16 December 2008

No local chicks with sticks :-(

I've been trying to get a knitting group together in Zagreb. I've only found one person who likes to knit and who thinks it is cool. But she's not a local gal; she's actually from California! We meet up at the bookstore cafe about twice a month and we spend a good 2 hours chatting and knitting and drinking really good espresso. It is really great fun, and relaxing and so creative. But we're having a hard time attracting new members because knitting is not cool here. Nope. Nobody believes me when I tell them about all the knitting groups throughout North America, and all the knitting cafes and knitting shops, and well just everything knitting related that is so popular over on 'that' side of the big pond. And while smoking is still legal here in the cafes, I'm not so sure about the knitting. I've taken my projects to various cafes, and am met with looks of bewilderment, raised eyebrows and sometimes a wee bit o'curiosity. I'm hoping that I inspire people to go home, take out their old knitting needles and knit up a nice hat or something....and rediscover the joy of knitting. Seriously!

01 December 2008

Skinny Pigs

Something strange is happening with the pigs. First...let me explain a bit about a tasty snack food they have here called Cvarci (pronounced chvartzi). Cvarci is made from pork skin that has a layer of fat and a bit of meat attached. They cut the skin up into little squares, then they fry them up in a hot pan, add milk to the whole thing (don't ask me exactly how), then they take the crispy fried pieces and put them through a press to get out the excess oil. Then they set them aside to dry up. When they are nicely dried, you add a bit of salt and then eat. And eat. And eat.

Cvarci normally is in season when it is sausage and prosciutto-making season (which is the cold months of November, December and January.) So everyone waits for this time of year to enjoy the cvarci. Except this year.....there are signs up everywhere that there is NO CVARCI. I kept thinking that this just meant that they had run out of cvarci, and that there would be more coming. So I kept coming earlier and earlier to the market to get my share.

Finally, I asked the butcher(s) about the missing cvarci. Did they run out of pigs? Well, to my utter shock and dismay, the answer was: Yes...well, sort of yes. A few different butchers explained that this year the pigs were TOO SKINNY. They all had thin skin, and too little fat under the skin, which made it close to impossible to make the cvarci. By the time the little pieces of skin were fried up and then pressed, there wasn't much left but some crumbled bacon bits.

So why are the pigs too skinny? Well, the lowfat phenomenon has made its way to this part of the world, and now they are breeding lean pigs. Really lean pigs. I'll try and get a picture at some point and post it here so that you can see how lean they are. Lean, lean, lean. They sort of look like muscles and bones covered with a thin bandaid for skin.

I'm saddened by all of this because I have a feeling that they'll be doing here what they do in other parts of the world when they start breeding lean meats. First they make the animals too lean. Which results in a tough and dry meat. So then they start having to extra-process the meat by adding things to make the meat tender and juicy. Which usually makes the traditional way of smoking and drying meat impossible because of all the added moisture, so then they have to extra-process the smoked and dried meat to counter the moisture. Then inevitably this leads to the need to add anti-bacterials, and anti-fungal agents, and all sorts of other anti-things.

Sad. Sad. Sad. So I'll try and enjoy the last moments of traditional food while I can. Because I know from experience, that when it is gone, it is gone. I hope I'm wrong about all of this. But right now, the writing is on the wall......

07 November 2008

Calamari season

It looks like calamari season is in full swing. You didn't know there was a season for calamari? Neither did I. But it is here, and runs from now until about January. I don't have a picture of how they look raw (mostly because I didn't think to take out my camera). But I have a picture of them cooked.

What I did was slice up some fresh white potatoes, and wash the calamari. Then I layered potatoes, calamari, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, olive oil and a bit of water. I layered until I ran out of ingredients. Sprinkled it all with salt, and popped it into a hot oven for 30 minutes.

It came out so nice. And tasty. We ate the WHOLE thing in one sitting.

31 October 2008


Croatia does not celebrate Halloween....so I just wanted to say "Happy Halloween" to myself and to everybody!

More food files to come.....

21 October 2008

Italian tippy-tap shoes

I have been on the lookout for a pair of black and white ladies oxfords since my tap dancing days of yore. Imagine my delight when I discovered that: a) oxfords are back in style, and b) black and white oxfords are in style! How righteous is that?!!

