Dia de los muertos – Day of the dead

Halloween in USA ~ Dia de los muertos (Day of the dead) in Latin America.

Dating back to Pre-Columbian Aztec culture, is a celebration of life. From marigolds to sugar sculls the traditional Mexican holiday is full of symbols.

November 1 and November 2, it is an important part of the culture of Mexico to create an altar celebrating life for the souls to arrive. An altar is surrounded by every favorites of who has died. In case the souls are thirsty, tequila is almost always included! Often, a bottle of the deceased’s favorite type of tequila, mescal, or pulque is shared among the family in order to honor the dearly departed and celebrate their life. These beliefs have helped the living cope with the loss of their loved one.

The marigolds, “flowers of the death”– is to be believed that the scent of these orange blooms help attract souls to the altar. The altar sometimes includes a soft and sweet bread “Pan de muerto” designed with a circle and limbs to mimic the shape of a skull. Yes, indeed…It is just a number of foods that are placed for hungry souls to partake in.

Rather than grieve their dead, ancient Mexicans celebrated the lives of the deceased and honored their memories. Probably, one of the most recognizable symbols of the “Day of the Dead” are the highly decorated skulls made with sugar, merengue, and water symbolizing the sweetness of life.

Garcia Lorca Spanish Poet.

“Si muero, dejad el balcon abierto”

“If I die – leave the balcony open”

Halloween in the USA / Scary alien stuffed chicken with fruits.

Pan de Muerto

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Veni; Vidi; Vici

Crostata with berries

WHAT IS CROSTATA?

Crostata is an Italian tart. It is one of the most classic Italian desserts. It uses a shortcrust dough (pasta frolla) made with flour, cornmeal, butter, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest. It’s then filled with berries (most traditionally).

Many regions and towns in Italy have their own desserts that vary from region to region. But a crostata is one of those desserts that is known and made throughout all of Italy. There are many different ways to make pasta frolla, either with or without the corn meal. Making it without the cornmeal becomes flaky.

For many years I consider myself a frustrated baker. This recipe, dreaming of an Italian crostata became one of my adventures.

“Veni Vidi Vici” Julius Caesar statement is still present ~ Latin meaning “I came; I saw; I conquered” While opinion is still divided on what kind of a ruler Caesar really was, there cannot be any denying of his contributions, both to Rome and the Roman Empire to modern civilization.

Yes, I do feel I conquered the Italian crostata.

Tea or Sake

Over tea and cold sake, this is a historical dish in Japan and the presentation image was transformed by the ways of the Hawaiian people.

An ever – changing raw fish appetizer has been modified by an imitation crab which accompanied by sauces and garnishes to help this dish stay fresh. The cooked Pollock provides a creative outlet – finding ways to compliment such delicate flavors that inspire the Asian – American togetherness.

 I like to highlight the seasonal vegetables, sticky rice and mildly acidic sauce making the magic.

Tea “Drink a cup of tea and forget the cares of the world.” Tea tells stories, punctuates journeys and is a muse to poets. The history of tea is inextricably intertwined with the history of humanity. The Japanese tea ceremony “Cha no yu” (hot water tea) became a social gesture in the 16th century. Today this refine pleasure is shared among friends.

Sake -The most ceremonious beverage in Japan was through centuries only enjoyed in temples.

Presently, in America, “Sake Day” is to be enjoyed October first. Arigato!

Ole – Mole

The history of Mole

While most people think mole as a Mexican chocolate with spicy variation of hot peppers sauce, the word is actually derived from moler “to crush” and is used in Latin American and Caribbean cultures to refer to any sauce made from Molcajete – ground ingredients.

The term mole stems from the Nahuatl world molli, which means “sauce” or “concoction.” Mole comes from a family of sauces prepared throughout the Oaxaca and Puebla regions of Mexico and is characterized by a complex, layered flavor derived from intricate blends of dried chiles, cocoa, spices, nuts and dried fruits.

I have altered the basic recipe toward the Puebla style version due to the lack of some ingredients, which are included in the sauce of the iconic “Mole Poblano.” By omitting a few… made it “interesting and delicious.”

“The flower wars” as Puebla was called in the 15th century, is a Pre-Columbian era planned city.

