I goofed! | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Am I an expert in cooking? Perhaps. Simply I like to say that I love to cook, cook well and I have done it for decades, but I have not come to perfection yet. I don’t have a sweet tooth for instance and sweets don’t come as good as I would like. The other thing I don’t do well is lifeless food, meaning diet food.
This past weekend I played around with juices. I produced very good fruit juices with fruit from the trees in my garden mixed with store-bought fruit and I did spectacular things. In fact I make colorful juices every weekend for my mornings delight.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

 

Valentina Fruit Juices

Yesterday, I wanted to try a new thing: vegetable juices and I goofed. I used too much of purple and dark green vegetables with the result of a non appetizing and very dark juice. The taste is OK, very earthy and healthy, but my eyes can’t bear to look at something this dark. “We eat with our eyes first” I know is a cliché, but it’s really true.

VeggieJuice

I used the following ingredients, all in the raw state:
½ red cabbage
½ bunch of celery stalks
4 radishes
2 avocados
2 bunches of broccoli
1 bunch of collard
6 carrots
salt to taste

I would have liked to obtain a colorful veggie juice and I should have used more of red, yellow, orange veggies than green or purple veggies.

Cooking is like painting, it’s all about balancing flavors, aromas and colors.
The difference is that a bad painting rarely can be remade into a new image. This time I goofed and made a bad painting with my veggie juice, but it is recyclable into a new food. I will use a few spoons into minestrone, beans soups and chicken broth. It will be delicious and so healthy. Nothing in my kitchen goes to waste. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val in ParadiseValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being. Finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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Guest Blog: Cooking Is A Form Of Love | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

A couple of months ago Wisedecor.com contacted me to contribute to each others blog with articles on home subjects. They specialize in personalizing home décor with favorite wall letters, words, quotes & decals to apply in any room with any style. WiseDecor Decorative Lettering offers a fresh and inexpensive way to decorate.

Kitchen2

(Photo: ©Valentina Interiors & Designs)

 

Last week my article Cocooning In The Kitchen was published on their site:
“Do you remember the film Moonstruck with Cher? Many scenes in that film take place in the kitchen. Loretta Castorini (Cher) comes home after Johnny Camereri proposed marriage to her in an Italian restaurant. Her father Cosmo is listening to Opera on the radio in the living room. Loretta wants to announce she is getting married to Johnny Camereri and invites her father to the kitchen for a glass of Italian Spumante. A serious matter is always discussed in the hearth of the house, around the kitchen table! (…).
(…) In most families the kitchen means harmony, it is the cocoon where we find the answers to the majority of our questions in life and where everyday we go back to relax around food.
Today’s kitchens have returned to be the same multi-functional great rooms of the Middle Age, where cooking, entertainment, receiving guests, sleeping and resolving issues happened all through the day. (…)”
Continue reading my article on http://www.wisedecor.com/blog/cocooning-in-the-kitchen

*********

Today, I am sharing their thoughts on how Cooking Is A Form Of Love and this is the article written by:  http://www.wisedecor.com

CucinaroEUnaForm-newRevision
“The kitchen is the heart of the Italian house. Whereas formal guests are welcomed in the living room and presented with coffees and pastry for relaxed catching-up sessions, members of the family would rather meet around the kitchen table. Meals are scheduled to accommodate different timetables and daily routines and to ensure that everybody can enjoy food together. There is something special about eating with the other members of your family. It is far more than simply feeding and sustaining your body; it is an act of love. As Italians would say, “cucinare è una forma d’amore” (cooking is love made visible), and to share food is the best way to display that love. On one hand, the person in charge of cooking will prepare tasty dishes as a way to tell how much she/he cares for the other family members. On the other hand, those eating will reciprocate that love by eating up what’s on the plate and asking detailed questions about ingredients, origins of the recipe, and difficulties encountered in the preparation. Quite often, the story of how a meal was prepared will initiate other stories about how the recipe was discovered  and in which circumstances. As a result, conversations about a specific food will often lead to the narrating of stories about people, places, and occasions that somehow relate to the dish in question. It is fair to say that every recipe carries a story that the cook will happily share to entertain and please her/his loved ones or guests.

LaCucinaEIl-newRevision

Interestingly, keys, wallets and purses will be left in the kitchen, as it is the “safe” of the house – someone will always be there on guard. More importantly, this is the last place you visit before leaving the house to double-check that you have all the necessary items before exiting the house.

It is fairly common to hear Italians talking about food; they exchange recipes, rate restaurants they have been to, and discuss how to improve dishes they have already made. It is fascinating to realize how, whenever in the company of Italian people living abroad or travelling outside of Italy, they always end up talking about food. And yet, this is not due to a lack of other possible topics for conversation, rather it is the concrete expression of the degree to which their upbringing has molded their ways of approaching people and establish relationships. Talking about food is often an icebreaker and also a way to strengthen emotional bonds. This is why there is nothing more accurate than the saying, “it is around the table that friends understand best the warmth of being together” (See the Italian translation for this designed by WiseDecor Wall Decals in Figure 3). 