So I got myself these puppies. They are Italian. And quite shiny. And they make me wanna dance! The shop girl told me that the tippy-tap dancers wear these. Tippy-tap. How cute is that term. So I have tippy-tap shoes, minus the taps. Although, I could imagine myself tap dancing my way down to the coffee shop for some nice espresso. Now that sounds like a great idea!

20 October 2008

No chestnuts :-(

I have been dreaming about chestnut season all summer long. And this past weekend was to be the highlight of my autumn because it was supposed to be the weekend of the giant chestnut festival in Lovran, which is near the beautiful seaside town of Opatija. Imagine my surprise when we drove all the way to Lovran only to find that there were NO CHESTNUTS! I don't mean that they were all eaten, or that we were too late to have any. NO. The story all up and down the coast is that it was too dry this summer and resulted in the chestnuts failing to grow.

So I don't have any wonderful pictures of giant yellow chestnuts roasting over hot coals. Or pictures of chestnut puree balanced beautifully on a spoon with a puff of whipped cream on top. Nope. Nope. Nope. I only have hope that Mother Nature will apply a bit of her green thumb to the chestnut harvest next year.

14 October 2008

Nanowrimo 2008

I just signed up for my third National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). In the month of November, the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel. Sounds a bit crazy, but it has lots of merit because it gets you to put pen to paper. If anyone else is interested in giving it a try (free) just go to:


13 October 2008

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Hmmm. Kinda forgot it was thanksgiving. Therefore forgot to purchase turkey. So I went to the market rather late in the day and most of the butchers were closing up. So I manged to get 4 chicken legs. With thighs! And some roasting potatoes. And as I type, the chicken and potatoes are roasting in the oven with lots of olive oil, sea salt, thyme and rosemary. In about 45 minutes, we'll be having our own little Canadian Thanksgiving in Zagreb. Then afterwards we'll hunt down one of the street vendors cooking up some local chestnuts.


09 October 2008

Butter cream buildings

The old part of Zagreb, filled with historical buildings and cobblestone roads, is going through a transformation even as we speak. All of the buildings are being restored. The results are sometimes just breathtaking.

So for example, a building like the top one, will be painstakingly restored to its original glory to something like the building below it. Note that I'm saying 'restored.' It can take a year to carefully bring the facades, the masonry work, the bits and bobs back to their original form.

The following building is almost finished. I walk by this building site everyday on my way to the market and I've watched the guys doing all sort of things by hand...like smoothing and forming the texture on the outside of the building. Even mixing the cement by hand! They've gotten to the point where they're choosing the paint colour. If you look closely, you'll see they've painted several stripes of yellow on one of the blocks. I really like the yellow on the furthest to the right. I've seen it in the sun, the shade, on a grey day, and in the rain, and it always looks buttery. Usually when they go with a yellow, they'll use white for accents. The result is what I call 'butter cream buildings' because the buildings look like they've been iced with creamy dreamy butter cream frosting! As soon as this building is unveiled, I'll post a picture.

I LOVE the butter cream buildings. But they also have lots of other great colours. Here are just a few more colours:

So, in a couple of years, all of the old town will look like this. In the meantime, I'd say it is about 60% of the buildings are done. Another 30% are in the process of getting done. Wow.

08 October 2008

My daily stairs

I do lots of walking. I mean lots and lots of walking. On purpose. And much of that walking is done going up stairs in various parts of town. Here are just some of the stairs I go up and down every single day at least once. Most days I do these two, three and sometimes four times.

These are the ones going up to the house:

And these also go up to the house:

Followed by these: (and I'm not making this up. I want you to imagine me carrying bags of potatoes, apples, onions, etc. from the market UP all these stairs!)

These next ones are special stairs that go up to the upper part of the old town. I couldn't fit all the stairs in the picture. This is about HALF of them!

And these last two shots are very special to me. I have named them the "Krumpir" stairs. Krumpir is the Croatian word for potato. If I ever eat french fried potatoes, I make myself climb these stairs. It usually takes care of keeping the old blood sugar in check ;-)

Whew! I have one more set of stairs that I do pretty much every day. They are called the Salata stairs and there are 146 of them. My picture didn't turn out. So I'll post them on another day.

Stairs: good for the body. Good for the soul!

06 October 2008

Don't name your spiders...

