Rob's Typical Lunch

April16

With the rain coming down non-stop, we thought we'd share one of the things the rain can't put a damper on - my typical lunch. Is it healthy? Who knows. But I swear by it.

Above, in the sandwich, is tomato, pecorino di pistoia, and finocchiona. In case you've never had finocchiona its a Tuscan speciality, salami made with fennel, which is found more or less all around Florence. The bread is ciabatta, from the bakery down the street.

recipe: delicious feta + sun-dried tomato burgers

While I was home in Philadelphia I picked up a new cookbook, Giada at Home. Rob and I have cooked extensively from Giada's other books (as well as from her FoodTV.com recipes) and adore her. What I love about Giada's recipes is that you can follow them exact and they are delish or you can easily adapt them to create your own amazing dishes...which we did this evening.

In Giada at Home there is a turkey meatloaf recipe that looks fantastic -- but, it's way too hot here right now to turn the oven on. Our solution? Adapt the recipe and make hamburgers instead. Call it our early 4th of July cookout. The result? A tastey burger that seamlessly blends all flavors.

Note: I try to avoid eggs whenever possible, so I didn't use them as a binder in the recipe (I use olive oil instead). I think the burgers would hold together much better with egg and encourage you to use it if you'd like.

Delicious Feta + Sun-Dried Tomato Burgers

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 2/3 jar of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (Giada's sun-dried tomatos at Target are perfect!)
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (we make our own from smashed bread and add in dried oregano and fresh basil; Italian style breadcrumbs from a U.S. grocery store will do the trick)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (can be replaced with 1 egg)
  • Half a white onion, sliced thin
  • 4 buns
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, feta, bread crumbs, ground beef and about 2 tsp of salt in a large bowl. Mix well. Next, make four hamburger patties.

Heat a pan on medium heat with about 1 tbsp of oil. Note, these are delicate burgers and won't do well on a grill. In the meantime, slice the onion and get those cooking in a separate pan, also on medium heat with a little olive oil. I sprinkled some leftover breadcrumbs on the onions to give them a bit of bite.

Cook the burgers until done to your preference. Be careful when flipping them, particularly if you've used olive oil and not eggs to bind. Place on bun and top with onions. Enjoy!

We served our burgers with Insalta Caprese -- featuring basil from our own garden!

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recipe: sun-dried tomato pesto pasta

Welcome again to all of our new readers. Our traffic went bonkers high yesterday and we just want to express our gratitude that so many of you clicked over from the Design*Sponge city guide! Now on to business...

One of my favroite quick-and-easy recipes of all-time is Giada De Laurentiis' sun-dried tomato pesto pasta. Whenever Rob and I wanted a delicious dinner (and fast!) this was our go-to recipe. Sidenote: it also tastes great on top of crostini.

Since we arrived in Italy, we had not made this recipe -- or any pesto for that matter. We don't have a blender and I kept thinking "how on Earth will we make pesto without a blender." I'm sure all of the collective foodies that read this blog just gasped in horror, right?!

The simple logic of it all (which has never been my strong suit) struck me yesterday: pesto is older than blenders. Hence, you must be able to make pesto without a blender. A simple Google search brought me to 101Cookbooks and a post called "How to Make Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother." Awesome!

We adapted the technique from this article with most of the ingredients from Giada's recipe and poof! Delicious, amazing and beautiful sun-dried tomato pesto pasta. Who knew? OK, apparently everyone but me. Our recipe follows below.

The basil was from our own backyard garden and it was a pretty amazing to have such a delicious meal and know that something we grew was part of it. We're gaining a new appreciation for fresh, locally grown foods here. It's not an "eat local" movement here in Tuscany...it's just life. We planted a ton of new stuff the past few days. Here's hoping it prospers as well as our basil.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Two handfuls of basil
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (we used about 8), preferably tomatoes that are either still in oil or moist from being in it.
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Pasta of your choice (penne and fusilli work best, because the pesto gets caught in all the nooks and crannies); about half a box.

The genius of this entire recipes falls in Heidi's advice to chop the garlic and a 1/3 of the basil to start. Once we that mixture is fairly fine, we added the remaining basil and chopped until the texture was even finer, but still had random bits of chunk. After the basil and garlic were mingling, we chopped in the sun-dried tomatoes. When that's all done, place the pesto in a bowl and pour some olive oil on top to keep it moist.

Note: it probably won't look like much pesto and you'll probably second-guess whether you've made enough. You have! Pesto is decieving like that.

Boil the pasta water and cook until al dente (or, if you're my parents, until the pasta is mushy...love you guys!). When you drain the pasta either (a) reserve about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water or (b) don't shake the pasta to drain it really well. Moral of the story is that you want a little bit of that moisture to keep the pesto from clumping.

Toss the pesto and pasta together until the pesto is evenly coating the pasta and you can barely contain yourself from eating it all with your bare hands. Serve immediately and top with a little parmesan or pecorino romano.

P.S. Winston says "Hi."

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tasty margarita recipe

I know what you're thinking...a margarita recipe, really? On a blog about living in Italy? Here's the thing: 98% of the time we're happy to gorge ourselves on all the deliciousness that Italian food has to offer. But, every now and again you really just want to mix things up a bit!

One thing you take for granted when you live in the U.S. is that our "American food" is actually a wonderful mix of all types of food: Mexican, Italian, Indian, Chinese. From hearty midwestern food to Deep South cookin', it's incredibly easy to access all types of food in the states. It's also incredibly easy to find a Burger King, Long John Silvers and McDonald's, so we're happy for the tradeoffs. We do not miss that junk food at all.

But, what we do miss is good Mexican and Indian dishes. We are happy to report we've been able to make some amazing ethnic dishes right in our own kitchen. We paired the margarita recipe you see below with this Slow-Cooked Pork Taco recipe from Food52. Our delicious chicken tikka masala recipe will be posted soon!

Quick and Easy Margaritas

  • Masons jars (makes it's so easy to mix your drinks)
  • 1 shot Cointreau
  • 1.5 shot tequilla
  • 2-3 lime wedges into drink
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish
  • Sliced strawberries for garnish
  • Sprite or other citrus soda

Fill your mason jar generously with ice. Add the Cointreau, tequilla and lime juice. Fill most of the remaining space with Sprite, or add bit by bit to get your preferred taste. Put the lid on the mason jar and shake to mix. Garnish with lime and strawberries.

*Rob and I don't like salt with our margaritas, so we left it out of this recipe.

recipe: greek salad bruschetta

Rob and I could both eat bruschetta every day for the rest of our lives. It's an addiction. In the U.S., when we hear the word "bruschetta" we tend to think strictly about bruschetta al pomodoro -- with tomatoes. Here in Italy, bruschetta typically just refers to the fact that the toppings come on toasted/grilled bread. You see all kinds of toppings on menus -- veggies, meats, different cheeses.

When Rob and I get sick of our regular pomodoro and mozzarella/speck varieties, we make what we call greek salad bruschetta. Chopped olives and feta on top of bread slices brushed with olive oil. We stick it in the oven and broil it for a few minutes. Then, when the cheese shows the slightest hint of browning, we take it out and top with tomatoes.

It's sooo good, we just had to share :-)