Bizarre Faces of Arcimboldo | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Palazzo Reale in Piazza del Duomo #12, in Milan, Italy will host the exhibition of “Arcimboldo” a Renaissance Mannerist artist of the 1500’s. The exhibition will be open from February 9, 2011 until May 22, 2011 and it will feature the fantastic bizarre “Composite Heads” , the whimsical portraits of the Italian artist who composed them of plants, animals, and objects.


Giuseppe Arcimboldo, also spelled his name Arcimboldi and Arcimboldus, nobody knows why,  the painter used all the names to sign his works, therefore it is uncertain which version is the correct one, but I think extremely creative people want to hide behind various identities to give themself an enigmatic aura.

Arcimboldo was born in Milan in 1527 and grew up during the High Renaissance.  He was born “con la camicia” (with the shirt on, not naked) as we Italians would describe someone born under a lucky star, in fact his father was the painter commissioned to paint the Milan Cathedral. And so his life evolved between one lucky opportunity to another. Giuseppe became a student to the renowned painter Leonardo Da Vinci. In the course of 25 years he became the painter to the royals and due to his ability to design the bizarre was hired by many royal courts as “The” party planner of the sixteenth-century staging the most flashy affairs of  Europe’s courts.

 

Just imagine gilded fountains and rivers of champagne, flocks of colored birds, music, theater, tons of original artwork, sculptures, and much pageantry. As a precursor of his time Arcimboldo invented unique special effects for the royal events. He called one of his invention the “Harpsichord of Color” a gigantic hydro-mechanically powered musical instrument, a sort of modern organ.

His art was considered more a novelty than great paintings. As famous as he was during his artistic life, he was forgotten after his death and rediscovered around the end of the 19th century. The art critics attribute the lack of interest in his style of painting to a generational changes of taste, fashion and manners.

Particularly I adore the four season paintings series.

In the Summer portrait (above) the gentleman’s nose appears to be made of a cucumber. On the man’s coat the artist embedded his name into the collar of the jacket and the date 1573 on the shoulder at the seam of the sleeve.
Arcimboldo dedicated the series called Earth paintings to the elements of nature.

The very famous Man in the Vegetables painting is an inverted illusion. Right-side up, the painting looks like a bowl of fresh produce, invert the picture and it looks like a man’s face with lips of mushrooms.

A lover of food and food depicted in art like myself should not miss this event, but unfortunately I will. For now, I am just content to tell the story, perhaps things will open up in my busy agenda. Never say impossible.
In the meantime, I am here to help you with the selection of your art for any decor. As the professional who is always ready, I shall be prompt and ready to help you with any of your needs, whether it will be decorating, designing, or remodeling. Just leave your name in the box below, I shall answer in 24 hours time. Ciao,
Valentina
www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

 

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer working in the USA and Europe since 1990. She colors the world of her clients. She has been described as “the colorist” and loves to create the unusual. Her specialty is to design kitchen, wine cellar, entertainment rooms and bathrooms like spas. Author of three books available on:
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

 

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This Is What The Convent Passes Today | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

In my Italian family planning a weekly menu was one of the many things to do at the end of a Sunday: preparing books satchel for the next school day, ironing some clothes, polish shoes and basically getting things ready for the week while my parents compiled lunch and dinner menus for each day of the week. In Italy, due to the long lunch break, the majority of people go home to eat and relax for at least two hours in the North and four hours in the South. Planning the weekly menu is a good way to save money on grocery, in that once the menu is set, for our own convenience, we don’t get out of the set path. The food must be fresh and for that reason we go to the local street market everyday with the list of the menu in our hands to buy the necessary food and only if something is not available on that day we change our plans, but generally markets carry just about everything in season we need.

Buying in season is another thing that distinguished Italians. Produce cultivated by local farmers that don’t travel long distance are very good for us, they are not picked before maturing time and they will not go the phase I call “from green to trash”.
Have you ever experienced buying bananas not totally ripe and three days later are rotten already?
I hate it, because I hate throwing food and money away.
Vegetables and fruit in season have more nutrition, taste so much better,
flavors are enhanced naturally by the sun and not induced by machines, colors are vivid.

(Photo left: ©Valentina Cirasola)

Preparing the weekly menu is one way to stay healthy and keep the weight stable. In my family we  never bought pre-made food, or take away.
We knew exactly what to prepare.

