July 30, 2010

Castle Life Is Tough

note: I'm posting this for Robbie because the internet is really expensive in Italy.

I’m at a castle in Tuscany that is also a sustainable organic estate. Almost everything we eat is organic and grown on site. They raise a heritage breed of pig called a cinta senese and the ham, sausage, and bacon they make from them is amazing. Basil is in everything. They make a great organic wine, in red and white. We do wine on the terrace every evening at 7 pm; dinner is at 8. Every dinner is four courses (pasta or soup, meat and vegetable, salad, desert) and every other Wednesday is a seven (approximately, they sort of blend together) course meal (raw vegetable, anti-pasta, pasta, meat and vegetable, salad, desert, liquor and/or cafe) or a pizza night. It’s all a foodie’s dream really. I’ve been taking pictures of all the food and it weirded out all the other guests at first, as we eat all our meals family style with the staff. Now everyone knows not to touch the plates until I’ve taken a picture.

I’m getting a lot of writing done as well as reading some books for pleasure, such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Tender Buttons. If I finish those I’ll likely start reading Brief Interviews With Hideous Men or finish reading Rock Springs, which I started at the beginning of the trip.

Before here I was in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain where I watched the World Cup Final and became obsessed with Kebabs and Patatas Bravas, which are french fries covered with mayo and ketchup.

Kebab + Patatas Bravas = Magic

Next Tuesday I’m taking an Italian cooking class with the estate’s cook, Graziella. She’s been a cook here since she was a child and her mother was the cook before her. Whatever the meal is that I learn to cook, I’ll cook it again when I get back and take pictures. I have a feeling it’s spinach ravioli.
Oh yeah, there’s a pool and a hammock in the shade.

Even though this is great, I’ve been traveling for about a month and have gotten a tad homesick. I composed a list for everyone to enjoy without me.

The things I (in)appropriately miss about America:

Free refills (Europe doesn’t even have fountain drinks)

30 packs (beer is only sold in 4 packs)

Happy Meals (no fast food in rural Italy)

Driving (on Sunday I waited 3 hours for a bus)

Green Chile (duh)

Free Wifi (the wifi here is 6 euro an hour)

Ice Coffee (espresso with every meal is not the same)

Cocktails (I drink a lot of wine and really miss a good G&T)

Tuscan Vineyard

July 25, 2010

Weekend Links

Here are some food and/or writing-related links I've recently found interesting:

Very extensive tips on becoming a more frugal food shopper/cook from the Kitchn. I definitely need to follow some of these.

How food gets gendered.

Maddie Oatman's food and writing blog.

Not so new, but a crazy-long, crazy-good collaborative poem.

I really would like to make this. I have made these and they're delicious.

July 20, 2010


So, I'm not really a big salad person. I love vegetables, but I don't like most dressings, and I abhor your typical restaurant "side salad" (wilted iceberg lettuce, two tomato slices, some pitiful shredded carrot and a big glob of ranch). I don't usually make salad for myself, except the occasional tomato-spinach-fresh mozzarella-olive oil-balsamic vinegar standard, basically the only salad I'll consistently eat. My boyfriend is on tour with his band right now, so I'm taking the opportunity to eat non-meat-based meals for dinner. After a couple nights of veggies and pasta, I decided to make this salad from a recipe I found in Women's Health magazine.

AND IT IS THE BEST SALAD EVER. It is meant to serve two people, as a meal, and I ate the entire thing by myself in one sitting. It's filling, delicious, and manages to actually taste amazingly healthy, fresh, and green. The flavors of the avocado, cilantro and lime blend perfectly, giving the salad an identifiable but not overwhelming Mexican flavor.  I can't rave enough about it; it really is that good. Seriously. Make this salad TONIGHT.

Avocado Black Bean Salad (from Women's Health)
serves 2, contains 247 calories per serving

2 cups lettuce (I used a basic spring mix)
1 avocado, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup of black beans, rinsed
2 tbsp diced green onions
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
lime zest to taste (original recipe calls for 1/4 tbsp)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

1. Chop tomato, green onion, avocado and cilantro.
2. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tomato, avocado, black beans, green onions and cilantro.
3. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt and pepper. I'm a very lazy lemon/lime zester, so I just made an amount of zest I thought looked ok and used it--you might want to use the prescribed 1/4 tbsp, or less.
4. Pour dressing over salad and toss well, making sure everything is coated.

If you're a cilantro hater, whether by tastebuds or genetics, you could easily leave it out or substitute another herb (maybe parsley?).

