Friday, November 30, 2007

Pizza Mexicana

Or what to do with the left over taco fixings. Take an extra large flour tortilla, or in Italy you can use Piada, those things that look like tortillas but are too thick for anything Mexican.

Put the Piada in a frying pan with a little oil, fry on both sides until semi crisp but not hard, put it on an oven safe plate, spread refired beans over it, then the taco meat, then chopped tomatoes, onions, what ever you like, top with a nice cheese that melts easily. Put in under the broiler until the cheese melts, take it out and serve topped with with salsa, taco sauce, avocados, sour cream (Greek yogurt works in Italy), whatever you like, use your pizza cutter to slice it - enjoy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Grand Children

Well now I have four all beautiful. I'd post some pictures, but their moms are doing a great job with their own blogs so if you want to see them just click on the links for my daughters.

Italian Citizenship

Here I am being congratulated by the Italian consulate in Los Angeles. Now I am officially Italian. Of course I am now a dual US and Italian citizen. I'd never give up my US citizenship. But living in Italy it's just make sense to be able to participate as a citizen and also not have any issues about being able to stay as long as I want. My whole second family and I are dual now. Luisa became a US citizen last March.

Taco Night at the Helm's

Yes, it was taco night. One of the few things we can't find around here are corn tortillas. So we brought about 6 dozen back with us from California. We left Italy with two and a half bags not that full. Returned to Italy with four all weighed out to the max 50 pounds. I bring a scale with me. At the airport check in the lady asked what I had in them that was so heavy, taco sauce and tortillas I said.

Tonight I cooked the "traditional" Mexican tacos - California style I suppose you would say. Do you miss refried beans living in Italy? Here's how to make your own. Take two or three cans of Bartollini beans, a medium brown looking bean. Drain all the liquid even maybe washing them in a colander. Put them in the food processor with some seasoning as you like, a little olive oil and pulse until they are pretty well mashed up. Put them in a pot and simmer a few minutes and there you go.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


So here we are for a couple of weeks in sunny So Cal, it's nice. We've (mostly I have) been pigging out on typical American food, that is Mexican fast food, hamburgers and fries and then there was the steak sandwich at an expensive beach front restaurant in Del Mar, but it was happy hour half price. So not too bad. Then the long walk on the beach watching the sunset. That's California at it's best.

Reminds me of another recipe that I used to make a lot for guests before we moved to Italy, we don't have a real oven in our apartment so I have not been able to do it there:

Garlic & Onion Focaccia


Medium size pizza dough, make it yourself from a typical recipe or buy ready made at Trader Joe's. Plan or with rosemary and basil.

1 Medium onion
1 Tbls minced garlic (the type in packed in water is fine)
Olive oil
Grated cheeses, jack, cheddar, or whatever, cheese is optional.
Good quality Parmesan cheese

Cut the onion in half then slice thinly, saute the onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are translucent.
Lightly brush olive oil on a standard size cookie sheet, then spread the pasta dough over the sheet. It’s best if you let the dough warm to room temperature. Then stretch and pull like you would for a pizza. When it’s nearly the right size put it on the sheet continue to stretch until it covers the sheet.

Brush the dough lightly with olive oil and then spread the onion and garlic over it. Sprinkle cheeses lightly over the dough then grate a small amount of Parmesan over it all.

Bake at around 375 until done. You might put it under the broiler for the last couple of minutes to brown the top. When done you can sprinkle olive oil over it if it seems a little dry and then sprinkle a bit of course ground salt to taste

Note – you can experiment with various toppings, just, remember it’s not a pizza so go lightly. Leave off the cheese for a more traditional focaccia. Variations are limitless. Fresh pesto sauce is great brushed over the dough or drizzled on top.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Italian cooking

Well Italian style cooking is more like it. I like to cook, but slow food is not what I have time for. It's more like slow food cooked in a fast way. I'm thinking about making a new blog just about my way of cooking good things fast.

What do you think? Here is a example of something I copied from a recent meal in a local restaurant and adapted:

Pork Roast with Chestnut Sauce

Pork roast about 700 gr.
about 20 or 30 chestnuts
Olive oil
large salt
Besciamella already prepared or make your own

Make a cut in each chestnut, put them in water and boil for 45 minutes, the peel them, that's the hard part.

Pour some olive oil in the bottom of a backing dish, sprinkle with medium size salt. Put in the roast and turn it over covering it with oil and salt. Now bake it at a fairly high temperature until cooked, check the temperature of the pork to reach 160 degrees f. You should get a nice salty crust on the roast. Don't use too much salt.

While the meat is cooking put the chestnuts in a blender with some milk and blend, ad the besciamell until you have a nice creamy mixture and an adequate amount of sauce, add some salt and pepper to taste.

Next put a bit of butter in a sauce pan let it melt then add the chestnut mixture, heat it cook it stirring constantly for 5 minutes or so. When done set it aside.

Slice the pork very thin. Reheat the sauce and serve it separately from the pork as a topping sauce.

You can use turkey breast as a substitute for the pork if you like. The real Italian recipe would use cream for the sauce but my version has much less fat.

Note that I won't give exact measurments, one needs to use a bit of judgement, taste and experience.