May has proved to be an unexpected and surprising month. I had looked at it with some anxiety, because I call myself a woman of the world, but when it comes to leaving your comfort zone and organizing a month of presentations, events and holidays that will take you away from home and especially from your habits, well it causes me anxiety.
It is the anxiety of losing the thread of the story, it has always happened. But then when you come home, unpack your suitcase, dust off those 3 inches of dust that have accumulated on the furniture and fill the fridge and pantry with food, the first thing you want to do is call your friends and invite them over for dinner, to listen again to their voices, their laughter, and to tell them what has become of you in this month, how you changed, the adventures, the emotions and the best memories. Because it is only then, when you put it down in words, that everything becomes real and you find the thread of the story again.
You would sit all your friends on a couch, turn off the lights and show them pictures and movies of your travels, but then you realize that they might be a little bit more interested in the sun dried tomato pesto you brought from Sicily… So, I hope you didn’t expect to be spared the view of my pictures! But do not worry, I also prepared some cookies and coffee for you. Ready?
Bjork Swedish Brasserie, Aosta
You must know that as a child I was a lover of the Scandinavian countries, avid reader of Astrid Lindgren’s books, author of Pippi Longstocking. I always kept the dream of a trip to Scandinavia in a corner of my heart, so I was thrilled to visit Bjork, the Swedish Brasserie which opened last year near Aosta.
Bjork and the Village Hotel are fully inspired by the Scandinavian design and style, the light itself is the pure white light that I’ve been admiring for years in foreign magazines and blogs. The food, then, is a journey that takes you far away.
At the Bjork brasserie you can find Swedish dishes that belong to the family home cooking traditions, you can taste an excellent food that today is hard to find even in Sweden, where the restaurants are far too influenced by the French cuisine. To create and innovate the menu, which is strictly seasonal and changes every month and a half, the chefs travel to the small restaurants and Scandinavian markets, where you can still taste the dishes of the old times. Along with cheeses, meat, jams and juices Bjork imports also beers from Sweden and Norway, with an unique smoky taste and a higher alcohol content, which are perfect for the food they serve.
We had also the chance to visit an apple orchard that produces an excellent cider, the Maley Mont Blanc. The company struggled to bring back cider to an high quality level, to produce again one of the oldest drinks that had always been present on the tables of the alpine villages but almost disappeared with the advent of fascism, because it was wine that had to be produced as a national symbol.
Cooking class at FoodLab, Torino
Regula and I went directly from Aosta to Turin. All these pictures takken during the cooking class are Regula’s masterpieces, love them!
Before Saturday’s cooking class at Accademia FoodLab we took a day to explore Turin, following the flood of tips that came from Facebook and Twitter. I had the chance to finally meet Giulia and Anna. We followed the events of the Food Revolution Day in Turin thanks to Patrizia, then we called it a day with an aperitivo at FoodLab. Even the aperitivo was one of the FoodRev events and it was organized by Marcela, ambassador for the Food Revolution day in Turin, foodsitter, a volcanic and incredible woman.
The next day was the day of the cooking class. I should be now well accustomed to cooking classes, but to be honest I was anxious and excited, it was the first time I could teach a class in a beautiful fully equipped kitchen with the help of a chef and a sous chef. It’s called performance anxiety, yes.
But then, thanks to some valuable tips (pretend to be Catherine Zeta Jones in No Reservations, perhaps less neurotic…) and thanks to the friendliness and professionalism of all the staff I relaxed, I’ve learned a lot as well – like how to make the battuto in a serious way – and I laughed till my jaws hurt.
This is the chickpea cake served with grilled aubergines: a Tuscan street food that can easily be turned into a stylish finger food.
It’s not a Tuscan fest without pappa al pomodoro. This Tuscan comfort food can be served into individual bowls or jars to warm up every brunch and picnic.
And here they are, the traditional cantuccini with almond. You can find a similar recipe at the bottom of this post.