However, as teenagers, my brothers and I, not always agreed with our parents on food. There were times when we fussed and stomped our feet on the floor  protesting against the food we did not like. The answer from mom was always the same: ‘this is what the convent passes today” and we had the choice to eat it or starve. Guess what? Eating whatever it was planned for that day was always easier than starving. With Italian food one can’t go wrong any way.

Now living in America, I prepare my weekly menu only for dinners, but I make enough for the next day lunch. Not once, since I have been in US, I have gone into any fast food joints. Lucky me! Thanks to the good teaching, I don’t crave those food, I don’t know how they taste, so I cannot miss something I have never tried.

Programming our weekly meal is healthy, keep us on track, we can control the intake of salt, sugar, spices and fat, we know what we are eating and we can save money.  At home the serving portions are never vulgarly enormous. Have you noticed how moderate home eating is versus eating in restaurants?
I like to go out to restaurants and discover new food, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t make an everyday habit.

I wished more parents would say to their children “this is what the convent passes today” instead of opting for children food and give in to their requests.
Just a suggestions.
Leave a comment in the box below, love to hear your opinion. Ciao,
Valentina
www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos.
She is  the author of two regional Italian cookbooks available in this site at the Books Page: 
Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity.
Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M
Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts

Also available in various locations:
http://outskirtspress.com/ComeMiaNonna
http://outskirtspress.com/SinsOfAQueen

Into The Vegetable Garden | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Tenerumi

How many vegetables people throw away because they are no known, or because nobody has ever shown the way to prepare them? This is the case of the tender fronds at the end the of the squash branches.
In Italy we call them ”tenerumi” and they are quite delicious. It is a very simple type food, a peasant food, the stomach doesn’t need complicated food everyday anyway and they can be presented quite elegantly, if you like.

First, when harvesting squashes, separate the large leaves, which are tough to eat from the small tender leaves at the end of the trail. Wash only the tender lease to get rid of soil impurities and cut them in diagonal to make a chiffonade.

Bring to a boil a pot pull of salted water. Salt will seal the green color of the leaves and they will not turn grey. Boil the leaves for about 10 minutes, take them out of the water with a perforated ladle, but do not drain the water.
In the same water, cook a short type of pasta, such as rigatoni, penne, rotini or ditaloni. Keep it “al dente”. The pasta texture and consistency it is very important for us Italians.

In another pan, sauté a couple of shallots or green onions in olive oil, add a couple of chopped tomatoes, or a basket of cherry tomatoes split in half (I like cherry tomatoes better), cook for about 10 minutes, then add the boiled tenerumi leaves to the sauce and let the flavor combine for a few more minutes. If you like a bit of heat, add some chili pepper to the sauce. Tenerumi have a bland flavor, but that is good too, if you like to keep it bland.
Adjust the sauce with salt and pepper to your liking, mix cooked pasta in it and serve warm with a generous sprinkle of Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese.

This is very simple and healthy version. For a richer taste, it is OK to combine sausage cut in small bites, or pancetta (Italian bacon) while sautéing the onions. Potatoes go well with tenerumi (squash leaves) in place of pasta, or Italian rice Arborio to make a risotto as usual. With or without the starch element, squash leaves are delicious vegetables to pair up with a piece of salmon, or a steak and a nice red wine served in a goblet.

Photo ©Valentina Cirasola

Photo ©Valentina Cirasola

Another type of leaves which goes to waste are the carrots leaves. They are delicious in quiches and frittata, or sautéed first and mixed in a meatloaf.
Fennel fronds are also not understood leaves, they are good in soups, in roasted lamb with peas and/or combined with eggs.

In American markets, I have difficulties finding these kind of leaves, they don’t make it to the shelves of the supermarkets. The solution was to grow them myself, otherwise what it the purpose of having my own garden? Flowers are beautiful, but food grown in my orchard are even better for my health and soul.

Simple and peasant food is the reason why in the past peasants were healthy and rich or noble people had gout. If you want to lose weight go for the greens and not for the shakes! Ciao,
Valentina
www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian interior designer with a passion for kitchen and cooking. She operates in USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos.
She writes often about food and she is the author of two Italian regional cookbooks available in this site at the books Page:
Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M
Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts

Also available in various locations:
http://outskirtspress.com/ComeMiaNonna
http://outskirtspress.com/SinsOfAQueen
http://www.amazon.com/Valentina-Cirasola/e/B0031A02H2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?r=1&ISBN=1432762060

Who Says A Salad Must Be Green To Be A Salad? | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

 

Photo-Drawing Collage ©Valentina Cirasola

Photo-Drawing Collage ©Valentina Cirasola

 

Who says a salad must be green to be a salad?

