Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a happy Christmas and a wonderful 2012... and I also want to thank all of you who have read my blog and been part of my adventures this year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My famous homemade pate'

Ok, so my homemade pate' is not actually that famous, the only thing that it's famous for is that it disappears at the speed of light every time I make it. At some parties I didn't even get to try a bite of it because it was gone so fast. Not joking. What's the secret? Easy. First of all I don't tell anyone that it's made with chicken livers. At least not until they have tried it and loved it. I'm not sure why, but most people seem to have a big problem with chicken livers, so why tell them? Second, I use a lot of butter. I can't stress this enough: if you are going to make pate' you have to use tons of butter. There's no other way around it. No making it "light". Unless you want your pate' to suck, that is.

So here's the recipe. I usually serve it along with cranberry sauce or some other type of berry jam, but it's also good on its own, with a slice of bread.


One onion
1 pound chicken livers
1 spoon of capers
Butter at room temperature
A shot of brandy
1 glass of broth
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme

In a pan, sauté the finely cut onions in butter until soft and add thyme and the liver ready cleaned and washed. Sauté them until browned. Add brandy and cook for 20 minutes on low heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Let everything cool. Add capers and place in a food processor. 

Process, adding butter one tablespoon at the time until you reach a smooth consistency. Pour in a loaf pan, cover and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Things I loved about Zurich

Rosti. What's not to love about a generous serving of shredded potatoes, hash brown style, mixed with raclette cheese and ham bits and topped with a fried egg? Swiss perfection on a plate.

Gothic cathedrals against the cloudy sky. I don't usually love cloudy skies, but the clouds I saw on my first day in Zurich where very picturesque and made everything look even prettier.

Serious Christmas lights. This city doesn't mess around when it comes to Xmas decorations and lights, they are in every street and on every building...

 ...including super-cool toy store Franz Carl Weber, a multi story kid's (kid at heart) paradise filled with toys, puppets and games of all kinds.

Oysters at Brasserie Lipp, a wonderful art deco restaurant with one of the biggest and best raw bars I've ever seen. The original Brasserie Lipp is in Paris, but this Swiss replica is as cool looking as the original and serves impeccable food as well.

Christmas markets. I could have bought virtually everything there, although the prices where not exactly affordable. Still I found some cool little presents for my family and friends and vowed to go back next year for more.

 Very cool looking bars. Case in point the Heineken New Bar opposite the Central train station. Neon lights and thousands of booze bottles neatly stocked on the walls.

And speaking of drinks, hot mulled wine of course, or as they call it in Zurich, Glühwein. Throughout the city there are hundreds of little wood huts selling fragrant perfectly spiced mulled wine. The bartenders are dressed like elves and the wine is prepared in big witch-like cauldrons. How cool is that? I wondered what they do with the little huts in the summer. I'm guessing they use them to sell beer.

Fondue chinoise. One of my favorite dishes ever. There's something so satisfying about cooking your meet in hot steamy broth and then dipping it in one of the six sauces it's served with: curry, sweet and sour, garlic, cocktail, tartar and spicy tomato.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas cookies galore!

I'm working today and tomorrow, then I have four days off, which means that I will have time to start baking some Christmas cookies. Although I'm not a cookie person, I know how much people like them, so I make them every year, then take them to the office and hand them out as gifts when I go to Christmas parties. I don't know which ones I'll make this year, but in the mean time here are some recipes that I tried last year and the year before, my personal cookie hit parade.

Baci di Dama: Italian treats. I have no idea why they are called "dame's kisses", but what I know is that they rock. They are a little labor intesive, but totally worth it. Trust me.  

Pepparkakor: Swedish cookies. You can buy them at Ikea, but they are mich better when they are made from scratch. The key is to roll out the dough real thin, otherwise they don't turn out quite as good. These are perfect for those who like spices in their cookies, they feature nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Great after meal cookie.

Brünsli: these cookies are from my nick of the woods. They ail from Switzerland and they are the perfect combination of chocolate and nuts. They are very similar to truffles and they are by far my favorite cookies. What's not to love about dark chocolate and walnuts? Careful though, once you eat one, you might want to eat the whole batch.