A short holiday in Trapani, Sicily
I met Ermanno five years ago, he introduced me to CouchSurfing. It was July 2008, it was my birthday. We organized a Hawaiian party in my garden and we became friends thanks to cocktails, leis and summer music. He was the first one to believe in Juls’ Kitchen, I owe him the first layout, the purchase of a domain and the first technical explanations that left me with a puzzled look. Now he is back in Sicily with the his wife and son, and finally after a long time Claudia and I went to visit them.
What was supposed to be the gift for Claudia’s graduation turned into a gift for me: four days with the most amazing friends when I realized the dream of having breakfast with granita and brioche, early mornings spent playing with tigers and pumas with the most sweet baby, the thick and tasteful pizza form Trapani, the feeling of being a tourist after a such long time (with mismatched clothes and ridiculous hair). Bust most of all, I had the chance to spend some quality time with the best sister in the world.
Coffee granita with a warm ans buttery brioche at Colicchia.
Erice, a small town perched on top of the mountain with a breathtaking view of the coast. Here we tasted the most amazing almond pastries.
Favignana is a tiny island, we explored it during the day riding two bicycles. It left me striped feet – though they say stripes are highly fashionable this year – and unforgettable memories, such as tiny crystal blue bays, windy roads filled with wild fennel and mint scent, an incredible sense of freedom.
Bruce Springsteen’s concert in Padova
From the sunny (but cold) Sicily we bounced an afternoon at home to cover my Noa with kisses and then we went to Padua for Bruce Springsteen’s concert.
I discovered the Boss more or less when I found my passion for blogging, so rather recently, but Bruce Springsteen has quickly become the soundtrack of my life. When summer arrives Girls in their summer clothes makes me feel the sensation of the warm wind on your bare skin, during Christmas time his version of Santa Claus is coming to town is the perfect music to wrap gifts, for my birthday I just dream that someone would sing me Surprise Surprise…
Why I love him? for this and another billion reasons, but especially for the way he makes me feel in love, for that thrill I felt the first time I listened to him consciously, and I realized it was HIM. There is always an artist which you feel inextricably connected to in life, which will always be your point of reference, whose songs tell exactly how you feel, what you feel, or let you imagine anything else, understand, interpret reality from another point of view. For me, a girl of the Tuscan countryside, this artist is Bruce Springsteen, an international rock star, a New Jersey man.
And the concert? slightly less wet and rainy than last year, but equally engaging. You would want to scream out loud: I was there, I was among the lucky forty thousand people who screamed with him, sang with him, wept and remained silent for a moment, all together, at a sign he made. There was magic in the air, as every time. I’m already looking forward to attending to the next concert!
I will be short, because you already had the patience to follow me through my wanderings till the end, and I won’t make you wait any longer for the recipe for dried apricot and white chocolate biscotti. Basically they are nothing more than the traditional Tuscan almond biscotti, turned into something special by adding dried apricots and white chocolate.
This version of Tuscan cantuccini is softer and chewer: they are equally perfect when dipped in Vin Santo – our dessert wine – but they can also be enjoyed on their own, in the morning or during the afternoon tea, after a meal or as a midnight sneak. They can be stored for days in a tin box or in an airtight container.
Died apricot and white chocolate biscotti
- 2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 230 g of sugar
- 20 g of orange honey
- 250 g of all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon of baking ammonia
- 125 g of dried apricots
- 80 g of white chocolate chips
- Heat oven to the maximum, fan assisted.
- Whip the egg whites for about 5 minutes until they are firm, then add the sugar and whip until you get a glossy and thick meringue.
- Fold in thoroughly the honey and the egg yolks, then fold gently in the flour sifted with the baking ammonia. Mix in the dried apricots and the white chocolate chips.
- Line with parchment paper a large baking pan and with the help of a spoon form two loaves of dough keeping them well separated, about 5 cm wide and 30 cm long.
- Seto oven to 180°C and bake them for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes and then cut them slantwise into 2 cm thick slices with a sharp knife, then arrange them cut-side-down in the baking tin and put them back in the oven for about 5 - 10 minutes, until toasted.
- You can store them in a tin for several days.