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Cherry Sangria

Monday, May 27, 2013
Cherry Sangria

Farewell, non pensarci e perdonami
se ti ho portato via un poco d'estate
con qualcosa di fragile come le storie passate...

Farewell, don't think about it and forgive me
if I took away from you a little bit of summer
with something as fragile as past love stories...

Francesco Guccini, Farewell

We had fallen in love in front of bottomless sangria amidst the warm scent of a June evening, blinded by a perfect moon, shiny and round, sad but without melancholy. It was a bet made for fun, a walk at sunset, and the innocent music of a dinner improvised on the floor.
Now I don't know anymore, if it was really happiness, that thing shining at the bottom of the glass. If it was an illusion, I loved it anyways, because it was sweet and intoxicating, a fragile dream that charmed us with its red cherry aroma and the cozy tenderness of a meadow in spring.
Time has cheated us, dragging away our own reality as a soap bubble in the middle of a storm. Still, the languid flavor of memories remains, as well as this glass of sweetness that dazzles and confuses me, just like then.

Cherry Sangria*
for 6 people

red wine 1 bottle
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 glass
cinnamon 2 sticks
brandy 100 ml
Grand Marnier 40 ml
Cointreau 40 ml
agave syrup 3-4 tablespoons
cherries as needed


*I adapted the recipe from The Inspired Vegan, by B. Terry, a collection of vegan recipes and short stories at the sound of jazz that tastes like wheat, sun and hope, even when summer is too far away.

Rinse the cherries, discard their pit and cut them in half. Pour all ingredients into a large pitcher, add the cherries and mix. Cover and let rest in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

Cherries, Orange & Cinnamon

Veg Ragù (Meatless Meat Sauce)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Mezzi Rigatoni with Veg Ragù

Many months and years went by (gulp!), and dozens of posts, recipes, jams, focaccias, canning, pizzas and cakes since that day when I made the most classic of meat sauce for the last time; and also since I committed this other sin for the purpose of the blog, about which I now refuse to talk.
I know that this improper, heretical new entry, and vegan (!), more than one person will refuse to call it ragù, but who am I to blame? Obscurantist controversies don't really suit me, and in my resume, I confess, I too can boast a past as culinary fundamentalist, which, however, used to give me quite a few migraines in this stars-and-stripes land dominated by the horrors (or strokes of genius) of fusion cuisine. So today, of the restrictive philosophy of the days when I used to believe only in buffalo mozzarella, San Daniele prosciutto and pachino tomatoes, I decided to keep only the (semi-)fundamentalist ethics of pizza, whereby the combination pineapple&ham (otherwise known as Hawaiian pizza) to this day gives me intestine hives.
I digress, as always, but this is basically one of the subtle pleasures of a self-managed blog...
Ragù, we were saying. These days I've learned that the word comes from the French ragoûter, that is to say "whet your appetite". So, technically, even what I'm now submitting to your sacrosanct criticism, is a ragù with all the trimmings. Because it really whets, with its expanded fragrance and the ruby red color that will stick to your ladle.
And I call it ragù because it must be made with no rush on Sunday morning, or in the peace of a whole available afternoon; and because it contains within itself the same thick and reassuring idea of when you were six and used to come back home after school, knowing that you'd to find the table already set, and ten to one there'd be pasta with tomato sauce for lunch.
Be patient if this time the meat ran away; and who cares if I can't settle the culinary fundamentalists; it'll mean that I won't invite them for lunch, but then, I don't think they'd like to sit on the floor anyways. Or, to make up for it, I'll call it poor boy ragù, or better yet poor girl ragù, to show off my English and encourage a little compassion.
But take a piece of bread and dip it in while it's hot, and then tell me if by any chance it wasn't worth the effort.

Today Pasta

Veg Ragù*
for 6 people

onion 1
carrots 2
celery 1 stalk
green olives 50 gr
raisins 120 gr
salt-packed capers 25 gr
double concentrated tomato paste 2 tubes
red wine 1/2 glass
fresh parsley and basil 1 bunch each
olive oil, salt, pepper, red chili pepper, water as needed

Mezzi Rigatoni with Veg Ragù

*I grabbed the recipe from the famous folder Forum Cucina Italiana, but I hadn't saved the name of the author, I apologize. If anyone knows who he/she is, do tell. Thank you for your understanding.

