Friday, August 23, 2013

Paste Secche (Almond Bread/Biscotti)

It's the name that confuses me!

Half of the phone conversation was spent trying to describe the next thing I wanted to make with Nonna. "You know, those biscuits with the almonds in them?  They were really crunchy?  And thin?"
It turns out that there are a lot of different types of crunchy Italian biscuits containing almonds.
"You sometimes have them in your cupboard!"  That wasn't a useful statement either!

Finally a light bulb went on somewhere.
"Paste Secche! You want to make past secche.  Almond bread."

This is what happens when you grow up in a bilingual family which uses a Southern Italian dialect and then decides you only get to learn proper Italian.  Which is different, by the way, from the language my grandparents speak.

Or maybe I just never caught the name of the thin, crunchy almond biscuits I used to eat at an alarming rate.  They are so thin you see, you can eat about 17 at once.

And now the best part is that I know they are almost as easy to make as they are to eat - four ingredients, two trips into the oven, and a very sharp knife.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Veal Schnitzel

Nonna only started making veal schnitzel when she moved to Australia.  My mum says she remembers eating it "all the time" when she was younger, and so it "had" to go in the cookbook.  This is one of those recipes that was born out of the good times.  When I asked Nonna if they ever made schnitzel in the village, she told me about the different meats which were around post-World War II.

Rabbit, the occasional young goat, something like one pig a year (salami), maybe chicken, and ... guinea pig.

No guinea pig schnitzel, thanks.

These days Nonna sometimes hands over a plastic tray of freshly-coated veal schnitzel for our family to stick in the freezer until we are ready to fry it up for dinner one night.  It's a treat :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fennel Biscuits

One of my earliest memories of Nonna's baking involves a crunchy biscuit, shaped like a fish, full of sharp-tasting fennel seeds.

We called them fennel biscuits or 'biscotti con finocchio'.

I get the feeling that fennel biscuits come from a very ancient recipe which has been adapted all throughout Italy for generations (maybe I'm speculating).

Today, some of the family still living in Italy run their own biscuit factory which sells fennel biscuits of course. Nonna remembers the time when all fennel biscuits were handmade and served at weddings with a glass of homemade wine.

When I was diagnosed with a wheat intolerance at the age of eight, fennel biscuits were off the diet (boohoo!).

But I re-discovered them again this year.

My stomach lets me eat wheat again now, so I asked Nonna if we could make another batch of fennel biscuits for the cookbook.

When I bit into my first fennel biscuit of the last 13 years, the crunch brought me right back to where I'd left off - but I have to be careful... these things are addictive!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We can't forget Easter...

Even though it was over a month ago, Easter time is important when you are Cooking With Nonna.

When Nonno and Nonna were living in the village in Italy, Easter was really the biggest holiday of the year on the Italian Catholic calendar.

My family has always come together for a big lunch on Easter Sunday.  We have Nonna to thank for this tradition, and although I can't speak for the whole family, I know that Nonna has infused into me a sense of the joy and thanksgiving spirit of Easter.  She always provides us with gifts, family time and of course a special meal... this year I was at Nonna's the day before making lasagna and other goodies.  But that's another post.

Down in the shed, the lasagna has just finished cooking.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fried Zucchini Flowers

Every summer the vegetable garden starts filling up with nice, big, green zucchinis.  Some are picked while still quite small and dark, while others are left until they become big and stripy, full of seeds and perfect for stuffing (but that's another blog post).

Secretly, I think the best part of the zucchini plant are the flowers.

Over several days, Nonna goes out to the garden and picks two or three flowers (not many come out at once).  When she has a big batch she fries them up in a light batter for hungry grandchildren.

We call them 'Flowers'.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Autumn is for planning

In Nonno's vegetable garden the last of the basil is tempting me.

The smell of basil is tempting me, to be exact.  Tempting me to pick it all at once and blend it up into some tasty pesto, or shred it all into a fresh tomato salad.

But apparently if you pick all of a plant at once then it doesn't grow back properly or something.  The basil is safe for now.

Here is the last of the artichokes.

No more fresh stuffed artichokes until next summer (I'm learning a lot about the garden and plants and seasons today).

And the parsley has gone to seed.

It's autumn 2013 and I'm planning the cookbook with Nonna.

When I'm not getting distracted by cherry tomatoes (only the very last ones of the summer season).

Or these random dried chillis.

Actually, the biggest distraction was the jar of biscotti left on the table.

We still got some planning done.

And then Nonna revealed the last of the zuchinni flowers, and she fried them up for me on the spot. 

But that's another post...

Friday, March 15, 2013

The First Post...

... is always the hardest.

Just like rolling your very first gluten-free pumpkin and potato gnocchi.

No matter how easy it looks, the first one is always a flop.

But as my Nonna always says (imagine Italian accent)...

"Piano, piano"

And she's not referring to the instrument.  

I understand 'piano, piano' to mean, 'slow down, take it easy, and you will get it right in the end.'

Over the next few months I will be making lists of recipes, scanning black and white photographs, typing up some family history, and of course cooking with Nonna.

I think that's a good place to end the first post.