An American Girl in Italy

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Crispy Pork Cutlets

crispy pork - final dish

The title of this post doesn’t actually imply or even let on that this is a healthy and light supper – but it is! I was inspired by a recipe from Cooking Light magazine. This is a light dish and it is very easy to digest. It doesn’t weigh you down like normal fried food would and it can work just as well with chicken cutlets if you prefer. The dijon mustard is an innovative trick to both help the crumbs stick to the meat as well as tenderize it and impart a delicate and interesting flavor, different from the usual egg dip used in fried cutlets. Oh and if all of this doesn’t convince you to try this dish, then the fact that it only has 210 calories per serving should. Try this and let me know how it turns out!

We paired this dish with some delicious peas and carrots. The carrots were simply baked at 400 F for 35 minutes and the peas were boiled for 10 and mixed with a little salt and pepper.

Definitely don’t miss out on this easy and delicious dinner!

Crispy Pork Cutlets
inspired by Cooking Light

4 servings

Ingredients:
8 pork loin cutlets (approximately 1 lb) – thinly sliced or pounded out with a meat mallet to approximately 1 cm thickness.

2 tbsp dijon mustard

1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs (I just used 2 oz of gluten free breadsticks and ground them up in the food processor)
1 tbsp fresh parsley – minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme – minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Evenly coat the pork cutlets with dijon mustard on both sides. Let marinate for 30 minutes.

cripy pork - Senape

2. Mix the panko, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper in a flat bowl.crispy pork - panatura

3. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet and dip both sides of the pork cutlets in the crumb mixture and shake off excess.

4. Fry pork cutlets, 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through.

5. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving (2 pork cutlets)

  • Calories: 210
  • Fat: 9.4g
  • Saturated fat: 1.7g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 5.8g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.1g
  • Protein: 24.5g
  • Carbohydrate: 5.1g
  • Fiber: 0.3g
  • Cholesterol: 74mg
  • Iron: 1.3mg
  • Sodium: 329mg
  • Calcium: 10mg

A Day in the Life

Here are some snapshots of my typical eats. I love all of the fresh fruit and veggies that you can find in Italy during the spring and the salad you see in the photos below actually is made with lettuce and radishes that come from Livio’s parent’s garden in their back yard. Now that’s what you call Local. Italians are really the pioneers behind the local food movement dating all the way back to the “Slow Food Movement” founded in the 80’s by Carlo Petrini. When many Americans think of Italian food  they imagine heavy, greasy, cheese-laden fare that is not exactly healthy but that is contrary to how the majority of Italians eat (or at least from what I’ve seen).

Breakfast:

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I typically have a cappuccino every morning and once upon a time I had larabars but now I just have fresh fruit seeing as they don’t sell larabars here in Italy. Strawberries are extremely fresh and in season right now!

Lunch

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Salad with lettuce and radishes from the garden, grated carrot, tomatoes and corn topped with a piece of seared fresh blue-fin tuna. So delicious! I top my salads with a homemade dressing, usually made with balsamic or apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt pepper and whatever herbs we have on hand. We get parsley from the garden as well!

Dinner:

Salad with radishes and carrots and a caper-lemon vinaigrette. Borlotti beans (cranberry beans in the US) with red onion, parsley and balsamic vinegar and pan seared white cod.

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Sorry for my rambling about local ingredients but I really can’t emphasize enough that this way of eating is not only so healthy and better for our local farmers, but it’s also delicious! Things do not need any chemicals or hormones to grow when they are grown in season and naturally they are better for you making you feel great!

Recipe:

Borlotti beans with Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 lb borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked for 8 hours (or overnight)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin – the higher quality the better because it is not for cooking, just to dress)
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
pepper to taste

1. Rinse the soaked beans and cover them with water in a large pot (about 6-8 cups). Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes. Do not add salt at this step! Very important as it ruins the texture and cooking of the beans.

2. When they are cooked through (easy to bite into but not mushy) strain them in a colander and put back into pot. Immediately add the salt, balsamic vinegar, onion and olive oil while they are still steaming hot. This allows the dressing to soak in. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes before serving at room-temperature (or slightly warm still is ok). Sprinkle the parsley on top before serving. These keep in the fridge for 4-5 days and they actually get better with time.

