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

A Wine Moment | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Cacc’e Mmitte sounds as an unpronounceable strange name for a wine and perhaps it is, but the flavor is unbeatable. It’s not a new discovered wine for me since I come from the same region of the wine, I am surprised to know that a few wine representatives now carry the Cacc’e Mmitte in their selection of wines for restaurants and pubs.
In the Southern Italian dialect form, this name refers to the easy drinkability of the wine after it has been freshly pressed and the easiness to refilled the glass with a wine that doesn’t need much aging.
In reality making this wine is an ancient procedure. In the remote times of south Italy, farmers rented all the wine making equipment for only one day to anyone who wanted to make wines, but the pressing process had to finish in one day to leave the premises free for the next person. At the end of the procedure the wine must was taken out of the wine pressing tanks “Cacce” and transported away to a new cellar premise, then a new tenant came in for one day and used the same tanks “Mitte” to crush their grape and produce a wine style of their liking.

The Cacc’e Mmitte is a D.O.C. wine originated in Lucera, in the Foggia district of Puglia region, where the Gargano shows off the beauty of the Adriatic cost.
In 1995 Italian laws set the D.O.C. label to protect names, origins, production methods and characteristics of Italian food and wine, therefore it stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled Origin).

I love its ruby color and its intense aroma, its alcohol content is about 11.5%. What do we pair this wine with?

A few days ago, I tried it with Valdeón Due Leche Blue cheese from the Spanish region of León, wrapped in sycamore maple or chestnut leaves. It’s made with cow and goat cheese, hence the name due leche and I must say the odor is pungent, but an incredible bombardment of flavors happens when brought in the mouth. Needless to say we consumed a large piece of the Valdeón in a short hour and only two people.

Now take out your tulip shaped calyx, pour yourself Cacc’e Mitte wine, enjoy it with the Spanish Valdeón, add a few nuts and forget the world. 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

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

Loving Escargot | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

To kill them or to eat them! That is my question, my garden is so full of escargot.
If I ought to call them snails, slimy little creatures that destroy my plants and food crops, then I feel to kill them, but if I think of them as escargot, suddenly they become expensive and precious morsels.

Ancient Greeks and Romans appreciated escargot as a fine and delicate dish. Before cooking them, they purified their little stomach by leaving them to soak in milk bath for a few days until the snails got totally bloated and couldn’t get in their shells anymore. Purify them meant to eliminate any bitter grass or poisonous fungi (to humans) the snails had possibly eaten. The same practice goes on today.

The annals tell us that in 49 B.C. a certain Fulvio Lippino was the importer of snails from the islands of Sardinia, Sicily, Capri, from Spain, France and North Africa and supplied the large demand of the rich Romans.
Through the Middle Ages a plate of snails was well-regarded as a lean speciality. In fact, 3.5 oz. of snail meat without shells has only 0.4 protein and 0.05 fat, which means that calories are less than 65 per 3.5 oz. It is highly digestible, the meat contains water, salt and the shell transfers calcium and phosphorus to the meat. Snails are good food to protect against bacteria.

I thought that snails were one of the few poor food farmers could afford to eat. With rustic bread, a piece of cheese and a robust red wine their meal was complete, but at the beginning of 1800’s French chefs revived this little crawlers with the famous Escargot à la Bourguignonne, raising the price to a new height.

As I said earlier, before tackling the cooking it’s important to purify the snails from their saliva and impurities in their bellies. One way is to close them in a box with a lid well aerated on the bottom and leave them to dry for a few days; another way is to feed them corn meal until they are really fat (just like keeping them in milk) and can’t get back into their shells. Some people scald them in hot water. Whatever method you will choose, this process it’s important to eliminate the bitter taste and impurities.

Infinite are the ways to cook snails. My favorite way is with a light tomato sauce, easy and simple.
The only ingredients needed are:

Snails
Extra-virgin olive oil
Chopped garlic
Sun dried tomatoes (a few)
Chopped fresh tomatoes
1 Glass of white wine
A hand full of fresh basil leaves
Salt and hot chili pepper to taste

Sauté in olive oil snails with the shells, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Flavor with 1 glass of white wine and let it evaporate.
Add chopped fresh tomatoes. Season it with salt and chili peppers to your taste and cook for about 15-18 minutes.
Before serving, give it a sprinkle of fresh basil leaves.