ERaccogliendosi-newRevision

Meals will never be quick and rushed; rather they will extend for hours while several plates are introduced and more bottles of wine opened. Every conversation will start with an assessment of the food presented followed by compliments to the cook and requests to exchange cooking tips. Many other stories will originate from the initial food conversation and plans for new dinners will be made to taste and share new recipes. The length of dinner parties is impressive and the amount of time spent around the kitchen table eating often surprises non-Italians. In fact, it is important to understand that in Italy, to eat is not always directly related to being hungry. Rather, Italians think that “appetite comes with eating”! It is not surprising then to be forced-fed by the cook who will always argue that it is indeed by eating that you will eventually realise how hungry you are. Buon Appetito!”

Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValentinaBlueStampValentina is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens, cooking and extensive knowledge of food. She operates in the USA and Europe. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. Copies of her three books are available on 

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Sweet Power Of An Onion | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I had a taste for grilled onions last Sunday. I was harvesting the produce in my small orchard, I thought it would be perfect to grill some of them while the pizza was cooking in the wood-burning brick oven in my garden. Grilled onions made into a salad sounded perfect, light and powerful for the sunny weather. (Click on each photo to view it larger).

BrickOven
(I built this brick oven in a very simple style, but it makes the greatest pizza and bread)

Onion is considered the truffle of the poor, it is a good antibiotic, a natural diuretic, a natural warm up as it produces warmth in the body and contains as many medicinal substances as a whole apothecary could have. It helps against cardiovascular diseases and we all like food believed to be aphrodisiac. Onion and white wine make a perfect potion of positive effect against cold, fever and cough.

Onions fed the builders of the Pyramids, the troops of Alexander the Great and Emperor Nero constantly munched on leeks to clear his throat.

I believe if we take onions away from the kitchen there is no gastronomic art. This was my roasted onion salad last Sunday.

RoastingOnions

On the stove, I grilled the onions first with only olive oil and marine salt. When grill marks formed on both sides, I covered the serving plate with arugula (from my orchard). On top, I laid circles of roasted onions, round slices of tomatoes from my orchard (we want to keep the same shapes for visual effect), I added a few green olives and a citronette emulsion made of lemons from my orchard, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. I said “from my orchard” many times, that’s because I am very proud of being a city girl and know how to grow my own food. To me, it’s about being in control of what I eat.

I cannot make tasty and healthy food any more simple than this.

CipolleArrosto

There was a time when my parents would say “I will leave you on bread and onion!” when my brothers and I did something they didn’t like. With all the good proprieties onions carry, it would have been a nice punishment, but somehow it did not sound so good then.

I am here and always available for consultations if you need to build a brick oven, a kitchen spice garden, or an outdoor kitchen. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved



Valentina Cirasola
has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition, and well-being. Finally, she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine dedicated to super healthy food, easy to make and wrote one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on

Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Where Is Your Fire? | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Small spaces are challenging, but I never see them as a problem. With a little research work for the right item that matches the measurements of a restrictive area, everything is possible and often one can fit the cutest item in any small space.
barbecue-Sigmafocus

Wall BBQ

Focus, a French company, came up with “Sigmafocus” an elegant wall-mounted BBQ that looks more like a hat hanging on the wall. Made of steel, it opens from the wall and the generous fire bowl comes down at your height ready for BBQing any food. The plate on the wall protects the wall from the smoke. It is perfect for garden or balconies and even for apartment living. The same company produces “Diagofocus”, a beautifully designed cylinder and stylish space-saver BBQ.

Diagofocus
(Photos: Sigmafocus)

Do you live in an apartment? This next solution is a dream. The balcony BBQ mounts on the rail of the balcony as if it was a planter, except that you can cook your favorite vegetables and meats. Check with your landlord, as many apartment managements do not allow any type of BBQ. Price 59.00 Euro, find it here http://www.connox.com/categories/outdoor/barbecue/bbq-bruce-balkonygrill.html

Balcony BBQ
(Photo above:  cdn.shopify.com)

Italians do the Italian things. Hand-painted colorful ceramic BBQ are highly decorative and can be placed anywhere in the garden or patio. Even when not in use for grilling, the grill area can turn into a small counter by covering it with a flat plate, then a wine bottle and glasses can rest on it.
Find it at https://www.facebook.com/romeo.cuomo
There is poetry in something this beautiful !!!