Livio and I eat these leftover as a cold side dish and they are great. Much healthier and full of protein and fiber compared to a traditional potato or starchy side dish. I highly recommend trying this recipe if you are looking for a new and interesting side to fish, meat, hamburgers or a new recipe to bring to a potluck.

Buon appetito!

Spicy Chicken Stir Fry

DSC_0051Livio and I live in the middle of a small province in Italy, in what some may describe as a village. I am one of the only foreigners in my town and so needless to say it’s hard to find a good chinese take-out place nearby. Therefore, when the craving for some delicious chicken chili hits us, we have to rely on my cooking if we want some chinese food at home.

I invented this recipe as I went along, but it turned out to be fantastic. Dare I say it’s the best stir fry I’ve ever made without the help of my Dad (who taught me all I know about making chinese food at home). It serves up a spicy kick without completely burning your taste buds so that you also can savor the hints of garlic, ginger and a touch of sweet hoisin sauce. Serve it up with some steaming brown rice and a crisp white wine for a delicious take-out meal at home!DSC_0053

Spicy chicken stir-fry

*I recommend prepping all of the ingredients and the stir fry sauce below before starting the stir-fry process so that everything comes together without a rush

Ingredients

serves 2

marinade:
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast thinly sliced
1 tbsp chili-garlic paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin
2 tsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic minced

Stir fry:
2 tbsp peanut oil
2 big garlic cloves, minced
4 spring onions, chopped
1 small piece fresh ginger, minced
1 small red or green chile, sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced into rounds
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

Stir-fry sauce:
1 tbsp chile-garlic paste
1 tbsp hoisin
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
2 tbsp water

2 tbsp roasted peanuts

1 cup steamed rice

Directions

1. Whisk the ingredients for the marinade together and pour over chicken, making sure to coat all pieces evenly. Marinate for at least 1 hour.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of peanut oil in a non-stick skillet or wok until it shimmers and then brown the chicken on all sides. Remove chicken and place in a bowl to the side.

3. Heat the other tbsp of peanut oil and saute the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and sliced chili pepper and saute for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the carrot and bell pepper and cover for a couple of minutes to soften.

4. Whisk the ingredients of the stir-fry sauce together, making sure the corn starch is not clumped. This is important as it thickens the sauce.

5. Add the chicken back to the pan with the vegetables along with the stir fry sauce. Stir until sauce is thickened. Toss in peanuts at the last minute and serve over brown or white rice for a delicious, homemade take out dinner!

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Valentine’s Day

In this post I have to boast a little about how wonderful my hubby, Livio, is. I have been quite sick all week due to a cold that I caught on the SAME day that I had foot surgery. Talk about bad luck! I thought that was going to completely ruin Valentine’s day, but Livio surprised me with this gorgeous bouquet of flowers at lunch.

vday bouquet

I was still feeling pretty down about my foot and being sick so I wasn’t feeling up for doing much in the evening, but Livio insisted that the restaurant he booked our dinner at would make me feel better- and it sure did! We got gussied up and Livio gallantly carried me down two flights of stairs and we went to one of my favorite places and a sister restaurant of the most renowned in the region; il Calandrino.

Here are some snapshots of the place that I took from their website. It is a very modern restaurant by Italian standards. I love how they use old wine crates to serve bottled water and wine from next to the table.

il calandrino wine crate il calandrino

They had a special valentine’s day menu along with their regular menu alla carte.

calandrino menu

To start off we toasted with some prosecco!

prosecco

 

Followed by our first course from the valentine’s day special menu “Black truffle risotto with a red beet reduction sauce and gorgonzola cheese”. It was pink! Very fitting obviously and VERY delicious- a perfect balance of flavors and complexity.