This is the way my grandmother made them and has remained my favorite of all snail recipes from Puglia.

How To Eat Escargot

  • Snail tongs and a slender two-pronged snail fork are always at to the right of the plate.
  • Use the tongs to grip and hold the snail-shell in place.
  • Use the snail fork to pull out the meat from the shell.
  • Savor the escargot, then the sauce. Tear off a small piece of bread (usually a rustic type). Using the snail fork, dip the bread into the sauce. Enjoy the dish until the bread is gone. Trying not clean the plate completely it’s hard to do, but in a restaurant is not a good manner.
    Bon appétit. Ciao,
    Valentina
    www.Valentinadesigns.com 

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

“The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star.” ~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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 unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
Check her two Italian regional cuisine books in this site on the Books page and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w  

Her new book ©Red-A Voyage Into Colors is about ready for publishing. Stay tuned!

Lambascioni Or Muscari, What Are They? | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Some call them wild hyacinth bulbs, some call them wild onions, in Puglia we call them Lambascioni, the dialect form of the Italian word Muscari. Puglia, the southern region of the Italian boot is full of ancient food the rest of Italy doesn’t produce.
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Muscari is a bulb that grows to ft. in. tall. The edible part is the bulb, the flowers (hermaphrodite) both masculine and feminine are self-fertile, they fall in the ground a self-reproduce. Insects also pollinate them and transport the seeds elsewhere. Some people might get them through pollination, but not knowing they are edible, they let them go unobserved.

People in the food business discovered Muscari or Lambascioni and now enumerate them among all the food delicacy, but I can assure you, it was the poor of the poorest food our agricultural people in Puglia ate for centuries.
If we think about it, poor people in the past were healthier than the rich, the nobles, the landowners and kings and queens. Poor people ate the produce of the land, raw or cooked in a simple way and enhanced the flavor only with the simple spices they grew in the land.

Muscari bulbs have a pinkish coloration, no smell and a very bitter taste at the raw state. I would not suggest eating them raw. It ‘a perennial plant, which blooms in delicate purple flowers until late May, have no scent, but the bright purple attract plenty of insects for its pollination. I plant them between other flowers, as they look so good in the garden. In my last photo below, I show my Lambascioni growing between a bed of arugula. The Lambascioni plant adapts to any climate and soil but prefers full sun and reproduces abundantly in well-drained clay soils. Fall is the best time to plant them, before the cold arrives.
Muscari have many properties, some of which are refreshing, diuretic and stimulant of the digestive organs; stimulate bile secretion, cleanse the intestines; useful for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol; it is an anti-inflammatory and is especially useful in cases of inflammation of the bladder and bowel. I can say that Lambascioni prevent and protect the intestines by freeing them from harmful substances and making more difficult the passage of bacteria in the blood.

To get the bitterness out, I leave the bulb in milk for about 15-20 minutes after I peel the outer shells and washed the dirt out, then I cook them in a few different ways, for example:

  • casserole of lambascioni with zucchini, potatoes and Parmigiano cheese;
  • lambascioni fritters in a tempura batter;
  • lambascioni roasted on the grill and eat them with fresh tomatoes and a hardy cheese;
  • lambascioni frittata with eggs and prosciutto;
  • lambascioni baked with sausages.

However, my favorite way is much simpler and it seems most people in family likes them the same way:

“take them out of the milk, as I said to get rid of the bitterness (discard the milk, please, it turned bitter by now), place them in a pot with salted boiling water and cook them until fork tender. Drain the water, transfer to a salad dish and mash them with the back of the fork to make a soft creamy mixture.  Add extra-virgin olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, chopped Italian parsley, salt & black pepper or chili pepper, if you like a kick. Spread the delicacy on a fresh baguette warm or at room temperature. The slight bitter taste will not linger in the mouth, actually it is very pleasant and after about one minute or two, it is not noticeable anymore, as it changes into a sweet and pleasant taste”.  I assure you a good experience!

