Sunday, March 22, 2009


I've been "cooking up a storm" so to speak , since we have come home from Italy .. my inspiration has been all the fabulous food we ate for 5 days while in Rome !.. I am doing things just a little differently than I usually do .. with time and love as the key ingredients .. As a cooking class teacher I am always trying to find fast & easy recipes to share with my students but sometimes to get that flavorful and rich taste .. time is the essence !
So with that in mind I called my butcher in the beginning of the week and ordered a few cuts of meat that would tolerate slow long cooking .. pork roast with a bone in .. veal shoulder seasoned and tied into a fragrant bundle .. lamb roast with the bone still intact... and I have been using the method that my mother used all her cooking life "on top of the stove " .
I usually shy away from this type of braising because I felt that type of cooking needed my unadulterated attention but I am pleasantly finding that it is not the case at all .. sure there is a little more work in the beginning of the cooking process than just turning the oven on and throwing the roast in .. you must brown or caramelize all the sides of the meat .. this provides a nice crust and wonderful flavor worth the extra time .. as soon as my roast are golden brown on all sides I add a liquid to gather all the bits and pieces that cling to the big dutch oven .. this is called de~glazing and can be done with broth or water ... better than either of these choices is wine ! Sometimes I use all three .. I add some aromatic vegetables such as onion , garlic , celery , carrots and then the lid goes on .. I check the time and then go do something else for at least an hour .. when I return I flip the meat over and baste it .. make sure there is enough liquid in the bottom of the pan ( too much and you are boiling ~ too little and it will burn ) about 2 inches is all you need .. this liquid does not evaporate quickly because the lid is on at all times.
I check doneness with a meat thermometer .. I can usually tell if it is almost done because the house fills with the wonderful aroma of a mouthwatering meal ! at this point I peel and cube some Yukon gold potatoes .. those buttery delicious potatoes that cook in a flash .. I sprinkle the potatoes around the roast and let it stay on a low flame for about 20 to 30 minutes more .. turn off the heat and let it rest ..

I can say that we have been eating very well since we got home from Bella Italia

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Friends are hard to come by .. good friends that is .. someone who knows you and understands you .. someone you can keep in contact with and enjoy sharing little pieces of life .. someone who shares your interest and zest for food and all things Italian...

I have a friend like that .. a high school friend that I just recently reunited with.. Marti.. she now lives in the hills of Tuscany in a little town called Stia .. Our lives have many parallels... food was her profession and Italy her passion .. she contacted me a few years ago by email & we have been corresponding regularly ever since.. it has been fun and quite an adventure for me to hear her stories.. she is a free spirit and has a very interesting life .. following her heart & her dreams.

Last October when in Florence with my culinary tour ~Clint & I were able to break away from the group for an hour to have a coffee with her & Piero and this week when we came to Rome .. Clint & I made plans to make our visit just a little bit longer .

She was one of the first people I told about this adventure to Rome .. we were both very excited !

We made plans to take the Eurostar to Florence Santa Maria Novella Station & meet them there ~Daily she would send me info on Italy .. weather , train schedules, plans she was making for our visit .. we were to meet at the train station .. she & Piero would be taking the bus from their little town and we would take the early train .. we arrived at almost the same time .. phoning each other from across the station.. we met at the Farmacia ..

We spotted each other immediately and happily held a non stop conversation as we strolled through the streets of Florence on our way to the Mercato Centerale .. the large food market in Florence.This was a perfect place to bring me ! I loved looking at the the stalls asking Piero about the different cuts of meat that I was not familiar with ~ and believe me there was many .. the volume of butcher stalls was staggering .. each selling a specialty .. there was tripe & intestines .. there was cow tails and testicles.. nerves and even .. and I am hesitant to even write this but the face of a cow was on display for sale .. kind of makes rabbit sound benign.. but as I always say about food ~ it is all what you are use to !

We wandered around the market sampling prosciutto and pecorino.. gazing at the fish .. fresh from the sea... we went to the second level where all the beautiful produce was on display .. all this food was making us hungry so we headed out into the Florence sunshine over to a little Trattoria that both Piero & Marti knew of for a wonderful traditional lunch.

We sat in the corner and drank Vino Rosso a casa and orderd a fabulous meal and enjoyed it with wonderful warm friendship .. our afternoon ended too soon.. before we knew it after some wine & vin santo & lemoncello we were headed back to the station .. Us to Roma and Marti & Piero back to Tuscany.It was a wonderful visit and one I will not forget .

Italy is just a little more special with friend like Marti & Piero!


The fun of being in Rome is not only the food but the people watching.

