Friday Leftovers

FB and I are extremely fortunate to live a mere two blocks away from one of the best farmer’s markets in Rome.  It is here that we do our weekly grocery shopping on Saturday mornings, throwing kisses to our friends and family, while we carefully plan our meals.

I am usually pretty good about planning meals for the week; fish on Saturday, an elaborate lunch on Sunday, fresh and grassy greens at the beginning of the week, stews/curries/soups towards the end.  Still, sometimes – well, more often than not – I miscalculate and am left on Friday evening with fridge filled with beer, vodka, jam, butter, a drop of milk, and this:

So I ask you: What does one do with a sorry piece of eggplant, a pinch of tomatoes, some limp fava beans, a browning zucchini, some eggs, and a hunk of pecorino romano?

Well first, you invite a friend who enjoys beer and vodka and butter over to dinner.  My invitation to said friend, JK (you’ll hear more about him later), was a frazzled email simply asking him to “help me get rid of whatever is left in the fridge.” He accepted graciously, “do you have vodka?  (pause) Ok then, I’m there.”

Now. What to make.

A carrot salad dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and mustard.

Oven-baked eggplants with chopped garlic and a dash of lemon.

Radicchio salad with canned borlotti beans and tuna dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and mint.

A pecorino and fava bean frittata.

A tomato frittata.

FB’s famous fried zucchini with a spritz of lemon.

The amazing thing about these dinners (dare I say dinner party?) is that the food, heavily fried or dressed or baked, ends up being heck-a-good.  Plus there is that overwhelming and self-indulging feeling of pride of not having wasted the precious food we purchased from my darling Signora Maria who tirelessly works at the market every morning.

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Conterno – Barbera d’Alba 2005

The Conterno Barolo is the Kelly bag of wine.  Classic, elegant, and incredibly expensive.  It smells really good, too.

I don’t necessarily think of myself as a Wine Snob.  Though I do appreciate a unpronounceable châteaux or two from time to time, this sommelier will also happily guzzle an honest box of Merlot – in fact, I’m considering purchasing one these babies:

With no offense to the beautiful Princess Grace, I’m going to call this bag my very own “Kellie”.

My curiosity was piqued when I saw a bottle of Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba 2005 sitting on a high shelf at my favorite enoteca for Euro 28, next to it’s more expensive and famous cousins, the Barbaresco and of course, the King, Barolo.  I surprised myself when I scoffed and secretly thought,  “Meh, a Conterno Barbera? Probably overpriced and over-oaked.  Why not indulge in a name-less organic Nerello Mascherese from Sicily for the same amount.”

Wait.  Woah, since when did I become a I’m-so-over-mainstream-wine snob? Ergk, so I stand corrected.  So humbly corrected.

Embracing my inner a classic-is-a-classic-for-a-reason, we decided on the Barbera d’Alba with a plate of cheeses.  The first pour.  Mamma mia.  What an explosion of emotions and aromas!  Black current, prune, gorgeous bouquet.  Velvety and jammy, but not overbearing.  A perfect, perfect nose-palate harmony.  Simply Kelly-like and elegant beyond words.   My friends and I sat in silence, an occasional moan escaping from our lips with quiet orgasmic bursts of “oishiiii!”

If this wine were a woman, she’d be a mid-forties classic interior designer turned organic fruit farmer and author, happily married with grown children, and his-and-hers Jack Russel terriers named Dolly and Philip II.  She’d have a closet full of Chanel suits, but prefer to don  a vestaglia while churning a pot-ful of fruit into sweet, sensual jam.  She’d have a soft British drawl and smell of lavender, I think.

Conterno Giacomo

Azienda Vitivinicola Giacomo Conterno di Giovanni Conterno


Tamagoyaki – Japanese-Style Omelette

I find the process of making a Japanese omelette soothing, almost zen-like.
The painstaking process of rolling the omelette in a rectangular frying pan, not once, not twice, but three times leaves a quiet and lovely sensation of making something with care and kindness.  You can’t rush it, you have to stay calm, and its requires all your attention.
Ingredients

3 eggs
2 tbsp dashi stock
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp soy sauce
Step 1: Beat the eggs in a bowl, add all ingredients
Step 2: With a piece of paper towel soaked in vegetable oil, grease the pan
Step 3: Pour one-third of egg mixture and coat pan evenly
Step 4: Start pushing the egg Top-to-Bottom, while carefully rolling it towards you
Step 5: Push the “block” of egg to the top of the pan, grease with paper towel
Step 6: Repeat Steps 3,4,5
Step 7: Repeat Steps 3,4,5
Step 8: Place omelet on a “makisu” (bamboo mat) and shape well
Step 9: Let cool, cut, and garnish with something pretty