 

 

I have ordered the seed from Puglia and now living in California I will be the only one having them on my table spring and fall. Ciao.
Valentina
www.Valentinadesigns.com

 Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola has been in business as a designer since 1990. 
She has helped people realizing their dreams with homes, offices, interiors and exteriors. She designs landscape as a complement to the residential design concept as a unity. She loves creating gardens spaces that will serve the kitchen as well, other than beautification of exteriors. Check out her two published books on regional Italian cuisine, available in this site on the Books’ page and on:
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Three Wonder Words | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

“Wonderful Cookbook!!! I have three wonder words: Baked Ricotta Cheese. Just amazing. The recipes are simple to understand and the instructions are easy for me a home cook. She takes a hand full of ingredients and turns them into a feast. This cookbook is just as good as the first” ~ says the review from one of my reader Shannon L. Sigman of San Jose, CA – on my book ©Sins Of A Queen.

This is a book on Italian Appetizers and Desserts, but everything in there can also be made into easy meals. Baked Ricotta Cheese on page 51 is such an easy recipe that it’s almost a non-recipe. The only ingredients needed are fresh ricotta any olives, Italian prosciutto, or any ham, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Drain the water from the ricotta. Beat it to break the molecules, mix in all the ingredients. Butter a baking dish, lay the mixture in the pan and bake at 400˚ F for about 40-45 minutes. Serve it with a tomato salad, or mixed green salad. Don’t forget a piece of Italian bread and a glass of wine. Dinner cannot be any simpler than this. I kept my promises when I said I was going to write the simplest Italian recipes ever, especially thought for people living a busy life. That was my aim.

There are a few differences in the ricotta products you might want to know. Don’t get confused with Ricotta Salata, a salty ricotta aged for a few months and covered with a natural hard skin formed during the aging process. Ricotta Salata comes in a wheel and cuts in slices like any hard cheese. It goes well with salami, Italian cured prosciutto and grilled sausages, accompanied by a rustic salad. It’s a good rustic item to have among other appetizers.

The ricotta to use in my recipe must be the fresh type found in plastic tubs and sold in specialized cheese shops, where sometimes I am lucky enough to find it in straw baskets as it sells in Italy. The region of Puglia, in Italy produces the best fresh ricotta and related products. http://www.abbasciano.it/en. Fresh ricotta is a spoon type cheese, creamy and spreadable and contains a bit of water, thus is lighter. It is very good to eat when following low calories diet.

The difference in taste from the ricotta sold in supermarkets and the type sold in specialty cheese shops is like night and day.  Fresh ricotta is made from cow’s milk or sheep’s milk, the latter is a bit more fattening, but it has more body and a slightly salty taste. Both are good to use for savory cooking as lasagna, stuffed pasta with spinach and mushrooms, tarts, savarins, canapés and so much more. For sweets and cakes fresh ricotta is the best.


(Photo ricotta canestrata found on: https://www.italieonline.eu/da/italienske-oste-119.htm)

The day I plan to make fresh bread, I make also a trip to the cheese shop to get the fresh ricotta ready to go on that crunchy and hot bread from the oven.
It looks and feels like a hot volcano with a mount of fluffy snow on top and that’s the best way I can describe it in words.
Being very conscious of what I eat, cow’s milk ricotta is lighter and fluffy, it suits better my need and my taste. Yes, it is true, Italian people in Puglia eat as simple as this. Ciao,
Valentina

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 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.
She is the author of two published books on regional Italian cuisine, available on this site on the Books sections and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Her book on colors ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors is in the printing at this time and will be available soon.

 

 

 

Evolving Taste | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I thought I would have never said this but Italian taste for food is changing.

It has been over a decade that new emigrants are flocking to Italy as if it was the new land of opportunities bringing with them their culinary background and their culture.
Italians are now eating pizza with pineapple and cheese, or fried rice in place of risotto. Well, not everyone, fortunately food is one thing Italians are keeping away from corruption, but younger people, traveling to foreign countries more than the past generations are willing to try new food ideas.

I just could not help noticing the change in some of the original and traditional recipes. Cheese and fish cooked together was an absurd combination, it was viewed with skepticism and those people who attempted to do it were always criticized as not having a refined palate.


This is exactly what I observed in a restaurant on the Amalfi coast in Italy, a plate of fried anchovies sandwiched together stuffed with cheese and prosciutto in the middle. The waiter disregarding my dislike of anchovies paired with cheese went on and on trying to convince me that it was a good food and I had to try. I was up for the challenge. The food arrived piping hot and smelled really appetizing.

I must admit fried anchovies stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto was good and new.

However, I still believe if you want the taste the sea in the seafood, keep it simple and do not mix it with other food. Dairy products have a strong taste, no matter how light the product is, milk is milk. To me, milk fights with the delicate fish taste and leaves an after taste. The recipe of fried anchovies stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto is really easy, it’s up to you to try it and decide to like it or not.