“Walking through the streets of Puebla “Flower wars” is a fascinating experience to see all the magnificent architecture; among them, are the churches where following by cantinas people takes a tequila shot served in gorgeous Talavera pottery and afterward –  walks to the church for praying. This is sometimes a repetitive scene.

We may enjoy the spicy-sweet,

  Bitterness of same,

  The simple, happy

  Capsaicin of the brain.”

A special “Thank you” to Kathy Shapiro for joining the cooking “Ole – mole” fun!

“Mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare”*

Ravioli cooked in a family broth recipe ~ “Pasta in brodo” and Putanesca sauce.

During the 16th century, broths were the ways in nobilities’ kitchens.

 Bringing to life from past to the present, with no Nobel blood… this broth, is all about the Etruscan’s honor who tickled me to add the flavors and nutrients from my grandmother’s recipe broth.  Any broth you crave during a cold day.

Italians…”There are three things can’t never been tampered with.”

                        Soccer, The Pope, and Grandma’s recipes.

A recipe cannot replace a memory…  

Grandma’s sauce ~ a speck of it:

Tomato paste

Garlic,

Chili pepper

Parsley, Basil, Thyme and Sage

Olives and Anchovies

And of course, red Italian wine.

For a perfect finale, from Parma, a sculpture capturing the essence of the moment. Parmigiano Reggiano.     Voila!

Soccer – World Cup champions against Brazil 4 – 1 (Mexico City).  With soccer rhythm and stamina, “Long live Gianni Rivera, The Golden Boy.”

Pope “Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create”

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought” Hallelujah – the song.

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“Cooking is an act of love”

“Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef” Massimo Bottura

*Translation on the title quote “Eat to live and not live to eat”

Mexican burrito meets the Peruvian Incas.

Allilanchu Cakianki and Punsunki, “Hello and Thank You! in Quequa, an indigenous Inca language still spoken today in the Peruvian Andes.

Connecting Mexico and Peru, a corvina fish burrito marinated in earthy spices, bittersweet, citrusy, tart & tangy. The marinade includes Peruvian Aji (botanical chili pepper), Mexican oregano, and annatto. Annatto is an orange – red condiment derived from the seeds of the achiote tree and prepared by grinding the seeds resulting in a spicy fabulous paste.

Traveling through Machu Picchu, “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, the 15th– century Inca citadel, the emotional and mystical experience is still an iconic memory. When the sun rises over the ruins of Machu Picchu, there is a clear evidence of the Inca Empire at the peak of its power.

 The Incas developed an infrastructure including an amazing model in clay before construction began. During construction, no mortar was used, been so precisely cut that even a credit card could not be inserted.

To be in the presence of the beautiful lamas is a wonderful view and experience; caress them in their back and you will be spit on by them….

While cooking this dish, it brought me to “La flor de la Canela”, a beautiful Spanish written magical poem, song and waltz dedicated to a Creole native beautiful woman “Flower of the cinnamon,” by Peruvian composer Chabuca Granda~ 1950

“La Flor de la Canela”

Let me tell you, Lima
Déjame que te cuente, limeño

Let me tell you the glory
Déjame que te diga la gloria

Of the reverie that memory evokes
Del ensueño que evoca la memoria

Of the old bridge, the river and the mall
Del viejo puente, del río y la alameda

Let me tell you, Lima
Déjame que te cuente, limeño

Now that the memory still perfumes
Ahora que aún perfuma el recuerdo

Now that she’s still rocking in her dream
Ahora que aún mece en su sueño

The old bridge the river and the mall
El viejo puente el río y la alameda

Jasmines in her hair and roses on her face
Jazmines en el pelo y rosas en la cara

Airosa walked the flower of cinnamon

Airosa caminaba la flor de la canela

It shed smoothness and in its wake left
Derramaba lisura y a su paso dejaba

Scent of mixture that he carried on his chest
Aroma de mixtura que en el pecho llevaba

From the bridge to the mall
Del puente a la alameda……


Lamas enjoying the view

Fidate di me – Trust me!

Chicken Marsala, an Italian – American dish originating from the largest island in the south of the Italian boot – Sicilia!

Pollo scalopinna (scaloppini) ~ where the symphony of flavors are magical between the earthy mushrooms and the sweetness of the wine.

