Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tortelli di Zucca

More cooking? Yup, but it's only because we like to eat. ;-) This weekend's project was handmade tortelli di zucca. We had some pumpkin (zucca) given to us from a friend, Andrea's, family garden, and so what better way to use it than to make some tortelli.

Now, I had to know, what exactly is tortelli, and how is it different from ravioli? Well, according to Stef, tortelli is folded over so there are only 3 exposed sides, while ravioli is cut/exposed on all 4 sides. Oh. There also specific reasons why different fillings are made with different types of pasta. I'll have to research that one day.

So let's get started. Step 1, roast pumpkin pieces in the oven for about 1 hour. Let cool and smash with a fork. Add grana (grated cheese similar to parmagiano reggiano), crushed amaretti cookies and eggs. Mix to form the pumpkin filling.

Step 2, mix flour and eggs and knead to form the pasta dough. Let rest for 1/2 hour before making the tortelli.

Now pull out the pasta machine, or if you're a purist, roll out the dough into thin sheets. Stef was the master of his Imperia pasta machine. His mum and me were put to work forming each tortelli by hand. The important thing is to make sure there are no air bubbles trapped between the filling and the dough, or else they will break apart during cooking. Finally, use a small cutter to trim the edges with a pretty pattern.

Ta-dah!!! Now I'm just waiting for dinner time.

Sunday Morning Hike

It was a beautiful day outside, although a little chilly, and we had no excuse to stay indoors. We went on a hike about 3 hours long, 2600 ft elevation gain. Yes, I was huffing and puffing, but the scenery made up for it.

The fall colors were amazing! And we must have burned off some calories from his mum's birthday celebration dinner the night before. Think lots of yummy little pasticcini pastries. :)

Another Weekend

Stefano's mum had cooked another big lunch. We needed some exercise so we decided to go swimming that afternoon at Bormio Terme. Bormio is a mountain town about 60 km (35 miles) from Sondrio.

The nice thing about this place is that the swimming pool is filled with thermal water that comes from the Cinglaccia spring where it gushes out at a temperature between 37°c and 40°c (98-104 F). We swam laps and then relaxed in the outdoor pools while taking in the beautiful mountain scenery. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Before heading home, we decided to drive to Livigno, another 20 miles away to fill up the tank. Livigno is a special duty free area where the Italian VAT exempt from all its goods. The reason at the time (in the 1800s) was justified by the difficulty in reaching Livigno during the winter, for up to six months a year, and the century-long history of poverty in the region. The various states, therefore, wanted to make sure people would have an incentive to continue living in the area so that they could still claim it territorially. Even if this is not particularly true now, the roads are good, there's less snow now and the people are not that poor, the duty free tax status continues. Diesel here costs around 0.78 euro/liter, while outside it costs anywhere from 1.20 euro/liter upwards. It is cold though. I took this picture as the sun was setting.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dolci Sardi: Papassini

This weekend was highly productive. We set out on a mission to bake up a batch of Stef's favorite Sardinian sweet: the papassini. And oh boy, does he take this very seriously. The process started out a month ago while we were in Sardinia. We had to go to this special store in Sassari called a drogheria. (I just looked it up and it means 'grocery store'). This place looked about 100 years old, and inside we picked up some special 'secret' ingredients that can't be found outside of Sardinia. It just so happened that when we arrived in Sassari that afternoon, we found all the shops closed for the afternoon until 5pm. It was too far to the beach and so we ended up sitting on a bench outside for an hour or so waiting for the store to reopen.

Ok, so about the 'secret' ingredients. This recipe is from his grandmother in Sardinia, and he's guarding it like it's National Security. I'm not even supposed to look at the actual recipe, although I did sneak a peek here and there. hehe... Anyway, since I can't spill the beans, I'll just give a rough account what went on.

First, chop the nuts - almonds and walnuts. If you're fanatic, do it by hand. Otherwise, throw them in a food processor.

Mix the flour with eggs, sugar, lard and baking powder to form a dough. Add in chopped nuts, raisins, orange rind, anise, and some other 'secret' ingredients. Lay to rest for a couple hours.

Resume preparations by rolling and cutting out the dough. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Let cool overnight.

Now they are ready for the glace topping. Prepare glace with sugar, water and egg white.

When the consistency is just right, spread on each cookie carefully and sprinkle with silver and multicolor dragees (sprinkles) .

Now allow for the glace topping to dry out. Look at them and wait patiently, wondering when these papassini can finally be eaten!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More Hunting in the Woods...

Since we're on the hunting theme, look what Stef's mom found in the woods this week.

Pretty impressive, huh? She's pretty proud of her find. It's hard work too. She spent 2 days hiking with her friend hunting for mushrooms. I'm not sure how they know which ones can be eaten and which ones are not. But I'm told they've been doing this for years.

They tasted pretty good in the tomato sauce with pasta at lunch today.

Chestnuts in the Fall

This happened a couple weekends ago. I was sure I made a post about the castagne, but it's lost! It was chestnut season and the woods next to Stef's home was full of chestnuts that had fallen from the trees. We went out for an hour each on Saturday and Sunday and just picked up a bunch. Two hours and we had about 11kg (~22 lbs) of chestnuts, ready to pass out to our colleagues at work the next day.

Well, not so quick. In order to preserve chestnuts to eat in the next days, they must be made perfectly dry after they come out of their husk. Any maggots that are inside will come out and not spoil the rest. We had to inspect each one for holes before putting them in bags.

What can you do with these chestnuts? We cut slits into each one and roasted them on top of the wood stove in the kitchen. You can also cook it over an open fire using a special pan that has holes in it. Or you can boil them in water. According to his mother, back in the day, it was just chestnuts and water for dinner.
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