Search
This is Us!

We are here to bring you our life through food. Especially Italian food. You can learn more about us here.

Navigation
Sunday
Oct262014

Space in Seattle

I've spoken before about creating space. You may remember the accident that inspired this original post. Since then, I've continued to think about it. Continued to shift things around my apartment and my mind, clearing space for....

For what?

I think what I'm clearing space for is space in itself. When you have a clearing, it's tempting to fill it. With activities, with objects, with THINGS.

Instead, I'd like to clear space and leave it empty. Give myself and my thoughts room to breathe. Because there are discoveries that can happen in between the rest of the stuff that's crowding it all out.

Accordingly, I went to Seattle. Obviously people. I wanted space away from my space. So I signed up for a food photography and stories workshop out on the west coast and got excited about what discoveries I might make between the THINGS.

In my photos, I tried to think about space. The space that wasn't occupied by a spoon or a plate or a perfectly plated dish. What story would that tell? What would that leave room for?

For me, it left room for a story. Room to talk about aroma, and really smell the cilantro sitting atop a steaming bowl of soup. Room to hear the noises, of the coffee beans grinding, of the knife chop, chop, chopping. Room for laughter, and for friends to pull up a chair and listen to the stories I'm trying to tell.

Room to try a different angle and see from a different perspective.

And in shifting perspective, room to move something from the background into the foreground...

And refocus.

On an empty plate. Because the place you are filling is as important as what you are filling it with.

Recipes coming next time...

Thursday
Oct162014

Balance with Pie

Every time I'm looking for a life metaphor, I turn to pie. Dessert pies, fruit pies, pizza pies, shepherd's pies...there's something about the filling and container — separate but harmoniously working together — that acts as a vehicle for me to understand where I'm going, where I've been and where I'm at.

And where I'm at feels a little cobbled together right now — kind of like this specific pumpkin pie I'm bringing to you today (in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving).

This pumpkin pie represents balance. Right now I feel like I'm performing some kind of balancing act. I'm sitting (metaphorically, yet again) on a fence. One foot is on one side of this fence, where exists my "old" or normal way of life. The other foot is dangling into new territory.

I'm scared of this new territory. I don't know what's down there. So, with this pie, I relied on something I knew that works. Something familiar: butter. I made a butter crust.

And then, for the filling, I threw caution and probiotic yogurt into the mix for the "new" me filling. Daring! And weird. And potentially gross and terrible. But, honestly, the result was delicious.

And so I sit here, eating my balance pie, thinking maybe this fence isn't such a bad place to be...for now.

Yes, I feel unstable and uncertain about my direction. But maybe I don't have to give up everything old (BUTTER!), but can take what works (BUTTER!) and bring it with me into whatever is waiting on the other side.

Now, if I could just get down....

Want some of your own balance pie? Here's how to make it. Feel free to improvise...that's what this is about.

Ingredients: 
For the Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar)

1 stick of butter

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp balsamic glace (optional)

For the Filling:

1 small roasted sugar pumpkin, yielding 2 cups of pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup plain kefir or drinkable yogurt 

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

pinch of salt

1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1/2 of the insides of a vanilla bean

2 tbsp rum or bourbon (optional)

 Process:

For the crust:

In a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. I like to cut the butter into pieces before I add it to the food processor. This allows it to blend more easily.

Pour this mixture into a large bowl and form a well in the center. Into this well, add the eggs, egg yolks, salt and balsamic glace.

A note on the balsamic glace: This is optional. I was looking for something to add a bit of sweetness, but also a touch of a bite. I also wanted something sticky. Glace is very thick - almost like molasses. In fact, molasses would be a good substitute if you don't have glace. You can make your own glace with balsamic vinegar. Just simmer 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar on your stove top until only 1/8 cup remains. Ta-da! Glace.

Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form it into a ball and wrap it up. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour before using.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

If using a sugar pumpkin, roast it in the oven. Heat your oven to 400°F. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the guts and seeds. Hang on to the seeds to roast them later on if you like!

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the pumpkin halves, cut sides down on the sheet. Roast for about 35 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft and the skin starts to peel away.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool. Then peel away the stem and skin. Place the pumpkin meet in a large bowl and mash with a whisk.