Long live the blue fish, which is affordable and low in price, rich in calcium and omega 3 fatty acids.

(Above photo – http://www.scordo.com/recipe/fried-sardine-fillets-sarde-fritte.html)

To make stuffed fried anchovies all you need is:
10.5 oz of flour seasoned with thyme
10.5 breadcrumbs seasoned with thyme
3 whole eggs beaten
1 mozzarella chopped small
a few slices of Italian prosciutto
salt, black pepper to your liking
lemon juice
vegetable oil to fry

Keep each ingredients separate in various bowls. Add fresh thyme in the flour and breadcrumbs for an extra flavor.
Remove the interiors from the anchovies, wash and clean thoroughly.
Once the anchovies are butterflies (see my photo) place on the belly of each anchovy one thin piece of mozzarella and prosciutto and then close it with another anchovy belly down. Repeat until all the anchovies are paired up.
Pass the anchovy sandwiches in flour, than in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs.
Fry in the hot vegetable oil. Season the anchovies with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

 

Otherwise, the simplest way to fry anchovies is to butterfly them, pass in the flour, then in the beaten eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs. I eat fried food every 4-5 months and I use a good vegetable oil that I discard afterwards.
Once in a blue moon is good, the metabolism needs a good slap every so often.

My two books are filled with easy fish recipes along with other Mediterranean diet recipes.
They are a super source if you want to stay off the mortal diets and want to eat healthy while you are enjoying food.
Please check them out in this site on my Books section.
They are also available on

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

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

Yes, I do design kitchens, wine cellars and other rooms, but I also design your palate. Love to hear from you. 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 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.
She is a speaker and a book author. Her new book on the subject of colors: ©RED – A Voyage Into Colors  is in production at this time and will be released very soon.
Stay tuned for the launch.

 

Why Kids Eat Food For Kids? | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Poor kids, they get to choose their food from the kids’ menu and eat junk stuff while the adults indulge in every possible delicacy of the world!

My girlfriend was complaining that schools serve junk food to the kids for lunch. They are so used to eat “useless” food that when they return home from daily school, don’t even want to hear about the “real food” their mom, my girlfriend prepares.
She was telling me that her girlfriend in Italy commented that when her kids are in school (Italian schools that is) eat as adults do and the school menu looks the same as a restaurant menu, but I think it has to do a lot with our culture.

Mercato

Bari, Puglia – Italy Street market. Photo ©Valentina Cirasola

 

In Italy food is an integral part of our daily life, we get up in the morning and already think of what to eat for dinner. That gives us plenty time for planning the daily meals, go to the market and buy the food needed for the day.
Yes, we go to the market every day as Italians eat fresh food daily and not from the freezer, or pre-made, processed food prepared a year ago and sold in styrofoam packages, with a plastic film on top.

In America, au contraire of Italians, I have observed a huge disconnection from food. American “real food” is good, tasty, nutritional, colorful, which says a lot when people eat food in all the colors, yet Americans have opted for fast food and for days empty of cooking, as if cooking is beneath them (sorry, but I had to say this).

In my circle of friends and clients, I know many people who don’t cook and don’t even know how to boil water.
I also know many people who take the time to get up at 4:00 am to go to the gym until 6:30-7:00 am before tackling their day.
They do find the time to exercise, but have no time for cooking and eating well. I see no point of working the muscles to a statuesque perfection when the stomach is full of junk food.
The first death happens in the stomach! Just so you know.

I am including a link to an interested article I read about the artificial preservatives and color dyes in many junk food.
http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2010/09/10/whats-in-a-twinkie-kids-favorite-food-deconstructed/

OK, enough of that!

Kids should be educated at home first. I don’t think it is a good practice to give in to any kids’ requests. Kids will try anything to bend the parents to a nice sculpture and most of the time they will succeed. Parents are their kids’ managers, but often it is the other way around in America.

