Friday, February 28, 2014


My parents just left this morning after a wonderful week and a half here and we had SO much fun showing them around, taking a few day trips, drinking Prosecco in the sun, having long walks and eating delicious food. Here are a few photos from their trip if you'd like to see:

They recovered from the jet-lag pretty quickly! After one rainy rest day in Cortina, we drove to Austria for lunch (my mom had never been before so it was new territory!). We took a walk by the river, ate fresh goat cheese, visited the church, and then drove home!

The next day, Saturday, we were feeling up for another little trip so we drove to Bolzano, which turned out to be a disaster because there was so much traffic that it took us four hours to get there (but we remembered the Italian rule about all your plans going out the window, so we tried not to mind). Once we finally got there, the weather was warm and sunny and we went to the Archeology Museum to see Otzi the Iceman. We ate a wonderful and traditional South-Tyrolian lunch before popping into the church and then the flower market to pick up some tulips to brighten up winter-y Cortina. Bolzano is a season ahead of us.

On Monday and Tuesday, the weather in Cortina changed and it was BEAUTIFUL. One day, we went up to the top of the mountain for lunch and to sit in the sun and watch the skiers.

One day we took a day trip to Padova to see the Scrovegni Chapel, painted by Giotto. This chapel is the most precise thing in all of Italy. You have to order tickets online at least two days in advance, pick an exact reservation time for your ticket, pick up your ticket at the front desk no less than 45 minutes before your reservation time, wait at the door to be let into the chapel five minutes before your reservation time and you get EXACTLY 15 minutes in the chapel before the guard ushers you out. It was exhausting trying to be that on time in Italy. But we were!

We also enjoyed many long walks, many delicious meals, many hard fought Scrabble games and we taught my parents how to make homemade pasta and Ryan's sauce one night too! Thank you SO much for the visit! We miss you already!

Monday, February 24, 2014

How to do Laundry

Most everything takes longer in Italy than it does elsewhere. For example, it takes us all morning to do simple errands like going to the grocery store, the pharmacy and the bank because we Ryan runs into about 20 people that he knows and then we have to stop and chat and have about 5 coffees with them before continuing on. It took us one month to get our internet hooked up. And it takes three days to do a few loads of laundry.

We are having a HARD time with the laundry this winter. Our washing machine is located in our kitchen and fits approximately six socks per load and takes one and a half hours to complete one cycle. And then do you know what we do when that cycle is finally done? Hang it outside to dry because we don't have a dryer. This is not uncommon here as the living quarters are smaller, so only necessities like refrigerators and sinks are squeezed into each kitchen.

In Italy it is considered VERY BAD BEHAVIOR to dry your laundry inside. It brings too much moisture into the house, and these old houses, they cannot HANDLE moisture. Since you have to dry the clothes outside, you really can't do laundry on a day that's not sunny or else the clothes won't dry. An ideal day, one Italian woman told me, is one that is perfectly sunny without a cloud in the sky, but one that is also slightly windy. Not so windy that the clothes blow off the rack or the balcony railing, but windy enough that they lightly blow in the breeze, imitating a tumble dry low cycle.

This would be an ideal day:

This is an UN-ideal day, but is what it looked like for most of January, and all of February:

Unfortunately, this winter it snowed A LOT so we mostly walked around in stinky clothes. When I couldn't take it anymore, I began to do laundry not only on the one sunny day we were blessed with every two weeks, but on the cloudy days as well. I broke the cardinal rule of laundry-doing and I dried the clothes inside. I hung them on our radiators and over the shower door. I placed our huge laundry rack smack in the middle of our tiny living room and when we needed to watch the Olympics on TV, I moved it into the hall.

But then our little house was like "NO MORE MOISTURE PLEEEEEASE!!!" I noticed a crack creeping up the living room wall and a patch of mold growing in the corner behind the chest. So I banished the laundry back to the great outdoors.

One night, Ryan came home from practice at 9:30 and asked me if I knew that the laundry was still outside on the balcony, now frozen.

"Yes," I said, "I'm trying a new experiment."
"What's that?" he asked.
"I leave the laundry outside overnight like I've seen the woman who lives down the street do. It freezes during the night and then thaws out and hopefully dries on the second day," I tell him, "and then we bring it in and see if it smells like mildew."
"Oh," said my very tolerant husband, "okay."

They say people in Italy have fewer clothes because they have smaller closets but this is a myth that I am here to bust. It's because they have small washing machines and no dryers.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Five Rules of Italy

My parents just arrived yesterday after a hellish travel day and we're so excited to have them here! In honor of our first and only visitors this year, we put together a list of the five rules of Italy:

1. NO cappuccinos after 12 pm. In the afternoon, you must switch to macchiatos or teeny cups of espresso (or Spritzes!).

2. NO red wine before 12 pm! So when you can't drink cappuccinos any more because it's 12:01, you can switch to red wine, if you like. We tend to wait until 7 pm, but we're sooo American.

3. There is no speed limit. Drive how you feel, but don't drive slowly.

4. You CANNOT toast with water and you CANNOT sit at the corner of a table to eat a meal or else, rumor has it, you won't get married.

5. Expect any plans you make to go out the window. (This has already happened once this trip when my parents were supposed to get in at 11:45 am, but ended up getting here at 5:00 pm. And I'm sure it will happen many, many more times over the next ten days).