Increase the heat of your oven to 450°F.

In a food processor or with a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin purée, spices, salt and mix thoroughly.

Add the kefir (or yogurt), rum, and vanilla and mix. If the filling seems too dense, you can add more yogurt 1/4 cup at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. It should look and feel like cake batter.

Assembly:

Roll out the refrigerated crust on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. If using mini pie tins, grease them with a little cooking spray. If you're using a large pie tin or spring form pan, line it with parchment paper.

Place the rolled out dough into your pie molds. Fill the molds to the top with pumpkin filling. If you have extra dough, feel free to cut them into shapes and place these shapes on the top of the filling.

Place the pie(s) in the oven and bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for another 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Sometimes this takes longer than 45 minutes. Don't panic.

Check on the pie every now and again. If the crust is getting too dark, place some foil around the edges to protect it from the heat. I usually have to do this, and it's not a problem.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Pumpkin pie is best when set, and in order for it to do that it needs to cool a bit.

Monday
Oct062014

Eat Like a Iaciofano – But WHICH ONE?

Some have said that the strength of this blog is not the recipes or the photos (AHEM!), but rather the family stories. I received many a complement on my first Thanksgiving post because readers enjoyed the family anecdotes and felt they could relate.

Relate.

Relatability is an interesting theme. Here on this blog, I'm hoping that you can relate to what I cook and eat, but maybe, in fact, you would better relate to John or Marmo...or—EGADS!—The Box. If the purpose of this blog is to encourage you to eat like a Iaciofano, I should, as a responsible blogger and family representative, determine WHICH Iaciofano. Because while Iaciofano-land is small—4 main members with 2 satellites (Aunt Emily and Toby)—there is a world of difference in terms of eating habits and preferences.

So we shall begin at the top...or, uh, the bottom of the Iaciofano food chain, depending on how you look at it with:

THE BOX.


The Box rules the Iaciofano roost from one of two places:

1. Asleep on the couch "watching" the golf channel.

2. From the salty waves of Long Beach Island, NJ aboard his trusty ship, The Contingent Fee.

I'm sure he does other things, I just don't know what they are.

Part of my job as eldest child and only daughter is to give the The Box a steady stream of "the business", which includes ribbing, jests, intellectual assaults, harassment and etcetera with the sole purpose of mentally exhausting him so that he:

1. Changes his attitude, or

2. Is too tired to care what I'm up to.

Let me be clear that #1 has never happened. However, taking after my father, I keep at it in a stubborn streak he attributes to Marmo's side of the family.

It may help the point to know how The Box came to be so named. In my younger years, I used to affectionately refer to my father as "Fat Boy". I believe this was in retaliation for repeatedly enlisting the opinions of house guests as to whether he or I had a rounder head as a baby. Photographic evidence was always provided.

Back in the days before smart phones, John texted me about our dad. Because he neglected to push the "XYZ" button the requisite number of times to activate the "Y", the text came in as: FAT BOX.

I stared in disbelief at what I considered to be the most advantageous typo known to mankind. Fat Boy was now The Box, a nickname we felt encapsulated his opinions on life and food, as thinking or eating "outside the box" is not something The Box does. 

This becomes a challenge when you (by which I mean I) try to revamp his eating habits and preferences to resemble something healthier.

Let me first detail for you The Box's preferred diet:

Breakfast: nonexistent

Lunch: occasional. The most popular occurance is a Sunday, post-golf "linner" of provolone and sausage (SAUSSICH) enjoyed before falling asleep watching the golf channel.

Dinner: a lot. 

Dessert: I've seen him eat anything from a bowl of cookies (this at Christmas time) to ice cream to fistfuls of salted peanuts.

Midnight snack: He's not good at hiding the evidence (link to chowder). Once he ate my school lunch for the next day.

As to types of food, I will rate various items on The Box Scale of Edibility and Enjoyment from 1-5. 5 being the most enjoyable.

PASTA: 12

Cheese: 5, especially those little mozzarella balls or provolone.

BREAD: 5, notably the little baskets of goodies on restaurant tables.

NUTS:

- Peanuts, cashews, and pistachios, salted: 5

- Almonds, raw: 1

VEGGIES:

- Heavily-dressed Iceburg Lettuce: 5

- Spinach/Kale: -3

- Tomatoes: 5

- Beets: HA!