I know. I know. You want to name them. The spiders. Well, not all of them. But the big giant dark brown one with long legs and eyes that dangle off of those antennae thingies...and the same one who has been coming to sit on the outside of your bedroom window every night to get a bit of heat off the glass. Yep, that's the one you'll first be horrified about. Then you'll be less horrified. Then, like me, you'll start looking for him each evening (because he disappears every morning). And it'll feel natural to think of him as a sort of pet and give him a name. A human name, like Harold. That's what I called my horrifying spider. And it made him a little less horrifying. I never let him into the house, but I accepted him staring through the window each night.

Except Harold has been missing these last few nights. And it has been cold at night. And I'm feeling guilty for not letting him come inside to warm up a bit. Poor Harold. I hope he's actually off to Ibiza for the winter. On one of those all-inclusive trips. He'd like that. Especially if he hooks up with some of those monstrously huge spiders they grow in tropical places. Yep. If Harold is indeed in Ibiza, then he's going to be okay. I'll look for him to return next spring.

Go Harold!

Buckwheat is beautiful...

I came across an interesting tidbit of information when I was surfing the net while looking for polenta recipes. I discovered that polenta was not originally made from corn. No. Up until about 150 years ago, it was made from Buckwheat. Apparently buckwheat is way more nutritious than corn, easier to grow, and easier to digest. But it won't grow in a high nitrogen soil. Corn and wheat grow insanely well with high nitrogen fertilizers. So when farmers figured they could grow more corn or wheat per acre with fertilizers, they quickly put buckwheat on the back burner. There's quite a bit of history attached to the whole transition from buckwheat to corn...but if you're interested in that, you can just do a search on the net for more info.

I was amazed to learn that it was buckwheat porridge, or polenta, that fed the ancient Roman soldiers, and millions more people over the last few thousand years. How cool is that!

Until recently, I really didn't know what buckwheat was. I can't eat any kind of wheat, so I guess the word 'wheat' in the name is what turned me off. But I learned recently that buckwheat isn't a wheat at all (so why the heck don't they change the name???) It is actually considered a fruit! Well, it is the seed from the buckwheat plant and the plant is related to the rhubarb plant.

Anyways...buckwheat is nutritious, simple and fast to make and it tastes terrific!

Here's what it looks like when you buy it dried and whole. They call these groats. You can get them raw or roasted. Roasting them intensifies the flavour. I like mine unroasted. Notice how they are like little tiny pyramids. I included a pen here just to show the relative size.

And here they are, just 10 minutes later, all cooked and soft and ready to be eaten.

You cook them just like rice. I usually rinse the groats and drain off the water. Then I boil water in my tea kettle. Then I add about the same amount of water to the buckwheat in a pot. Put the pot on the stove and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat. Add a pinch of salt. Put on a tight fitting lid. And leave it there for 10-15 minutes. Then just fluff with a fork. It comes out all soft and delicious. Ready to be used like rice. Or...instead of cooking in water, you can cook it in hot milk. When it is done, add brown sugar and a bit of butter plus some cinnamon, raisins and a handful of nuts, and you've got a quick, nutritious and delicious hot breakfast cereal.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

05 October 2008

The Simpsons in German

So I was watching some TV...a rare thing for me for many reasons. There isn't much in English here, and lots of American shows are dubbed in either Croatian, German or Hungarian. I came across an episode of The Simpsons and it was hilarious what types of voices they chose for the characters. Marge sounds like a man. And Homer sounds just like Yoda! Which kind of makes him sound intelligent....and it makes for one bizarre viewing experience.

02 October 2008

Crochet time

I forgot to add these pictures to my last entry about our trip to Hvar. Since the chilly weather would be soon upon us (this was happening in late September), I took my latest knitting/crochet project along with me. I was the only one on the ferry with a crochet hook. But many women walked by and looked at me with that "now-why-didn't-I -bring-MY-knitting-project-with-me?" look on their faces. The ferry is quite big, holding about 100 or more cars, and probably about 300 people. It has a big indoor deck with a cafe bar and food, and also an upper deck that is open to the elements.

Here I am on the ferry with my beloved zig-zag afghan:

And here's a shot of my afghan, as I was sitting by the pool. The day temperature was about 24C, but by late afternoon, when I took this picture, it was getting a little chilly at about 17C. People were coming out of the pool shivering and looking at my wooly afghan with longing in their eyes.