In my Italian family, when I was in the age I had no say so about anything, as in many of my friends’ families, there was no choice of food. We ate all that our moms prepared and if we didn’t like it, too bad, we went hungry. There was no alternative, no other choice and no junk food either. Our parents did that for our good, not to be abusive. Food in Italy is perceived as our friend and not our enemy that makes us loses time. It is not just perceived, it is respected, it is loved, appreciated and not wasted. That’s why kids in Italy will never eat from a kids’ menu, not in restaurants, not in the family, not in the school.
I have young nieces and nephews, they are a different generation, but their mom, my sister, taught them the same as our parents taught us about food. Equally, I can say about the young cousins in my family, when we sit at the table, we all eat the same food.
Bare in mind, this is not only the Italian people’s prerogative; I have seen the same attitude towards food in many cultures too, except in America. Here people have embraced a fast culture and don’t have time for food and cooking, the most important fuel for our brain. My question is:  what do they have time for?

(Hot Dog Photo http://greatestamericanhotdogs.com/food/item/chicago-dog-2)

 

Unfortunately,  in America, due to this mentality of everything fast, kids are treated as a non-important class, when it comes to food.
Why do they have to be fed so badly with junk food in the growing stage, the most important time of their life?
Kids will be the future managers of our society, we have a responsibility not to grow sick flowers!

junk-food

(ISTOCKPHOTO – http://www.cbsnews.com/news/saturated-fats-wont-raise-heart-disease-risk-omega-3s-wont-reduce-it-study)

Schools are expensive. For the money parents pay to send their kids to school, they should be able to get at least one healthy meal a day in return, but they don’t.
Parents should be able to count on schools not only to educate on academics, but to educated their kids on nutrition and cooking to provide them with the knowledge that will contribute to their life time good health. Sport, cooking and nutrition should be obligatory subjects to take, no excuse and while we are in this subject, teach kids also how to get closer to earth and grow natural food.
In the future and I strongly believe this, people who know how to grow food from seeds, who know how to make breads, pasta and know how to eat with vegetables, people who know how to preserve food will be the  survivors.

Please, parents make your own battle against bad food in schools, let your voice be heard and if schools don’t have the right person with the right knowledge of food, find that person.
Remember when your kids get sick due to bad nutrition, you are the only one to pay for, not the school.

I am an advocate of good eating, please don’t mistreat our kids, they are our future heritage.  As a food author, I am available to be hired for speaking engagements, or any seminars in any schools. 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 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, available here in this site on the Books page and in various locations:
Come Mia Nonna–A Return to Simplicity
Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts
http://outskirtspress.com/ComeMiaNonna
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M
http://outskirtspress.com/SinsOfAQueen

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


Tonight, Eggs, But Only À La Coque! | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

In Italy, as I believe in most European countries eggs are not considered breakfast food only. Kids eat them as an afternoon snack and they are common to find in the home’s evening menu, as a simple, fast to prepare and nutritious food.
(Photo basket of eggs – free download pngimg.com)
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

In Europe lunches are the main meals and dinners are much lighter in portions and caloric intake. Often a bowl of salad, a piece of cheese with bread and olives, a glass of wine and a piece of fruit will make a good dinner.
Other times, some eggs scrambled with meat and vegetables also make a good meal.

In my native region of Puglia, in Italy, lamb cooked in the oven with fennel, green peas and scrambled eggs is one of the most common dishes. My favorite of all the egg styles is egg à la coque, oeuf à la coque in French, uovo alla coque in Italian. Before you embark on the egg à la coque ritual, because it is a ritual, you must have the right tools, the coquetier (egg cup) made of any material, from glass to ceramics to metals and the egg topper (cutter), also made in a variety of metals, each ranging in price from $10 up to $90. If you like to have a professional restaurant type topper, the price will be much higher. Stainless-Egg Topper

For long time, I had searched for an attractive egg topper, if it was a second-hand piece, or an antique I would have not cared, I just wanted an interesting piece.
Once I was visiting some relatives in Bologna, Italy. Strolling around in downtown area, I stopped to admire the merchandise in the window of a jewelry store, it was clear to me the store carried some unique home pieces all in silver.
The store was elegant and expensive looking. I entered because it was inviting. I asked for an egg topper and the owner looked at me puzzled: “nobody uses this tool anymore, you must be a food connoisseur” he said.
(Photo egg topper: http://vermontkitchensupply.com/hic-stainless-steel-egg-topper)

Apostrophizing one as food connoisseur is a bit over rated, I just want to treat myself to good things in life. He showed the only example he had available and I purchased. I was lucky to find the egg topper I wanted, it is made of silver, not a contemporary design and they got rid of something that had not sold in years. I have used it ever since.