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We then ordered from the regular menu ” beef tenderloin wrapped in pancetta with Balsamic vinegar, sesame and sunflower seed sauce, and grilled Treviso radicchio”. The meat was super tender and cooked to perfection! The radicchio was also delicious and we paired it with a juicy Montiano Merlot from Lazio.

beef + vino

beef + vino2

 

To finish up we spoiled ourselves a bit to not one, but two dessert options. We ordered a selection of 6 petit four, each one as pretty as it was delicious

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And, to top it all off, we ordered the “hot chocolate sformato with hazelnut gelato and espresso”

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this was TRULY one of the best desserts I’ve ever had and I would go back just to eat this again!

What an experience! Obviously we both left very satisfied and I was really happy Livio convinced me to go as it definitely helped me feel better despite having a bit of a difficult week. Sorry if I used this post to shamelessly brag about my husband, but he deserves it.

Anyone else care to share their Valentine’s day plans? Did you do anything special?

Chicken Noodle Soup

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This is hands down the most delicious and even more importantly, the EASIEST chicken noodle soup recipe I have ever made.

I have been feeling quite under the weather this week. Thanks to a foot surgery and a cold, I have been stuck on the couch and not much has helped me feel better other than some ibuprofen and the fact that Livio is doing all of the dishes and cooking while I order him around :-)

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This soup though…now THIS will kick any cold in its butt and although it won’t help my poor foot, it sure helped me feel a LOT better. It is what I like to think of as Vietnamese Phở inspired, although really it’s not authentic like Phở other than the fact that they both incorporate rice noodles. It is a little bit spicy from the chile pepper, a little bit sweet from the hoisin and deliciously fragrant from the garlic and ginger. Oh and, it comes together in about 10 minutes if you have all of the ingredients on hand. If I haven’t convinced you yet, well, it’s also SUPER healthy and low in calories so what’s stopping you? Make this now!

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Chicken noodle soup
inspired by the londoner

Ingredients
serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
2 big garlic cloves, minced
4 spring onions, chopped
1 small piece fresh ginger, minced
1 small red chile, minced
2 cups shredded chicken (I used half of a store bought rotisserie chicken, bones and skin removed)
750ml (3 cups) chicken or vegetable broth
250ml (1 cup) water

3/4 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used wheat free tamari)

1 handfull fresh cilantro, chopped
1 red chili, thinly sliced

125 g (4 oz) singapore rice noodles (you can find these in the ethnic foods section of the supermarket)

Directions

1. Bring the broth and water to a boil. In another pot, heat the oil and sauté the spring onions for a few minutes until they soften. Add the garlic, ginger and minced chile pepper and sauté for one more minute.

2. Add the shredded chicken and stir it until it is thoroughly coated in the onion and garlic oil. Add the hoisin and the soy sauce.

3. Once the broth is boiling, slowly add it to the chicken and onions and allow it to come back to a boil. This should only take a minute or two. Add the noodles and cook until they are just softening, this should only take a minute or two as well- the noodles cook quickly. Serve in two big bowls and sprinkle with fresh cilantro and extra chile slices if you like it spicy!

Padova

Canals

When I decided to move back to Italy, I made a promise to myself that I would try to appreciate the unique opportunity I have living abroad by visiting and photographing new Italian cities as much as possible, enjoying local and regional cuisine and blogging about these activities to those who perhaps cannot experience the same. I will continue doing a series like this where I show highlights from different cities I visit.

Beautiful white buildings

This past weekend Livio and I visited the city in which we met for the first time. Although Padova is certainly not a new city for me, I saw it in a new light. We stopped at IKEA first to pick up some household items, had a leisurely and delicious Sunday lunch at a beautiful new restaurant in the city center and then we browsed some of the few shops that were open before heading home. Sunday is a big day for families, friends and couples to stroll the city center and enjoy what is a day off for most, however I can bet that a lot of the people normally in the center of Padova jetted off to Carnevale in Venice to enjoy the festivities leading up to Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday).

Kofler

Kofler Cafe in Piazza dei Signori, Padova

The interior of the Restaurant was gorgeous as you can see below. It opened just last year and inside it has lovely white stone walls and rustic wood tables and elegant white chairs.

Kofler2

They serve you bread immediately with deliciously strong and fruity olive oil for dipping.

Acqua

Pane

There are two levels of seating and on the second level there is a huge arched window in the back overlooking Piazza dei Signori in the city center. Lovely view!