Hvar pictures

Hvar. In case you are wondering....yup....it IS that pretty.

Here are a few pictures from our trip to the island of Hvar, a beautiful and rugged ancient island covered with olive trees, grape vines, stony houses, and crystal clear lagoons. For hundreds of years, people have traveled to Hvar for the health benefits of the lavendar-perfumed air and the crystal clear waters. You can see clear down to the bottom of the sea. While standing on the rocky shore, I caught sight of an octopus nestled down in the rocks. He was trying very hard to look like a rock, but when I started talking, and threw some pebbles in the water, he sort of started changing colours...first white, then grey, then white and grey, then he went back to being stone coloured. How COOL is that???

Now, one of the things that makes Hvar so incredibly incredible is that it is a 3 hour drive from Zagreb to Split, then a 1.5 hour ferry ride from Split to Hvar. That's it. Really accesible. Stunning how close it is.

The water is so clear that the boats look like they are floating in the air!

Portrait of the artist...fuzzy hair and all...

View from our hotel room at sunset

Ahhhh, that's it for now.

26 September 2008

New book idea!

As a bit of a diversion from all the new and yummy foods available here... I thought I'd write about writing. I'm working on a novel, but I might have to take a bit of a break to write a much needed piece of non-fiction. I was thinking I'd call it: Appliances for Foreign Dummies. A manual for non-Europeans who are living in Europe...and having great difficulty with the appliances. The idea came to me this morning when I was vacuuming with what I thought was a normal vacuum cleaner. But NO. It was not normal at all...a fact I discovered when I sucked the curtains right off the wall. You might be thinking that's not such a big deal, but our place has 14 foot ceilings. And the curtains go right from the ceiling to the floor. So sucking 14 foot curtains off the wall is a very big deal.

See, the vacuum has only 2 settings, from what I can figure: something I call the butterfly setting, and the turbo setting. The butterfly setting is so light that you could actually catch a butterfly that's loose in your house, and gently, with a poof of light air, deposit the butterfly all safe and sound outside. Then there's the turbo setting, which resulted in the above mentioned curtain incident. I think maybe the vacuum is made by Ferrari or something. Because it is quite powerful. Powerful enough to suck dust bunnies from clear across the street. And here's where I'd put the section in my book about insects. Because with such a great huge suction force, it is quite logical to this non-European that this is a great tool for dealing with those pesky huge spiders and centipedes that seem to come with all oldy-worldy European villas. Except it isn't a good idea. As I learned. Oh sure, the vacuum cleaner will neatly and efficiently slurp up those giant black spiders. And suck the centipedes right off the ceiling or right out of the bathtub. But that's not the end of those bugs. Oh no no no. Because the vacuum cleaner does NOT kill them. No. It just holds onto them. Puts them snuggly into a warm and dusty place where they can thrive. Growing bigger and bigger. And then only God knows what they do. Hmmm, giant black spiders marching OUT of the vacuum cleaner. I think that'll make a great picture for the cover of the book.

Of course, then I'll have to add the section on dish washers (um, that liquid soap isn't foaming because it isn't soap...it's rinsing liquid). And the whole thing about being sure you're using soap in the washing machine...and, um, not just fabric softener. Don't ask how I know these things.

22 September 2008

Polenta dangers....

I have figured out a way to make polenta so that it is the consistency of tapioca pudding. This is not a good thing, because I LOVE tapioca pudding. And now I can't stop eating the polenta. It came out tasting so good, that I actually had to leave the house to prevent myself from eating the whole pot. Of course I returned later in the day and cleaned up that pot, so I guess leaving the house only postponed the inevitable.

I must figure out how to handle delicious foods now....before chestnut season gets into full swing. Did I mention there is an entrie MOUNTAINSIDE filled with special chestnut trees that produce something they call Marrone...these giant, yellow, sweet, indescribably delightful types of chestnuts that burst with goodness when they are ROASTED OVER AN OPEN FIRE. And they come into season in mid-October. And there's a chestnut festival to celebrate their arrival. And I'll be attending that festival. Save me!

16 September 2008

Carrots & caffeine

I know this'll sound stupid, because I feel stupid just writing it down.... but that's never stopped me before. I'm in love with carrots. There. I said it. I love carrots. You must understand I've always hated carrots. Their rubbery texture. That horrid sort of metallic taste. Blechhh!