In every piazza you can sit on a bench for hours to watch the people stroll by ... our favorite place in is the Campo De Fiori ... we sit outside in a little coffee bar that is on the corner directly across from the flower stand ..and in front of the kitchenware stand .... and close enough to the Forno that we can smell the freshly baked pizza and bread that is made daily there ... just perfect for me.

This is our spot .. no matter what time we get up .. our first coffee of the day is taken there ... I have learned over the years to go in a order the coffee myself and bring it out to Clint, who has already begun to "people watch " ... our usual order consist of due cappuccini, due cornetti & a arancia spremute... Spremute is freshly squeezed juice made with blood red oranges & lots of pulp.. it is a large glass of heaven..
You can sit for hours sipping your cafe and watching the colorful live show that goes on within steps of your table ...
The Piazza Farnese which holds the French Embassy is in the next piazza so there are always plenty of well dressed businessman and polizia in huge shiny Mercedes or Alfa Romeos squeezing past the throngs of shoppers.
Well dressed Italian matrons .. in fur coats & high heels walk arm in arm visiting and bargaining with the shop owners for the best their money can buy.. .. teenagers with impossibly huge backpacks stop and study maps to find the closest hostel .. cabs stop abruptly to drop off the hordes of tourists .. for this is a very popular spot to visit.
And the workers sometimes make up the most interesting people to watch and study .. no where but in Italy do you see garbage collectors or street sweepers so gorgeous !.. women with long ponytails & large hoop earrings.. the only sign of their profession is a bright orange vest .. they carry brooms that can belong to the wicked witch .. made of twigs and wrapped with twine .. the women are beautiful and the men~ oh so sexy .
Large delivery trucks vie for space along side the small Italian Ape '~ a 3 wheeled truck that sounds like the engine was borrowed from a lawn mower... these are very popular in Italy .. they hold only one person in the front seat and the back is a flat bed made to carry large boxes .
The Campo de Fiori is a vibrant street market filled with stalls with every imaginable thing for sale...from the fish market at the shady east end to the flower stall at the west end of the market .. you can buy meats of all kinds .. cheeses... prosciutto...breads wine ... underwear.. umbrella ... baby clothes .. jewelry .. scarfs .. pots & pans .. dishes & glasses .
The Campo is also filled with wine bars & restaurants .

But the most interesting of all is the people .. priests striding in pairs their long black cassocks flowing behind them .. Gentleman dressed in suits with bright red scarfs draped around their necks for fashion and warmth... young Italian men with their tight pants and jackets .. holding a cigarette , sun glasses perched on their foreheads .. women young & old in high heeled boots and tight pants .. long flowing scarfs wrapped around their necks .. long hair .. blond .. black .. and all shades of red... dogs are everywhere too .. on leashes.. on laps ...on motorini.. in baskets.... cuddled in arms .. talked to & whispered to in Italian.. they are like children to their owners.

And so we sit ..our backs to the wall .. the world at our feet ~ sipping our caffe .. people gazing and planning our day ... is it lunchtime yet ? where will we eat dinner ? How about a gelato ?
Where shall we go ~ The Colosseum ? The Pantheon ? the Piazza de Spagna ?
the Piazza Navona? Trevi Fountian ?
And yet again I find myself thinking ~There is no place like Roma !!!


What can I say .. our favorite place to eat in all of the world .. the place that brought us both back to Rome this time .. the place we dream of when we think of food .. Armando's .. a place we have been going to for over 15 years .. maybe more .. we head to Armando's if ever even near Rome .. we bring our friends & family there .. we send people to eat there .. we LOVE Armando's !
Located on a tiny side street across from the majestic beauty that is the Pantheon .. a small tiny restaurant that you wouldn't even know was there unless someone told you about it .. and funny to say I am almost reluctant to tell anyone about this gem but I can't resist .
Armando's is a family place .. where you find families and friends dining .. business people & regulars that have been going daily and for years .. the chef & his brother kisses almost everyone who walks through the door .. including us !
The food ... where do I begin ? well at the Antipasto I think .. Carciofi ~ the best in all of Rome .. and dare I say I should know . I eat carciofi in every restaurant I dine in ... & they make the very best !!! I order it every time ! the cipolline .. tiny little onions cooked to perfection .. the roast peppers .. the grilled and marinated assortment of vegetables that change daily and according to season .. this is always our first course .. at leisure .. they never rush you there ..then comes the second course .. sometimes pasta ... Clint & I love the Pasta Amatriciana or the pasta con cacio & pepe.. or today the lasagna cacio & pepe ~ out of this world .. Clint loves the Roast Veal & potatoes .. I had a taste of his and it is heaven .. I have to say that everything every morsel that comes out of that kitchen is prepared with the finest & freshest of ingredients and added for that very special taste is the ingredient of love .. it shows and you can taste the love ! I am not kidding !
The restaurant began in 1961 with Armando , the father .. it is now run by his sons ~ the two brothers ~
Claudio ~the chef & Fabrizio his brother .. Claudio's daughter Fabiana is the wine sommelier and her husband Mario runs the dining room .. a family affair of good food and great tradition and the best food in all of Roma .. dare I say the world !