Italian Ceramic BBQ

In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from Zeus to give it to the mortals…. Slow food taste so good. Is your fire ready?
If you are looking for something special, I am here to help, just ask. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val:FarfalleStampValentina is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens, cooking and extensive knowledge of food. She designs for USA and Europe’s markets. She loves to remodel homes and gardens. With her many years of experience she is able to cover a wide range of design solutions. She offers design consultations on-line and anywhere in the world through Skype line. Valentina is the author of three books all available on Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Flavor Of Colors | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Kitchens to me are the quintessential expressions of colors because we can paint the walls with colors of the food to feel the vibrations of health and we can eat in the rainbow, as often I define my gamma of food.
Yes, colors have feelings, expressions and flavors. Once I taught kids a class on “Colors The Simple Way” and asked them to paint the flavor of their favorite color. Even though I didn’t require painting food, I wasn’t surprised to see the different interpretations each kid came up, as they all thought of flavors of food from their countries. (…) The flavors of colors might be different to people in different parts of the world, whether they satisfy a physical need or submit to a cultural requirement. (…) as it reads in my book RED-A Voyage Into Colors.
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

FAMILY

Ever since I moved to California, I have had the opportunity to grow food in my garden. I opted to plant an orchard instead of temperamental plants. In Europe space is limited and I had never grown food in my life. However, good food, grown and prepared the natural way was my family concept of daily nutrition, just as in any Italian family.
The knowledge of natural food in Italian homes exceeds any nutritional book. Junk food, munching on candies and salty processed food just doesn’t exist in our homes and we have no interest in GMO food, so far from our concept!

Everything changed when I moved to California and a great problem faced me. Food corporations want to corrupt our health by selling corrupted food. I managed to stay very healthy all my life and I intend to continue staying that way. I am not going to be subject to the abuse of corporate food. What did I do? I boycotted all the corporate super markets, I shop at local producers, small food stores and the rest I grow it myself. I had to learn quickly how to grow food and how to become a “urban farmer”.
I am not interested in going out to eat either, unless I know where the restaurant food comes from. Tough luck for them, but in my house, food is natural, the taste is excellent, its color is flavorful and my friends forget to live because my food is so good. Often, I wonder if they come for my food or me!!!

Here it is something you can make and keep in the refrigerator. Give yourself the flavor of Vitamin C, any time you eat.

Dry Peppers Compote
From the Internet, I bought Italian grown seeds of:
Italian Roasters
Italian and Greek Peperoncini
Cherry Peppers
Chichen Itza (this specialty pepper takes the name from a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya civilization)

Preparation:
First with needle and cotton thread sew each pepper on the top part until a necklace is formed (see first photo above). Tight the two ends together, hang it in a full sun area to dry for a week, or longer if there is humidity in the air. Bring it in a dry place at night.

After one week, cut open each pepper, discard the seeds, chop in very small pieces, add salt and leave them to dry on a cloth and in the sun again for 2-3 days, until the salt has drawn all the humidity from the peppers. Bring it in at night.

Peppers Variety Drying

Prepare the condiment:
Chop garlic and Italian parsley both very fine, add capers, and season to taste, no black pepper, some of the peppers might be hot. Mix the condiment with the dry peppers. Fill up a glass jar (no plastic container please) with the compote, cover with extra-virgin olive oil to the top of the jar, close and store it in the refrigerator for a week. Let the flavors marrying before you polished it completely.

How to use the compote:
Put it in sandwiches, eat it as a salsa, spread it over grilled fish or meat, enrich a green salad, or simply eat it with freshly baked crusty bread.

Last year my compote lasted three days, I didn’t even have the chance to take a single picture, but in between all those jars you see in the photo below of my home-grown and home-made food, there is one compote in there too.

Val_In_Her_Paradise copy

Do not hesitate to ask, if you need some information. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val:FarfalleStampValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Often people describe her as “the colorist” for a reason. She lives in a colorful world, wrote a book on colors RED-A Voyage Into Colors and loves to color her clients’ environments by creating the unusual. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being, then finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine. Find Valentina’s three books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Lunchtime | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

Today I am following the photo challenge: Lunchtime  by Michelle.

Colors in the kitchen do not stop at walls, counters and cabinets. Designing and preparing meals with a good company is a creative process to stimulate feelings. Colors contain the ingredients, which give out taste. Choosing and combining colors in food is as important as selecting ingredients to make delicious morsels. We can characterize food in a color wheel and make that the palette for our daily nutrition. Nature has created the beautiful seven colors rainbow as an optical and meteorological phenomenon, to which we refer when we talk about color selection. We can refer to the same rainbow colors when we select food, except that eating food in colors is not an optical illusion, is a real solution to a healthy life. To this, add healthy laughs, family and real friends and voila’ you have created the solution of a good life.

 

I am featuring here five colorful dishes from my books on Italian regional cuisine Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

Roasted Vegetables Tarte
Potatoes Gâteau Al Verde
Zucchini Fritters
Cauliflower Muffins (savory)
Fried Olive with Barley

I want to point out one dish in particular: Fried Olive with Barley. The recipe doesn’t even call for barley, I added it because the black Calphalon background of the skillet would have not shown the black olives, but after I tasted it, I say it’s the perfect healthy lunch.