But it turns out that's not how carrots are supposed to taste. I got carrots this morning at the market. They had been pulled out of the ground not more than a few hours before. They still had the leaves attached. Some dirt on them. But my goodness....they looked tender, and young, and they had this aura that can only be given off by natural, homegrown vegetables. So I bought a half kilo. And now, sitting here in the living room, I'm so overwhelmed with the joyful taste of these carrots that I had to write about it. I've warmed up some espresso that I made earlier this morning, and am enjoying the oddest yet most down-to-earth taste combination possible: coffee and carrots. But let me be specific here: really good coffee and really good carrots. Weeping tears of joy over carrots.

What's next? Well, it could very well be: crying over calamari. We're headed over to the island of Hvar tomorrow and I'll be investigating the seafood situation. Investigation notes to be posted soon!!!

12 September 2008

Chew warning on figs...

As a public service, I'm mentioning here that if anyone is planning on eating the dried figs available here at the market...they should take note: it is very very important to CHEW them. Oh, you'll want to just swallow one down after another. I know. I sympathize. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. But I had to discover the hard way that all those sweet nectary pieces of joy go down easy enough. But each of them will re-hydrate into a full-blown WHOLE fig in your stomach. Or as in my case, in the intestines. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

So, be sure to chew. Or, if the figs are just too tempting, um, make sure you've got stretchy pants to wear. Pyjamas will do nicely actually.

09 September 2008

Dried figs & pomegranates

It is hard to complain about anything when there are so many delicious and exquisite foods available to be eaten every single day. This morning I got a very early pomegranate. Inside, the juicy seeds are more of a rose colour than red. But bursting with sweetness.

Then there's a new favourite for me: dried figs. I've never liked dried fruit. Actually, I hate dried fruit. I spent many hours as a child diligently picking all the dried fruit out of fruitcake each Christmas. So it took some cajoling for me to even try a dried fig here. And what a surprise. These figs were grown down south, picked ripe, then dried a bit, then washed in salted sea water, then left in the sun to dry again. They are rather soft and the skin is a bit chewy. And the inside is a brilliant red colour. And the taste is indescribable. Just let me admit here that I ate 15 of these beauties in one sitting. Yup. Don't recommend it. But I did it. And if my stomach didn't feel like it was bursting...I would have eaten even more. I figure if I wait about 2 hours, I can probably have 5 or 6 more!!!

P.S. they are quite awesome when eaten together with fresh roasted hazelnuts.

05 September 2008

Notes on making polenta....

It is hard work making polenta the old fashioned way. I'm making up a batch that is extra thick so I can slice it up later. So I have to stir it for an hour and it is really really sticky. Difficult! My arm hurts. Boo-hoo!

Here's a shot of my polenta that is almost done. Note how the spoon is standing on its own!

But here's an important note on making polenta (I didn't read this ANYWHERE). Use a big pot. Like three times bigger than the amount you are cooking. Because when you add the dry corn meal to the boiling water....the whole thing foams up and rises way way way up and will spill over if the pot isn't big enough. It'll spill everywhere. Over the side of the pot. Into the burner. Under the burner. Under the knobs. Down the counter top. Down the front of the oven door. And then onto the floor. And inevitably stepped into...and then tracked all over the house. And all of it sticky. Oh, and it dries harder than diamonds. So it must be removed by razor-blade.

Do not ask how I know all of this.



So this morning I learned the hard way that it isn't a good idea to try and cut the hard rind off a small piece of cheese using a sharp butcher knife that is longer than my arm. Took a rather big slice out of my thumb which now needs some time to heal. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Luckily I can still stir with my hand...and therefore the giant cut on my thumb will NOT prevent me from making up another batch of slow-cooked polenta tonight.


p.s. Did I already mention OUCH!

04 September 2008

New grain mill!!! Polenta!!!!!

Europeans are pretty wild about fresh food. And fresh-ground grain is no exception. I've never heard of counter-top models of grain mills, but they are incredibly popular here, especially in places like Germany and Austria.

I haven't been able to eat any grains over the last few years because most of the commercially prepared ones are processed in places that also process wheat and barley. So I just avoided them altogether because of the chance of cross contamination.