Vista

Livio ordered Pizza Meritevole, a margherita pizza topped with creamy, fresh burrata- a special type of cheese.

Pizza Pizza

I ordered a delicious “hot salad” consisting of steamed vegetables and topped with sauteed lemon chicken and a generous topping of shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano.

Chicken

We also indulged in some Olive Ascolane and French fries…it was Sunday after all.

Fritte Prosecco

To walk off our lunch we then explored the shops that were open- one of my favorite being Massimo Dutti. You can actually shop online from the US here.

Massimo Dutti

Padova is a picturesque city with typical Italian cobbled streets leading into the city center of 3 main piazzas. It also has canals weaving through it and I think they add to the charm of this lesser known city.

More canals

Piazza dei Signori from a different angle.

Piazza dei Signori Color

It was a great Sunday and I always love going back and seeing Padova. It is funny because it will always feel a little bit like home to me since it was the first city I lived in when I studied abroad and I think that helps me see the beauty in it. We also had an undocumented stop for a coffee at the famous Caffè Pedrocchi. I wish I had taken pictures because it is a truly stunning Cafe. You can read about it here.

Ciao for now!

Pirate Pasta

 

 

 

 

Pirate Pasta

 

One of my favorite rituals growing up was watching Giada de Laurentiis on the cooking channel on Saturday mornings in my pijamas while eating breakfast. Now that I live in Italy this is no longer possible but I still love to try some of her recipes. This is my version of a pasta that I saw her make on an episode a while back. It is similar to Livio’s parents Spaghetti al Tonno (spaghetti with tuna), which is a very common weekday dish all around Italy due to the ingredients being affordable, simple and easy to find.

The one key ingredient to not skimp on however would be the tuna. I highly recommend Italian tuna in olive oil, not in water, as the tuna in olive oil is not only full of healthy fats but it also tastes 100 times more delicious. I recommend the brands Tonnino or Cento in the US.  I would highly recommend my version or the original version I link to below that is the original as you can’t go wrong with Giada!

Livio declared this to be “the best pasta dish he’s ever eaten”.

Now I don’t know if he’s exaggerating a little bit or not but that definitely means it is one to keep!

Pirate Pasta

Pirate Pasta
adapted from Giada at home

Ingredients

1/2 lb spaghetti
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large or 1 small onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole with toothpicks through
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pitted green olives, halved
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp capers
1/2 tsp crushed rep pepper flakes
5-6 oz tuna in olive oil, drained
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino romano (freshly grated, not pregrated in a can- trust me it makes all the difference)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the olives, tomato paste, capers, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the tuna. Using a wooden spoon, break up the tuna into 1-inch pieces. Add the wine and the pasta cooking water and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the garlic and discard.

3. Pour the spaghetti into the tuna mixture. Add the 1/2 cup cheese and the basil, and toss until coated, using the reserved cooking liquid to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Buon appetito!

Blues Pub

Blues Pub

After the long work week, Livio and I sometimes like to hit the local pub for some drinks to relax and kick back. There is this little place nearby in Montebelluna called Blues Pub and although they don’t have any live blues music, they do have delicious bar food and cocktails as well as tons of various beers on tap.

Livio went for the Hefeweizen beer and I took a local favorite, a Spritz Aperol cocktail. A spritz is a refreshing cocktail, typical of the Veneto region composed of Prosecco (sparking white wine), Aperol or Campari, soda water and an orange slice. I also like it when they stick an olive in there but this was good nonetheless.

Spritz Aperol Weiss Beer

We also got these delicious Olive Ascolane. They are an appetizer specialty, very common in Italy but one that I haven’t seen copied too much yet in the US.

Olive Ascolane

They come form the Province of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche Region and are just large green olives stuffed with spiced mince meat and fried to a golden perfection. They are salty and meaty and very satisfying. Here is what it looks like inside!

Olive Ascolane

For our mains, Livio took a Spianata, which is like a pizza, but instead of normal dough it is a really crispy, thin flatbread. He got one with “wurstel” aka hotdogs. They usually consider pizzas with hotdogs an American thing, but I personally think it is much more common here than it is in the US to get a pizza with hotdog on top!