I think this recipe would also be delicious made as a chopped salad, a la this post on Cheap Healthy Good.  If you want more protein, you could also add grilled chicken, or if you want more veggies, maybe some cooked corn. I used the leftover 1/2 can of beans and cilantro with some tomato in a breakfast omelet the next day.

Avocado on FoodistaAvocado

July 9, 2010

One-Pot: Rotisserie Chicken, Asparagus and Couscous

I like rotisserie chickens for several reasons, not the least of which is because they smell amazing at all points of contact: in the store, in the car on the way home, and in the kitchen. I've been known to impulse buy them at the supermarket, just because I walked past and accidentally got a whiff of honey-barbecue. They're also quite useful for those of us who are too lazy to regularly roast chickens on our own, and it's easy to make the meat of one chicken last for several days' worth of meals. The particular chicken used in this recipe also provided us with taco meat, and I'm planning on using it for chicken chilaquiles tonight, as well.

Anyway, I made this recipe for dinner the other night, adapted from here. My main adaptations were eliminating parsley, adding spinach and using couscous-from-a-box. I will definitely make this again, as it's fast, easy and surprisingly tasty (for how simple it is). It's especially good for summer, I think; filling, but light enough to eat at the end of a long hot day. Also, light enough to eat at the beginning of a long hot night when your swamp cooler is partially broken....

One Pot: Rotisserie Chicken, Asparagus and Couscous

total time: approx 20 min
total hands on time: 20 min

1 box of couscous mix (I used Near East Parmesan mix)
3-5 green onions
1/2 a bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1 in pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsps butter (I always use SmartBalance)
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
few handfuls of fresh baby spinach
few handfuls of shredded rotisserie chicken

1. Make the couscous according the directions on the box.
2. While the couscous is cooking, chop the green onions and the asparagus.

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium-low and add the white and light green parts of the onions. Cook until wilted.
4. Add the broth and a little bit of salt and pepper. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil.
5. Add asparagus and a few handfuls of baby spinach. Bring to a boil.
6. Add the couscous and chicken, then turn the heat off and let sit, covered, for 3-4 minutes.
7. Stir in the lemon juice, green parts of the onions, and serve!

Please forgive the picture quality, as these were taken on my phone. This may be the first in a series of posts on "one pot" meals: would you guys like to see more recipes like this? Let us know!

July 7, 2010


I'm back from Guatemala/Nicaragua and gearing up to work on my thesis (a book of poetry) and plan my fall class (Holocaust Representation), while enjoying the boiling desert heat. I meant to take pictures of my meals while I was in Central America (a la Robert Alan Wendeborn), but I pretty much forgot. I ate well when I was there, though: a lot of avocado, beans, rice, chicken, and various vegetables seasoned with lime juice. I stayed with a host family associated with this Spanish school in Antigua, where I ate three huge delicious meals a day. There were two little girls (ages 7 and 9) in the family, and we had a lot of fun pretending lychee shells were aliens (extraterrestres!) at lunch.

I'm not a big meat eater and it was surprisingly easy to get by without eating much meat, especially in Antigua. One day I was craving red meat, so I ordered a cheeseburger and the waiter asked me if I wanted it "con jamon (ham) and queso (cheese)." I said I didn't want ham, so I received a hamburger bun with a smear of mayonnaise and a slice of American cheese (American cheese is everywhere). I also had a bad encounter with quesadillas made from canned cheese. I guess the lesson here is that Guatemala is really not a good place to go if you like decent cheese. Aside from that, the majority of the food I ate was good and cheap--really cheap, about $3-$4 a meal, especially outside of the cities. Huge portions, relatively healthy (despite the rampant popularity of fried chicken), and amazingly spicy.

Anyway, if you're ever in Antigua, Guatemala I recommend Rainbow Cafe; it's a bar, bookstore and restaurant (with live music every night of the week). I bought and traded so many books during my two weeks there that the bookstore clerk knew me by name! They also have lectures on Tuesdays at 5:30: I went to a really interesting one given by MuJER, an organization that provides support to Guatemalan sex workers.

I was itching to cook once I got back, especially now that so many vegetables are in season; tomatoes, zucchini, squash, everything good, really. I made this awesome recipe last night, and tonight I made a concoction of couscous, chicken, spinach and asparagus. Look for the recipe in the next few days. For now, here are a few pictures from my trip:

man with 4 dogs on his bike
the ruins at tikal in northern guatemala

market in chichicastenango

how tortillas are traditionally made

little girls in a village on lake atitlan


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...