But grains are back on the menu now that I've got my own grain mill!!!! It is the cutest thing you've ever seen. Very heavy. With a serious motor, and two grind stones made of, well, stone! The particular model I got is hand-carved in a beautiful wood, and it all comes from a company called Waldner (http://www.waldner-biotech.at/en/produkte.asp).

I also went to my friendly grain lady at the farmers market and requested some special corn they use for making polenta. She'll have it for me on Tuesday. So in the meantime, she gave me some of her popping corn and I milled that today and cooked it into a creamy, delightful, and unabashedly simple and delicious polenta.

Fresh milled grains must be prepared immediately because the milled grain starts to go bad as soon as it encounters oxygen. So the idea is to mill it, and use it immediately.

Here's a picture of my beautiful mill actually grinding corn.

And here is a picture of the milled corn. I mixed very fine corn flour with a heavier grind.

Then I cooked it the old fashioned way into polenta. Basically I put 1 part corn meal into 3 parts boiling water, then stirred for an hour. Yup. A full hour. The corn gets creamier and creamier. And gives off an aroma that is something like a cross between sunshine and happiness. Comfort food at its best.

Here is the finished polenta. Afterward, I put it all into a dish and let it cool so I could cut it into wedges and then put it into my homemade chicken soup.

03 September 2008

Wood-fired pizza

There's a little pizza place with a real wood-burning oven (wood burning inside the oven). And they make pizza all day long. I of course can't eat pizza with all that gluten in it, but my hubby heroically stepped in to help, once again.

Here's a shot of the fire coming out of the oven.

And here's the pizza (about 16 inches/40cm across), which took EXACTLY 2 minutes to bake (and yes, I timed it).

02 September 2008

Peaches and pears...

I have never in my whole life tasted anything as good as the peaches and pears that are currently in season here, and available at every market stand. It is so hard to try and describe these things without being able to offer a taste and a smell of the perfume-like fragrance from these fruits. Honestly, it is just unbelievably good. So I'm including a picture of the peaches which are about 8 inches/20 cm around. Big. Along with some branches of fresh rosemary and bay leaves that are in plentiful supply right now as people go about canning the summer harvest for enjoyment into the winter months.

I'm also including a picture of the local pears. These are Williams pears which they also use to make a particularly fine brandy called Wiliamovka. Can't explain how it tastes here, because I have NO METAPHORS that do it justice. Anyways, back to the pears. I washed them. Sliced them, and put them in a bowl. I had this wonderful bag of fresh-roasted hazelnuts that I bought from a woman who grows them in her backyard. Using a very sophisticated method, I took a handful of nuts, put them between some plastic wrap, then crushed them with a bottle of olive oil. You don't need to use a bottle of olive oil though as this is one of those rare times when a bottle of cola can be used instead of olive oil ;-)

Then I took the crushed roasted hazelnuts and sprinkled them on my sliced pears. And, well, I had planned on taking a picture, but I'll be upfront here and admit that I pretty much inhaled the entire thing. So you'll just have to imagine the whole thing.


29 August 2008

Day 2, Rice is still nice...

This is day two of my new rice integration program. And it is going swimmingly. This morning, being Friday, the fish market was brimming with fresh-caught loveliness from the sea. We bought some gleaming fish called Oslic and I brought it home to make (drum roll please) soup! I can't get enough of soup for some reason. The fish soup came out incredibly delicious. Aromatic. And quick too. It took only about 20 minutes from start to finish. I added a bit of rice at the end. I meant to take a picture of the whole thing, but I couldn't wait to tuck in.

28 August 2008

Rice is nice.

It was a big night for me. Because last night, I ate rice for the first time in many years. Yup. Rice was one of those things that I just couldn't eat in Canada. Don't ask me why it bothered me so much, but it did. And I tried them all: different brands, different cooking methods, organic, conventional, etc. So I had to give it up.

Until last night. I heated up a bowlful of turkey soup that I had made earlier in the day. And I added about 2 tablespoons of cooked arborio rice...a Croatian brand that is produced in Italy.

I added some olive oil to the soup, and stirred in the rice. A touch of salt. And I hesitated. I breathed in the beautiful aroma of rice (yes, rice does have a beautiful aroma). And I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to eat it. But I was brave and had a spoonful. I waited for 10 minutes. Nothing happened. So I ate a bit more, then a bit more until the bowl of soup was done.

