All Trains Lead to Rome

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Molti planes, trains, and automobiles later, we at last arrived at our final stop on our Italian tour, the grand city of Rome. It was Elliott’s first visit and Carinn’s third, but it is always breathtaking nonetheless. From the Forum and Colosseum to the Sistine Chapel and Pantheon, this city is filled with one ancient marvel after another.

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Michelangelo’s “Selfie”

Coming from a city that was built over the last 200 years, we were overwhelmed with the seamless juxtaposition between 3000 years of history and the modern world of Segway tours, selfie sticks, and wi-fi (though our connection at our Airbnb was still stuck in the dark ages).

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We loved the location of our Airbnb right in the center of Trastevere. The winding streets and endless selection of restaurants made for a tough decision each night. If it had wi-fi or cacio e pepe (a delicious local spaghetti made with pecorino cheese and black pepper), we were in. Though we didn’t have one bad meal during our stay in Trastevere, our favorite was Antica Pesa, an upscale restaurant with an impressive roster of celebrity visitors. Their wine “list” was a book the size of the Oxford English Dictionary and their menu featured items like cod foam and steak tartare with black truffle tapioca balls. If you’re lucky enough to dine alone like the American woman at the table next to us, you may even get a few sit-down visits from the owner who will indulge in several glasses of wine and makes effortless conversation look like an art form.

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Considering the meager amount of pasta and pizza we usually allow ourselves at home, this trip was quite the indulgence. Despite our daily orders of insalata mista, we were craving our standard dose of broccoli, kale, and other dark, leafy greens. With a kitchen of our own and a surprisingly affordable farmer’s market in Campo di Fiori, we set out to recreate one of our favorite salads.

The K+4P=D Salad

1 head of lacinato or dinosaur kale, torn into pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 pear, cubed
3-4 thin slices pancetta, fried until crispy
Fresh pecorino cheese, shaved

Dressing:
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. mustard powder
A pinch of Calabrian chili flake
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Dress the kale at least 30 minutes before serving and gently massage into the leaves. When ready to serve, toss in the remaining ingredients and add in any additional olive oil, vinegar and salt as needed (the kale will soak up a surprising amount of the dressing).

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Besides a delicious (and perhaps the best) gelato during our stay in Positano , we didn’t really dig into this frozen treat until we arrived in Rome. Enter Fior di Luna, a small ‘artiginale’ gelateria located conveniently a few blocks away from our Airbnb. Elliott had read some favorable reviews online so we decided to give it a try. We kid you not, we “tried” this place three times. From the creamy “Fred” pictured above to a pear sorbetto that was almost better than the real thing, this spot delivered, and delivered and delivered.

Elliott hard at work on the blog.

Elliott hard at work on the blog.

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Carinn hard at work with her book.

Jetlagged in Firenze

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Ciao tutti! After months of anticipation, we’ve finally made it to Italy. Our first stop was Florence, a bustling city in the heart of Tuscany. Hours after arriving we took the recommendation of our hostess Chiara (and our enthusiastic neighbor on our flight from Paris) and headed to Cibreo Trattoria. Chef Fabio Picchi has several restaurants under the same name, but the trattoria is known for serving simpler (and more affordable) food than the ristorante. The 45 minute wait was rough in our jet-lagged state but proved to be well worth it once the food hit our table.

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For our “Primi Piatti” we had porcini soup and a flawlessly executed parmesan polenta – the soup was rich and earthy and the polenta offered a simple trio of flavors of corn, butter and parmesan.

For our main course we ordered parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan) and polpette di pollo, vitello e ricotta (chicken, veal and ricotta meatballs). While eggplant parmesan is as common as spaghetti in the states, we’ve found it a bit difficult to find veggies on restaurant menus and wanted something lighter than veal tripe or a stuffed chicken neck with the head still attached. As with everything we ate, it was delicious.

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Since we’re usually early risers (ha ha) we decided to take advantage of the early morning light and go for a sunrise run.

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These beauties came from a bakery near San Lorenzo. The pistachio cream filled croissant was delicious but definitely not something you can do everyday. We’re not sure how the Italians do it, but we’ll enjoy them while we’re here.

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The Mercato Centrale is a great place to buy fresh seafood, meat, cheese and locally made products. Recently, they renovated the upstairs to create a place for locals to hang out, watch a soccer game and grab a quick bite. It’s reminiscent of the Ferry Building in San Francisco and has some of the best pizza we’ve had so far on our trip.

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For our last full day in Florence, we opted to get out of the city and take a tour of the Chianti region. What started out as a really rainy, “what were we thinking?” ride in the car, turned into our favorite part of our trip so far. Our group was small (just us and one other couple) and our guide Simon was super friendly and knowledgeable. After a tour of a small, family-run vineyard (in Italy, family-run means it’s been in the same family for 200 years), we visited several small hill-top villages where you can literally walk the entire circumference in under 10 minutes.