Back in the kitchen. Prepare some mouillettes, long bread strips.
I cut the bread in slices, then in strips, brush olive oil on each piece, roll them in grated Parmigiano cheese, place under the broiler and toast for a few minutes. The bread is for dunking inside the egg yolk and a small spoon is for scraping the egg white off of the interior shell.

In a small pan, boil the water, with a needle poke a hole on both ends of the egg, when the water boils, rest the egg on the dipper and slowly drop the egg in. Let it boil for 4 minutes, take it out and place it on the coquetier.

 

Make a decisive clean cut at the top with the egg topper to expose enough of the egg, serve with the warm toasted mouillettes.
Asparagus tips sautéed or grilled, or a small bowl of green peas will fit really well with egg à la coque.

I like caviar, for me it is like the parsley in every dish. If you like caviar, place it on the caviar dish and eat it together with the egg à la coque.
What a way to end the day! A lite dinner with eggs, caviar, a glass of wine and you will be happy, happy. I hope you will try it. Ciao,
Valentina
http://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, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. She is also the author of two Italian regional cuisine books available here and in various locations:

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


Is There A Trick in Fennel And Wine? | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

My grandfather was a landowner, he cultivated some of his lands for vegetables and fruit and some as a vineyard.
He exported part of his wine production to France to blend with French wines; he sold the rest locally and kept some for his own consumption.
There was a trick to his wine drinking, an ancient ritual that belonged to every seasoned man in Puglia before drinking red wine.

I am not really sure who invented it, even though I call it my grandfather’s wine trick.
There were a few steps to follow for the trick to work well. First, there was a selection of a perfect fennel stalk. The men blew a few times into the hole of the stalk to make sure there was enough suction through the hole.
After that,  with a knife, they filed down sharp edges of the fennel stalk to make it into a perfect straw device.
When everything was to their satisfaction, they set under the portico, at the rustic table with the clay jug of red wine always on the floor by their feet, ready to enjoy the hot Summer breeze and the tasty meal their women had prepared.

This ritual is still found in Puglia, where some wines are so strong they can be cut with a scissor.  Putting a fennel stalk to soak in the wine jug will change the flavor of the wine, but if we just want to lighten the flavor of the wine and make it slightly sweet, we put a fennel stalk in the wine glass and drink out of the stalk as if it was a straw. The taste of the wine passing through the fennel stalk is so incredibly different and refreshing!

Of course, this practice is good for house wine, or for not very expensive wine, please don’t do this to a $500.00 wine.

After the perfect straw was made, the bulb and the green fronds were kept for cooking. 

Fennell belongs in the family of carrot, coriander, dill, parsley, and celery, all falling under the Umbelliferous plants, which are those plants with hollow stems and clusters of flowers coming out of the same stalk. Fennell bulb is a good source of water, good to eat while playing any sports under the sun. Excellent source of vitamin C as antioxidant and fiber to help reduce high cholesterol and toxins from the colon. It also contains potassium, a precious mineral that helps lower high blood pressure.

As a versatile vegetable, it is found in the cooking of most countries in the Mediterranean basin mixed in salads or cooked with lamb or mussels. Fennell baked or grilled with cheese becomes a super pasta dish or a delicious sandwich.
The green leaves are edible; they are very good with eggs or egg frittata.  However you like to cook fennel, it will be a surprisingly good dish.

(Photo right found on: http://fitlife.tv/benefits-juicing-fennel)

Fennell has been around since ancient Greece and Rome, revered for its medicinal and culinary properties. Greek mythology holds interesting beliefs and stories.  The Gods at the Olympus brought knowledge to people in a fennel stalk. Good, I know that’s a myth, but perhaps all the healthy properties of the fennel have an impact on the health of the brain in retaining knowledge.

In the hot Pugliese Summers, every trick to cool the bodies down is a good trick! It always fascinated me to watch men going through the ritual of finding a good fennel stalk.

Now, the ritual continues with me. The guests at my table are always surprised and puzzled about why I do that, but they do enjoy the ritual and enjoy listening to the stories of my traditions,  as far as liking the fennel, people who don’t come from Mediterranean basin have a difficult time accepting its flavor.
This article has been seen on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine by Sally Cronin.

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, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms, and entertainment rooms.
She is the author of two published Italian regional cuisine books available here in this site on the Books page and in various locations:

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

Amazon and Barnes&Noble

 

 

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