Friday, March 13, 2009

A million reasons to love Roma

Sights ,Sounds, Flavors of Rome ... this city comes at you from so many directions ..

~ The many sounds of Rome : the clinking of espresso cups, roar of motorini swerving between impossible small spaces , the sing~ song melodious language ..musical words running together , the church bells announcing the hour, the sounds of water~fountains everywhere~water running out of marble mouths ,cherubs and gargoyles...people calling in greetings ,men & women exchanging kisses.. the clicking of high heels among the cobblestones .. the sound of honking horns and cars riding over the uneven pavements..the buzz of an Ape' ~ a three~ wheeled motorcycle masking as a small pick up truck , the tinkle of the Hare Krishna bells.. the sound of silence in the many churches. The laughter of small children and the whispers of teenagers... the voices of the older men ~sitting on benches talking about life & food & politics ! The older , elegant Italian women bargaining with the shop owners .. demanding the best meats & produce their money can buy .

~The sights of Rome : the majestic Umbrella pines , the small alleyways that hold a myriad of surprises behind each doorway .. sometimes a tiny store , other times a magnificent garden with marble columns..the mouthwatering display of produce & vegetables in the Campo de Fiori market .. the corner flower stalls abundant with the color of spring .. the store windows ~each displaying their wares like artwork in a museum .. the fancy underwear stores with lace bras & panties in all hues of lavender & purple ..the shoe stores !! oh my goodness the shoe stores!!~boots ~ both high heels and impossibly sexy to flat heeled boots that give a military appearance~millions of shoes that look like sweets in a candy store.. I want to buy one in every color !~ The Madonnas ~ on every building and every corner .. painted frescoes or tiny statues adorned with vases of fresh flowers & tiny flicking candles.. the handsome Polizia .. in their tight dark blue uniforms with white belts and dark slicked back hair standing erect and looking oh so serious and sexy at the same time ! The pieces of antiquity .. the roman ruins , temples, columns, bridges , stones , walls , statues among the Rome of today ! Incredible ! The churches .. magnificent & majestic... one-sometimes two or three on every block sometimes wedged between tall buildings and nestled in corners .. the cupolas... rising in the sky~ you can catch a glimpse at every turn framed with the background of blue sky.

The flavors of Rome ... sharp pecorino cheese... sweet prosciutto.. oh -so fabulous thin slices of pizza with grilled vegetables or roasted fungi.. creamy gelato .. strong thimble- size cups of strong espresso... smooth foamy cappuccino ..croissants filled with chocolate & nutella , marmalata or creama .. flaky and heavenly.. Carciofi Romano~ my all- time favorite food drizzled with extra virgin olive oil ..Carciofi Guidica .. fried in a crisp batter-so light & heavenly !
Pasta Amatriciana...Gnocchi with a creamy gorgonzola sauce or a fresh tomato & basil sauce .. you will lick your fingers ! grilled fish with lemon squeezed on top and drizzled with olive oil.. crusty breads.. thin crisp bread sticks.... antipasto~ a platter of sauteed , grilled and roasted vegetables~ a fusion of color and taste that is hard to forget ... the wines .. vino rosso a casa .. wine that is sweet to drink and easy going down .. bottles of Sangiovese .. deep red and luscious .. pinot grigio.. crisp and clean.. bottles of water sans- gas for me .. but bubbly and sweet too .Roasting chestnuts on the corners.. paninis made with fresh creamy buffalo mozzarella ,
Panna cotta ,Torte della nonna ~made with pine nuts, fresh pineapple with gelato on top !!!

The language ~the words floating through the air : allora , prego , ciao, bella ,grazie ,buona sera, buona notte,buon giorno ,come sta , per favore ,molto bene ,pronto, va bene, molto, si , fantastico, perfecto, tutto posto, basta ,il conto.. vowels , vowels & more vowels... each one pronounced separately... it is a musical sound and oh so easy to listen to ... and the gestures.. to listen to an Italian speak is to also watch .. gestures follow every sentence .. it is a conductor leading a band a show for all to see .. it is Rome a feast for all the senses ..

