Time For Figs | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Figs_On_My_Table

Autumn and its warm colored nature is rolling in, my wood for the fireplace is already stacked up in my backyard. Grape harvest has started and soon we will taste some young wines. Beautiful color arrangements are beautifying our homes and my desire for earthy food is growing. This time of the year I have a lot of figs in my kitchen, fresh and dried, they are part of my Mediterranean diet.

Figs are in the family of mulberries and have numerous health properties, one of which is to protect the heart. Figs lower blood pressure, are high in potassium, low on sodium, contain Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and the antioxidant polyphenol prevents atherosclerosis. Do we need any more reasons for eating figs any time we feel like it?

The memory of picking up figs during my childhood with the adults, my father, uncles and some of their friends is grand. We sat with the baskets full of figs under a tree and ate them with pecorino cheese and bread. The combination of sweet figs and salty cheese is perfect and the colors are so fantastic: deep purple on the outside and red purple on the inside. The combination with white of the cheese, the purple of the figs and the green of pistachios nuts is simple magic happening in the mouth while the taste buds dance happy.

BakedFigs

Have you ever tried baked figs stuffed with nuts or gorgonzola cheese? It takes 5 minutes of preparation and 5-8 minutes of baking. Simply cut the figs in half and place one nut (any of your liking) or a dollop of cheese in the middle. Close each fig like a sandwich, place them on a baking sheet and in the oven at 275° F., bake just enough to melt the cheese or warm up the nuts. Cool before eating.
Find this recipe on page 101  of my book ©Sins of a Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts.

Pair a Chianti wine if you are combining figs and pecorino, or fig with prosciutto/salami, otherwise, if you are having figs and nuts, a good bubbly Prosecco will be perfect as well. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2014 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val LeopardRobert 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”. She is the author of two Italian regional cookbooks and one book on Colors, all three available on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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A Stiffener For The Holidays | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

There was no way we could leave a family or friend’s house before tasting a touch of home-made rosolio. I know you are asking what the heck is a rosolio.

Let’s go back in time: Renaissance Italy 1400. Monks and most respectful families engaged in a practice of adding flavors to distilled water to cure simple ailments and to help digestion after a heavy meal. The flavors came from experiments of macerating herbs, plant roots, flowers and seasonal fruit, sometimes mixing some species together and sometimes using them singularly. Sundew, a particular carnivorous plant considered aphrodisiac attracted so much interest during Renaissance time that became the main ingredient for rosa solis, a cordial liqueur of a pretty bright yellow. Flecks of pearls and real gold to attract energy from the sun enriched the mixture. Nothing but the best for rich and nobles! The word rosolio originated from the predecessor rosa solis. By 1700 the entire Europe was enthralled with spirited drinks served in dainty glasses that became a social recreation more than medicinal purposes.
It’s hard to get rid of something that makes us feel good, therefore this social habit continued to these days and digestive drinks (after dinner drinks) were born.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Cordial Glasses-A

In Europe is still very common to find cordials in most households. They are generally made of seasonal fruits and served straight out of the bottle, no ice, no water added to the glass. Just like during the Renaissance, a cordial drink is always served in a small and dainty glass that one holds by the foot of the glass, or by the lower part of the stem. This is not a drink that goes down in one shot, sipping and savoring is the way to go while enjoying the company. It forces us to have cultivated manners.

StrawberryLiqueur

(Photo from my book: ©Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts)

There is still time to produce this delightful Strawberry Liqueur and have a taste of a home-made stiffener during the holidays. My clients get an array of original food I produce in the most natural way and not found in any stores.

Strawberry Liqueur
Ingredients:
34 fluid oz. of pure alcohol 90° proof
17.5 oz. of strawberries
34 fluid oz. of water
24.5 oz. of sugar

Wash strawberries, take out leaves and stems.
Place the strawberries in a glass jar with a lid that closes hermetically, pour in the alcohol and let them macerate for at least 30 days. Gently turn the jar up side down every three days and return it to the up right position.