And, always remember: This is Italy. In this great country, anything goes!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Shrimp and Zucchini Risotto

For February's risotto, I'm going off-book. Don't get me wrong, I love my risotto cookbook, the one I've been using to make all the other risotto recipes. But in every cookbook there are a few recipes you love, a few that don't look so good, and a few that intimidate you. And in my risotto cookbook, we're starting to get into the rabbit-duck-fried liver territory.

This month I decided to make a Venetian specialty. Ryan and I had this in November, on our last trip to Venice and love, love, loved it. Here's what you do:

First, pour yourself a glass of wine because you have to take the heads off the shrimp. Or maybe you  don't, but I do because that's how they come here. So after you've de-headed, de-veined, de-everything'd the shrimp so that they're no longer the 2 kilo that you paid for, but more like 0.5 kilo, set that aside and wash your hands. I despise cooking with shrimp because I always find their flippers and feelers on the kitchen floor for at least three days afterwards. But the end result is worth it!!

Then simmer 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock on the stove. Chop up an onion and add that to a saute pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil (do people really measure how much olive oil they put at the bottom of the pan?). I added two diced cloves of garlic too, and let that cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes, until the onion was soft.

Then pour in your Arborio rice (about 3/4 of a cup for two people) and stir to coat or, as risotto experts say, "toast." Add a little white wine to the pan, maybe about 1/4 cup and stir together. **This step is completely unnecessary. I only do it because I've had an open bottle of white wine in the fridge for two months and the only time it gets used is when I make risotto. But I'm sure it's still good.** Wait until the wine has been absorbed and then start adding the warm broth ladle by ladle, stirring and letting the rice absorb the broth in between each ladle.

Meanwhile, chop up two zucchinis and put them in a separate saute pan with a little more olive oil. Cook the zucchini until soft and then add the shrimp. I used shrimp that was already cooked (with their heads on, apparently) and just needed to be heated, but if you're using raw shrimp cook it until it turns pink.

When the rice has absorbed all the broth that it needs (it should be easy to chew but have a firm bite to it) add the zucchini and shrimp mixture into the big pan with the rice, and stir (again!) until everything is combined. Add salt and pepper to taste (and maybe some chili flakes, if you like) and serve HOT.

Italians say you should NEVER serve Parmesan with seafood, so this is bad, but we added a little freshly grated Parmesan on top and let me tell you - it didn't ruin it at all.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ryan's Famous (in this house) Red Sauce

Okay, earlier in the week we talked about making fresh pasta and NOW we're going to talk about pasta sauce. There are three things that Ryan makes really well: stir-fry (especially when you have a cold and need something spicy, like I did this week), orecchiette with broccoli and sausage, and this red sauce. He invented it this year for his pre-game meals. Every game day, Ryan goes into the kitchen at noon sharp and whips up this delicious creation.. And, like I mentioned last time, we ate this sauce on top of spaghetti every other day when we were snowed in at the end of Christmas and couldn't get to the store or turn on the heat.

It is so, so warming. So! Today Ryan has given me permission (sort of) to share his recipe. If you're cold too, here's what you need: a can of finely diced tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, a cheese that melts easily and is mild - he uses a creamy Swiss most of the time - a little bit of cream and spices like chili flakes and oregano.

Pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a sauce pan and add the diced garlic. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes and then add the canned tomatoes. Add the spices (really whichever ones you want, but we like spice in this house, hence the chili flakes). Pour in a bit of cream - you don't need much, maybe a tablespoon or two. Cut the cheese up into small pieces so that it melts easier. You should have about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cheese total. Add that into the bubbling sauce and it will melt, but make sure you stir it so that it breaks up and doesn't clump together.

 For protein, Ryan either adds in chicken or sausage, and my favorite way to eat it is over spaghetti, so I always request that. Delicious. And so easy! Ryan - thanks for sharing your secret recipe even though you didn't really want to and also thanks for feeding me lunch today.

Monday, February 10, 2014

How to Make Pasta

It's still snowing here. Well, last night the clouds broke apart and the sun streamed out for a little bit, just long enough for a gorgeous sunset, finally.

But this morning it was white again!

Today I'm sharing our recipe for fresh pasta and later on in the week, I'm going to share Ryan's famous recipe for red sauce, which he invented this year. We ate this combo every other day during the first snowstorm of the winter, back in December when our lights went out. It's so yummy and so warming and so perfect for all this snow.

Making fresh noodles is one of those things that's ridiculously easy, but is time consuming enough that you have to get up your motivation to do it. A few weeks ago we invited some friends over to help though, since it's true what they say about many hands! We roughly followed Mario Batali's recipe (because, hello, Mario Batali), plus the advice of our Italian friends - who were not supervising this particular adventure! (Remember a few months ago we learned how to make casunziei, but the dough had already been made for us, by an Italian).

We made tons of pasta, using one 1 lb pound bag of flour and 5 eggs which was enough for about 6-8 people. All you need to do is pour the flour into a large bowl, and make a well in the center that you can crack the eggs into, and then whisk them together. Slowly begin to incorporate the flour into the eggs (although it tends to happen all at once, really) and then once you have a dough ball, you need to knead it! Everyone says "You'll just know when it's done", which I didn't believe, but which ended up being true. The dough becomes elastic-y and spring-y, and once that happens, you can break off chunks of it and run it through your pasta cutter!

It's so easy! And so good. (And looking at that first picture of the pasta, I'm going to say we made enough for 20 people, not 6-8).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Blizzard of 2014

It's been snowing here since last Thursday....

Gray, right?! And we're supposed to get another three feet tomorrow....Ryan will have to dig out the car again - this is what it looked like last weekend: