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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.

Monday
Sep152014

All Zaza Wants To Do...

Please check out the second chapter of Zaza's story here!

Wednesday
Sep102014

How Do You Take Your Morning Garlic?

With cream and sugar? One lump or two? Or maybe just straight up...with the shavings on the side?

Yesterday was a day of "supposed-to's".

I was supposed to work on just one project all day...

I was supposed to not get harassed by a million little things...

I was supposed to not drink too many Gin and Tonics the night before...

Huh.

But when I woke up at 6:30am (I actually woke up at 5:30, thought better of the enterprise and went back to sleep) after an assorted arrangement of nightmares and fitful sleeping that was supposed to not happen, the light was just so nice in my little apartment. North light. Perfect light. It looked like this:

And I've been meaning to take breakfast photos in this light. Or at least photos of my morning coffee. This was SUPPOSED TO be a photo of my morning coffee. But I hadn't made it yet. And I didn't feel like making it yet. So, I grabbed the next handiest thing — a head of garlic — slapped it onto the radiator by the window and took a few shots.

Caravaggio-esque, don't you think? I mean...for a garlic.

Anyway, remember what I said about using what you have? And not baking a layer cake when a head of garlic or some Fruit Loops and plastic dinos will do just fine?

If you DO happen to have a head of garlic, I have some suggestions for what to do with it over at Colavita. I made a whole book about it. Check it out, and forget about the layer cake.

Friday
Sep052014

Something Simple – Candy Cane Beets

This is a photo I really like. I never meant to take it. It wasn't on the "agenda" for the day's photos. It wasn't even a real recipe I had in the hopper. 

It was just a result of some very pretty candy cane beets, a cracked silver plate and a rich slate counter top. That's really all. I threw some Gorgonzola cheese, fennel tops, salt and olive oil on there for "effect." Whatever that means.

I shaved the beets with a potato peeler (that happened to be polka-dotted).

A while ago, I wrote a post about cooking with what you have instead of always running to the store in a frenzy to pick up more ingredients. You can read about the resulting "Kitchen Sink Granola" here. But I feel like this is a valuable point in cooking and in life.

Often, with this blog, I am thinking of new exciting projects to post. "I KNOW!," I'll shout (to myself), "I'll make a layer cake and label each layer as something different and use some kind of wack-a-doodle metaphor about the frosting!!!"

Wouldn't that be GREAT?

Sure it would. And it would also take me about 47 hours of work. And maybe, just maybe, I already have some pretty cool stuff already in the "pantry."

So these days, when I'm thinking about cooking or doing or even getting something new, I pause to think about what I already have. Because what I already have is a lot.

A lot of cool photos.

A lot of spices.

A lot of pasta and olive oil (thanks, Colavita!).

And a lot of resources (people, family, friends, weird personal habits all included, bikes) that are useful in the present circumstances.

The pantry is well-stocked.

Because of this, I'm going to make an effort to show you things that I already have. They could be old. They could be silly. They could be completely non-edible. And I promise not to run out to the store for just one more ingredient for them.

Happy Friday!