It’s Easy Being Green | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

It’s easy being green in my kitchen. Vegetables abound even though no one in my family is vegetarian or vegan. Every meal is composed of various food, complemented with vegetables prepared in all possible ways. We eat everything, nothing goes to waste. There are no enemies at my table the “infamous calories”, we don’t believe in counting calories. We enjoy our food. Simple as that.

People who have eaten in my house, ask me why my food is simple and full of flavor. The answer is equally simple: I don’t need to produce complicated food every day, but I want to eat savory food, with layers of flavor easy recognizable one by one, inside of which every spice comes through vibrantly fresh. The secret is the freshness of every ingredient. In my kitchen, there is nothing pre-packaged, pre-made, nor pre-organized by the food industry. I go to market to get fresh food and I return every two-three days. My vegetable and spice garden produces a small quantity of food, if the season goes well,  and I take full advantage of that too. (Click on the photo to view it larger).


What was green on my table today? Fusilli pasta with spinach pesto. When basil is not available, use spinach, arugula, or parsley.
It takes almost 15 minutes to make it, all the ingredients are raw except for the cooked pasta.
Before starting the preparation, very briefly toast a hand full of pine nuts in an iron skillet over the stove, or in the oven for 5 minutes. Be careful, they burn easily.
Now, wash all the spinach. Drain the water, but leave them a bit wet.
In the food processor, put all the spinach, 3-4 cloves of garlic and grated Parmigiano cheese (I used pecorino for a stronger flavor).
Turn on the machine and from the top hole, add olive oil a little at a time, until spinach have become a cream.
Drop the green mixture in a skillet, add pine nuts, season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Cook pasta al dente for no longer than 8 minutes. Drain the water, add it to the skillet with the pesto mixture.
Toss and turn, let it marry well. Serve this delicious green pasta with more cheese to add at the table.

This is a green dish to cook and eat at once, good for summer or winter. It will surprise you how easy it is being green and to eat green food.

Oops, I goofed, I should have used a yellow plate with this green dish.  Food photography should be equally appetizing. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

 

Copyright © 2017 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved


Valentina Cirasola is the designer who cooks. She has a deep interest in food that led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition, well-being and learning food of the world. She wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory, in which she included one recipe for each color. Robert 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”. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on

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

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Rice Possibilities | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

risottozafferanofunghitrifolati
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

“Rice borns in water and dies in wine”. I wrote in my first book: ©Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity. Let’s start the year with something delicious: Saffron Risotto.

Risotto is a staple food for most of us Italians. It is not a fancy specialty as it might be in foreign countries. Arborio or Cannaroli type of rice, stubby, high starch content, is the type of rice needed to get the right creaminess in a risotto. Toast it in olive oil and a dollop of butter, softens with white wine,  add all the ingredients and cook it slowly by adding a few ladles of warm broth at a time until juices are consumed, and rice is cooked to a perfect cream. Some people make it sound so difficult, instead it is the easiest food to prepare in 20 minutes or less. I like to add saffron to get a wonderful a yellow color.

Improvising many other dishes with leftover food from the simple risotto,  it’s easy and the possibilities are endless: muffins, rice frittata, rice ramekins, rice torte, just to name a few. They are ideal for parties, make them fresh, don’t serve leftover food to your guests..

Risotto with mushroom: Cook the rice as mentioned above. In a skillet cook the mushroom. At high heat and 1/2 glass of water cook mushrooms only to let water out, then discard it, it would be bitter if you use that liquid. Add garlic and ginger in olive oil, bring the mushroom to the skillet, let them saute’ and marry together about 10 minutes, season with salt, pepper and parsley. Serve with the risotto mixed in or as two separate entity as in my photo (above).

Risotto muffins with asparagus. Cook the rice as mentioned above, or if you like to take short cuts use the Mahatma Yellow Rice. It’s not the same thing as making your own risotto, but it saves time, 10 minutes and it is ready. While this is going, prepare asparagus as you like. I brush them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then grill them. After the rice is done, cut the asparagus in small pieces, mix in the rice, add one egg and Parmigiano cheese, fill a non-stick muffin pans with this mixture, sprinkle Parmigiano cheese on top and bake at 375ᴼF until golden brown. Serve on a bed of mixed greens as in my photo (below).

asparagusrisottomuffins

yellow-rice-mahatma

Risotto Muffins with veggie and meat. Mix in the risotto some leftover veggie, ground meat, one egg, spices, season to your liking, fill paper cup cakes, drop them in the muffin pan and get a new taste. Bake at 375ᴼF  until golden brown. (Photo below).