Now I am hungry and we are doing what all Italians do .. talking about where and what to eat ! Ciao Ciao !!!! BUONA SERA

Thursday, March 12, 2009

From Italia

I am sitting here in a small apartment in the center of Rome .. it is after 11 PM & we are just coming from dinner .. if I was home I would be sound asleep in bed ! As I write I can hear the sound of motorini.. the small & very abundant little motorcyles that everyone rides here.. they zig zag through and around traffic like some kind of ballet performance scaring and astounding us at every turn !.. I can here the sound of voices "ciao ciao"~ one ciao is never enough .. sometimes it is 4 or 5 before they actually do say goodbye ~we call it the Italian goodbye .. a long process of kissing cheeks and hugging and then the final CIAO & Buona Notte.. Buona Sera & a domani ( until tomorrow !!) that accompanies every separation~A goodbye as only the Italians do !

We have been here since Tuesday morning .. it is Thursday night .. we fell very easily into the Italian lifestyle of good food .. wonderful wines at lunch & dinner .. 3 hour meals daily ~ the arm in arm walks.. the wonderful vibe that is Rome !

There are churches on every corner .. actually 2 & 3 churches in a block.. Roman ruins make up the structures of the stores and the restaurants .. the Italians live among history .. it is amazing to behold .Each doorway hold a story or a courtyard filled with flowers.. we wander through the streets and down tiny alleyways discovering and marveling at everything we see.I want to scream HAIL CEASAR ! at every turn .

I will write more about our journey in Rome .. about the food... the people..the markets....the fashion .. the shoes...the flavor & Intensity that is Rome ... a city like no other.

But for now .. it is way past my bed time so I bid you" Ciao Ciao & Buona Notte"A Domani ~~
Ciao Ciao !!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Some Easy Recipes

I am getting ready for a cooking class tonight ~"BELLA ITALIA" my theme was borrowed from the Philadelphia Flower Show going on this week .. we are going to visit the flower show on Thursday with some friends and I am sure I will really be longing for Italy after that !
Here are some great fast easy recipes for a still-cold March !

crust :
1/2 pound of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
~combine ingredients in a food processor until they just come together .. remove and let rest .. then press into a tart pan with a removable bottom .. put in fridge to chill for about 20 minutes
6 eggs
2 1/2 cup sugar
2 TBS lemon zest

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup flour

~combine ingredients and pour into crust ~bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until set ~ when cool sprinkle with powered sugar

1 large head of cauliflower trimmed & cooked till tender ~drain well

2 TBS melted butter
2 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlicchopped
1 cup onion diced
1 anchovy smashed
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 cup grape tomatoes
salt ~ pepper
dash of white wine

~in saute pan combine all ingredients except cauliflower.. cook about 10 minutes or until fragrant and & soft .. add cauliflower and dash of white wine .. cook till liquid evaporates ~serve wih grated parmesan cheese


1 large onion diced
1-2 cloves garlic minced
2 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
3 cups frozen peas defrosted
white wine / chicken broth

6 plum tomatoes cut in 1/2 and drizzled with olive oil and salt & pepper.. roast uncovered in 350 oven for about 45 minutes cool and dice

~in saute pan cook onion & garlic in oil & butter till golden and caramelized -about 15 minutes ~ add tomatoes and peas .. add a splash of white wine or chicken broth & cook until the liquid evaporates .. taste for seasoning

Monday, March 2, 2009


I am sitting here in front of the computer trying to warm up .. silly place to try to warm myself ~my toes are numb .. my nose feels frozen and my fingertips are a bright red ... I did just get back from sledding .. something I haven't done in a really long time .. (now I know why )

I am lucky enough to live quite close to my daughter ~ a few blocks ~.. and to a hill that is not called suicide hill .. just a little slope really ... just my speed ...Although it is still very windy and snowing like crazy .. the kids wanted to go sledding .. so Mimi and Pop pop piled on as many clothes as we could & still mange to walk in and went out into this March blizzard to sled !

I felt like the Michelin man wrapped in two pairs of pants and about 3 sweatshirts , gloves , scarf, hat .. still not enough to keep me warm !

The ages of the kids on this hill ranged from 5 to about 8 years old .. and then there was me ! trying to sit my self down on a newfangled sled that was a roll up piece of blue plastic that didn't want to unroll !
With Christopher on my lap .. we were off .... it went pretty fast for a little flimsy plastic thing.. and we were laughing all the way down .. it didn't come with brakes and there was a small child mesmerized right in front of me that I thought for sure we would barrel into .. we stopped just in time !

My daughter and her husband actually took a bet .. that I would not show up for this sledding event .. I am notoriously known for hating snow .. in any form and amount ! But this was fun .. if only for about 20 minutes .. that was all I could take until I trudged back home to get warm and here I sit .. warming myself up with the computer screen and a cup of tea!

The snow looks really pretty .. prettier yet from inside my house !