Preparation:

Boil the barley in salted water for 25 minutes. Barley takes longer than pasta to cook and it tastes always “al dente”. Set aside when done.
In a skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil, sauté black olives until they look crinkled. Add some chili peppers if you like it hot and 1 or 2 chopped tomatoes.
Continue to sauté briefly, add cooked barley, sprinkle chopped Italian parsley and a swirl of olive oil.

This specialty is typical of Puglia, a region in the South Italy, filling and healthy, so simple it is almost a non-recipe. I hope you will try it. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

PDots2Robert Taitano, a friend and business associate of http://www.wine-fi.com says: “Valentina – an International Professional Interior Designer is now giving you an opportunity to redesign your palate”. Check out her books on

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

The Red On The Cheeks Comes From The Mouth | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

One of my friends has just returned from a month of vacation in Italy. She spent two weeks of her vacation in a kitchen of an agritourism to get some hands-on training on typical Italian cuisine. She is a personal chef and owns a catering company. Our catching up conversation was mostly centered on Italian food and table customs. She could not help but noticing the difference and making a comparison between her American eating customs and the Italian eating style. She noticed how properly people conducted themselves while sitting at the table and how she never spotted an Italian local person eating in the street while walking, an activity only foreigners and tourists engaged in.

focacciapomodori_a

At the restaurants and in the place where she was cooking for a few days, she went along with the flow of dinner and how her hosting friends conceived it. They ordered many dishes from antipasto to pasta, meats, and vegetables to fruit, cheeses and dessert. The dishes arrived at the table not in serving platters for sharing, as often is done in the States, but in single plates, each person got his/her portion of everything ordered.

cavatelli-limonati

One time they ordered grilled fish and she did not expect to see the deboning process at the table, right before her eyes. That is a common practice in any respectable Italian restaurant.

waiter-cleaning-the-fish
Photo waiter deboning fish at the table  from TripAdvisor 

There was a considerable time space between each specialty, she told me. At first she was puzzled to why it took so long to finish the entire dinner and even longer to get the check, people lingered at the table, talking with espresso coffee and digestive drinks, but by observing how Italians carried on conversation and relaxed with wines and company, she understood right away that she was in the land of “Dolce Vita” where eating is an art and nothing else is important while sitting at a dining table.

At some tables where business people gathered for lunch, talking about business, my friend observed, did not take place until after all the ordering of food and wines was completed and after people took interest in each other’s life, news of their families and the general happenings. Then during the second half of the dinner, business talk started.

She was all so surprised to see the freshness of food and its vibrant colors in both raw and cooked state. Fish was colorful and smelled like the sea, she said. Of course, she knows that in America supermarkets do not sell the entire fish stock in one day, thus the next day the store will re-propose old fish to the customers marinated in herbs or in some kind of dry rub. In Italy, nobody would buy the re-adaptation of fish. If I want fish, I go directly to the fishmongers. I am fortunate to live in a coastal place, where it is possible to go directly to the source.

My friend asked me why in Italy people don’t suffer gluten problems as people in the States do. You would think that with the large amount of pasta, rice, pizza and bread consumed in Italy, everyone would have gluten intolerance. Well, the answer is simple and crude: Italian food manufacturers do not stuff food with hormones, vitamins, sugar, sodium, MSG and other absurd chemicals. Read the labels of any American food and you will see that the majority of ingredients are unpronounceable chemicals and of real food, there is only a faint percentage. In Italy egg yolks are orange, chickens are yellow and don’t eat corn; pigs are not fed with hormones but acorns, which makes our famous prosciutto (ham) so perfectly balanced; gelato is made with real milk and fruit; bread only contains flour, water, yeast, and olive oil; vegetables are not sprayed with chemicals and fruit arrive at the supermarket with the dirt they grew in, not polished with wax. To this add the Italian lifestyle. Italian people walk to stores, to work, to schools and most of the places they must reach every day. In fact, my friend the chef, after all the commercial cooking she did for her own experience and the eating she did for her own enjoyment with daily wine tasting, lost 14 lb in one month and she could not explain how it happened.

As I say during my books’ presentations: “The red on the cheeks comes from the mouth”. Eating real food daily will help release extra pounds and stabilize the weight. Most importantly, real food will introduce positive energy in the stomach, which in turn will exude from your skin pores and that is good enough to keep away for your system any food intolerance ever invented by the human mind. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

 

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She especially loves to design all those rooms with a “make me feel good” tag attached, such as kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms, and entertainment rooms. She is a public speaker and a mentor. She is also the author of two Italian regional cuisine books and a book on colors, all available here in this site on the Books page and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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