risottomuffins_veggie_meat

Risotto Squash Ramekins (single portions). In the oven, roast a butternut squash seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, sage and olive oil.  When done, scrape the pulp off the squash shell and mix it with the risotto. Butter and fill ramekins with the mixture, sprinkle Parmigiano cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake at 375ᴼF until golden at the top. (Photo below).

risottosquashramekins

Remember, all the ingredients are already cooked, it is only matter of marrying them together the second time when you have leftovers. Give a leftover an intriguing new taste. This is very easy, promise! Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

 

Copyright © 2017 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

FedoraHatStampValentina Cirasola is the designer who cooks. She has a deep interest in food that led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition, well-being and learning food of the world. She wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory, in which she included one recipe for each color. Robert 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”. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Beneath My Feet | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Beneath my feet usually there is a beautiful floor. I am one of those designers proposing clients stone flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpet. I tell them about the versatility of stones, the easy care and low maintenance stone require, how easy it is to live with stones and how much more hygienic stones are versus carpet.

In my home I have a warm, beautiful terracotta tiles floor, but when I go out to my garden, I walk on grass, gravel, weeds, stepping-stones and around all of that there is the food I grow. I cultivate many vegetables, fruit and a variety of tomatoes, which are as sweet as candy. Some years my tomatoes come in a great abundance and I make a ton of sauce for the winter, turn them in sun-dried tomatoes, I use them for salads, or eat them off the vines like fruit. In fact tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable.

Under My Feet

Tomatoes_Under_My_Feet

One of the foods I have eating since my early days of life and keep on eating to these days is bread and tomatoes. Some people call it bruschetta, but the type I eat is really bread and tomato. Bruschetta is a toasted or grilled sliced bread, with a garlic spread and a lot of toppings. For my bread and tomato, I only need a fresh crusty bread, type of ciabatta or Pugliese style, basil leaves, olive oil, sea salt, fresh chili pepper and of course tomatoes. I open the bread roughly, not even with a knife, split open the tomatoes on top of the bread allowing all the juices to penetrate the bread. I season it with salt, chili pepper, basil leaves and a generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil. Done! I eat it open face and not as a sandwich. Next to it, a piece of Italian Gorgonzola cheese is always welcomed. This is often my breakfast or lunch.

CourseTomatoes

Sometimes, I spend hours creating gourmet food that have appearance and taste of a five-star dish and guess what? To me nothing will ever compare to bread and tomato.

I always wonder why such a simple type of food with so few poor ingredients taste so divine and it is so filling? The answer is in the land, the sun and singing to the vines. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

This is my participation to WordPress photo challenge. https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/beneath-your-feet/

 

Copyright © 2015 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

 

Val LeopardValentina Cirasola is the designer who cooks. She has a deep interest in food that led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition, well-being and learning food of the world. She wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory, in which she included one recipe for each color. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Vermicelli Alla San Giuannidd | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

The feast day of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated with events in many parts of Italy and in many parts of the Christian world from Lithuania to Brazil. He was the first apostle of Christ and the only saint whose birth is celebrated instead of his death.

(Statue of Saint John the Baptist patron of Chiaiano Center. Photo found on: http://sasaprof.blogspot.com/2008)

On June 23 people gather to celebrate a midsummer eve, the longest night of the year with bonfire, music, parades in period costumes, special street markets, craft, fireworks, drinking and eating. In the Marche region of central Italy the feast culminates in the “Infiorata” a carpet of flowers all over the town.

dianaciminococco(Photo credit: Diana Cimino Cocco)

Particularly in Florence St. John feast has been observed since the medieval time with a 3-day celebrations of street expressions. One of the many activities for women is collecting herbs, some of which have medicinal properties, such as fennel, rue, rosemary, lemon verbena, mallows, laburnum, foxgloves and elder flowers. According to an ancient believe, on Saint John’s night evil spirits and witches fly around, herbs are hung on entry doors and tall bonfire with a made up witch on top will keep the evil spirit away.

Vermicelli San Giuannidd

(Photo above found on: http://www.blogpennacalamaio.com/2011/11/spaghetti-alla-san-giuvannidd.html)

In the south of Italy the specialty of this day is “Vermicelli alla San Giuannidd” (Vermicelli Pasta St.John’s Style), one of the typical dish of Puglia.

