Food Adventures

Monday, July 31, 2006

As I promised, I will continue to update this blog as I try out the recipes I studied this summer and continue to explore and enjoy the many facets of Italian food. Every time I return from Italy, I go through a period of adjustment during which I usually do not eat Italian food as nothing tastes as good as it does in Italy. This applies to cappuccino as well to the point where in the past I have had to switch to tea for a couple of weeks because coffee does not appeal.

Well, this year it is different: on Friday, barely 5 hours after I had landed in Chicago, Michael and I went to Frasca, our favorite vine bar. In the couple of months since Frasca opened, we have eaten there at least a dozen times and not only because it's 5 blocks from our house. I have shared with many of you my feelings for their bricked chicken with Tuscan white beans as well as the chocolate panna cotta and several other items. I started with a glass of their excellent proseco while also helping Michael with his flight of reds. We shared an appetizer plate with coppa, sopressata, pecorino and white bean/balsamic vinegar bruschetta and a flight or olive oil. Yes, Frasca has an olive oil flight with an Umbrian, Tuscan and Sicilian olive oil: light and sweet, peppery, and quite spicy, respectively. All three go really well with Frasca's freshly baked bread (which goes well with pretty much everything as well as on its own). Of course, we could not possibly leave Frasca without having the bricked chicken, so we made some room for it and, as always, it did not disappoint.

The Italian feast continued on Saturday morning, when we drove to Harwood Heights to have cornetti con crema. I have introduced some of you to my friends at Café di Maggio and their excellent pastries filled with pastry cream and if you have even glanced at this blog over the past month, you know how I feel about pastries with cream. Well, as if to make me feel better about no longer being in Italy, Rosario's cornetti this morning were better than they had ever been before. Both the pasties and the cream were super fresh and as we took the first bites, we were transported back to Italy. We could not talk, but did continue to make noises that were correctly interpreted as complete happiness. Our enjoyment was only enhanced by the excellent cappuccini Edita pulled.

I shared with Rosario some of my pictures and experiences and he was so excited about the pastries I had made in baking class that we agreed to organize a pastry party (featuring mainly bomboloni and cornetti); he and I will make the pastries together and all of you are invited to help us enjoy them. The day has not been set yet, but it will likely happen when it gets just a little cooler (late September or October). For those of you familiar with the concept of sagra, it will be a Sagra del Bombolone (if you're not familiar with sarga, here is a link that provides some info

The Italian feast continued all weekend, with lunches of rotolo, bruschetta, prosciutto, mozzarella di buffala, ciabatta, and a somewhat successful attempt on my part to recreate without a recipe a white bean Tuscan soup I had at Trattoria de Benci (the effort was only somewhat successful because the soup tasted good, but it was not quite as good as the one I had; no surprises there).

Today, I recreated my first recipe, the gnudi al burro a salvia (naked ravioli with butter and sage). Complete success! The hand-dipped ricotta at Whole Foods was too fresh to resist and decided to risk it and make the recipe even though I am still researching kitchen scales and had to eyeball the quantities (sorry Andrea!). My new (and very sharp!) knives did an excellent job of chopping the spinach really finely and in 20 minutes I had a very fragrant and most delicious lunch. Not too much flour on the outside of the gnudi this time. ;)

Already looking forward to trying my next recipe. Stay tuned for the report; I promise to be honest and report successes, partial successes, and utter failures. Next time, I will try to remember to take a picture of what I make before it's too late.


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