Finely chop the onion and sauté for a few minutes in a little olive oil. Add carrots and celery cut into small cubes and cook for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile chop (you can do it also with a food processor, or rather, better with a food processor) olives, raisins, and capers rinsed from their salt. Add them to the vegetable mixture along with plenty of minced parsley and basil, red chili pepper to taste, salt (a little) and pepper. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste diluted in red wine and a little bit of water. Cook the sauce to medium-low flame for about two hours, stirring occasionally and adding some water if it boils down too much.
Use it as usual, in the classic sandwich with meat sauce, still hot, or as a sauce for the pasta shape that suits you best: rigatoni, penne, mezzi rigatoni, mezze penne, smooth or ribbed, maccheroni, spaghetti, shells or fettuccine. Long live pasta, long live meat sauce, the veg one even more!



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bread and tomato.
A bit of sun, the waves of the ocean that looks like the sea. The goodness of a thick and refreshing soup. An open afternoon and a book to start.
So I build my own summer in the city.
Happy weekend.

for 4 people

ripe vine tomatoes 1 kg
day old bread 150 gr
toasted almonds 30 gr
garlic 1 clove
balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil 4 tablespoons
salt, pepper, water as needed

For the cucumber salsa
cucumber 1
small red onion 1/2
tomatoe (optiona) 1/2
lime 2
fresh cilantro, salt, pepper as needed


Salmorejo is a cold soup, thick and creamy, traditional of the city of Cordoba, Spain. It's usually garnished with hard-boiled eggs, cut into cubes, and slices of jamon Serrano.
Mine is the very very good veg version.

Prepare the cucumber salsa (salsa as in Mexican salsa, it's not a sauce but a salsa, yes?): peel the cucumber and cut it into cubes along with the tomato. Mix them with a little chopped onion and season with lime juice, salt, pepper, and minced fresh cilantro. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge.
For the soup, cut bread into cubes and pour over 4 tablespoons of water. Keep aside. Peel the tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water for a few seconds, and cut in pieces. Blend them with their liquid along with soaked bread (do not squeeze out the water), garlic, toasted almonds, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and add more water if necessary.
Keep salmorejo in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Serve chilled and garnish each bowl with a spoonful of cucumber salsa.

Cucumber Salsa

Green Gazpacho

Sunday, May 5, 2013
Green Gazpacho

I wanted to write a short story. The words are mine, the memory is of others. I hope you enjoy it.

My father, I still remember him with dirty hands, black as coal just like his curly hair, peaking flat and long under the cap. He used to put it on every morning after coffee, along with that curious flashlight on his forehead, which would brighten his job down in the earth's gut. When he walked out the house, he had the calm look of a wise old man and the proud stride of an eternal runner. He used to speak very little, in a hoarse voice and with a strong northern accent; he had blue eyes and was always dressed clean, with that green checkered shirt and its starched collar. Every evening, except on Good Friday, my birthday and the eve of European Soccer Cup, he met up with the others down at the pub, and talked with an open smile about his job at the mine and the reason why the Newkie Brown was the best beer in the world. Extroverted enough, he was courteous and tolerant of new ideas, even when he began getting entangled with obstinacy in the arguments of his politics, defending his teammates and the infinite strike of that sad winter of thirty years ago.
At that time I was attending Northgate Middle School, I wore my hair short and had biker boots with red laces, and I used to listen to the Ultravox indefinitely. I was twelve years old when he came home and said that's it, my dear, we're on strike. I didn't know why but I was afraid, I felt a change in the air that would destroy us.
It was a long and cold winter; he resisted until the end picketing hard in front of the mounted police, while my mother wrote poetry and sold hope at the flea market. That time at Christmas we couldn't wear ironed pants, and we received peas and canned meat as gift from our merciful neighbors.
I used to see her on TV with the hair in order and the inflexible look; she had called us enemies and I couldn't forgive her, blaming her for everything, the cold, the empty streets, the fights with our cousins. My father loved his dark helmet and everything he asked for was the honesty of a job to give us ideas, books and happiness. Seven years later, when people cheered shouting Maggie's gone, I wasn't able to join the party, because I knew that the rift between us was forever.
Today I listen to the news in the shyness of London spring, in front of an unlikely soup in a modern bistro, and I find myself in front of the same iron gaze just like I had left it in my memory. Dozens of posthumous and biased reports will be of no use, I already know that I won't watch them, those fake and glossy documentaries. I've lived it from within, in the coldness of months with no bread and no light, and I still have all the poems, the biker boots and the t-shirt. I didn't fully understand, but I was there to share the anger; and I know for a fact that since then, nothing has been as before.

