warm

Le Sorelle del Conte

I want to start by saying that Turin is my most favorite city I have visited in Italy, thus far. Tell that to any local and they will usually respond with a slight gasp, giggle, or quizzical look. Don’t let this deter you! While Turin may not be saturated with art and historical landmarks like many other cities in Italy, it has so much more to offer in terms of cuisine and jaw dropping views of the Italian Alps. Turin is home to the largest open air market in Europe, host of the Salone del Gusto, a gastronomical food expo, and is located in the Piedmont region whose chocolate is internationally renown. To say the city of Turin is a foodies paradise would be an understatement. Restaurants all over the city are putting gastronomical spins on classic Piedmontese and Northern Italian dishes using innovative cooking techniques and pairings.

While my parents and I ate many delicious meals, one cafe had us coming back for more. This delightful place goes by the name of Le Sorelle del Conte, a few blocks off of one of the city’s main streets. Keeping with Piedmontese tradition, they feature a speciality chocolate coffee on their menu. The chocolate from the Piedmont region is so decadent, rich, and creamy, that there is no hesitation to add it to the caffé. The Caffé del Conte sets itself apart from the rest by adding not only chocolate cream to their morning pick-me-up, but warm whole milk, pistachio cream and chopped pistachios as well. This makes for a sweet, bitter, slightly salty, and oh so very decadent beverage. If my description did not at least peak your interesting in upping your daily coffee routine, perhaps this photo will…

Caffe del Conte: espresso, warm cream, chocolate cream, pistachio cream, steamed milk, & shopped pistachios

Caffe del Conte: espresso, warm milk, chocolate cream, pistachio cream, steamed milk, & chopped pistachios

Imagine the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when embracing someone you haven’t seen in a long time, or the coziness of sticking your feet in front of the fireplace after a long day out in the cold. Those same feelings are evoked by this luscious and creamy drink. This was my first time ever trying pistachio cream. It’s flavor was buttery and salty, a nice counterbalance to the sweet chocolate. I highly recommend adding this to your repertoire of nut butters and spreads!

Whether you prefer to start your day decadently, get your second wind in the afternoon with an enhanced espresso, or end your day with its richness and warmth, this drink fits the bill every time. It’s also a fun drink to make on your own, if you don’t have access to Le Sorelle del Conte in Turin 😉 Play around the ratios of coffee, chocolate, cream, and pistachio to create a personalized pick me up for those cold days I know you are all facing over there on the East coast.

As always, enjoy and share with your best company!

Balsamic Pear & Fennel Salad

For the new year I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to shop more locally for my groceries, especially since I am less than 5 minutes from one of the best markets in Florence. During my holiday break, I was lucky enough to travel throughout Northern Italy with my parents, and eat many seasonal and locally sourced dishes that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford on my college student, study-abroad budget. Through this I was able to taste a lot of salads composed of ingredients that the Westerner in me wouldn’t recognize as components of your typical salad. There was a lot of cured meats, or salumi, wafer thing slices, not chunks, of pecorino and gruyere, and fresh, vibrant seasonal fruits. Oddly enough there were very minimal greens or other “salad staples” in these salads. Nonetheless, they were all so delicious and bursting with flavor that I was inspired to create an artisanal salad of my own!

I perused the San Lorenzo food market for a couple of days, and researched the winter produce of Northern Italy. Finally, I settled on a salad of balsamic glazed pears, sautéed fennel, and soft pecorino. Although you may read this and think “What a wimpy salad!” These 3 ingredients are so packed with flavor and pair oh so well together. In fact, this dish is the perfect example of decadent simplicity. IMG_4735 Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized pear
  • 1 fennel, sliced
  • 100-200 grams soft pecorino
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to season

If you’re making this salad as the main course, these ingredients yield about 2 servings. However, if you’re making it as a starter, you should be able to get about 3-5 servings.

Before you begin crafting this beautifully tasty dish, I suggest prepping all of your ingredients. This means thinly slicing the pears, and breaking down the fennel. Now, I have never cooked with fennel before, so preparing this foreign root vegetable took a bit of research and evaluation. I’m going to save you my butchered description of how to prep fennel, and provide you with this handy, dandy link that helped me! Feel free to shave off some pecorino now, or while the other ingredients are cooking. It’s really never a bad thing to be prepared, and be able to focus on whats in the pan!

Start by warming a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, and add about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add your fennel, salt and pepper to taste, and lightly sauté for no more than 3 minutes, tops. Then, in a medium-sized sauté pan add the pears, spreading them out so there is little over lapping, and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Let this cook on medium-low heat, until the pears start to become translucent, and all the balsamic has reduced. You may need to add more balsamic during the cooking process if it cooks off too quickly, or hasn’t glazed the pears to your liking.

The cooking is done. Now it’s time to plate! There are so few ingredients in this dish, so I really wanted to put forth the extra effort in presentation. I placed the sautéed fennel on a bed on spinach, evenly dispersed the shavings of pecorino, and topped it off with the warm, balsamic pears and a dash of salt. I also added a little aesthetic touch with some fennels sprigs. Then, let it sit for a moment to allow the cheese to melt in between the warm layers of fennel and pear. IMG_4738 Pause for a second, step back, and appreciate this gorgeous dish you just created. This salad deserves to be eaten slowly, to truly appreciate the sweetness of the balsamic marrying with the bitterness of the fennel , and the juxtaposition of crunchy vegetables and soft, gooey cheese. Savor and enjoy!

Two Bean Salad

Are you ever craving a filling dinner with flavor that packs a punch but without the lethargic, button popping feeling that usually follows? Yea, me too. And its especially difficult being in Italy with every type of bread, pasta, and pastry at your disposal. So, the past few days I have been having a real hankering for something green but with more flavor profile than a traditional salad. Enter my brain child (with the help of Yummly), my two-bean warm salad. It was not only super filling and healthy but I got to highlight some of the Italian flavors I have been experiencing in the local restaurants!

IMG_3717

Ingredients

1 handful of green beans, rinsed and dried

1/2 can of cannelloni beans

1 large handful of spinach (consider wilting)

6-10 pitted kalamata olives (alter depending on love of olives)

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

1/4 of a medium-sized white onion, chopped

1 handful of parsley

2 lemon wedges

Olive oil, salt, and pepper

Instructions

1. Heat oil in a medium/large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add chopped onion and green beans and cook for 8-10 minutes. Check back every couple of minutes to move stuff around so nothing burns or gets stuck to the pan.

3. Once onions become translucent and beans begin to shrivel add the garlic and olives. Let sit for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Add 1/2 the chopped parsley and squeeze one lemon wedge. Stir ingredients as needed.

5. Add the cannelloni beans. Let ingredients cook until beans begin to mush, giving them a good toss once or twice.

6. Remove from heat and fold in the spinach.

Once all ingredients are combined top with remaining parsley and squeeze the second lemon wedge

**Salt and pepper throughout as needed**


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This recipe makes enough to serve as a single meal for one person or a side dish for 2-3 people.The lemon, parsley, and garlic balance each other perfectly, and there is a refreshing contrast between the crunch of the al dente green beans and the smooth, creaminess of the cannelloni.

I am anxious to make this again with a possible addition of some local pancetta, or topped with a fresh fillet of white fish! I’m still quite a novice cook so suggestions are always welcome!!