As an urban paradox and excellent restaurants, the chicken Marsala is an icon to enjoy. There is no other Italian city quite like it.

The capital of the island is Palermo, houses royal 12th century tombs while the “Teatro Massimo” at Piazza Verdi, is known for opera performances.

“Not only as a façade, Palermo Opera is an anti-mafia Symbol” Cosa Nostra, was brought to his knees as Sicilia, becomes a free modern organized city.

With a glass of sweet Marsala wine D.O.C* we enjoy as Madam Butterfly imagines the return of his love Pinkerton. “Un Bel di vedremo” aria “One fine day we’ll see” Giacomo Puccini.

Via Belmonte, Marsala is in the USA.

*D.O.C. Denominazione di Origine Controllata “controlled designation of origin”

Chicken Marsala

Welcome Summertime!

Ice tea with raspberries and mint

Lemonade with Thyme and lemon

An outdoor gathering is a wonderful way to entertain, it is a cause for rejoicing! Even if it is outside a kitchen, a terrace, deck or a hibachi, nothing is as inviting a party with an array of drinks and an atmosphere.

This season, my dream to travel to the Middle East had to be a created imaginary set in our yard. There is something colorful and delightful with the smell of the citrus and leaves in a warm summer day.

A 2020 summer time to be remembered as an education in itself. Learning about cultural values of Garcia Lorca’s poetry it is as easy as enjoying Beethoven 7th symphony or try painting which is the heart of a daily life.

Enlightenment, known and referred as the Age of Reason, a period when European philosophers emphasized the use of reason as the best method for learning the truth.

Voltaire, exploring law and politics is called for today.

Thank you George Gershwin for your title song “Summertime”

International escabeche

An inspiration to a “summer day” in spring time invites us to a pollock – escabeche ceviche salad. Talk about love at first bite!

Pollock originates from the waters of North America and the United Kingdom. My creation is by adding spices with “escabeche,” as a favorite of mine.

The origin of escabeche is Persian, it was brought to Spain by the Muslims during the conquest of Hispania in the 756 BC. In Mexico, either on the beach on a paper plate or in china – served restaurants, the magic of escabeche is an appetite opener.

Located off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico and reachable by boat, the beautiful Isla de La Roqueta is an experience to enjoy. It is a lover’s beach, (not to be confused on the beautiful Baja Lover’s Beach). Enjoying the view, savoring the delicious pickled vegetables many distractions exists; amongst some, a donkey drinking a bottle of beer is a show on itself.

As you reach or leave the island by glass-bottom boat or scuba, a “Queen of the Sea” statue has been submerged few feet deep for more than a century.

Due to the devotion of the Mexican people, the statue has been called a “Virgin of Guadalupe of the sea.”

“Moments lasts all of a second, but the memories live on forever”

Escabecio in Italy, savoro in Greece or escabeche in Latin America is always a spicy “Bravo!” ~ A sunny gastronomic ceremony.

Sweetness finding America

The Assyrian origin of strudel, is from Asia to Turkey. The use of this thin puff pastry stuffed with a sweet filling brings us back to the Asiatic regions where the consumption of these type of cakes has its roots in the ancient times of the Mesopotamians.

 Everyone, at least once in the life, has eaten strudel, the fragrant dessert stuffed with apples, usually connected with the lodges in the mountains of Trentino Alto Adige, Austria or the middle European regions. This dessert, the classic Viennese recipe of the Apple strudel foresees a filling of apples, raisin and pine nuts, however in other American versions, we invented them as an apple muffin strudel.

Adding some gelato, far away from Tuscany and the Rhine country side, with pure simplicity reminds me of “The Land of a Hundred Castles” its rocky mountainous landscape and wooden valleys.

Moving back to another continent, a neighborhood where I grew up, there was a bakery where I walked every day ~ the smell of the strudel is still very vivid. As sometimes we make eating a ceremony, so sacred that could become a religious one – yes, an utterly gastronomic ceremony.

Every day has something sweet to say for itself, and every season its own particular treats.

Apple strudel muffins

Thank you Priscilla and Aaron for your spices from Africa. Cinnamon made the difference.

Thank you Kathy for the beautiful serving platter.