Italy Vol.3

Hey All,

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – drums please -, I am very glad to announce what you have been waiting for continuously for the past months, the reason why you got no sleep and why you had not a single proper dish, the unbelievable that you will witness: Food and Flags is back on, YES!

To make sure that this reawakening is to your greatest joy, I couldn’t help but bring some new Italian tastes. I mean, seriously, who does not like the Italian cuisine? It just cannot go wrong.

You know the feeling when you know someone only for a couple of days or weeks, but it seems like that you have always known them? Like how could you not have these people around you before? I recently moved to Amsterdam and found a couple of Italians who make me feel exactly that way, and whom I am also happy to present as the cooks for this episode: Davide and Eugenio. The boys are from the cute little town of Este and wandered over to the rainy Netherlands for the same reason as I have: to try our best of effort and luck and snatch a master’s degree.

But enough of all this seriousness, let’s eat!

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All you need – Appetizer – bread, salame nostrano, parmigiano reggiano, pearl onions

That’s right, you are reading full on Italian ingredient names under the picture – we got our supply straight from the boys’ motherland, so big shoutout to the famiglia for sending us all the goodies, grazie! Nevertheless, as you can see, the starter is pretty straightforward: just layer these four things on top of each other and they are ready! And so tasty.

Of course once I had Eug and Davide over for a cooking session, I could not let them go so simply – so here we go, we are making Risotto ai Funghi Porcini! 

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All you need – Risotto – onion, garlic, butter, risotto rice, dried porcini mushroom, parmesan, parsley, oil, salt, pepper

Start by putting all your mushrooms (we used two packs) in a bowl of water and let it soak for around half an hour. You might already be hungry, but Italians usually eat quite late anyway, so just take your time. In the meantime you can chop your onions and garlic and keep eating pieces of the delicious appetizer!

While I feel like I have known them for a long time, my cooks really have known each other for eternity! They went to the same kindergarten, same schools – and now, twenty years later, here they still are in the same city and and sharing a flat. (To get a feeling of this nicest of friendship, I suggest to skip down to the end of the post for a peak of the sweetest photo ever!!)

Though I am most probably putting you in the mood of digging up old memories of lost and found childhood friendships, let’s just keep cooking. Once your mushrooms have softened enough, you cut them into not too small pieces. The stove gets a whole bunch to heat up: start by a pot of water. You will use this to drop in there a pre-made bouillon cube. (Of course very ambitious ones shall make this part from scratch!) A second pot and pan follows, both heated up with a sprinkle of oil.

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Fry your mushrooms with garlic in the pan, while doing the same with the onion in the second pot with butter. The boiling water can get the tasty bouillon cube and keep bubbling on low heat. The risotto rice follows the onion in the pan now. Once in, cover it with a few ladles of bouillon and keep repeating so every time it sort of starts drying up; stir it frequently. This process will last 20-30 minutes easily, so good that you still have some of those starters and hopefully also a whole bottle of wine! At the end mix the mushrooms with the risotto, keep grating parmesan in it until it becomes smooth and creamy, and of course add salt, pepper and parsley according to taste. Done! 

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Risotto ai Funghi Porcini

I still have at least another 8 months ahead of me with these two Italians and I could not be happier – whenever I won’t know what music to listen to (crazy how much they know), what to eat, or simply just need someone around to cheer me up, I’m completely sure they will be the best to turn to. I hope you enjoy these easy-to-make and delicious dishes, reader! Buon appetito and of course as always, thank you for cooking, guys!

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The Italians

Italy Vol.2

Hey All,

As it is getting warmer outside, even here up North, I’m really getting in the mood of just going to a beach, having a cocktail, falling asleep on the side of the sea… and trying not to get completely sunburnt. This still needs to wait at least a few weeks, so for the meantime at least my kitchen got a mediterranean atmosphere – welcome to the second Italian post!