Vanillekipferl: as the name implies, these horseshoe shaped cookies have vanilla in them, and lots of butter, which makes them great. I especially like them dipped in Marsala wine, which shouldn't surprise you since I love pretty much any cookie dipped in Marsala =) 

Spicy Mexcian cookies: Last but not least, some dark chooclate cookies that feature crushed red pepper... Mayan style, baby! If you like the spicy and sweet combo, these cookies are for you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vin brulé (hot mulled wine)


It's December already. Ever since I've started working in August, time has gone by at the speed of light. So here we are, already counting down the days till Christmas. Temps are still not very wintery and I'm a little disappointed because it hasn't snowed yet, but I'm making up for it by decorating the house and preparing Christmasy foods.

Vin brulé, aka hot mulled wine, is one of my favorite things about this time of the year. I first tried it when I was about 14, mingling at a Christmas market in the Dolomites with my friend Giovanna. We were freezing, so we decided to give it a try. It was the beginning of an obession. I liked it so much I order it everwhere I go if I see it on the menu. No wonder I liked Prague so much, they sell it on every street corner at a price so cheap, you just can't say no.

Of course I also make it home. Last night I had it while putting up the Christmas tree and, I have to say, it was one of the best recipes ever. Try it, you won't be sorry.


1 bottle dry red wine
Peel of one orange
Peel of one lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
8 whole cloves
1 cup of sugar

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan. Slowly bring it to a boil, then simmer for about ten minutes or until sugar has dissolved. Discard solids and serve. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Potato and mushroom cups

I'm soooo tired these days. Last night I had the closing shift at the newspaper and afterwards, I stayed up drinking beer and watching The Mentalist until 3 am. Not smart, I know, but I have such a hard time unwinding, especially after a night like last night, when people seem to drive you crazy on purpose. When the alarm went off this morning at 9, I was tired, but thought I felt pretty good for how little I had slept. It's now 11:24 and I just hit a major wall. I could curl under my desk and go to sleep. Instead I have an interview to transcribe, pages to take care of and the thought that tonight it's Christmas tree/decorations time!

Of course I could sleep during the weekend... not this one though. Friday morning I'm leaving for Zurich, so I guess I won't be sleeping too much. Oh well. Thank God the weeened after that is a four day weekend, so I guess I'll have plenty of time to nap then! 

As for my "detox diet" (read: I have to shed at least 4 pounds because I hate the way my jeans fit me right now) it's going well. I bought a really cool cookbook called "Ammazzacicca" which literally means "fat killer". Gotta love that. There's all kinds of good recipes, all under 500 calories, so I'm enjoying food, yet losing some weight. So far just .5 kilos (1 pound), but hey, I've only started on Monday. Here's a good little recipe for you: simple, yet very satisfying.


1/2 pound potatoes cubed
2 shallots
A few sprigs of rosemary and sage
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper

Sautèe shallots in olive oil, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan add potatoes and minced herbs, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 7 minutes. Remove lid and cook for another 7 minutes. Add shallots.

Place potato mixture in a muffin pan to give it a cup shape.

Sautèe mushrooms and garlic in the same pan for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve potato cups with mushrooms on top.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Roasted potatoes with thyme and shallots

Thanksgiving weekend is over, at least for me. I work on most Sundays, so here I am, sitting at the office, already looking forward to next weekend. Friday and Saturday I'll be in Zurich, Switzerland, to check out some art museums, eat fondue and, hopefully, bump into some Christmas markets. I was also kind of hoping for snow, but I just checked the forecast and, apparently, we are going to get fog on Friday and rain on Saturday - a wonderful combo to take pictures...

Oh well, maybe they are wrong. We'll see, I guess.

Other than that, I'm trying to eat light this week, after gorging on way too much food over the holiday weekend. That doesn't mean I won't be posting recipes, luckily I'm always behind when it comes to posting, so I have tons of recipes from the past 15 days still unpublished. See? Procrastination can be a good thing.

So here's the first one: these are the potatoes I served on Thursday night. I was tired of serving rosemary potatoes, so I decided to dress them up a bit with thyme and shallots. It was a very good idea, believe me.


Fingerling potatoes, peeled
Salt and pepper
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 shallot, minced
1 cup vegetable broth

Place potatos in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, add shallots and thyme and pour 1/2 cup of broth in the dish, so they won't stick to it.

Cook in a preheated oven at 375° for about 30 minutes, adding more broth as it evaporates.

