Friday, June 29, 2012

Eataly - Roma

There are countless reasons to adore this railway-station-turned-food-emporium. Four floors of Italian delights have been drawing in tourists and locals alike ever since it opened a week ago. And I am told they have been streaming in the front door in droves every single evening.

The only way to get a few decent snaps of the offerings was to go during the Italy-Germany Euro Championship semi-final. It was empty. Loved it. It was essentially a private tour of food, books and maps. We strolled, marveled, and dreamed of the baskets-full of goodies that will be our future bounty. Now is just an evening reconnaissance.

Eataly is of course cornering the whole local aspect. With so many products made in-house - buffalo mozzarella, gelato, and it appears even some beers. Wine is sold by the liter straight from the barriques mounted on the wall. Nearly every food station displays maps of Italy with regional designations of the specific product type colourfuly delinieated.

One display is particularly useful, a calender wheel of seasonal veggies specific to the surrounding Lazio region. Speaking of veg, by the produce they have a cute box plot of salads and herbs by the window. This lead one Italian friend to comment, "these designers have been around. This is so not Italian." I am sure she is right. Considering the success of New York's Eataly, it is clear much has been learned and seems to be successfully applied. Hopefully it sticks around.

The space itself is really quite impressive. One friend from New York couldn't get over the size of this place. "The one in Manhattan is like one-eighteenth the size!"

There have been articles floating about for months now discussing the revitalization it hopes to bring to the

Ostiense area. The unused rail terminal has been compared to many nasty things, and it all comes down to it being an eyesore lurking over the horizon. A lot of PR has been put out by Eataly on how their previous locations have elevated struggling urban neighborhoods by setting up shop in brownfield sites. And a big injection of cash does make for a striking launch.

The first two floors house a range of food items, kitchen tools, books, and small snack areas. The third floor has some proper restaurants, and the fourth was a bit empty, as it contains rooms for cooking classes. Notices for culinary courses were in Italian, but I would imagine English language ones could be on offer in the future.

The open-plan style works quite well for the space, allowing visiters to wander freely about. It seems also a bit unique to have the kitchen/prep areas so open. Everything normally kept in the back of house is instead only seperated by panes of glass. Transparency of production ties in nicely with the local element being touted.

Eataly, we will be good friends.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Veal Roulade {with Herbed Eggplant & Peppers}

Some days lead one looking for a filling plate of meat.

These days do not come as a surprise. They predictably stop by on the very same days where a 15K run was had under an eighty-degree morning Roman sun. Everything fueling that grueling wake-up had been burned off, and I was ready for lunch by 10am. And I wanted a proper lunch. Salads be damned.

People always joke about the vast quantities of food slim girls are able to put away. It's been like this for as long as I can remember. You know those skinny girls in middle school who rivaled their older teenage brothers at the dinner table? I do. Something about genetics, something about lifestyle, but it gives skinny girls the go-ahead to chow down for years. Then they grow up. They learn to fit in with the other girls by joining fitness classes, or cycling groups. They also learn to keep their mouth shut in the locker room when others are griping about the insurmountability of those last few pounds. But those skinny ones who were never really that good at keeping their mouths shout received enough eye-rolls and nasty fusions of back-handed compliments combined with jealous taunting. Some of them abandon the group fitness charade. But some of them love, love, love to eat. So they run. Eventually, they love this as well.

I've been looking for the perfect summer flavours toss on some nice veal the butcher had on offer this week. This recipe hits that. Roulades are formed with minced eggplant (peeled, to increase its softness), sweet red pepper, and a veritable fireworks display of herbs. Five of them to be precise. Some dried, some fresh. Simmered on the stove in tomatoes and white wine for a mere 20 minutes thankfully does little to heat up the kitchen. Along with some fresh bread rolls, this is exactly what today's post-run appetite needed. Next time, I think I'll purée the remaining vegetable filling with the tomato sauce, for a bit more refinement, but today, a simple and hearty summer lunch.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Lakes and Salads

The shoreline is filled with bodies of all shapes and sizes. A clang rings out as a metal folding table is unfolded and an electric hotplate is ritually placed atop. A mum and a granny start a big pot of water boiling for the coming pasta. A couple of toddlers proudly bear their birthday suits and rush into the water. The lake is much different than the beach. Families load up the car with enough equipment to spend all week at the shoreline. Yet they are here just for the day.