- Carrots: ?

- Red Onion: 5

MEATS:

- Poultry: -23907410

- Beef: 10

- Seafood: Meh. He enjoys shellfish, but abhors salmon and even accused Marmo of trying to poison him with it. 

BEVERAGES:

- Orange Crush: 5

- Water: 0

As you can see, anyone attempting to revamp The Box's diet has her work cut out for her.

But last summer I decided enough was enough. The Box is getting older and cholesterol levels don't lower themselves. So I stepped in and made him a meal plan. Which I lovingly taped to the refrigerator under a photo of T.O., Tim O'Donnell, World Champion Triathlete, for effect.

Now, while I insist I had the best of intentions concerning my father's health, I won't say that my approach was quite so good. Many arguments ensued including a terrifying bagel stand-off, and a disagreement about ice cream that led me to go to bed so angry, I refused to come back downstairs while he was down there. 

I've since backed-off, though I try to interject helpful hints along the lines of:

"Do you really think you should be eating that?" and "Egads, man! There's enough sugar in there to give a horse diabetes!"

Perhaps my methods need work, but as I try to refine both my attitude and The Box's diet, I should highlight for you how he LIKES to eat and present the recipes of which he is most fond.

So to begin, and in no particular order:

The Box's Famous Holiday Antipasto: The Box enjoys assembly more than cooking, and this is his piece de la resistance in that category.

And speaking of assembly, and subterfuge, here is The Box's claim to soup fame with his Fraudulent Clam Chowder.

One food that The Box and I can agree on is Pizza, possibly because of the carbohydrate base of which we are both fond. For his birthday, I treated him to some of my famous grilled pizzas.

Something we DISAGREE on is turkey. Specifically of the Thanksgiving variety.

And if you're in a rhyming frame of mind, John and I made Pasta for The Box, but not from a Box, Wearing Sox...featuring a video.

Please keep these recipes and eating habits in mind, as I attempt to catalog the eating habits of the rest of the Iaciofano clan...including my own. Stay tuned!

Thursday
Oct022014

Sicily – A Photographic Recap

And so I have returned. I'm happy to report that I stayed "in the upright" on my bike the whole dang time. With some help from Zaza, of course. Speaking of, Zaza will have some exciting pizza findings to report. She's currently hard at work compiling them, but she's only about 10 years old, so we must be patient as she sharpens her crayons.

In the meantime! I, Elana, have some fun photos for you: food, travel, interesting grafitti. You name it. How was my trip? It was all at once magical, disturbing, exciting, terrifying, delicious, icky, sweaty, dry, humid, smelly, grueling, fast, slow, incomprehensible (language-wise), wacky and beautiful.

So, in other words, fan-freakin'-tastic. Here are some highlights:

I went renegade a few days and used this new bike kit (inspired by Bianchi bikes) from Ten Speed Hero. It made me feel like one. Especially when I was charging through terrain like this:

Dry enough for you? Don't light a match. Although the Sicilians frequently did. Everything was burning. On purpose! Mostly, I mean farmland, but the smell of smoke sure emphasized the 104°F heat.

There were lots of good things to eat:

And a Sicilian bakery on every corner. I had the above sugary loaf one morning pre-ride while I chugged multiple espressos in a café that claimed to have WiFi. Not so much... but the coffee and pastry were excellent. Who needs WiFi? But I do need pizza.

This was my favorite roadside pizza sign. I really have no idea where the pizza was that it was advertising. I didn't find it. But I did sample some other roadside pizza, made fresh just for us hungry cyclists at a beachside food stand:

This little beauty was stuffed with fresh olives and cherry tomatoes with a little herbed parm topping. A nice refresher before having to deal with scenery like this:

And this:

And odd little roadside shrines like this:

Looks rough, doesn't it? But in all honesty, Sicily is a uniquely beautiful and terrifying place. And I would categorize it was "rough" in many ways. Rough spots of town (especially in Palermo) that I walked into by accident. Rough around the edges...this isn't polished Tuscany.