Eat your Brussels sprouts!

 I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Mine was great, filled with amazing food and even more amazing friends. It's hard to cook for 19 people, especially in a tiny kitchen, but with my mom's help and two days worth the cooking we managed to serve a turkey meal that everyone enjoyed. Company, of course, was lovely too and it was a pleasure to see everyone loving the food so much. 

The turkey is all gone. All of it. And so are most of the side dishes, except for the stuffings (but that's not a problem. I love stuffing.) I was afraid Brussels sprouts were not going to be overly popular because, let's be honest, they usually aren't. But dressed up with pancetta, shallots and garlic they were much better than usual... they actually had flavor, which isn't their strong suit. Pancetta makes everything better in my opinion, kind of like butter. So if you are wondering how to make Brussels sprouts that don't suck... here's the recipe, adapted from Cooking Light, the November issue.


  • 6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallot (about 1 large)
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and sauté for 5 minutes or until bacon begins to brown. Stir in shallot, and Brussels sprouts; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic, and saute for 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until the broth mostly evaporates and the sprouts are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in salt and pepper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cornbread stuffing with sausage, apples and fennel

 It's almost 5 pm now and I have made some progress. I'm actually proud of myself, since I have baked two batches of cornbread, made homemade pate', cranberry sauce and, last but not least, this wonderful stuffing. 

Making this was actually one of the easiest tasks today. I mean, between finding the freaking turkey - which is hard to come by whole in Switzerland - and making the cornbread, I'm already exhausted. It's a lot of cooking, I'll tell you. And right now I'm baking a pumpkin cheesecake, which is particularly stressful for me because I hate baking and I hate making dessert. So you can figure how much I hate BAKING DESSERT. 

Anyhow, here's the recipe for the stuffing, which I have tried and is delicious. Trust me, it doesn't get much better than this!


Cooking spray
2 links hot Italian sausage
10 ounces frozen pearl onions
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 small red Michigan apples, skin on, chopped
1/2 large fennel bulb, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 loaf cubed cornbread (about 8 cups)
2 eggs
1 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet brown the sausage in its own fat, crumbling with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add frozen pearl onions and sprinkle with brown sugar. Cool until the onions are tender and sugar has dissolved, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add celery, fennel and apple (I left the skins on for color, but you can remove them if you like.) Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with thyme and cook for about ten minutes.

Spray a 10x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Mix vegetable mixture and bread cubes in it. In a small bowl beat the eggs into the broth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over bread and veggie mixture, toss to coat. Bake in a 400F oven for 45 minutes.

Skillet cornbread

Here I am, on Thanksgiving Eve (does that even exist?), trying to make stuff ahead so I don't lose my mind tomorrow like I did in 2008, break my knee like I did in 2009 or end up with food even in my hair like I did in 2010. You live, you learn, they say. We'll see. 

As of now, it's 11 am on Wednesday and I've already baked cornbread for my gluten-free stuffing. That's all folks. It's not like I'm crazy ahead, but in the next few hours I'm going to crank out some serious food... at least the appetizers, the stuffing and the cranberry sauce.

I'll keep you all posted. Hope you are having a great almost-holiday weekend =)

A funny note: buttermilk doesn't exist in Switzerland. Or if it does they hide it so well I couldn't find. So my day started by having to make buttermilk, which is not complicated, you just mix a scant cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice... but it kind of makes you think about the challenges ahead.


  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil 
  • 2 cups buttermilk 
  • large egg 
  • 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 

  • Coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with bacon drippings; heat in a 450° oven for 10 minutes.
  • Whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add cornmeal, stirring well.
  • Stir in baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour batter into hot skillet.
  • Bake at 450° for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Goat cheese appetizer balls