All you need - eggplant, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, oil
All you need – eggplant, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, flour, mozzarella, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, oil

Parmigiana di melanzane. Doesn’t it just sound delicious already? My Italian cook was Marco this time. He’s from the lovely city of Pisa, currently doing his PhD here in Groningen. Greatly talented in acting, in improv, in playing with words in any way – and apparently also quite a good cook! This is one of his favorite dishes, and I think from now on also one if mine – and at the end of trying this meal yours as well. Let’s get is started!

Grab an eggplant, and slice it up, not too thin. If you have the time then squeeze the juice out of the slices as well – we were way too hungry and skipped this step, so it works without as well. Also chop your onion. Then heat up two pans, one with a lot of oil, the other only with a few drops. Two slices of smashed garlic and your onion go in your lighter pan, and another piece of garlic should dive into the massive amount of oil in the other one. Now put some flour on a plate, and floppp your eggplant slices in it – coat both sides nicely. These white pieces can follow the piece of garlic in the oil swim. Each needs a few minutes to fry, so just keep repeating the same process – and when done, salt them well.  Don’t forget about the other pan! You can pour the tomato sauce on the fried onion. Add salt, pepper, thyme, basil and a tiny bit of oil to it as well. Also, preheat your oven to 180 degrees on convection mode. While your eggplant is frying and sauce is boiling, take care of your mozzarellas. First, squeeze the milk out of each, then slice it up. You have all ingredients ready now!

Only the layering is left! Grab a frying pan, and pour a bit of oil on the bottom. A layer of eggplant, a layer of sauce, a layer of cheese. A layer of eggplant, a layer of sauce, a layer of cheese. A layer of… nahh, you get it. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes. Afterwards turn the oven off, but leave it inside for another 20 minutes, so the sauce has time to cool down and to gain a more thick texture. This baking part takes quite some time, I know, but it is totally worth it!

Parmigiana di melanzane
Parmigiana di melanzane

We ate this all. All of it. ALL! THE TWO OF US! So if you are making this with friends, get multiple eggplants! And we also watched Game of Thrones while eating, but I do not recommend this part – either before of after. If the show gets you into a bad mood, think of Marco who is kind, funny and always talks to you with a smile on his face! Or look for him on the streets of Groningen, that might be an even better idea!

The Italian
The Italian

Thank you for cooking, Marco, and buon appetito to all of you!

Italy

Hey All,

After a few weeks of break since the first post, here is the second flag! This time a mouthful of Italian cuisine is presented.

Just as the last time, a very easy but just as delicious dish was prepared, I’m sure you all know it: SPAGHETTI CARBONARA! But I’m also sure that you have never had such a tasty kind. I was once again amazed that only a handful of ingredients can end up as a filling and nutritious meal. My cook of the day was Caterina – she is from the beautiful city of Trieste and this Carbonara is her family’s traditional version.

All you need - parmesan, eggs, smoked bacon, spaghetti, wine vinegar, pepper
All you need – parmesan, eggs, smoked bacon, spaghetti, wine vinegar, pepper

Start by putting on some water to boil. In the meantime, fry all the smoked bacon you have in a pan; you don’t really need oil, the fat itself will do the job. Mix your eggs, both the egg white and yolk, in a bowl and flavor it up with pepper and parmesan. The more you use the tastier it gets (at least for me). By now your water is probably boiling, so grab a stack of spaghetti (or any other type of pasta you like) and throw it in the pot. Now hold onto the wine vinegar and hint some of it on your fried bacon, then pour the peppery-parmesany egg mix on it. Cook it for a couple of minutes. Is your pasta done? Did the whole recipe take only 20 minutes? Are you very hungry by now? The answer is YES, YES, YES, so go and gobble this tasteful Italian dish!

Spaghetti Carbonara
Spaghetti Carbonara

We enjoyed this dinner with a glass of sauvignon blanc, but of course it’s only a matter of taste what you prefer. Also, spicing up the carbonara with some onion, garlic or anything else might work too, but I’m telling you: simplicity is the key!

The Italian
The Italian

I wish you fun, dear reader, with trying out this easy recipe and of course, thank you for cooking, Caterina!