But the Sicilians are a very warm and caring people. And helpful! I got lost on my bike about 37 times (each day). Sicilians offered directions, drafting options (off their cars), and an occasional lift (thanks to Julio from the grape factory). Other members of our group were invited in to a wedding and served cake! I'm sorry I missed that....they're now friends on Facebook (clearly SOMEONE has WiFi).

Another thing that was not scarce was gelato. My favorite flavor was a combination of pistachio, lemon and almond. Sicilians love their pistachios, and I must agree with them on this point. 

One day, in Cefaú, I ate this capicola, arugula, primosale (young cheese) and parmesan pizza:

The whole thing...

And then hiked up to the top of a crazy mountain to explore some castle ruins. Keep in mind I was carrying a wedge of local Pecorino, some olive oil, ceramic bracelets and some black licorice candy at the time. And an umbrella that I clearly didn't need:

And speaking again of pizza, here are some other slices I found and enjoyed:

Sicilians love zucchini and eggplant!

The pizzaiolo at Frida Pizzeria in Palermo made my pie heart-shaped. No one else's was...

This little thick-crust doozy was topped with potato, caramelized onion and breadcrumbs. Ciao, carbs!

And this fluffy, oblong number was topped lightly with roasted tomatoes and breadcrumbs and cooked by a young ragazzo in this wheeled contraption:

Sometimes I grabbed a slice and had a picnic, much to the delight and amazement of Italian passersby (thanks to Giovanni, a local tour guide near the Palazzo Reale, for snapping the evidence):

But when I looked up from various slices of pizza, I couldn't help but marvel at the sights:

Cefalú

Piazza Armerina

Crazy, spikey cucumbers in the Palermo food market.

A "special" car.

Miniature crockery heads in Siracusa.

I don't know about you, but all this had made me hungry. Dessert, anyone?

Italian cookies from Capo d'Orlando.

Please stay tuned as Zaza works on her pizza chronicles. I'll be keeping you updated. In the meantime, please remember these handy Italian phrases:

Sempre diritto: Keep going straight!

Tornato subito: BRB

Mangia bene!: Eat well!

Pizza, ti amo: Pizza, I love you.

Friday
Sep192014

Gone Biking...

...and pizza hunting!

Recently I was presented with the opportunity to go on a cycling trip to Sicily with a bunch of people I don't know. 

Could I leave in a week and a half?

Could I condense all my work, borrow cameras from everyone I know, work up an appropriate appetite...and just generally figure it out?

Yes. Yes, yes, and helllllllllllllls yes. 

And so I go. To Sicily. Biking. Now, readers of this blog are aware that I have had some issues "remaining in the upright" (as Marmo says) on my bicycle. 

But, I'm not going as me.

Nope.

Elana may fall off her bike, but Zaza does not. Zaza will be climbing the hills of Italy in search of pizza. And if that's not motivation to stay in the upright, I don't know what is.

It would tickle me if you'd check out Zaza's blog here. When I/she returns from her adventure, she's going to have a lot to say about Sicilian pizza. Or she hopes to, anyway. 

It's a quest. A pizza quest. Sometimes we don't find the object of our quest, but we keep a-going...always on its trail.

In the meantime, you might want to make these tasty breakfast pizzas. Here's how to do it:

Ingredients:

1 whole wheat pizza dough (I used store-bought from Fairway this time)

Eggs - 1 per mini pizza

Parsley Pesto (recipe here)

Oven-roasted tomatoes (recipe follows)

salt and pepper

Colavita (shameless promotion!) Olive Oil

Process:

Heat your oven to 500°F. Break the pizza dough into 6 smaller, equal parts and form into rounds about 4" in diameter.

Place on a cookie sheet lightly oiled with Colavita EVOO.

Drizzle some Colavita onto the mini doughs. Top with pesto and oven-roasted tomatoes. Crack and egg on top (the whites may roll off the sides -- that's ok!)

Place them in the oven and cook for about 6-8 minutes (until the egg is set).

Remove, garnish with a salt and pepper sprinkle, and serve with more pesto on the side!

To roast the tomatoes: I used Komato Tomatoes, but you can use any kind. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and heat your oven to 350°F.

Slice the tomatoes length wise and put the resulting discs on the parchment. Place them in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. They will wilt and sizzle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.