Spianata

I got a bunless bacon hamburger with a side of fries. SO YUMMY! I never miss an opportunity to try a hamburger and this one did not disappoint!

Piatto Hamburger

There you have it- our night out at the pub! It is a fun place to unwind after a long week and also great to have a drink with friends. If you are ever in the neighborhood, although I know most of you won’t be, you should definitely try this place out!

Ciao for now!

Food Snapshots from this Week

Well, after our somewhat successful detox, Livio and I reverted back to more traditional ways of italian eating. Some highlights from this week include:

Pirate Pasta

Pirate Pasta

Pizza al Prosciutto della Foresta Nera (a special type of Prosciutto Crudo)

Pizza al Prosciutto "Foresta Nera"

My pizza: Pizza Trevigiana al Kamut

Pizza Trevigiana

Kamut is a special type of flour which makes a lighter crust and the Pizza Trevigiana comes with Sausage, Radicchio Trevigiano and shaved Grana Padano cheese- they are three very typcial incredients of the Province of Treviso, where we live.

Pizza Trevigiana OMG

Brown rice risotto ai funghi (mushroom risotto) topped with shaved parmigiano reggiano and parsley

Mushroom Risotto

Pranzo “alla francese”. French style picnic lunch right on our living room floor!

All delicious regional or Italian ingredients including affettati (cold cuts), formaggi (cheeses), side salads with fresh radicchio bought at 0 km (Zero kilometers- right next door to Livio’s parents there is a farm that grows it), Olive Taggiasche (a very sweet and delicious olive variety grown in Liguria in the Italian Riviera), Local Honey procured for us by Livio’s dad and cherry jam, made by Livio’s parents with cherries from their own trees!

Living Room Picnic

We had three types of cheese: Pecorino romano, Formaggio di Capra Gran Pascolo (a type of aged goat’s milk cheese that is delicious, very different from soft goat cheese) and Pincion cheese by Toniolo.
As for cold cuts we had: Porchetta trevigiana (a Venetian specialty), Prosciutto Crudo, Coppa di Parma and Salame di Felino (the latter three all being specialties from the Emilia-Romagna region).

My plate:

Lunch alla Francese

Well that’s all I’ve got for now. Just let me know if any of the recipes for the dishes above would be of interest. Otherwise, I will have more coming at you next week!

Buon weekend!
SJ

Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Stew

Red Lentil Stew

If I am to be perfectly honest, Livio and I haven’t been the most successful “detoxers”. I do not think we’re going to last 21 days with the detox. It is hard to change eating patterns, however this detox has helped us reexamine our diet and get out of a cooking rut. I even got Livio to eat a frittata with Spinach and red bell peppers in it! That is a first. When a pot of stew is as fragrant and spicy, not to mention as beautiful as this one, it makes it easier to eat something that you wouldn’t usually make.

The original recipe called for sweet potatoes which I couldn’t find here in Italy, so I used butternut squash instead. I also made the broth myself. I think it is an important step as it gives this the freshest taste possible. Besides, pre-prepared broth is too salty and full of preservatives and additives. This keeps well for leftovers, so you can also have lunch ready for the next day!

Red Lentil Stew2

 

Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Stew
adapted from whole living

Ingredients

2 Tbsp coconut or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 diced large onion
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 minced cloves garlic
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 peeled diced butternut squash (or 1/2 of a large one)
1 diced (stemmed, seeded) red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups rinsed red lentils
6 cups Cleansing Broth (recipe below) or regular vegetable broth
Chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook cumin, turmeric and curry powder until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion with a few pinches salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add butternut squash and bell pepper and cook 1 minute.

2. Add lentils and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with cilantro before serving.

 

Cleansing Broth

Ingredients

1 large chopped onion
6 chopped carrots
1/2 head chopped celery
1 halved head garlic
1 2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
12 cups water
4 cups spinach
1 bunch fresh parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. In a large pot, cover onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and ginger with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add spinach and parsley and simmer five minutes more. Season with salt (I recommend starting with 2 tsp and adding it to taste after) and pepper. Strain liquid; discard vegetables.

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