Ingredients for 4 people:
1 anchovy per person
2 garlic cloves
chili peppers to taste
3 teaspoons of capers
16 oz. of cherry tomatoes cracked in half
grated Pecorino cheese
salt to taste
olive oil
2 oz. per person of vermicelli pasta

Fine chop the cloves of garlic and crack open the cherry tomatoes. In olive oil sauté garlic, capers and anchovies until anchovies are almost crumbled. Add cherry tomatoes. Some people add olives too. Season with salt to your liking. In another pot bring salted water to a boil to cook the vermicelli pasta al dente. Drain the water of the pasta, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking water to dilute the sauce if it is too dry for your taste. Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce and toss it well. Sprinkle a small amount of Pecorino cheese. Add a swirl of olive oil and it’s ready. The anchovies will disappear, but a tasty flavor will remain.
Usually in Bari this dish is prepared for the deep of the night after everything is done and the celebrations are over, people gather and cook in the small hour of the night. Always enjoy food with people. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

 

Copyright © 2014 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValentinaValentina Cirasola has a deep interest in food that led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition, well-being and food of the world. She wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory, in which she included one recipe for each color. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

 

 

Bread In Style | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

You would think that if you go to a bread shop is to buy bread and a few other treats available in the shop, but in Italy people want to find style and colors with bread. The shop must be packed with flavors, aromas, inviting atmosphere and fashion. “L’occhio vuole la sua parte” as we say in Italian, basically we eat with the eyes first and if the owner of the shop is well dressed with harmonious clothes and appearance is well put together, the bread products sell even better. This is the case of Patrizia Perrone, owner of Panificio Perrone – Forno di Gennaro, in Matera, Italy. Her newly remodeled shop designed by Italian architect Antonio Di Benedetto at KA Lab is modern and very stylish with a back room for casual eating looking to an open view in the production, because there is nothing to hide when products are made with naturals ingredients.

 

All her products sit on shelves with a suffuse lighting and the bread behind the counter is displayed in an appetizing way. The apron Patrizia wore intrigued me and pushed me to interview her. She started by saying that her company logo is a bread shaped as a woman representing the women running her company. In ancient time only women made breads, but since home stove had not been invented yet, the women took their bread dough to a public oven to have it cooked. A wood stamp with the initial of the head of each family distinguished one bread from another. Artisans carved those wood stamps for breads and in Matera there are still a few artisans continuing the tradition. In Patrizia’s case her breads are stamped with the letter “P” after her first and last name: Patrizia Perrone. The production in the back of the store is highly organized with modern machines programmed to produce breads, focaccia, biscotti and other sweets with ancient formulas everyone is still demanding.

Her apron is not a common kitchen apron,  it is asymmetrical cut at the bottom right; in the back three stripes, one on the right shoulder, one in diagonal on the left shoulder and one in the waist hold the apron together. The white scarf on her head is an old tradition, a form of respect for food, she told me. Before women attempted to work on the dough for bread, cookies or pasta, they closed the hair in a scarf to keep food making hygienically clean. Her natural, earth tones make up is in tune with her natural products and emphasizes her open, glowing beautiful face, framed with a pair of earrings I am sure heritage of her grandmother, a sign that everything here is a tradition and well tied to the territory.

In an Italian bread shop, a visitor notices many things: bread is stylishly shaped, because we eat it everyday, thus must look good on our table; the bread shop must be stylish, otherwise people don’t feel invited to walk in, food sold in the store must be stylishly packaged and fashion…..well in Italy  is a must even when selling bread. Italian style is about feeling good, look good and give pleasure to others. Patrizia by keeping alive the traditions of our land  gave me a great pleasure when I saw the Pannarella my grandmother made sold in her store. The description next to the product says Pannarella is like a canvas to color. Ciao,
Valentina
https://valentinaexpressions.com/trips-to-puglia-2

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val LeopardI am writing a travel diary of my last trip to Puglia with an American group and sharing with all of you my notes of feelings, observations, food-wine tasting and experiences that have changed the life of people traveling with me. The trips I organize are made for people who want to live it up in Puglia! Find Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w 

Things I Miss | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

This video has circulated in a group of Italian women I belong. The video is all about the best most common Italian food. Many women in the group commented that the video made them cry. I know, we the expatriates, miss our mother land, we get very emotional and like them I miss it too, but Italy is not all about food.
Thanks to the proliferation of food lovers, importers have made possible for us expatriates to find all kinds of Italian food even here in the USA making the distance from home more digestible. Prices for imported real Italian food are outrageous, but they know we bend to their wishes and our tables are always a bounty of food from home that manage to astound our friends and silence our pain.

