Thursday, June 18, 2015

Recipes thus far

I'll write them up when I have time! For now pictures and poor handwriting and persist in broken Italian will have to do. Each name is the name of the cook who taught me the recipe. If you have a request for sorting you'd like to learn, I'll try my best to learn it, so leave a comment below! 


LAGO MAGGIORE

Lisa (tiramis├╣)



FIRENZE

Alessandro (pasta con le zucchine)


Yuisan (great for fish)
Sorry for my crappy handwriting, I was trying to write and watch what he was doing. And estimate amounts. I'll perfect this sauce back home and update amounts in the fall. I'll also retype it all when I have the time.


Toshi's caff├Ę


Tips from the kitchen (sweets)
- use hazelnut flour for the dough of baci di dama for an extra delicious taste
- use metal cookie cutters as weights on edges of wax paper for baking small things prone to rolling (like small balls from baci di dama) that need a flat surface to bake on
- make a ganache to easily dress up some simple cookies or other deserts (cream and chocolate, that's all!)
- to get a great, non-bitter lime flavor for desserts, peel the limes with a potato peeler and then by hand and with a paring knife remove the white on the peel so ONLY the green peel remains. Boil in sugar water and drain. Dry and if access to dehydrator, dehydrate to the pulverized and use that powder. If you're like me though and don't have access to a dehydrator, I'm going to experiment with baking or drying in Sun. Will report back the results.

Tips from the kitchen (food)
- for a good pasta vongole, boil in water with pepper and parsley unto they open. Prepare as recipe calls.
- if you want to use ink to make black pasta or rice, don't use it from calamari, but instead use seppie! The difficulty is finding fresh and uncleaned seppie... Hmm. Bostonians, try maybe New Deal Fish Market on the corner of Cambridge and... 8th? I think? Near 7th and Cambridge.
- skin a lime, cut out the lime meat in between the thin dividers that exist so you have *just* pulp. Chop this and use that day for salad dressing or whatever. DAY OLD LIME WILL DRASTICALLY TASTE MORE BITTER. TEST IT OUT!
- an easy and light dressing for a mixed salad: chopped lime, oil, ocean water, salt. Add some fresh chopped mint, dill, and whole small rose petals to spice up a refreshing salad!
- to achieve the fancy spoon tear drop of sauce on a plate, place back of spoon on plate and tip forward (opposite the side/vertex of the oval that has the handle) and drag. Practice getting even results then move on to larger heads and skinnier talks to create the tear shape.


MODENA

Risotto e maiale


Katia (pasta di pomodoro e olive) & Tortelloni di ricotta




I'll keep updating this blog post with recipes as I learn them!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Da'Pescatore

In an effort to keep up with that blogging, I figured I'd do more frequent and shorter posts. Let's see if this works...

Ciao from Firenze!

I checked into my AWESOME airbnb apartment which is in a historic (but as I use that term, what isn't historic about this city??) section of the city according to locals. I took some pictures and they're basically ridiculous. Check out my kitchen/apartment views on my instagram. (Chacha_durazo) The first day I got here my hosts made me an amazing dinner of risotto (as is classic in Piemonte where the chef, Alessandro, is from) and rustic bread and a cheese from goat milk (specifically a type of cheese from where my other host, Maria, is from in Puglia). It was an amazing welcoming and made me immediately fall in love with this city. 

Right after getting into the city I dropped off my backpack at my apartment and headed to the restaurant. When I got there I was surprised to find that the restaurant was literally in the side of a church that started being built in the 1200s. The restaurant, like all of Italy, has this amazing way of being modern amidst such rich history and ancient ways. For instance, there are amazing high vaulted exposed wood beams as a ceiling for the pastry/non-steamy section of the kitchen but in the other section everything is stainless steel and pieces of edible modern art are being made. The chefs are quite diverse with someone from Brazil (the nice girl my age who helped escort me to go buy my chef coat and pants yesterday!), from Canada, from Modena, Japan.... Obviously Italian is spoken in the kitchen but it's neat to hear the accents in Italian.

