Benvenuti in Italia!

Lately I’ve been neglecting my blog and I’ve been called out a bunch for it.  I only have about 4 weeks left in France, so I’ll try to get all my thoughts down (and a few recipes) before then!

One of the coolest parts about being in Nice is that Italy is so close, only about a 45 minute train ride to Ventimiglia!  Over the last couple months I’ve had a lot of Italian influence in my life and I’m definitely not complaining.  When Emily came to visit in March, we took a day trip to Ventimiglia and it started how I think every morning should start—with 2 Italian cappuccinos and a cannoli 🙂  I learned that the hard shell cannolis are actually from Sicily, but we had a cannoli with a soft pastry outside, which is more common in the north of Italy.

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Italian cappuccinos

Italian cannoli

Italian cannoli

After that we walked to the giant food market that had some of the best looking produce I’d ever seen.  We walked around looking at all the fruits and vegetables and flowers and then doubled back to buy some stuff for dinner: a couple artichokes, fresh tomatoes, some buffala mozzarella, and two kinds of ravioli.  I was really tempted to buy a kilo of strawberries but it was only March so Emily convinced me they wouldn’t be very good…

Flowers at the market

Flowers at the market

Mozzarella and tomato salad with our produce from the market

Mozzarella and tomato salad with our produce from the market

Ricotta ravioli and mushroom ravioli

Ricotta ravioli and mushroom ravioli for dinner

Then we wandered down to the flea market, where they literally sell everything.  There are vendors with cheap sunglasses next to huge stacks of kitchen pots and pans next to vendors selling bras and underwear and bathing suits next to tables of men’s and women’s shoes next to gourmet food stands with cheeses and sauces and dried meats.  It’s definitely a one-stop shop.  It’s also right next to the beach.  The view of the sea is nice, but the beaches on the Italian Riviera aren’t as nice as the beaches in Nice and it was really windy, so I think I’ll stick to the French Riviera for that.

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Flea market

And of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without trying some gelato 🙂

YUMMM

YUMMM

 

Now fast-forward to this past weekend—Italy came to Nice!  Every year in June, there’s a big Italian food expo in Nice, right on the Promenade des Anglais, called L’Italie à table.  There are tons of vendors selling cheese, olive oil, meat, and more.  The weather was finally fairly decent so Isabelle and Tanya and I spent Saturday afternoon at the beach and then met Luc and Ursula for an aperitif at L’Italie à table.  It was SO good.  We each bought a glass of wine and just walked around visiting all the booths, most of which were giving out free samples.  Isabelle and Tanya both speak Italian, so they were chatting up the vendors a bit.  Throughout the course of the evening, I tried a LOT: pecorino cheese flavored with pear and one flavored with truffle, dried sausage, the best olive oil I’ve ever had in my life, porchette (a giant roast pork), hazelnut and chocolate spreads like Nutella but better, parmigiano reggiano, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and the crunchy Italian snack food taralli flavored with fennel and red pepper.  We each bought an arancini, which are rice balls stuffed with meat and peas and coated in bread crumbs and deep fried, and yes, it is as delicious as it sounds.

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Arancini

And guys, we ate olives the size of golf balls!

All kinds of olives

All kinds of olives

At the end of the night, I had to indulge myself in a real Sicilian cannoli before we each bought a glass of Prosecco and sat on the beach to watch the sun set.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect evening 🙂

Sicilian cannoli

Sicilian cannoli

Prosecco and the sunset-- chin chin :)

Prosecco and the sunset– chin chin 🙂

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Luc, Ursula, me, and Tanya

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Tanya, me, Ursula, and Isabelle

 

Ok now rewind a little bit.  When I went to Ventimiglia with Emily, I bought a packet of squid ink pasta to save for another time, so this is where the Sunday Night Dinner recipe comes in.  Squid ink pasta is obviously flavored with squid ink, so it’s black and looks a little bit creepy, but it’s really good.  Two weeks ago, Isabelle and I (well mostly Isabelle) made squid ink pasta with fresh seiche (kind of like squid, but closer to cuttlefish).  So here’s this week’s SND with squid/seiche (from http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Tagliolini-al-doppio-nero-di-seppia.html, but good luck reading it since it’s in Italian) 🙂

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Tagliolini al nero di sepia (Squid Ink Pasta)

Ingredients:
250 g squid
4 g squid ink
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
Pepper
½ glass white wine

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Instructions:

1. Wash and clean the squid – don’t forget to take out the bone inside if there is one.  Cut into thin strips.

Trying to get the ink out of the ink sack...

Trying to get the ink out of the ink sack…

2. In a medium sauce pan brown two whole cloves of garlic in four tablespoons of olive oil.

3. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the squid. Cook for a few minutes.

4. As soon as the squid has lost its moisture, add the white wine and cook for a few more minutes before adding ground pepper, the tomato paste, and the squid ink.

5. Cook until the squid is tender, which will change depending on what size squid you have used (max. 5-6 mins of cooking in total).

6. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, and add the squid ink pasta.  Cook until al dente.

7. Drain the pasta, but keep some of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the sauce and stir.  Add some of the cooking water if the sauce is too dry.