Try tomatoes, oranges and black olive salad. Add lot of fresh basil leaves, salt and a bit of chili peppers, if you like a kick.
Don’t forget a few swirl of good quality extra-virgin olive oil, a Leccino oil from Puglia, accompanied with a fresh crunchy Pugliese bread.
This is a salad to first impress your guests with and then to die for it.
Its refreshing, very summery, juicy and very ancient Italian salad.
Find it in my book: Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity.

The book is making people who want to live a long happy life, really happy. Ciao,
Valentina

www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Author of two Italian regional cookbooks:

©Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity – watch the video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M

©Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts

Both books are also available in this site at the Books Page and also in various locations:
http://outskirtspress.com/ComeMiaNonna

http://outskirtspress.com/SinsOfAQueen

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

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

 

Mixed Grilled Meats On Skewers | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Drawing ©Valentina Cirasola

Drawing ©Valentina Cirasola

I need to tell you about this Italian custom of each Saturday night in country towns of Puglia, in Italy. It is an excerpt from my book: ©Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity. The book contains many cultural notes intended to let the readers discover the region of Puglia in an original way, from me, the writer, and local native of those parts.

“Many people would turn their nose up at this dish, because it is made with animal interiors, but read it first, you will know why I am raving. “Gnumeridd” is the title of this specialty, which is the dialect version of the Italian mixed grilled meats on skewers.

At the end of the week, butchers might have some leftover meats and animal interiors. They don’t throw them away but get creative on Saturday nights. They pull out their grill, place it right outside of their shops and cook the various cuts of meat on skewers: home-made sausages, small pieces of veal or lamb with bones, and the “Gnumeridd”.

While people are strolling around, enjoying the Italian “Dolce Far Niente” (sweet to do nothing), and the butcher’s grill. The air is filled with the enchanting and phenomenal aroma coming from the butcher’s shop and permeating the entire street. People are attracted by the flavors, their mouth waters, the only sensible thing to do is to stop by the grill and choose the pieces of grilled meat right off the grill which will be served in a cone of yellow butcher paper, wrapped in newspaper sheets. Among those pieces of grilled meats, they will find the surprise, which is the “Gnumeridd”.

Customers will eat standing up leaning against the wall of the butcher’s store, or sitting along the sidewalk. They will eat using their hands, no forks are allowed, and will enjoy every bite while thinking that perhaps even God must have stopped there for a taste as these bite-size grilled meats are divine!

I define the “Gnumeridd” dish as a hypnotic type of food because it is tasty, juicy, and aromatic. The reason for the superb taste is the good Puglia olive oil, good clay soil, and no hormones in animal nutrition. All of these combined make simple food fit for a King. Once you try the first one, you will want more and more, like cherries. It is a social dish. If you are eating by the butcher’s store every one you know will stop by and with one excuse or another will want to eat with you. This is a specialty of a town in Puglia called Altamura (Tall Walls).

How do you find the interiors of animals in American supermarkets, since everything is sold in packages? For this recipe, you need liver, hearts, and kidneys. Go to the back of the store and ask your butcher to reserve for you the parts of your choice and the type of meat of your choices. The original Puglia’s recipe requires lamb, goat, sheep, beef, and porc. In America will be challenging to find some of these meats, thus make it with the available meats.  Ask the butcher to take the fat off and chop them in bite sizes.

Finely chop any spices of your liking, except the laurel leaves, and reserve.
Coarsely chop the raw liver, hearts, and kidneys. Wrap them up into single slices of bacon to obtain rolls of about 4″ long. Tie these rolls with a 100% cotton thread.
Stick them on a skewer, alternating a laurel leaf between each piece of cubed meat and the Gnumeridd.
Baste them with a rosemary sprig in a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper and grill them until done inside thoroughly and they are golden brown and crispy on the outside.”


Barnes & Nobles 

This recipe can also be done with good cuts of stew meat and without the animal interior parts altogether.  Try it and love to hear your comments. Ciao,
Valentina
www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Author of two Italian regional cookbooks available in this site at the Books Page:
Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M
Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts

 

Sea-Urchins or First Newly Wed Night? | Valentina Cirasola |Author and Designer

 

Sea Urchin

Fish in Puglia is a sacred saint subject! It is a very serious matter. People eat it at least four times a week and every time is a ritual.
“Il fritto misto”, or mixed fried fish is always eaten with the hands when brought to the mouth is almost like playing the harmonica with the flesh and the bones.

