Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas in Bologna

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with their loved ones. This year my mom came to Bologna for Christmas and I was very excited to take her around and show her all the things I had been telling her about over the past three years (this is the second time she has come to Italy but the first time was only 3 months after I arrived). One of the things I was most excited to show her were all of the Christmas lights! As I blogged about last year, Bologna dresses up the town beautifully for the season with thousands of twinkling lights.


The Christmas tree in Piazza Nettuno.



Christmas trees in the center of the Palazzo del Comune (city hall).



And their reflection in the window nearby.



A hidden Christmas tree in the courtyard of the Prefettura di Bologna.


A little tree with red bows at the bottom of the two towers.


The portici decorated with lights.


Lights hung over Via Clavatura.

Last Christmas Eve Andrea and I took a walk in the evening around the center. The streets were empty and the city was quiet as people had already gathered inside to share the traditionl Christmas Eve meal of fish with family and friends. Andrea and I cozied up to one of the heaters at the outdoor tables on this street and toasted to a Merry Christmas with two glasses of prosecco.


Via Ugo Bassi decked with lights and the tower glowing in the background.
One weekend this December the city closed Via Ugo Bassi and Via Indipendenza, the two main streets in the center, to traffic. It was wonderful to stroll in the middle of the usually chaotic street. There were more people out than usual, from teenagers to families with strollers and children to couples and groups of friends. It felt akin to a block party. It provided the perfect opportunity to leisurely admire the city in all of its holiday glory.

The tower with lights and the moon.

Always the prominent symbol of the city, the tower becomes even more splendid when decorated with lights. During the Christmas season it happens many times that I am walking downtown and I glance upward and see the tower peaking over the tops of the buildings shining bright.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sweet Sunday

There is so much amazing produce at the farmer's market right now! Out of everything available strawberries and asparagus are definitely tied for the number one spot of most purchased.

This weekend I decided to make jam out of some of the strawberries


The jam is super easy to make and so much more delicious than anything you could find at the store. I roughly followed the recipe here (I highly reccomend checking out The Kitchen Sink blog, where I found this recipe, - it has become my go to for new recipes).

But in the end I could not stop at jam...I needed a vehicle, a vessel for the jam so I made this

Strawberry tart!

I did not have enough dough or pastery skills to make a lattice top hence the cookie cutter heart topping. The flavor was really nice - a perfect balance of sweet and hint of tartness that kept it light.

I am looking forward to making many more of these tarts as the various summer fruits come into season and I am sure Andrea will not mind as this tart is nearly gone after only two days.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A rose by any other name...

What does peperoni (and in this case olive) pizza look like in Italy?



That's right, here peperoni does not equal spicey, sliced meat but are bell peppers! I always feel funny saying the word (usually when ordering a pizza or shopping at the fruit and vegetable market) because it always makes me think of my favorite meaty topping from childhood but I know what I will receive (on my pizza or from the fruit and vegetable guy) is a vegetable.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Word Association

Whenever I say the word fragola





It makes me think of these guys...





(P.S. possible costume idea for next Haloween)


Monday, February 21, 2011

Yums

Andrea and I have recently started going to the Farmer's Market here in Bologna on Saturday mornings. All of the fresh, beautiful, local produce has inspired me to spend extra time in the kitchen and to try out new recipes. Here are a couple of the recipes I tried this weekend:


Soup is one of my absolute favorite things about winter time! This Split Pea is extremely easy to make and your whole house will smell delicious. The end result is hearty and flavorful and in my opinion is best paired with some crusty bread and red wine. You can find the recipe here (and while you over at The Kitchen Sink blog checking out this recipe - I recommend browsing the rest of Kristin's site. She has some amazing, super yummy recipes!).


These little gems are hazelnut shortbread cookies sandwiched together with dark chocolate and finished with a sprinkle of roasted hazelnuts. They are buttery and crunchy with a rich chocolate presense and hints of hazelnutty goodness. You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in February? I know it is a strange time to retell about my Thanksgiving adventures but it was such a great event I could not leave it outjust because I am a bit (ok, almost 3 months) tardy in posting about it. So without any further ado...

For Thanksgiving this year my friend, David, and I planned a dinner for 60 people!

The preparations started a month in advance and thankfully in that time we recruited about 10 people to help with the cooking - there were four people making pies, two on stuffing, one on vegetables and another on bread. We actually eneded up having so much help that I didn't have to cook anything. I was excited about that because cooking for others (especially 60 others) tends to make me a little (or a lot) anxious. I was happy to be the behind the scenes planner and also, later, the menu maker. So here is how the days and hours leading up to the dinner went:

