Pesto alla Genovese

Eugenio Montale became a Nobel laureate poet in 1975, the Swedish Academy awarded him despite his modest poetic production (5 books in 50 years of work), declaring that Montale was ”one of the most important poets of the contemporary West”.

montaleGlory of expanded noon
when the trees give up no shade,
and more and more the look of things
is turning bronze, from excess light.

Above, the sun—and a dry shore;
so my day is not yet done:
the finest hour is over the low wall,
closed off by a pale setting sun.

Drought all around: kingfisher hovers
over something life has left.
The good rain is beyond the barrenness,
but there’s greater joy in waiting

translated by Jonathan Galassi (forpoetry.com)

Montale was born in Genoa, in 1896 and died in 1981 in Milan. In his poems the focus is on the landscape, sunny and desolate, stone walls surronding vegetable gardens and cultivation of olive trees. In the inclement sun everything appears hard and cruel. Those poetic descriptions are very far from the turistic leaflets of Portofino or Cinque Terre. True is that Liguria used to be an hard and poor area and many it inhabitants migrated before and soon after II World War.

Pesto alla Genovese is a very tasty sauce, you can use for your pasta, on toasted bread as a snack, is wonderful with boiled potatoes. But mind the ingredients, they have to be fresh (sometimes I found basil that went to seed in the supermarket and it is too hard to get a real nice pesto), prefer pine nuts produced in the Mediterranean area (they are long and thin) rather the Chinese variety that is cheaper but they don’t taste the same (they are bitter). The original recipe traditionally,  is made in the mortar.  You can do pesto in the food processor, but with mortar the green essential oils contained in the basil leaves come off and  the marble of the mortar that is cold and prevents the oxidation of basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of leaves of fresh basil
  • a pinch of rock salt
  • 2 tablespoon of parmesan cheese, grated.
  • 1 tablespoon of pecorino cheese, grated.
  • 5 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and put them on a canvas to dry . They must be perfectly dry before starting the preparation of the pesto.
  2. Put a clove of garlic in the mortar,  Add 1 tablespoon of pine nuts and  crush until cream. Scoop out the garlic cream from the mortar and put aside. You will add it later.
  3. Put the remaining pine nuts in the mortar, half a cup of the basil leaves and few grains of rock salt.
  4. Smash the basil leaves with a rotating movement along the interior walls of the mortar. Add the remaining leaves, some more rock salt grains  and continue smashing.
  5. Then add cheeses. Amalgamate and taste. Adjust with salt if necessary.
  6. Finally, add the oil and stirr gently. Keep the pesto under a light layer of oil to prevent oxidation.

Meat Daffodils

Spring is finally here, days are longer, sky is blue, the sun is mild and a nice breeze is coming from the see. I feel like celebrate it with something cute and cheerful.

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

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Courtesy of http://blog.terminologiaetc.it

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought. (William Wordsworth)

When I was a child, daffodils were the first flowers to blossom in spring, we lived in the Tuscan countryside there were wild daffodils near everywhere. We used to pick them up and bring them to school, our primary school was an old country school with about 20 students, that has been dismissed soon after moved to middle school.

Now I live a very different life, in a metropolis, I speak a different language and I can only travel from time to time to Tuscany. I still believe myself very lucky because my flat’ windows  (I would say my kitchen‘s) overlooks a large garden full of spring flowers and the see, but still I miss the smell of daffodils, and late in June, the smell of lime trees that grow in my parents’ garden.

So, to keep up this spring spirit, today for dinner I prepared those meet daffodils: they are very popular those days in family cooking in Tuscany and you can buy ready to put in the oven in any supermarket. But they are very easy to prepare and there is no need to buy them ready, especially because you can’t choose the meet, the cheese and the sausage you want use.

Meat Daffodils 1

Ingredients

500 gr. of veal medallions sliced in 12 thin slices

150 gr of fontina cheese or cheddar, thinly sliced

3 cottage sausage cut in four piece each

Olive oil, salt and pepper to season

Directions

In a 12 capacity muffin tin line paper cups and line them with the thinly sliced meat, cover with cheese slices as if they were petals and put a piece of sausage in the middle as show in the slides above.

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Gently remove from the tin, wrap the middle of the meet with a cooking twine, so that each of them will resemble a flower and place again in the paper bag in the tin.

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Tied with twine and ready for the oven

Season with salt, pepper (if you like) and a bit of olive oil, put in a 180′ C. pre heated oven for 20 minutes and serve it hot.

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In the plate, ready to be eaten

Enjoy!

A Soup for Nazim

I don’t want to present the famous Turkish Poet Nazim Hikmet,

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Better to introduce him in his poetic words:

 

Autobiography (1962)