After the restaurant, I meandered around and found a gellateria, certo, where I had black sesame and pistachio. It was... Amazing. I sat on the wall that lined the main river in Florence, called Arno, and ate my gelato at 11pm whilst watching people. When I was done I sketched the scene in my notebook and took in the beautiful 21 degrees Celsius. Before I knew it, it was a little past midnight and I decided to head home... Which was like only a 5 min walk. I'm telling you, this apartment is great, city, and everything is so close together. Coming from Boston, I'm used to walking 5-6 km everyday which would lead me into the countryside here, ha!

Yesterday was my first day actually working. Daniele, the head chef, is the friend of a friend from Boston. He, as well as everyone in the kitchen, is incredibly patient with me and very very welcoming. I feel as though I couldn't have asked for a better professional kitchen to start in. Furthermore, there is infinite Italian coffee in the afternoon and I definitely drank like 3 within 45 minutes yesterday. So. Dang. Good. After reporting to the kitchen at 3pm, we took a break for dinner at ~7 then opened for dinner at 8. This place is so fancy though that we had to take off our shoes to get from the kitchen to where we ate dinner because the floors had been cleaned. Talk about detail. Love it. Though my feet were killing me by the time midnight came around and I was walking home, I couldn't help but feel lucky to be privy to a very different side of Firenze that most visitors didn't get to see.

Anyway I must go get ready for the day and eat some lunch before heading out to the restaurant. Below are some things you might find worth a read...

A few interesting things I learned yesterday:
-There exists vodka with gold flakes in it
-At this restaurant people can order the number of plates they want (5 or 7)and specify the dishes they want and the chef will fill in the rest. But it gets more impressive! If you've been there before, the chefs will discuss what you liked last time and what would go well with what you've chosen!!!! WOW. My mind was blown by that. They also write on the tile on the wall in the kitchen, like a chalk board, with each table's orders and yell out every time a new one comes in and a new dish is finished alerting the chefs to start on the next one. Way cool.
-To avoid the bitter flavor of lemon juice, DON'T twist the lemon as you juice it. Instead, if you're using one of those sombrero looking like juice devices, push the lemon down on the point of the crown but then bring your palm toward the center to squish the juice out without bruising the rind. The twisting action agitates the rind and releases a bitter taste. I've not taste tested this yet but hopefully I will today. 
-To avoid seeds from lemons, cut in half and squeeze with the cut side up letting the juice drip over the lemon
-It is interesting how much more I observe not being able to understand ever conversation
-I saw the largest octopus in my life (tentacles about ~1.5" in diameter) as we were prepping after work last night for today. Curious how they will use it.

Thanks for reading!

Baci,
Chacha

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Btw, I'm in Italy!

Hey all!

So as I have like  10 min to write this before lunch is ready I'll quickly update everyone on what has happened in the last two weeks! [edit: finished writing this on the train to Florence, I never can write short quick updates... Weeee, we're going 299kph!)

I arrived and got picked up by my awesome cousin, Federico. What a champ he has been the past two weeks... From giving up his room to finding awesome wine tasting in Tuscany to sweet castle touring in Piemonte at the foot of the alps, he has been the most amazing host. Give that man a Klondike bar. And a raise. Anyway, so later that day, after not sleeping for like 30 hours because the fights were such that I never saw the sun set (talk about trippy, whoa), Fede and I drove around the lake region and then got my first gelato and what would become the best gellateria I've yet to encounter in Italy (which says something as I've eaten a gelato every day except two days but I made it up by eating two other days)! Then we met up with some of Fede's and Nicola's friends and went to a bar-- sorry, "brewery and beer shop" as Greg, the owner, will be sure to correct you if you say bar like I did-- which was literally bookshelves of over a hundred different types of hipster beers. After a couple of beers (which I got by describing how I was feeling using all the emotional lingo I know in Italian, and because Greg is awesome he indulged my fancy and picked some great Italian beers) we all went for a walk along the river and happened upon probably among my favorite memory so far in Italy... 

"What's this memory," you ask? Well, let me just tell you...