It seems like yesterday that I was thinking about Thanksgiving being two months away. And now it's here. Only two days away. Of course I havn't even started cooking or prepearing for it, mostly because this working full time thing has kind of gotten in the way ;-) Since Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Europe I had to take the day off and, while I was at it, I also took tomorrow off, so I have two days to prepare the feast! I have to say that I'm super excited about cooking. I hadn't really noticed it, but since I've started working I have been cooking less than I used to and I really, really miss it.
It sounds a little crazy, but it's true.
So tonight I'm baking cornbread that I will use for the stuffing, so that my celiac friend can eat it too. Tomorrow I'll make what can be made ahead: my famous homemade patê, a pumpkin spread for my vegetarian friend and, most likely, the pumpkin cheesecake I intend to serve as dessert. Thanks to Debbie at Feast for the eyes I will also make the gravy ahead. That way on Thursday I only have to make the turkey and the side dishes. Sounds like a good plan, right? We'll see if I actually follow it through. I'm famous for not following through, so chaos and disorder are always around the corner...
Anyhow... if you are looking for an easy to make and cool to look at appetizer, here's a recipe for you!
2 goat cheese packages
2 tablespoons ground almonds
EVOO, 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper
Mix cheese, oil, honey in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Place in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
Using your hands make balls out of cheese mixture. Dredge them into ground almonds.
Serve with a honey drizzle over it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Things I loved about Prague

Back from 48 hours in Prague, Czech Republic. The place is absolutely fantastic, so great I wish I could have stayed there at least twice as long. To see the whole photo album, here's a link you can use even if you are not on Facebook.
Prague ham... at all times of the day, even for breakfast. Alwaya accompained by creamed horseradish and a Pilsner Urquell beer. The smokiness of the ham goes together well with the smooth, bold pils. A breakfast (or lunch, or snack) made in heaven.

Gorgeous, colorful houses in Mala Strana and Stare Mesto, the two oldest neighborhoods in town. One on each side of the river Moldava, they are so pictoresque they almost look fake. The best thing about them is they are 100% real.

Old Town Square and its Astronomical Clock looking dramatically beautiful. The square has been the heart of Prague since the 10th century.

Amazing doors and doorknobs that lead into even more amazing churches and sinagogues.

A Middle Ages themed tavern, where the waiter slams a tray full of grilled meat in front of you and says "Eat with your hands!"... what's not to love about that?

Art Deco everywhere. I swear, you cannot turn your head without bumping into some of it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grilled vegetables mock lasagna

One thing I miss about summer the most once fall sets in is eating flavorful fresh vegetables. Fall veggies are fine, but they are definitely not the same, not just because of their color, but also because of their flavor. Let's face it: parsnips are ok, but they are no fresh baby zucchini.
Still, I have promised myself that I wouldn't buy out of season vegetables that come form the other side of the world this year, that I would make more sustainable choices in the months ahead. And, to be honest, summer veggies don't taste that good when you eat them in the fall, they just aren't the same.
Unless you grill them, of course.
See where I'm going here?
I bought a last batch of summer veggies -zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant- grilled them and used them to make this mock lasagna. Again, I call it "mock" because it's not made with lasagna noodles, but with pane carasau, a Sardinian flatbread.
This isn't really a recipe. I just grilled the vegetables, chopped them and alternated layers of flat bread, layers of veggies and sprinkled them with shredded mozzarella. Then I baked it at 350°F for ten minutes and... voilà. Dinner is served!
 That's all floks. I won't be around for a few days, I'm going to Prague tomorrow... so have a great weekend everyone, and see you on Monday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A guest post: gluten free carrot cake

I'm proud to announce a guest post for today. Last week, I was checking out Facebook while at work and saw that my coworker Samantha had posted a picture of a gorgeous looking carrot cake on her profile. Later that day, she showed up in the newsroom with a generous amount of it and she put it on the meeting room table for us to try while we discussed news and pages. It was delicious. And, to my amazement, it was gluten and butter free. So I asked her to write a post on my blog and she graciously accepted. So here she is and here's her recipe:
"As soon as I found out I couldn’t eat any wheat anymore I felt desperate. I thought it was a complete nightmare, also because I love every kind of baked sweets. Ok, after a few months I have to admit it’s not actually nice, but from that day I tried to cook my own dishes a little more and discovered that gluten-free food can be delicious as well. I tried many carrot cake recipes but this is my favorite, both because it’s really simple to make and because the result is great. That’s why I’m writing this post for my new colleague and I’m really honored to!"