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8. Cook for 1-2 minutes more to combine the ingredients.

9. Serve with a generous garnish of chopped parsley.

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When I leave France, I’m definitely going to miss the warm baguettes, delicious cheese, and good wine, but there’s now a special place in my heart (and stomach) for Italian food 🙂

 

French word of the day:
fourrer (foo-RAY)– to stuff
J’espère que je peux fourrer tous mes vêtements dans ma valise quand je retourne aux États-Unis!
I hope I can stuff all my clothes in my suitcase when I return to the US!

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Sunday Night Dinner: Mango

One of my favorite fruits is mango (la mangue).  Unfortunately, some knife work is required to get at the sweet, delicious, juicy flesh.  When I lived in Chicago, my roommate Manisha used to cut up and share a mango every so often, and when I finally learned how to cut one up myself, I saved the seed for her (if Emily didn’t get to it first) 🙂  I recently received an awesome care package of cookies and mint M&Ms from Manisha.  Between that and this week’s SND with mango, I found myself remembering some great times in 2A 🙂  This recipe is very easy, very healthy, and very summer-y!

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This week, I used that leftover salmon fillet from a few weeks ago and adapted a recipe from here.

Baked Salmon with Mango Salsa

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/3 ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and diced small (about ½ cup)
1 tbsp red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp onion, finely diced
1 tbsp cucumber, finely diced
1 tsp jalapeño,  finely diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of cayenne, optional
Salt to taste

Instructions:

1. If you’ve never cut up a mango before, here is a pretty good tutorial.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the mango, red bell pepper, onion, cucumber, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, vinegar, olive oil, and spices and set aside.  Let it sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

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Before

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After

 

3. Pre-heat oven to 450 F (230 C)

4. Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on a piece of foil on a baking sheet.

5. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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6. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

7. Top salmon fillets with mango salsa and serve with wild rice and mixed greens.

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Serves 2, but can easily be doubled or tripled (to use the whole mango!)

 

French word for today:
nuageux (nwa-JHE)– cloudy
Le soleil brille encore un peu, mais le ciel devient nuageux.
The sun is still shining a little bit, but the sky is becoming cloudy.

Sunday Night Dinner: Salmon

This week’s Sunday Night Dinner is a double whammy!  Since I’m not going to be making a nice dinner this Sunday night (I’m running a half marathon, so I’ll be treating myself to breakfast for dinner on Sunday night instead!), this week will be a 2 for 1!

Every time I walk into the Old Town in Nice, I walk past a tiny square with about 5 or 6 stands set up selling fresh fish.  It always looks so good (and smells so fishy) and I’ve wanted to try some kind of fish from there for a while, so last week I picked up a really nice salmon fillet.  As I was paying, the man at the stand said “Il faut le manger cru!” meaning “The fish is so good you should eat it raw!” which is what I was planning on doing (at least part of it)…

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Last week was the first time I tried my hand at sushi.  I bought a kit at the store that included nori (the seaweed sheets), sushi rice, rice vinegar, a rolling mat, soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi paste.  All you have to add is the vegetables and/or fish.  After doing a lot of research here on how to make sushi and finding some good recipes, I decided to make 2 rolls: one with imitation crab, cucumber, avocado, and pineapple and one with salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese.

Fillings are ready!

Fillings are ready!

It was actually pretty easy.  You just lay down the nori and spread the rice on top…

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lay down your vegetables and fish…

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Salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber

Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and pineapple for the inside out roll

Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and pineapple for the inside out roll

and roll it up using the mat to distribute even pressure.

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These rolls were kind of massive so next time I would use less rice per roll than they suggest and I’d like to try a different nori because I wasn’t super impressed with this one.  The homemade sushi was good, and I’d definitely do it again, but I have to say going out to a nice (all you can eat) sushi place is still my favorite 🙂

The next day I used part of the remaining fillet in a brilliant recipe, suggested by Tanya, that involves no cleanup.  It’s literally a no-pot dinner!  I also love this recipe because I can make a single serving for myself, but you can get as many fillets as you want and make it for a family or a dinner party if you wanted.

Salmon and Potatoes en Papillote (in a parcel)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 small potato
1 salmon fillet
2 tbsp sliced sundried tomatoes
¼ cup chopped broccoli florets (you can use frozen, but I used fresh)
Lemon juice
Herbes de Provence (or Italian seasoning)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 190C (375F)

2. Lay out a piece of foil, 12” x 12” should be good.

3. Slice the potato lengthwise and place the slices on the foil.

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4. Place the broccoli florets on top of the potatoes.

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5. Place the salmon fillet on top of the broccoli.

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6. Place the sliced sundried tomatoes on top of the salmon.

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7. Sprinkle with a little bit of lemon juice and seasoning.

8. Fold the foil over and scrunch to seal the parcel.  Place it on a baking sheet in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until all the ingredients are tender.

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You can turn the parcel onto a plate (or just eat it out of the foil, like I did!) and serve with a green salad.

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Today’s French word:
ampoule (a-POOL)– blister
Ce que j’ai au pied, c’est une ampoule!
I have a blister on my foot!