Lake Bracciano is just north of Rome. At first glance, it seems a bit rougher, almost like you can feel the cramped flats on the outskirts of the city from where the families left early that morning. Teenage girls sport undergarments in place of swimming suits. Boys shout from open doors of a camper van, while at their feet a dog lies panting. There are more bald spots here than at the beach. More bad tattoos. More bellies. The shore is covered in black pebbles that are much too hot to lie comfortably on. There is no gentle aroma of fried fish, or the view of perky bronzed cheeks.

Of course, the games people play are the same. The coquettish ball tosses in the water. The shrieking, the yelling, and finally a mum scolding. The leisurely way one's stomach finally decides it is hungry. This is what I know. Lake food. Upon deciding to head to the lake last weekend, my hands went into action. Slicing any available fruit, tossing in some basil, and letting sit in the freezer until departure.

Hours later, after a swim (in water that was quite clear for a lake), when the stomach started to plead, the fruit salad was revealed. An Italian friend: "You have salad? With basil? On fruit?" Oh no. Another sanctum Italian food custom has been breached. This happens all too often.


Basil or no basil (mmm...or sometimes mint), fruit salad at the lake is comforting. I feel like in Wisconsin again. Almost.

For another freeze-friendly picnic salad, see last week's Green Bean and Hazelnut Salad.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Green Bean & Hazelnut Salad - Summer Style

Hazelnuts and green beans adorning the Thanksgiving table is a given. But in summer? Not usually the first thought. There are three excellent reasons why this makes a fantastic summer dish:

1) It's picnic perfect.
  • Stick in the freezer for a few hours and it can withstand an afternoon at the beach. By the time your stomach is ready, it will have reached a perfect temperature. And no creamy dressing or bacon makes it sun-safe and won't frighten your bikini-clad companions.
2) Hazelnuts rock.
  •  Summer is witness to an abundance of almond-focused dishes. Any why not? They are great with fruit, grilled fishes, and so on. Yet health wise, hazelnuts pack in just as much good stuff as their almondy counterparts. While there are many dangers of the summer, what with sharks and UV rays, finding oneself in an almond-rut should also be warned against. The prevention: from time to time, reach for hazelnuts.
3) Less carbs and time to cook than pasta.
  • Self-explanatory. Yes, both produce the kitchen heat required for a boiling pot of water, but these babies only take 3 minutes to boil. Compared to an 8-11 minute spaghetti al dente time, the choice is clear. And, um, these guys are vegetables!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

..and this is the beef

{Steak with a Cilantro Dressing & a Bresaola Potato Salad}

Some days must be witness to a little beefy indulgence. Make no mistake, this is not whatever the newest mcmassive hamburger is being promoted in the adverts. Rather, what a better accompaniment to a nice beef steak than a little bit more beef?

First came the bresaola-wrapped potato salad. The following day, some gorgeous Chianina steaks were waiting to be topped with a spicy-cilantro dressing. time to do up a side, how about that potato salad with the thin slices of cured beef? Yes please, said the stomach.

The potato salad is based out of Cook with Jamie. It's a slight twist on the classic - with lemon, horseradish, and celery. I find it brilliantly refreshing in the summer. Boiling the potatoes is done in the cool of night, of course. Replacing the crème fraiche with plain yogurt keeps it light, and I would even say that it is begging to be taken out for a picnic.

Alongside a choice cut of meat with a spicy topping, the coolness of the salad complements perfectly, while the lemon-horseradish acts as a palette cleanser. A surprisingly fantastic beefy combination.

And moo said the cow.

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