Sunday, August 3, 2014

Zucchini Flower & Prosecco Risotto - una ricetta d'estate

Last Sunday, on the way home from Philly, I stopped and visited my Nonna and Nonno in North Jersey. During the usual many-phone-calls-per-week, they had been going on and on about their garden and all the goodies that were ready to harvest. "I zucchini sono pronti, abbiamo i fiori, l'arugula, il basilico, ecc." So after half an hour of watching my Nonno talk to himself in the garden and putter around in his standard mesh-shorts-dress-socks-sandals get up, I had bags of veggies ready to take back to the city. With two bags full of those bright golden blossoms, I knew had to come up with something besides the usual fried flowers for time and my stomach's sake. See a previous post for that recipe, which is super super tasty and one of my favorite seasonal treats.

This recipe is another fun way to use those colorful delicious blossoms, and the fizzy magic of the Prosecco really makes the flavor sparkle. Super summery and light, full of unique flavor and ideal with some greens, radishes, and cucumber on the side. Plus more Prosecco! Always, more Prosecco.

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 quart vegetable broth
10-15 fresh zucchini flowers, stems trimmed off
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
2 tablespoons Toffutti vegan cream cheese (optional)
1 cup Prosecco, room temperature
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Risotto party:
In a small saucepan on a back burner, heat the veggie broth and keep at low heat to ensure it stays warm. Heating the broth is crucial, the grains get funky if you pour in room-temperature broth.

In a larger pot, sautee the chopped onion in delicious Sicilian Olive Oil (if possible) on low, until golden. Then throw in the garlic and Arborio rice. Stir with a wooden spoon to ensure all grains are coated in oil and that neither grains nor garlic are burning. Just keep stirring, just keep stirring, stirring, stirring, stirring, stirring. (Think Dory in Finding Nemo). Once the rice becomes a bit translucent, pour in the prosecco, then the warm/hot broth cup by cup. Constantly stir to keep from anything sticking to the bottom of the pot.

As you add in the broth, be sure to add the butter, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Once the broth is near gone and the grains have absorbed most of it, add in the cream cheese if you desire. Towards the very very end throw in the zucchini flowers and another big splash of prosecco so the sparkle is on the tip of your tongue. I prefer the zucchini flowers whole, and adding them when almost done ensures they don't get overcooked but still tender and tasty.

Stir stir stir, let sit for few minutes, and top with another sprinkle of fresh parsley.

 Leftover tip:
I always love risotto the day after it is cooked. The flavors have all had more time to flourish and become even more delectable. Plus it's sticky and easy to make into risotto cakes or arancine. I made the leftovers from this recipe into cakes by forming into patties, coating in glutenfree breadcrumbs, and lightly frying in a bit of organic vegetable oil.

Che buona!!

Nonno's garden bounty

La cena. 

Everything is more delicious when it's breaded and fried, duh. 

Can you even handle it? I can't. This is basically the most scrumptious thing ever. 

Grazie, Nonna e Nonno!

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Got It From My Mamma

I recently realized I've without-a-doubt been experiencing that thing you always hear about growing up but don't believe you will actually do because you - you are different. You know, that whole "turning into your parents" thing.

Despite my best efforts, I'm absolutely more and more like my parents every day.  I guess I've always been, because how could I not be reflective of where I came from, but in my youth I was so sure I was rebelling. That I could never be like that. Obviously, I'm different from my parents in many ways, as I've had my own unique experiences and developed my specific perspective and belief system. But still, especially now that I'm more of an "adult" than ever, I see so many parallels to my parents that I can't help but smile and laugh to myself.

I've gotten many qualities that some may find rather unsavory from my mom, but I am quite proud of. I'm a North-Jersey-Sicilian-Princess, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My mom taught me so much that is absolutely intrinsic to who I am today - about coordinating outfits with such astute attention to detail that you'd think we had an actual team of judges grading us based on color coordination and styles. She skilled me in how to decorate a home, again in an eye-pleasing color-coordinated manner, with holiday-specific decorations, decorative bathroom towels you'd never dare to actually dry your hands upon, the allure of matching placemats and cloth napkins that you'd never dare to actually eat upon, and so much more. My mom showed me the simply joys of late-night cereal snacks, how important daily moisturizing is, and that overpacking just means you are prepared for any situation that may arise.

She taught me to fight, unwavering, for those you love and what's right, even if it means being stubborn and hard-headed. She taught me how make that charm glow bright and hot, how to connect with others with a big open heart and nothing holding you back, and how to enchant others with your spell so they love you forever or at least carry your heavy things and grill your food in the summer.

One of the favorite things I've learned from my mom is our childlike enthusiasm, overt appreciation of seemingly insignificant things, and blatant refusal to be jaded. If there is one thing my mom and I are not, it's subtle. And my pride in our lack of subtly, in our refusal to be anything but true to ourselves, burns like a summer bonfire flame.

We are both aware of the hardship in this world, in our families, in our experiences. We both have dark sides and can easily get lost in the gray bleak clouds. Even so, I see that my mom has always blazed ahead, unabashedly appreciating all the beauty and joys of this world no matter how small. As a kid I couldn't appreciate the loudly-yelled commands to "look at the ducks! look at them swimming in the poooond!" or to try this delicious snack at the Italian festival or to look at the tiny baby pumpkins at the pumpkin patch or to come see the sunset at the beach. I thought it was just more bossing, more obligatory annoying un-cool shit my mom was trying to force me to do.

Now I see myself doing the same thing every day. I point out the delicate filigree and ornate exteriors of the buildings in this city with awe. I exclaim when I see just about any animal doing anything. I run over and smell the flowers in the planters in my neighborhood or comment on their saturated colors. I'm always "ooh-ing" and "ahhh-ing" and getting distracted by all the tiny little details, by the clouds, the color of the sky, the glittering of the river, of anything I can find that sustains and inspires me to keep moving forward.

This to me is the ultimate survival plan. To appreciate the beauty in this very difficult and hard world. People often perceive any expression of emotion and appreciation as vulnerability and therefore weak. To be constantly open about enjoying things makes us as women seem ditzy, unintelligent, silly, etc. - lots of the negatives associated with femininity. But I know it is actually being brave, being unabashedly myself.

I thank my mom for instilling this in me, and that it adds another sparkling facet to my femme identity.

Me and Mamma at our joint 30/50 Birthday Party!