So there we were walking along, me ecstatic to be in Italy and slightly sleep deprived, the rest (thanks for being great sports, dudes!) just entertained by my fascination with everything, when we came across a scent that could not ever been better timed nor better smelling. I followed my nose and much to my great surprise there was a vendor selling what I learned was not a hotdog but rather salamella... Which to call a hotdog is like to compare the real David to the replica sculpture at your local miniature golf course--they're not even the same material! The best part was that when the man selling the meat found out I was from California and had never eaten it before (but clearly I was excited about it as I literally clapping my hands and waiting anxiously like a child waiting to use the bathroom) he offered to make the sandwich as he recommended (with ketchup only) and gave me a free cup of wine to go with it! And then, after waiting what seemed like ages, but really was only like 5 min I'm sure, while he cut open the casing and grilled the glorious roll of meat, I was handed it-- hot, on a bread roll lightly dusted in flour which reminded me of these Mexican bread rolls we used to eat growing up, and slightly coated in ketchup but not enough to cover the flavor. And oh man....

It. Was. Great.

I'm not normally one to freak out about meat, especially since I rarely eat red meat and only ate fish for like 3 years during my undergrad, but dang, I understand now why people here tilt their heads, squint, and respond with "no problem, we have lamb," when I mentioned veganism. (Ok, so I might have stolen that from a movie, and I haven't actually mentioned vegan lifestyle except for once in a discussion with my cousin, but I'm pretty sure the reaction would be all the same.)

After that amazing night I struggled with jetlag and just lay in bed (as I did for the following several nights) trying to fully grasp that I was actually here. I'm actually following through with this dream of mine. I have struggled truly to put into words the sensation I'm feeling but it's a mixture of being CONSTANTLY excited about the everyday life around me, exhausted because I have to focus so hard to understand ever conversation which I really only get like ~50-60% of maybe, and nervous but in a good way about what tomorrow might bring teaching me to go with the flow. Each day is a gift of which I savor the anticipation and keep the wrapping.

The next day, Sunday, we hung out because I was tired but of course we got a gelato. Monday we went to a vineyard in Tuscany and even drive there was beautiful going through random mountains! I went on a tour of the process for creating the wine and understood like maybe 25% of what she was saying but it didn't matter, I enjoyed listening to the Italian being spoken. And like, who could be anything but stoked to be in an old villa/estate on a hill in Tuscany about to drink 3 types of red wine and a dessert wine, all the meanwhile eating amazing cheese, crackers, and prosciutto e salami??? Fun fact: "biscotti" in Italian just means cookie, not the specific type of cookie we Americans think of when we hear biscotti. That sweet baked good is called something else I'll look up when I have access to the internet again. Anyway, we dipped "American" biscotti in the dessert wine and it was aaaaamazing.

After Tuscany we walked around Florence for the afternoon on our way back. I got my gelato and we watched some street performer pick random strangers out of the crowd to imitate, switch hats with, etc. One of the paintings in a building there began renovating before America was discovered. Mind. Blown. Moments like that remind me that I'm really not in America anymore... As if the presence of gelato everywhere and over stylish men wasn't a clue enough. Dopo Firenze, we picked up Chinese (Italian Chinese, so there was of course pizze on the menu) and went to eat at my cousin, Nicola and Michele's, house. Hilariously the Chinese food was like a kind of fancy restaurant and a treat to Italians. The way in which they ate it, that is, with noodle first dishes and meat second and appetizers first of all, reminded me of the way in which I eat Italian meals, but just actually Chinese food. It was interesting to see the hybrid of the two cultures.

Fast forward some days, I went into Milan a week ago Friday and met with Enzo, the president of the MIT Italy club, who is a very nice person and is going to connect me with some people for a potential internship here in Italy next summer. We met for an aperitivo which invoices buying one drink and then being brought lots of goodies to eat. I'm telling you, when it comes to anything food related, be it happy hour or street carts, Italians know what they're doing! Then Fede and his friend, Gamba, and I went to another bar for another aperitivo and after I went to Massimo gelato which is voted the best gellateria in Lombardia (region that Milan is in). It was worth the 15-20 min wait. When I sampled the pistachio flavor, it was like I had chilled, slightly salted, pistachios in my mouth. Unbelievable. The best part, my daily indulgence is only about 2-2,70€! So worth it.

