Rome! We met up with our other best friend, Jenna, and she took us out our first night. It was SO fun and great to see her also! We also ran into a bunch of other people from high school that I hadn’t seen in years, which was so awesome and got me really excited to see everyone again this summer! Rome was really cool and beautiful, so rich with history! We were dead by the end of our time there, and now I am struggling to leave my bed. So, this blog post is my way of being “productive” without really having to move. (hehe)

So, on to the food…in the spirit of the Romans…

Carciofi alla Romana!

Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients:

  • 10 artichokes
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 mint sprigs
  • EVOO as needed
  • white wine as needed
  • 80 g bread crumbs
  • 3 parsley sprigs
  • salt and pepper TT

Directions:

  • Remove the outer, hard leaves on the artichokes until you get to the softer center. Cut the stem off the base. Separate the leaves one by one until the whole artichoke is opened like a flower. Dip into water with lemon to prevent oxidation and browning.
  • Chop the garlic, mint, parsley.
  • Add the bread crumbs, EVOO, and s & p
  • Stuff the artichokes with this mixture.
  • Salt the artichokes, sprinkles with EVOO, and roast them in a pot.
  • Sprinkle with wine, then add enough water to cover half of the head of the artichoke.
  • Cover the pot with a lid, cook over medium heat until tender.

Stuffed ArtichokesStuffed Artichokes Stuffed Artichokes

Tagliatelle al Ragu’!

Hi friends!

Again (for like the 4th post in a row..), I apologize greatly for making you all wait eagerly for my next post…here it is!

So, quick update: I have been super busy the last two weeks! My spring break was two weeks ago and my mom visited for it! It was SO great to have her here (and I’m not just saying that because I know she will see this…hi mom!). We travelled Italy, stopping over briefly in Bologna and Piacenza and spent two nights in Venice. Then, we drove over to Nice, France for two nights and then concluding the trip in Florence. It was all so beautiful! Venice is one of my favorite cities – so different from anywhere else in the world! They use boats for EVERYTHING – ambulances, delivery, taxis, everything.

And then there’s Nice, with it’s luxury hotels, beautiful beaches, and great shopping. We climbed up through this really cool park with a waterfall that led us to awesome panoramic views of the French Riviera. Breathtaking!

One of my favorite things, though, was being able to show my mom around Florence. Take her to my favorite spots, but experience some new places at the same time! We ate waaay too much food, but I wouldn’t take back a single bite. We were laughing the whole weekend and having a great time.

Then, last weekend, I spent Easter in the Amalfi Coast. We visitied Mount Vesuvius, Capri, Positano, and Pompei. Capri and Positano were so beautiful, and Pompei and Mount Vesuvius were just unreal. The fact that Pompei has been in ruins since 79 AD but still stands as much as it does just leaves you in awe. An awesome trip and one I will always remember!!

So, onto the recipe… this was my first go at making fresh pasta, so I basically took that over so I could learn. I was so surprised at how easy it is! I’m definitely purchasing a pasta maker when I get home. We used a manual one in class, but it was super quick and easy!

For the PASTA:

Ingredients:

  • 400g flour (you can use all semolina, we used 1/2 semolina, 1/2 regular flour)
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  • pour the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well in the center, and break in the eggs.
  • mix the flour and the eggs with a fork and continue with your hands until the ingredients are well mixed
  • add more flour if necessary
  • knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, wrap it in transparent paper, and leave to rest 20-30 minutes
  • in the pasta machine, break into smaller pieces and pass through the pasta machine
  • cut the dough using the pasta machine or by hand

Directions for the SAUCE:

Ingredients:

  • 300 g of minced ground beef
  • 5 chopped ripe tomatoes, without skins or pips (or half a litre of tomato sauce)
  • one onion finely chopped
  • one carrot finely chopped
  • one stick of celery finely chopped
  • one cup of vegetable broth (made from boiling water with an onion, a carrot, and a celery stick)
  • 5 spoonfuls of EVOO
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

  • Saute the chopped vegetables in the oil.
  • When they start to soften, add the minced meat and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often and adding broth little by little
  • Add the tomatoes and simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally
  • In the meantime, boil the pasta and when half cooked drain and pour together with the sauce
  • Cook on a low flame for about 10 minutes

Enjoy!! Look forward to checking back in soon!

Coccoli! and other updates..

Hi friends!

I apologize greatly for making you wait in anticipation for so long for my next post…I’m sure you were all on the edges of your seats! 🙂

Anyways, Florence has been super rainy lately and it’s midterms week..so to say I’m really excited for Spring Break is a pretty safe bet. Plus, my mom will be here in less than 24 hours!!!! I’m so excited to see her, travel around Italy and Southern France, and then show her around Florence!

Last weekend, I was in Amsterdam and literally ate pancakes or fast food for every meal (and snack..). It was not a healthy weekend, but it was definitely a tasty one. For anyone who’s been to Amsterdam, I’m sure you know all about Wok to Walk. But, for those who don’t know, it is basically build-your-own lo-mein or fried rice and it’s so so good! I don’t know why they don’t have in the States..but I’m going to try to change that! Amsterdam is such a cool, interesting, and beautiful city. It’s pretty small and quite confusing to navigate, but there is a lot of cool history and a culture unlike any other. Just a walk through the Red Light District will sell you on how different Amsterdam really is. I’ve heard people talk about this city, but had no expectations or real knowledge about what it would be like. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least!

Back to Florence, though. Last week I went to a restaurant across the river called Osteria Santo Spirito and ordered gnocchi with a cheese cream sauce and truffle oil. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Very heavy and decadent, but unreal. Can’t wait to go back and try something else!

And…for the recipe…COCCOLI is a sort of savory fried dough that is traditional in Tuscany. This recipe is served with cured meats and tangy, soft cheeses such as brie or camembert or the cheese we used, Stracchino. This cheese had a creamy texture almost like cream cheese with a sort of tang that was so good with the saltiness of the prosciutto we paired it with!

Ingredients

  • 500 grams flour
  • 25 g fresh yeast
  • 1/4 litre sparkling water
  • salt
  • prosciutto or cured meat of choice
  • Stracchino cheese

Directions

  • Activate yeast. To do so, heat a little bit of still water to a little warmer than lukewarm. Crumble fresh yeast into it and stir. Add a pinch of sugar and let it froth for a few minutes.
  • Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and push to the sides so there is a hole in the center.
  • Pour sparkling water and yeast into this hole and mix, trying to avoid lumps.
  • Let the dough for at least one hour.
  • Scoop from one end of the dough to avoid ruining the fermentation. Make the scoops into little balls.
  • Fry at medium temperature. Make sure that the oil is hot enough that is bubbles around the dough when dropped in. But, make sure the oil is not smoking.
  • While frying, put a dollop of Stracchino on the prosciutto slices and roll them up.
  • Serve immediately.

I ate them by split the dough ball in half and then making a sandwich with the prosciutto and cheese in the middle. It was so delicious!

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!

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