Green Gazpacho

Green Gazpacho*
for 6 people

celery 2 stalks
green bell peppers 2
peeled cucumbers 600 gr
stale bread 80 gr
toasted walnuts 130 gr
fresh green chili pepper 1
garlic 4 cloves
sugar 1 teaspoon
baby spinach 200 gr
fresh basil 1 big bunch
minced parsley 2 tablespoons
balsamic vinegar 4 tablespoons
olive oil 60 ml
coconut milk 3 tablespoons
water approx. 700 ml
ice 4-5 cubes
salt, pepper, croutons as needed

*I adapted the recipe from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi, a well-known London chef. At times it appears on the menu of his restaurant in Notting Hill. And the book, between me and you, is a real treat.
Coarsely chop celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, bread, nuts, chili pepper and garlic. Process with a blender adding sugar, baby spinach, herbs, olive oil, vinegar, coconut milk, almost all of the water, ice, salt, and pepper. If necessary, add more water until you reach the desired consistency.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and toasted croutons.

Croutons and Walnuts

Pink Juice (Rhubarb, Carrots and Beets)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Rhubarb, carrots and beet juice

I believe in pink.
~ Audrey Hepburn

If I were asked to color the world, I'd have no doubt, I'd paint it pink. Maybe with some shades of red, which - let's face it - never hurts, in my opinion. But then green light to strokes of pink, in all its possible shades, from lilac to magenta, through fuchsia, purple and plum.
I'm not talking about the color of the cheesy and impossibly romantic tales of my unhealthy youth, because if it were up to me I'd give Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty a nice pair of flat and comfortable shoes and a motorized convertible pumpkin to drive around the world by themselves, without waiting to be awakened by Prince Charming, rather by a double cappuccino with brioche as an option.
Instead, I'm talking about the pink of the strawberries when they turn into jam, of cherry trees when they blossom on the side of the road, and the unbeatable pink of the sunset during some evenings up in the mountains; pink, like the scent of freshly baked bread; like the Gazzetta newspaper when Italy is playing; like a slice of cold watermelon consumed on the streets under the August stars.

Three shades of pink

Because if you close your eyes and imagine the world as such, if you close your eyes but open your heart, if you focus on listening to the sound of the breath or that of the wind, forgetting the fears, the judgments, the things to buy, the rush, the time, the hours and tonight's dinner, then you realize that it's you who paint the world, and happiness is inside your head, just behind the madness at the end of the thoughts; and the room for your suffering and for the loneliness of those long afternoons in November becomes immediately smaller; goodbyes are not goodbyes but curves of a moving path, and every day, if you want it, is made to be like cotton candy, red like Heidi's cheeks, or yellow and green like daisies in the meadow, comfortable and perfect as an upside-down octagon.


I don't believe in Prince Charming (have you ever seen him in a fairy tale kissing a frog?), but I have confidence in the color of daily life, in fantasy mixed with reality, and in an oasis full of flowers in a garden behind your house. More effective and more feasible, just like a purple wig to wear on an ordinary day, a lady elephant that runs away from the circus, or a ride on a Vespa under the snow in December.
But now please excuse me, I got thirsty.


Pink Juice
with rhubarb, carrots and beet

for 2
rhubarb 3-4 stalks
red beet 1
carrots 3-4
green apple 1
lime 1
fresh ginger 1 small piece

Wash fruits and vegetables and peel the beets. Cut into pieces and juice. Add a small piece of ginger to taste. At the end, stir in lime juice and mix. Serve cold.

Scissors and veggies