No heavy reading in this blog post today – it’s all about pretty pictures and modern Italian art as we head into the weekend.
Short of having a picture of the Madonna and a large wooden spoon and fork in my kitchen, I’ve been considering ways to include more artwork and imagery of Italy and “Italianness” into my life and new home. Recently, I stumbled upon a new website that allows me to do just that – access new artwork and turn it into canvases, prints, pillows, iPhone cases, etc. all while giving the rights and proceeds to the artist. I fell in love with a few pieces, including the “Italian Grandmother” canvas above.
Society6, created by a network of artists, gives you access to current and upcoming artists from around the world. I’ve pulled some of my favourite Italian artwork from the site – either the subject matter is Italian or the artist is (or both). Click on the artwork to link to the artist’s page and info for purchasing (should you be so inclined!). You’ll support an upcoming Italian or Canadian artist in the process.
(above: a scene from the movie Big Night, where the timpano is revealed)
Happy #pastatuesday! If you haven’t joined us for a #pastatuesday yet, this is our fourth week of sharing pasta tips, dishes, photos, recipes, ideas and more on Twitter, all to do with pasta! To celebrate our fourth week, I’m running a little pasta contest.
I got the contest idea from a movie I watched only fairly recently: Big Night. Many people will be shocked to know that I only learned about the existence of this movie just last year from a family friend, who, after reading this blog, told me I needed to see it. For a really popular movie about Italian food, it isn’t the easiest to find at a decent price. It hasn’t been rereleased since the first VHS copies were sold so getting a copy is pretty steep. I prevailed, watched and was wowed.
Big Night is about two immigrant Italian brothers whose restaurant in New Jersey is failing. In an attempt to save this restaurant, they host an over-the-top dinner with their last bit of money to show a few VIPs the beauty of their food. The brothers stay true to traditional Italian food, refusing to “Amercianize”, and put on a plate-after-plate extravaganza. The meal culminates with the timpano, a pasta dish shaped as a drum. Wrapped in sheets of pasta, the “drum” holds meat, eggs, sauce, pasta and more. Once removed from the oven, the brother tap on the drum/timpano to ensure it is done. It’s a great movie. I had never heard of a timpano!
A tavola non si invecchia. (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.)
Enjoying a meal with family and friends is the best way to spend a birthday. May is a crazy month for our families, we celebrate five birthdays in the first week. When I was younger we used to have cake literally every other day in the first week (May 6, May 8 and May 10). We had our fill of cake and now we merge birthdays to celebrate together. This year, my sister brought the best Italian birthday cake ever to the party! This beautiful chocolate cake was made to look like an old cutting board holding garlic, olives, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sliced sopressata, hot peppers and the classic Italian red and white tablecloth.
My sister starting making cakes professionally just last year after creating her first one for my bridal shower. Now through her company, Sweet Details, she makes the most amazing cakes that are unique to their recipients. No cake says “An Italian-Canadian Life” more than this one! More detailed pictures after the jump, she even got the markings on the Parmigiano-Reggiano exterior perfect!
Do you love pasta? The invariable answer is YES. I get enough questions about pasta, recipes sent to me and see tons of photos on Twitter of pasta that I decided that we should celebrate it. So I invited the loudest #italiancanadians I could find on Twitter to share their pasta favourites today, and every Tuesday, to honour our favourite, and most versatile dish. The results of day 1: 123 mention of #pastatuesday (so far) and enough photos of pasta to make your mouth water.
I learned about new recipes, weird facts and got excited about a few new types of pasta to try. Take a gander through the recipes, tips and photos after the jump (it’s just a selection!) and join us next #pastatuesday and share your favourite pasta dish with us!
And if you don’t already follow the great #italiancanadians on Twitter…please do so! Many thanks to:
@CHINTvCanada @foodfables @ilporcellino @MolisanaImports @Zeppolis @NickCooks @AuroraImporting and many others!
As spring and summer approach, my schedule gets increasingly busy. I have a number of projects that go on during the summer, plus events, the garden, etc things can get a bit stressful and I’m a stress eater. I’m trying desperately to cut down on my sugar intake and am searching for alternatives to my stress cravings to wean me off the sugar hits. (If you ever want to get rid of a bag of chocolate-covered almonds quickly, just put it near me.)
Not all desserts are meant to be tooth-achingly sweet. And old Italian recipes are prime examples of slightly sweet treats that meet the sweet tooth craving without going clowingly over the edge. As a matter of necessity of course, many of the old recipes are sweetened by nothing more than grape must or honey, like this family favourite is. Mostaccioli were made by my grandmother and great aunts regularly and while they look like biscotti, they are soft and moist as they don’t go through the second baking process.
The word “mostaccioli” can refer to cookies, although you may find a few recipes for it that include a chocolate covering, but also pasta that is commonly referred to as “penne.” For me the name refers just to these simple Calabrese cookies that have always been on our table.
1 kg honey
1 kg of flour (or just under)
6 egg yolks
1 tsp baking soda
Today I’m serving up a story about focaccia. One day back in 1992 I was jammed into the back of a tiny car, travelling through Italy, from Amantea in Calabria to Monteleone in Puglia. The trip started off scalding hot, the sun beaming down on the beaches and hills of Amantea. When we emerged on the other side in Monteleone I had to pile on every sweater and pair of pants I owned to keep out the chill. While it hadn’t appeared that we had climbed high, we were in the “hills” and the cold weather had already moved in during our trip.
My lovely relatives in Monteleone, who I was meeting for the first time, offered me two plates of food that I will never forget. They were filling, heart warming, and spectacularly simple but luscious. First was a bowl of pasta rapini (my love for it will never die!) and the second was warm focaccia (I called it pizza) from a local bakery. The crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside, dotted with roasted cherry tomatoes creation was heavenly. Something about it was love at first sight.