Thursday November 25th (actual Thanksgiving day): It is strange to be outside of the US on Thanksgiving. It is just a normal day! No family gathering together or the smell of a bird roasting - just the usual, wake up, go to work, come home. This year it all threw me into a bit of an existential crisis of questioning what is real. Very dramatic, I know. I made it through work and then I headed home to start making the menus. For those of you that know me well, you know that I often take on really huge tasks with no ability to foresee how much work will be required - this is exactly what happened with the menus. David and I had the idea to make Turkey hands, like you did in kindergarten, and have them serve as the menu. I took this a step further - I traced my hand 60 times on brown construction paper and then Andrea and I proceed to cut them all out. Then I drew and cut out around 180 "feathers" out of red and orange construciton paper. I then glued these onto the turkeys along with yellow construction paper beaks. I also drew an eye on both sides of the turkeys. Then I typed up the menu and a description of what Thanksgiving meant to us. I printed these and then cut them out and glued them onto the turkeys. I was up until 2 am at which time I was forced to go to bed because I had run out of brown construction paper. The turkey menu making would have to continue the next day.

Friday November 26th: Work. After work I met David and some other helpers at the venue for the dinner (a sort of community center with a large room which served as our dining room and a huge industrial kitchen). David made a marinade for the birds out of 2 kilos (almost 5 pounds) of butter and paprika while Monica, a friend of ours, and I, a former vegetarian, pulled all of the leftover feathers out of the birds. Is it normal for whole birds to have feathers left in them? Then David proceeded to inject each of the birds with the marinade using a mad scientist looking syringe that he had specially ordered online.






With the birds all loaded up with butter and tucked into the refrigerators for the night we left and went for pizzas. Then I returned home to finish the turkey menus. I crawled into bed after 2 am with 60 completed menus and bruises on my hands from too much scissor use.






Saturday November 27th: Our Thanksgiving Day! Looking back now the day was oddly multicultural and very wirlwind. Andrea and I went by the kitchen around 11 am to drop off the menus and the cranberry sauce. We found David along with some other helpers already hard at work. Then Andrea and I had to go to Modena to take some of his clients to a rugby game. It was sunny and surprisingly warm at the game.




The game was enjoyable although often totally incomprehensible. Gosh, I thought I knew a little bit about rugby but it is a complicated game. Here in Itlay though I have learned that if you just scream the word "dai" (prounced amusingly enough as die) you will look like you know what is going on. The word in this context means, more or less, come on. It does not matter what is happening in the game, good or bad, people will be screaming "dai"! Italy defeated Fiji much to my surprise - not to be unpatriotic but the Fijians had a lot of size and weight on the Italians.

Then Andrea and I were off back to Bologna. We arrived at the hall around 6 and began preparing the dining room. Trying to arrange the tables to fit 60 people was like one of those bad jokes: how many Italians does it take... After much discussion and people speaking over one and another we arranged the tables and got them set just in time for the first guests to start arriving.

Frank and Pasquale manned the door and acted as our cashiers.




The funny thing about the Turkey menus is how culture specific they are. When the Americans saw them they all exclaimed, "Turkey hands! Like we made in Kindergarten!". The Italians on the other hand all said, "What are those?".

All of our guests came and mingled and found their seats.




David pulled the turkeys from the oven and began the butchering.




We prepared the buffet.




Then we began the celebration!

video


Everything tasted amazing! People came back for seconds and even thirds. Then we had the dessert buffet complete with pumpkin and apple pie, homemade whipped cream and brownies.

Then we all went dancing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year's Eve



It started with a fancy dress



a fancy, surprise present - just specially picked out to go with the dress



a very dapper boyfriend



an elegant setting

and LALA MCCALLAN!

Lala is one of the most amazing performers and artists I have ever seen and she has quickly become one of me and Andrea's favorites. She has an increbile range of over three octaves and can seemlessly switch from singing soprano to tenor. It is my absolute favorite part of the show when she performs both the male and female parts of songs such as Barbara Streisand's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore" and Andrea Bocelli's "Time to Say Goodbye". It is stunning! Andrea and I always end up staring at each other, with mouths gaping, in disbelief. It is not any less impressive when she sings opera!


She has a wonderful and funny presense on stage that draws in people of all ages (the crowd on New Year's Eve was mostly comprised of older people and they loved the show!). Her costumes and wigs are quite the spectacle as well. All of her dresses are designed and made especially for her except the black one above which is a replica of a dress Marilyn Monroe wore.
And this is the man behind LaLa


He and his partner write, produce and take the show on the road all around the world. They are truly a wonderful and creative couple. I take my hat off to them for being able to do everything it takes to put on that show (think wig and costume changes, corsets to give a man womanly curves and make-up to hide stubble) and to still be talking to each other and very clearly in love at the end of the day.


In addition to LaLa, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner accompanied by interesting and diverse wine pairings. I was a little nervous to see goose as the main course but I was very pleasently surprised as soon as I took my first bite. It was all the flavors of duck but without the greasiness. The flavors of the bird were complimented perfectly by the earthy lentil ragu with which it was served.
The night was magical and elegant and it made me feel like a princess. It was a very special treat and a fabulous way to start the new year.
Happy 2011! May it bring to you exactly what you have wished for.