Many fish sauces or broths are always used as condiments to pasta or rice and the fish cooked with those sauces becomes the second course, this way the preparation time is well spent and we have two substantial dishes at once. It is also a good way to save money on food. Pugliese cooking is today, as it was in the antiquity, a frugal cuisine.
One characteristic aspect of the fish in Puglia is the ritual of eating it raw on the bank of the Adriatic Sea.

In Bari, there is a place called: “N-Derr’a La Lanze”, a centre of the mariners’ life of the old city, where fishermen leave their boats to rock on the calm waters of the port and where they sew their nets and curl octopi for hours. Curling octopi it is a spectacle to see! It is an ancient practice that goes back to the late 1500’s and is only done in Bari.

The City Council governing Bari in the 1500′s established that the curled octopi had to be sold in a roll of one Kilogram at the price of 3-1/2 grain, which was the money value at that time. The curling serves the purpose of tenderizing the octopi, which then will be eaten raw with only a glass of white wine and a piece of fresh country Pugliese bread.

Much seafood, or as we call them “frutti di mare” are eaten raw, such as sea truffles, mussels, clams, razor clams, oysters, sea-urchins, smelt fish and others found in the Mediterranean Sea. Sunday meals especially are not complete without seafood.
We have an old Barese saying that goes: “It is better to eat sea-urchins and seafood than to consummate a first newlywed night”. In other words, sea-urchins are only good when they are freshly caught, retaining briefly their color and taste of the sea, but marriage, when built on solid foundations, is always there.

Please forward this article to anyone you think might be interested in reading it and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. Thank you. Ciao.
Valentina
Visit the designer: www.valentinadesigns.com


Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Come Mia Nonna–A Return to Simplicity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M
Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts
Available in this site at the Books Page and also in various locations:
outskirtspress.com/ComeMiaNonna
http://outskirtspress.com/SinsOfAQueen
http://www.amazon.com/Valentina-Cirasola/e/B0031A02H2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Robert Taitano, a friend and business associate of www.wine-fi.com says:
“Valentina – an International Professional Interior Designer is now giving you an opportunity to redesign your palate”.

I Survived A 13 Courses Dinner | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

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New Year’s Eve in almost every Italian homes is like history repeating itself. A 13 courses Lucullian dinner awaits to be consumed. Soon after Christmas people start planning their New Year’s Eve, whether it will be in a club, restaurant, or at home with family and friends, the end of the year is an important day of the entire year. It is a common believe that whatever one does on that evening and the first of year, one will do it for the rest of the year, therefore no crying, no paying bills, no arguing, only cooking, eating, laughing and spending a pleasant passage into the new year.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

The street markets and stores stay open at least until 5:00 pm for those who need the last few ingredients, or to find the last-minute outfit for the evening.
The people who stay at home to celebrate with their loved ones, end up cooking all day long. It sounds like an awful stressful activity to do right at the end of the year, but in reality Italian people love to cook in company of other people and even with their guests. Lot of laughter and camaraderie goes on during the cooking and that is one of the many reasons food in Italy taste so good, we make them with love and pleasure.

It is customary at lunch to have a small snack of vegetables and a fruit, but at night the New Year’s Eve dinner is an act of culinary cleverness and serious professionalism. The dinner table is well set, but not overly decorated with useless stuff, the food will take a center stage on the table of this evening.


Orange Appetizer

The dinner for this special night consist of 13 courses by tradition, one for each month of the year and one more in honor of the new coming year. It seems a whole lot of food to brush off in one night, but starting at 6:00 pm when everybody sits down at the table, until midnight when the champagne bottles pop, there are six hours of nothing but food paced with intervals and slow enjoyment.
It starts with many antipasti of different kind, but a mixture of raw and shell-fish is the king for this night, as it is for all the eves before an important holiday.

The evening continues on the note of fish. Any type of pasta with any fish sauce is served as a first course and grilled, fried or baked fish as a second course.

Olives and savory munchies fill the table to help passing time between those courses which need to be cooked fresh on the spot, to encourage conversation and wine drinking. In some families between the first, the second and third course, it is customary to pass a small portion of lemon or orange sorbet as a palate cleanser. What a delightful and fine dinner practice!