300 gr (10 ounces) carrots 

300 gr (10 ounces) grated almonds

300 (10 ounces) gr sugar

80-100 gr (3.5 ounces) gluten-free flour (or simply white flour)

4 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

grated lemon rind

Eventually, to decorate:

icing sugar

marzipan carrots

Peel and grate the carrots. Mix them with the grated almonds, the sugar and the lemon rind. Add the eggs and stir. Finally add the flour and the baking powder and keep mixing for a couple of minutes. That’s it, you can now put the mixture in an oiled  baking pan (no matter what shape, I actually like ring shaped cake). Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes at 175° (aria calda). When the cake got cold, you can decorate it with icing sugar and marzipan carrots or with a lemon frost made with water, lemon juice and icing sugar. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The 2011 Thanksgiving Challenge

feature photo

Holy crap, Thanksgiving is almost here! Seriously, it snuck up on me this year. While I usually plan the meal well in advance, this year I had no idea the holiday was upon us until I started notcing everyone posting Thanksgiving recipes on the web.

For the second time in a row I'm hosting a European Thanksgiving extravaganza, where the extravagant part is cooking it all in a ridicolously small kitchen. For about 15 guests. I know it sounds crazy, but I did last year, I can do it again this year, right? Not to mention that this time my mom and dad will be here, so they can help too. On top of that, I had my mom bring me some brining begs form the U.S., so I can prepare the turkey like I did in 2009, which was the best bird ever... ruined only by the fact that I broke my knee while preparing the meal.

So since I'm a little bored today I thought that planning this year's menu would be a good idea, even though every year I end up changing some of it at the last minute. And this year, other than the tiny kitchen challenge, I have a second one: one of my guests is a vegetarian, another one has to eat gluten free. Here's what I have so far:

Homemade patê
Pumpkin Spread (vegetarian and gluten free)
Mushroom Crostini (vegetarian and gluten free)

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes (vegetarian and gluten free)
Apple and Cranberry Sauce (vegetarian and gluten free)
Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausage and Apples (gluten free)

Pumpkin Almond Cheesecake (from Cooking Light)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The travel bug

...I admit it. I'm sick. The travel bug is back, stronger and meaner than ever. This time it looks like it's going to take over my body, my mind, my whole life worse than the other times before.

It got into me a little bit last year, but the problem was I had no freaking money to travel with, so I couldn't do too much about it. Then I got a job and, almost instantly, I started itching for some more travel. New destinations. New adventures. Even if just for a weekend.

Then this morning, while I was looking for a my scarf, I came across a travel wishlist I had scribbled when I first moved to Switzerland, a year and a half ago. I have it here, on my desk. And it makes me smile, because it's awesome. But it also makes me want to pick up my crap and just go.

Seriously, every time I walk by the Lugano train station I feel this urge to jump on a random train and go wherever. But since working is a necessary condition to have money for traveling, I won't do it. What I will do is make sure I go to each and every place on my list as soon as possible.


Lisbon, Portugal
Madrid, Spain  (July 2010)
Barcelona, Spain  (August and October 2010)
Bilbao and San Sebastian, Spain
Stockholm, Sweden  (February 2011)
Dublin, Ireland
Oslo, Norway
Tallin, Estonia
Bruxelles, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Prague, Czech Republic (going next weekend!)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Krakov, Poland
Berlin, Germany  (October 2011)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Sicily, Italy
Belgrade, Serbia
Greek Islands  (July 2011)
Istanbul, Turkey
Zurich, Switzerland

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Acquacotta... much more than just "cooked water"

Acquacotta in Italian means, literally, cooked water, but as you can tell by the picture, there's much more to this Tuscan soup than just cooked water. There's a poached egg, there's a rich mushroom and tomato broth and, underneath it all there's a thick slice of bread sprinkled with Pecorino cheese. It's a very comforting dish, easy to make and, above all, it's very cheap. Mushrooms are plentiful in this season, but I had so many bags of dried porcini (don't ask, I'm not sure why) in the pantry I used those, and it turned out great.


Serves 4

2 large onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
5 tomatoes, cubed
5 cups tasty stock
Grated Romano cheese
4 eggs
4 large slices country bread
Salt and pepper
Dried marjoram

Heat a bit of EVOO in a large dutch oven, add onions and sautee on medium heat for a ten minutes, stirring so it doesn't burn. Add garlic and mushrooms, sautee for three minutes. Add tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and marjoram and cook for about ten minutes. Add broth, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

In the mean time, toast bread and place each slice on the bottom of a large bowl. Sprinkle with cheese. Pour very hot soup in each bowl. Crack an egg in each one. The broth will cook the egg. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.


Related Posts with Thumbnails