After 30 days, make a simple syrup with water and sugar. Bring it to a boil and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar is melted.
Let it cool before filling the bottle.

Filter the macerated strawberries trough cheesecloth or a tight mesh colander. With the help of a funnel, pour the strawberry liquid in a decorative glass bottle, add the simple sugar. Shake the bottle gently, taste. Mix in a little more alcohol, if you like it stronger. Close with a tight cap. Let it rest one more week, then enjoy it. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val:FarfalleStampValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. 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

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

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

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

Wall BBQ

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

Diagofocus
(Photos: Sigmafocus)

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

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

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

Italian Ceramic BBQ

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

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

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

Flavor Of Colors | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

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

FAMILY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peppers Variety Drying

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

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

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

Val_In_Her_Paradise copy

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

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

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

Lunchtime | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

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

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

 

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

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

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

Preparation:

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

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

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

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

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

Golden Secret Of Exotic Pineapple | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Pineapple Sliceshttps://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/canned-pineapple-slices_245799055.html

Grocery stores fill up on pineapples, this sweet fruit, mostly in December, as it is very much associated with Christmas holiday’s food, but knowing the good properties of pineapple we should be eating it all year around.
Pineapple is a good aid for digestion. Bromelain is a particular substance or an enzyme that breaks down proteins reducing them to amino acids and thus promoting their elimination. Bromelain is also used as a meat tenderizer.
Where in the pineapple is bromelain, this good property, located? Right in the center of fruit, just that part we always discard.

Numerous are the beneficial influences of a pineapple. The fruit purifies and detoxifies, thus functions as a diuretic. It prevents cellulite and for those who need to release a few pounds, would not hurt to eat pineapples only a couple of days a week, skipping other food. This practice prevents the accumulation of fat, deflates the stomach and allows losing pounds quickly without damaging the health. Do not overdo, one or twice a week is more than sufficient.

(photo below found on: http://indigena-grupo.blogspot.com/2010/06/tupi-guarani.html)

Indio GuaranoThe Guarani Indio, ethnic indigenous of the Americas from Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and the south-central part of Brazil, called pineapple “Ananas” in their language. In my Italian language and most European languages it is called the same. I am sure when Christopher Columbus came to the new world, found the Ananas an irresistible fruit to leave behind, thus filled up his ships and took it back to Renaissance Europe, devoid of any kind of sweets, including fruit.

As a symbol of prosperity, success in work/business and as the family social status it is often found in kitchen decorations, plates and carvings; as a symbol of hospitality is often found as a carving on entry doors and bedrooms’ bedposts or headboard. In Europe, at the end of a dinner, fresh pineapple is served as a dessert, but what else can we do with this exotic fruit?

In my book: Sins Of A Queen, http://tinyurl.com/9agl5v9 , I have included one recipe of grilled chicken and grilled pineapple triangles served together in half pineapple shell, where the one half shell per person is the plate. Fun and delicious!

On my Pinterest board I find inspirations from other pinners.
This really was a good one.  A look-alike pineapple with a creamy spreadable cheese.
(Photo below found on: http://picmia.com/974282-pineapple-cream-cheese-spreadgreat-idea-for-a-luau-party)

pineapple-cream-cheese-spread

I served mine with a small variation:
on a large marble tile, I placed a mountain of cream cheese (any of your liking) covered with toasted almonds, surrounded with steamed and marinated broccoli in a simple oil and lemon citronette, accompanied with warm crostini.

I found another solution: a fun way to decorate the center table with a pineapple turned into a lantern. Dry the interior of the shell completed before adding a candle, just for your own safety.

Pineapple Lantern

(Photo above: viapin4fun5135.blogspot.com)

Fruit is really good grilled, poached, fresh, baked, or drunken in any type of alcohol. Get into the habit of serving it as dessert or appetizer. Ciao,
Valentina
 http://www.Valentinadesigns.com 

 

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValentinaXmas

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens, cooking and extensive knowledge of food. 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 out her three books on

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

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

 

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