What I miss about Italy is not the food. What I miss is a life of subtle emotions.
A. I don’t see the swallow birds and their sweet chirping announcing the coming of Spring. Instead, I see black, scary and ominous crows. Their sound reminds me of Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds”.
B. I  don’t hear the church bells ringing at midday marking Italian lunch time break. How sweet to go home and eat with the family.
C. I miss my neighbor knocking on my door to ask for a cup of sugar, a lemon or a hand full of parsley, which often is an excuse to get a cup of coffee together.
D. I miss my girlfriends calling at 11:00 at night just to shoot the breeze and tell me about the happenings of their day. In the US nobody calls anymore but everybody text. Texting takes more time to write word by word than to say the same thing verbally. Voice travels faster than typing and the voice doesn’t betray emotions. Through voice we can detect if a person is sick, sad, happy or lying. Texting is cold, calculate and abbreviated.
E. I miss the salty water smell of my Adriatic Sea and the transparent waters of Gargano and Salento. Just taking a simple walk around the Lungomare (along the sea) in the downtown area of Bari my hometown is invigorating, healthy and relaxing.
F. The grocer in my hometown, when he received a new product, a new wine or something he knew I would appreciate,  always put it aside for me, or called me to tell me about it and if I didn’t show up in the store for 3-4 days, he would send someone at my home to check that everything was fine and didn’t need any help. In the American grocery shops I am one of the millions shoppers without a face or name.
G. I miss taking long walk with friends, talking, laughing and watching shops’ windows without buying anything.
H. I miss going to restaurants and café for fun, leisure, pleasure, not for conducting business as people do in the States. It gives me indigestion to sit in front of food at all hours of the day and talk business with people I might not see again. I eat breakfast in the early morning, lunch under the sun rays and dinner under the moon rays. I don’t miss any meal because of work and I don’t eat and drink at all hours of the day either. Having a glass of wine at 3:00 in the afternoon, just to share some business ideas, doesn’t cut it for me and end up either changing the appointment to a more convenient time for me or turn it down all together. In Italy we have apéritif after 6:00 pm, when the day is over and we can enjoy friends, colleagues, or business associates as people.
I. I miss my neighbors sticking their nose in my business. There was time I thought they were such a nuisance, but if I got sick, they always came around with soups and cooked food. Now in the States, I live in a  very private neighborhood, it’s so private that if I leave for month, no one knows I was gone and if I am sick nobody brings me anything, because nobody knows I am even sick.

Perhaps some of my northern friends in my Italian group will disagree with me. Perhaps the North of Italy is very much like the US, but I come from the South of Italy, where each one of us has a weight in somebody else’s life, friendship is real, family ties are strong, promises are promises and contracts are still done with a handshake. “I see you later”, really means later in the same day, or “I call you later”, really means that person will call again in a few hours. You have no idea how many times I waited for someone to call or to come, when I first arrived in the States and didn’t know any better.

One of the comments of my group of women said we must be in peace with ourself and accept the new place as it is. There is no one living in a foreign country more in peace as I am.  I made a great living in a foreign land without anyone’s support and without a family. I am very thankful to have experienced a new life and new customs, but the things I miss, I will always miss and if I think harder the list could be longer. Pardon my lament,  it’s so uncharacteristic of me to write a post like this one, it must be the corny Christmas time. Wishing you all great holiday seasons. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValOperaStamp2

Valentina Cirasola, is the principal designer and owner of Valentina Interiors & Designs. She is a trained designer and has been in business since 1990. She works all over the world via Skype line and in the traditional in home consultations producing concepts for remodeling, restoration of historical dwelling, upgrading, décor restyling and home fashion. Vogue magazine and many prominent publications in California featured Valentina’s work. She has made four appearances on T.V. Comcast Channel 15 and interviewed on various Blog Talk Radios. Author of three books all-available on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Italian Christmas Market | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

The first of its kind, inspired by markets all over Italy and Europe, this Italian Christmas Market makes its first début on Dec. 7 and 8, 2013.
A group of Italian women called D.I.V.E., expatriate from Italy living abroad organized the market.

The expositors all expatriate Italian women as well, gifted with unusual talents will present their custom-made creations for the first time. The market is a showcase of “Made In Italy By The Bay”, all items strictly made by artisans to promote Italian creativity. We can enumerate a variety of:

• artisanal Italian gourmet foods
• handmade jewelry
• Italian fashion accessories, luxury bags
• Italian language books
• several unique craft items all made by Italian Artisans
• travel (villa rentals, customized travel and weddings)

• I am one of the D.I.V.E. and will be there showcasing my three books, custom-made crocheted fashion items and personalized trips to the southern region of Puglia, Italy.

The Italian Christmas Market will take place at the Italo-Americano Museum, Fort Mason in San Francisco, CA. Dec. 7-8, 2013. Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

If you are closer to San Francisco, please join us for two days of fun. There will be a storyteller to entertain the kids, while parents shop. If nothing else, being among an Italian community of highly spirited women will put you in a cheerful state of mind. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValOperaStampValentina Cirasola is a trained Fashion and Interior Designer, working in USA and Europe. Born in Italy and in a family of artists, style surrounded her since the beginning of her life. Her decades of experience led her to offer consultations in both fashion and interior. “Vogue” magazine and many prominent publications in California featured Valentina’s work. She also has made four appearances on T.V. Comcast Channel 15. She is the author of three books, all available on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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