When all went well overnight, I had another bowl of soup with rice for breakfast this morning. And again for lunch. And I just had another bowl for dinner.

And it is all okay. Better than okay. It is great. Fantastic. Wooo-hoooo!!!!!

27 August 2008

Angel breath cheese

Ok. I wasn't planning on doing multiple entries today, but I just had some Italian ricotta cheese, and I HAD to write about it. I was at one of the grocery stores buying rice and salt and I came across a refrigerated section of Italian cheese. Mozzarella, gorganzola, pecorino, mamma mia! Then I spotted one of my most favourite cheeses in the world: ricotta. Except, as I explained earlier, I couldn't eat ricotta or any other cheese in Canada.

I took a chance and bought a small container. Brought it home, and I just ate a spoonful. It was fluffy and pure white and tasted like puffy clouds blended with angel breath. It was that good. So good that instead of eating the rest of the container, I had to sit down and write about it while the taste was still lingering beautifully on my tongue. And now that I've written it all down, I will head back to the kitchen and take my time with the rest of that Italian goodness.

Bliss. Oh bliss. Oh bliss. Oh bliss. Oh bliss.

Side of vitamins......

I've been eating these little snack-sized plates of veggies, fruits and cheese. But I think of them as little dishes of vitamins. Tiny tomatoes bursting with taste, dewy grapes from Dalmatia, and tender young apples with a rosy skin. And that ain't cottage cheese. That's fresh cheese, made this morning by the wonderful woman at the market. And that cheese is mixed with that same wonderful woman's fresh sour cream. Then I snipped fresh-picked chives into the mixture and added a pinch of sea salt. You can't beat it with a stick!!!!

I added a fork to the picture to give a sense of size. These are small plates of yumminess. But eaten several times a day.

26 August 2008

and one more writing space...

This is around 9am and the light coming through the windows is soft, along with the late summer breeze fluttering the curtains. Birds are chirping. Coffee is brewing. I tried to show the height of the ceilings (around 14 feet). Ahhhh, I could certainly get used to this....

My writing space

I just have to post a picture of my writing space. It is a dream come true. We are renting the main floor in a grand old villa with a beautiful terrace that overlooks a lovely garden. After so many years of having views that consisted of apartment building ventilation systems and garbage truck pickup areas, this is just incredible.

The room is massive and has very high ceilings. That monitor sitting off in the corner looks miniature....but it is a 32" screen!

25 August 2008

Market Bounty

Here's what I got from the market this morning...

And here's the awesome osso bucco soup I made. I set the flash on my camera a little wonkily (if that's a word) so the picture looks a little odd. But I assure you that those orange things are not peaches....they are good old orange carrots. Really.

Fast food snack

There are guys who set up these little kiosks on the sidewalk where they make popcorn, boiled corn, and roasted corn. The roasted corn is a special kind of corn that has only 8 rows, and has these big nobby sort of kernels. It is best roasted until it is a little charred as this makes the corn sort of chewy and brings out this incredible nutty roasted flavour. Divine! Just gotta make sure a toothpick is always handy because that black stuff gets stuck in your teeth, and well, looks sort of funny.

Whipped Cream

Okay, I'm still in 'I-can-eat-dairy' heaven, but I'm starting to understand that whipped cream is not a food group. And it should not be eaten by the spoonful for breakfast.

22 August 2008

Chicken soup yum!

Today I prepared my own homemade chicken soup. And it came out beautifully tasty, hearty and nourishing. I put fresh chicken, onion, garlic, two tomatoes from my sister-in-law's garden, plus one of her small cabbages, a bunch of parsley and just a touch of celery root. Then I 'italianized' the soup by adding one beaten egg after the soup was done. Those little yellow rags in the soup: that's the egg.

I added a small dish of sides: one fresh purple plum, one chunk of cheese that is similar to a thick and dry ricotta, a handful of tiny tomatoes, one small apple and half a piece of corn. All the food is in season. All of it is locally grown. All of it is delicious.

Something else that makes this incredible: every single food item I've just listed is a food item that I COULD NOT eat in Canada. None of it. These are all foods I thought I would never be able to eat again ever for the rest of my life. I'll explain more in detail in some other post, but just let me say that every bite of nourishing food I take is a complete and utter miracle. A MIRACLE.