by Nâzım Hikmet

I was born in 1902

I never once went back to my birthplace

I don’t like to turn back

at three I served as a pasha’s grandson in Aleppo

at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University

at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party’s guest

and I’ve been a poet since I was fourteen

some people know all about plants some about fish

I know separation

some people know the names of the stars by heart

I recite absences

I’ve slept in prisons and in grand hotels

I’ve known hunger even a hunger strike and there’s almost no food

I haven’t tasted

at thirty they wanted to hang me

at forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize

which they did

at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year

at fifty-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours

I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in ’24

in ’61 the tomb I visit is his books

they tried to tear me away from my party

it didn’t work

nor was I crushed under the falling idols

in ’51 I sailed with a young friend into the teeth of death

in ’52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart

waiting to die

I was jealous of the women I loved

I didn’t envy Charlie Chaplin one bit

I deceived my women

I never talked my friends’ backs

I drank but not every day

I earned my bread money honestly what happiness

out of embarrassment for others I lied

I lied so as not to hurt someone else

but I also lied for no reason at all

I’ve ridden in trains planes and cars

most people don’t get the chance

I went to opera

most people haven’t even heard of the opera

and since ’21 I haven’t gone to the places most people visit

mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers

but I’ve had my coffee grounds read

my writings are published in thirty or forty languages

in my Turkey in my Turkish they’re banned

cancer hasn’t caught up with me yet

and nothing says it will

I’ll never be a prime minister or anything like that

and I wouldn’t want such a life

nor did I go to war

or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night

and I never had to take to the road under diving planes

but I fell in love at almost sixty

in short comrades

even if today in Berlin I’m croaking of grief

I can say I’ve lived like a human being

and who knows

how much longer I’ll live

what else will happen to me

Soup for Nazim Hikmet
Turkish red lentil soup

As Nazim himself says in this poem, he tasted any kind of food but I was lucky enough to get acquainted with his Italian translator and friend, the late Joyce Lussu and in one of our conversations she told me of the preference of Nazim for the simple and humble of country.

So here the recipe for the Turkish red lentil soup: 5 minutes to prepare, low in calories, healthy, full of good nutrients a real food for the soul…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
    1  onion, finely diced
    1  carrot, diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
    ½ teaspoon dried mint
    ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    6 cups of homemade broth

Directions

  1. Rinse the lentils 2 or 3 times
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, put he lentils, potato, carrot, onion, broth, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil.
  3. After it has come to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot until the lentils have fallen apart and the carrots are completely cooked.
  4. After the soup has cooked and the lentils are tender, blend the soup and add more salt if necessary.
  5. Serve the soup with a sprinkle of mint and red pepper flakes, wedges of lemon, and toasted bread.

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Crescia, Easter bread

I already have the opportunity to talk about Giacomo Leopardi, the great Italian poet. I love his poems, but also his romantic, short life. If you get curious about his life, there is an award winning film, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/sep/01/il-giovane-favoloso-review-giacomo-leopardi-venice-film-festival, that I strongly suggest you to watch.

Giacomo didn’t want to live in his native Recanati, and moved in different cities in Italy, but he missed his home town.  On the 17th  March, 1826, he wrote to his sister Paolina:

Salutami il curato e don Vincenzo, e dà loro a mio nome la buona Pasqua, che io passerò senza uovi tosti, senza crescia, senza un segno di solennità”. (Give my regards to the pastor and don Vincenzo, wish them Happy Easter for me.  A Easter that I will spend without uovi tosti, without crescia, and any celebration at all).

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From this excerpt it is clear that Giacomo couldn’t cook, otherwise he could have done what I did, ask his granma her recipe (yes, I have a grandmother alive and yes, she is 99 at the moment and finally yes, she can still share recipes– all thanks to the Mediterranean diet, I suppose).

So I prepared a big Crescia and I shared with friends coming from that area of Italy.

What can I say, I am a poetic, homesick, Italian expat 😂

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INGREDIENTS

  • 500 gr. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 gr. Grated pecorino romano (it a sheep cheese, usually can be found in big supermarket)
  • 150 gr. grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 10 gr. Dehydrated yeast
  • 100 gr. Gruyere cheese (diced)
  • 250 gr. milk
  • 50 gr. of lard (I used butter, as lard is not easy available here)
  • 50 gr. of olive oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Oil one large soufflé mould, and using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the dish adding an additional 5 cm. of height.
  2. Add the yeast to the warm milk in the bowl of the stand mixer and mix, and let sit until bubbly.
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the olive oil, the butter, salt, and grated cheese.
  4. Add it to the yeast mixture and stir it with the dough hook, then add the flour, little by little. Stir it until you get a very smooth dough (it may take 20- 40 minutes at medium speed).
  5. Let the dough sit until doubled,
  6. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand, folding in the diced cheese as you work the dough.
  7. Place the dough in the mould and let it sit until more than doubled (my grandmother suggests that it is read when, gently touched, the dough trembles like jelly)
  8. Bake it at 180’ C. for about 45 minutes (I used the bread program in my oven – with 100% humidity for the first 5 minutes and then decrease at about 30% humidity).
  9. Remove the cake from the mould and let it cool completely, serve it as a snack or at breakfast with cured meat and boiled eggs.

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Maritozzi (Poetic Buns)

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 I want to celebrate Giacomo Leopardi, the great poet, with those exquisite buns. Actually Roma claims the ownership of those buns, but they are well known in all central Italy and I am sure that Leopardi enjoyed them in his Recanati.

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INGREDIENTS:

10 gr. of active dry yeast

450 gr. of strong flour

200 gr. of full-fat milk

100 gr. spoonful of sugar

125 gr. of seed oil (I used hazelnut oil)

1 Tsp of olive oil

30 gr of honey

1 egg

1 lemon’s grated zest

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS

Prepare the sponge:

  1. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 50 ml of warm milk in a bowl and stir to dissolve (if you have a kneading machine you will save a lot of work).
  2. Mix it with 50 gr of floor, one tablespoon of sugar and the honey. let it rise for about one hour.

Prepare the dough:

  1. Mix the remaining sugar, milk, the egg, the oils, the lemon’s rind and the vanilla to the sponge.
  2. Add the remaining flour and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (I used Kitchen Aid, with dough hook, speed two for about 20 minutes).
  3. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise three hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  4. Knock back the dough and make the buns (around 12).
  5. Let it rising for another ½ an hour, and glaze them with some olive oil.
  6. Bake it in a preheated oven at 400°F/200°C for 25 minutes until golden and light. If you have a steam oven like me, then just use the sweet rolls program.
  7. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  8. When cooled sprinkle with icing sugar, and if you want to feel yourself in Rome, open it and fill it with whipped cream.

 

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