After the most important part of the dinner is served, all the minor plates will be parading such as, fried vegetables, fried puffy dough, food preserved under oil or vinegar, dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruit, typical regional home-made sweets and cookies, along with the store-bought sweets.

One specialty must never be forgotten before midnight strikes and that is cooked lentils with a swirl of olive oil and basil leaves. The popular belief is that each lentil represents money, more lentil a person can eat, more money that person will make. Needless to say we consume a large pot of lentils every end of the year just to wish ourselves a good financial stability.

At midnight the champagne is popped, kisses, hugs and laughter fill the air, accompanied with panettone, a typical Italian sponge cake sometimes filled with chocolate, sometimes with champagne cream, or tiramisu’ as I like, or candied fruit.

The 13 courses dinner is over after midnight, but the night is young and it is the first day of the new year. Outside, people shoot fireworks from their balconies and windows. It is important to welcome the new year and celebrate it any way people can. If people celebrate this first day, they will be celebrating many more times during the year, so the old folks saying goes. Then at 5:00 am in the streets is time to taste freshly made croissants, hot from the baker’s oven with a warm frothy cappuccino to fight the cold temperature of this winter night spent in boisterous festivity.
Buon Anno, Happy New Year to all and peace in the world.

I would love to design your kitchen and show you the way to comfort and good cooking through a functional space. Contact me, I am at your service. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

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Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer in business since 1990 with a special passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos. She also the author of two Italian regional cookbooks available on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Living Life Without Limits | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

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I am a designer with a passion for cooking, most of the people who know me is aware of that. Writing and publishing a regional Italian cookbook has been the best thing I have done in 2009. I named my book with an Italian title and an English subtitle: ©Come Mia Nonna-A Return To Simplicity. The translation of the Italian title means As My Grandmother, the book, in fact, is dedicated to her, my nonna Pasqua, the person who taught me to love simplicity.

This book represents the quintessential of simplicity while being creative with food. So much so that it has attracted some restaurants in the area where I leave who want to feature some recipes from my book. “It would be really different to organize a book presentation if I host events at the local Italian restaurants in my area”, I thought. The idea is inviting, no author has ever done a book presentation in a restaurant, the idea is a novelty, I like it, let’s do it.  After all, I learned to live a life without limits, right?!

On February 24, 2010, Cedro Ristorante Italiano in Menlo Park, CA has graciously offered to host my book presentation event. The dinner will feature food from my book, I will be the commentator, the historian, the story-teller.

The region I wrote about is Puglia, where I was born, on the Adriatic sea. It is a mixture of antiquity and modernity, Baroque architecture, ancient table customs, tasty and healthy food to die for, and the region’s warm people.


Barnes & Noble 

The guests at Cedro Ristorante Italiano will have a unique opportunity to taste the delightful food of my land and will appreciate its elegant simplicity. Live music will fill the ambiance. Thank you in advance to all of you at Cedro.

The food of Puglia is in tune with all the needs people have today to stay healthy, eat good food to control the weight, cook fast because we are all busy, and save money at the same time, as the ingredients are inexpensive and can be found in any grocery stores, not only in gourmet specialty stores.

I cannot be happier about the interest that ©Come Mia Nonna-A Return To Simplicity has created. My book had a purpose and a message, I could not pass the opportunity to publish it when I did, it was the right time.

The book was published on Thanksgiving day 2009, that was a super good sign and made the best Thanksgiving I ever had! Thank you my grand Universe.
More book presentation events will happen in different Italian restaurants. Stay tuned! Ciao,
Valentina www.Valentinadesigns.com

Valentina’s book event: The Flavors Of Puglia Cedro Ristorante Italiano – www.cedroristorante.com 1010 El Camino Real Menlo Park, CA 94025 (on the corner of Merrill St. and Santa Cruz Ave) February 24, 2010, at 5:30-7:30 pm
Seating is limited

Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

VBlue2Please forward this blog to anyone you think might be interested in reading it and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. Robert Taitano, a friend and business associate of www.wine-fi.com says: “Valentina – an International Professional Interior Designer is now giving you an opportunity to redesign your palate”. Author of the book: ©Come Mia Nonna–A Return to Simplicity
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

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

Valentina is also the author of the forthcoming book on the subject of colors: ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors.

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