AS Roma

There was an almost eery hush that fell over Rome last weekend.
The tension was palpable and we could practically hear the pitter patter of Romanista hearts, as soon as the news that Inter had tied with Fiorentina hit the waves.  Could it be? AS Roma actually had a chance of snatching the Number One (shh! don’t jinx it!) spot in Serie A of the Italian league.
We convened at a dark, musty bar in Trastevere on Sunday afternoon, clutching glasses of chilled beer, our eyes glued to the flat screen.  A grey-haired bearded man jogged in place, channeling his inner giocatore-di-calcio, my friend GP donned his Roma jersey and scarf, screaming obscenities, and an older gentleman stood outside the bar, watching the game through a foggy window, literally biting his knuckles in anticipation.
We all know how the game ended. A spectacular 2-1 win for Roma.  The joy, oh the joy.
After the game, we trooped over to a pizza a taglio joint on Via della Scala, notorious for its greasy pizzas but equally famous for the cheapest Menabreas you will find in Trastevere.  As Italian beers go, and not counting the beautiful and delicious artisanal or organic beers that have exploded on the market recently, Menabrea ranks high in my list of “Tina’s Favorite Lagers”.
Located in Biella, Piedmont, this Italian brewing company produces approximately 100 thousand hectolitres of beer a year, most of which ends up in my belly.  They have continued to win prestigious awards throughout their century and a half of beer production, and with good reason.  A classic, an oldy, but definitely a goody.
This inconspicuous little joint boasts a menu which pretty much speaks for itself.  Do people go there for the cheese grease? Do we even care that the pizza is less than stellar? I think not.  It’s a sanctuary for Roma lovers and beer lovers.  And who dares to enter wearing sky-blue and white do at their own risk.  It’s a strictly red-and-orange kind of watering hole.

Spicy Steamed Fennel

I love cooking with my friend MS, The Cuban Spitfire.  We have spent many a weekend evenings grinding Indian spices and chopping garlic to make steamy, delicious curry while sipping red wine and laughing about everything and nothing.  Although we only lived together for a couple of years, we often speak of the Golden Years at Oddone with much love and nostalgia.  A large part of this, was our wonderful tag-team cooking regime.  No one knows her way around a kitchen with a jar of capers and fresh lemons better than MS.

This January, en route to New York, she stopped in Rome for a much-too-short visit.  She had just spent a brief but glorious vacation in Morocco and returned with a spectacular bag of spices.  She tells me she purchased this mix of 13 different spices from a wonderful woman in Marrakech who advised her to use it with steamed fennel, lemon, and olive oil.

Using, my chestnut-roaster-turned-steamer, I lovingly lay my chopped fennel to steam it for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, I prepare the “dressing”, of olive oil, salt, lemon juice, chopped parsley and a dash of the 13-Mix-Spices.  Combine the steamed fennel with the dressing. It’s all too simple and healthy, I don’t know what else to say about this dish, except that whenever I make it, I picture MS’s curly dark hair, her wild hand movements, and those wonderful years we spent together in the Money Room Kitchen.

FB

As he is sure to make repeated appearances on this blog, I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear, wonderful FB.  Il Boy, The Hubby, Mentino, or more recently known as Pedro The Pornstar.

One Saturday morning a few weeks ago, he decided to grow a mustache.  I must admit, I am not a fan of growing hair above ones lip.  I have spent many a painful evening eliminating such hairs from my own face, why someone would choose to grow it out is beyond me.

Generally, people seem to like it.  Some may even call it “trendy”.  Nevermind the obvious  porn star reference, I can’t help but find a striking resemblance to the bristles of the AMA street-cleaning truck.

Still, Pedro is my wonderful and official taster of all concoctions brewing in the kitchen.  He is perfect for the job as his tongue is sharp, he knows good food, and he will eat anything and everything.  Natto, trippa, do-jou.  He’s not too keen about ketchup but I’m a mustard-on-fries kinda girl myself.

He’s the kind of person who calls himself “The Ultimate Dancing Machine”, a self-proclaimed skinny-jean-wearing hipster and huge Ramones fan that readily admits to listening to (and liking!) Justin Bieber, makes the best carbonara I have ever had, and always, always compliments my cooking, no matter how simple or te-nuki.

We’ve just finished eating our lunch – warm pasta salad with salsicce, fava beans, and pecorino romano – and he looks over from washing the dishes.

“Whatcha saying about me?”

I turn around and notice that there is a piece of pecorino cheese hanging off one of his mustache hairs. Sigh.

My Kitchen

This is my kitchen.

This is where all the magic takes place.  Well, so to speak.

Mostly, it is where I begin my morning with a little dance in my underwear, where I unintentionally flash my neighbors, where I admire the sunset while doing the dishes, and where I more often than not, make a mess.

I love this kitchen.  It’s wonderfully untidy with cupboards overflowing with Japanese food and wine glasses.  I love our random knick knacks, souvenirs, and tacky High School Musical stickers.

I love the perpetually dusty lamp, which some days looks kitschy, and some days, plain hideous.  I love the tiny sink where FB has to stoop and where the calcium build-up never seems to end, despite repeated Viakal scrubbage. There is a nasty burn on one of the cupboards, sustained when my Rice Cooker 2.0 (I am now using Rice Cooker 3.0) exploded in flames.  I now cook my rice on the marble floor.

Every item in this kitchen is dear to me, from Cesare and Delia’s calendar to big-busted “Britni” from a San Diego souvenir shop.  Every item has been touched by someone I love, and holds memories and meaning beyond words.

It is here, where I am most inspired to soak my fingers in sweet-smelling prosciutto and fresh sparkling cabbage, where I am most giggly, and above all, most hungry.