For lunch we ate at Cantinetta Sassolini, where we learned that if you didn’t finish your plate, you’d get a talking-to from the chef. Though we were still full from a snack at the winery, it wasn’t hard to gobble down the succulent Chicken Diavolo. After lunch, the rain opened up to dramatic vistas of the Chianti countryside and a visit to a castle that was featured in the movie “Much Ado About Nothing.” If you’re ever in Florence and looking to experience rural Tuscany, be sure to check out “A Slow Day in Tuscany.”

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Tutto va bene for this photogenic fella…

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Oh and by the way…siamo fidanzato! 🙂

Sassy Holiday Dressing with Pine Nuts and Pomegranate

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This year for Thanksgiving we got two assignments: to bring back last year’s sinful root vegetable gratin and a dressing. Since we can’t ever seem to take the simple route, we decided to spice up our dressing with a few of our current favorite ingredients, pine nuts and pomegranate. The pine nuts provide an underlying nutty richness and the pomegranate adds a tart, crunchy counter balance to the the usual savory suspects. The result tastes just like the traditional dressing we all remember, with just enough twist to distinguish this one from the year before, and the year before that, and the…. you get the picture. Continue reading

Mountaineer’s Proscuitto-Wrapped Chicken Slider with Marinated Quinoa-Kale Salad


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For Labor Day Weekend this year, we went for a hike with Elliott’s sister, Charlotte, who was in town from San Diego. It was a miserable, rainy day but we were all determined to get hiking so we grabbed a few bagels and headed east over the mountains. What was supposed to be an “easy” 9 mile hike turned into a 5.5 mile march up the mountain and a 5.5 mile race down the rocky trail so we could make our early dinner plans. It’s three days later and we’re still feeling the pain! (Why do toilet seats have to be so low?!) If you’re planning on doing any hikes this fall – easy or impossible – here is a healthy recovery meal to ease your sore muscles. 🙂 Continue reading

Superfood Salad with Watercress, Beets, and Goat Cheese

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A recent Time article ranked the top 41 superfoods by nutrient density. We’ve always known that dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale were powerhouses, but we were surprised to see that the clear winner, was watercress. Wasn’t that the stuff they put in those fancy tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off? The idea of pairing it with white bread cancelled out the whole health-kick we were looking for, so we came up with this salad. Watercress can be quite spicy so we complemented it with sweet, earthy beets and tangy goat cheese. Then we tossed it with a sweet dressing, sunflower seeds, and chives. The combination was quite tasty, and considering how quickly we could feel the greens working their magic, we’ll definitely be adding this to our regular rotation of salads.

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Spunky Potatoes: A Tasty New Take on Tubers

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Going into week four of my elimination diet (no wheat, eggs or cow’s milk), we were beginning to get burned out on traditional preparations for potatoes: baked, steamed, mashed, etc. We’d been pretty resourceful coming up with creative alternatives to butter, cream and wheat elsewhere in our cooking, so we decided to take a crack at putting a little ‘pep’ in our potatoes. Continue reading

Coconut-Curry Soup with Cauliflower and Chicken

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After years of shopping nearly every day at the grocery store (literally) right next door, (I know, we have it rough), we decided it was time to be more efficient and get a membership at Costco. When we visited the produce cooler for the first time, we were immediately swept off our feet by the sweet talking deals and took home a whole cart load of veggies. What we failed to realize was the sheer volume of each package. Sure it’s a no-brainer for a family, but we found ourselves in a race against time. I guess having too many vegetables is a good problem to have but our monster bag of cauliflower was a bit intimidating. Continue reading

Oscarpalooza!

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“The Wolf of Walnut Street”
Spinach Salad with Fuji Apples, Pickled Onions,
Amish Blue Cheese, Bacon, and Toasted Walnuts

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“American Brussel”
Sautéed Brussel Sprouts with Dijon Mustard, White Wine, and Caramelized Onion

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“Dallas Fryer’s Club”
Oven Fried Chicken with a Buttermilk Brine

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And the Oscar goes to…

Old Friends, a New Year and an Extravagant Thai Feast

Going on five years now, Elliott’s friends have been getting together each New Year’s to cook an extravagant dinner (usually followed by an adventure to the Lo-Fi for old-timey dancing). When Carinn came into the mix, we had a rabbit tagine and a couple of spit-roasted ducks. The next year we got our hands on an entire beef tenderloin and made beef wellington. Last year we went with an Indian-themed dinner which included incredible ‘lamb pops’, homemade Naan and homemade Paneer. Continue reading

Turnip the Heat: Thanksgiving Gratin with Root Vegetables & Chanterelles

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For Thanksgiving this year, it’s our job to bring a root vegetable dish to Elliott’s family dinner. We both agreed this was a great excuse to resurrect one of our classics, Guy’s Night Gratin, but with a few added twists. Continue reading