Then the next day we went to a medieval times themed display in a castle in Piemonte in a town, Candelo, that exists pretty near the base of the alps so that in all my pictures, they were just there chilling in the background. I sampled some standards for cheese and cookies of the era... The cheese was good, as always, the meringue I tried was lavender flavored and it tasted like I was eating a plant... Sad times. But other than that, I had the best peach gelato of my life and then returned to the gellateria later to try their granita (I remember you saying it was great, Bristin, so I've been keeping my eyes peeled for it anytime I find it in scoopable consistency). It was, the bomb. Frutti di bosco, can't go wrong...

Then I got sick because my allergies hate me and so for the past week I was relaxing around the house, enjoying greatly my daily gelato from Vergiate (the gellateria from the first day, fortunately only a 5 min drive away) and my ginseng coffee with my zia Ornella. She has been spoiling me introducing me to all sorts of local goodies from "vergiatini" (the oh-so-amazing almond cookie from Vergiate) to ginseng coffee to meringata (a cake that layers meringue, which is so much better here than in the US, and panna which is slightly like homemade whipped cream). Not to mention I learned to make strawberry tiramisu (still trying to upload those videos, Lisa!!!!) from my cousin's beautiful girlfriend, Lisa. Seriously, want to adopt her as my sister!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I did my first "da sola" adventure in the form of a day trip to Verona last Wednesday. It was AWESOME. So invigorating to travel by yourself in a foreign country. Not to mention I got a free appetizer and a special made meal because I was a "single beautiful woman" eating by myself. Ha! Awesome. Read the captions of my lunch in Verona (risotto with a piece of fried parmesan) to learn more! 

For that matter, check out my instagram (https://instagram.com/chacha_durazo/) for TONS more visual explanations of what my words fall so short of describing. When I get the chance, I'll post pictures below outlining some of what I described above. 

For now, I'm about to arrive in Florence and thus begin my truly "da sola" travels!

Weeee! Loving this life of mine.

Tanti baci,
Chacha

Saturday, June 6, 2015

My graduation advice to my cousin/past me

Background: her mom found an amazing card with a picture of a steak and the phrase "well done" under it, and since I'm like the only person in the world who says "steak" in place of "well done" well obviously she had to get it. This is what I asked her to put inside...

Dear beautiful cousin of mine,

On this momentous end to one chapter and the beginning of another in your life I'd like to take a moment to pass along a few thoughts I wish I could tell myself nearly 5 years ago as I graduated high school.

1) no one knows shit. It's true. We go through college, life, work pretending to know what we're doing but really, if you took the moment to ask the CEO of Facebook or hell even Obama if they knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives at 18, 22 when graduating college, or even 30 and later, I would bet the farm that none of them expected to end up where they are today (not to say that they didn't work towards a goal, see my fourth point below) and certainly didn't know what the next chapter in life held. So with this in mind, I went through my senior year of college realizing that while as a freshman I had always thought seniors knew it all-- they actually didn't. And the beautiful thing is, that is perfectly OK. In fact, I highly encourage you to change your mind at least twice before deciding what you want to do after college (note: didn't say what you want to do for the rest of your life, as that is best left as a variable constantly shifting, just think immediately after college). Change is good, and you're about to get a whoooooollleeee lot it. Embrace it. The unknown is a beautiful experience and had I learned to trust that it all works in the end, I would have had a lot more fun and less stress the past 5 years.

2) in regards to boys, please have a "tell-all" buddy. Be wise in choosing this person. Pick someone who won't judge you too much that you won't feel comfortable telling them *everything* (and I mean everything) but be sure to pick someone who will tell you when you messed up and set you straight. I'm always happy to be this person, but be sure to pick someone. I didn't, and wasted a bunch of heartache for two years because I over thought things in my head. Once I found my buddy, I have since been able to be more present in relationships knowing that I had this (fairly) objective third party to let me know when I've gone off the deep end/over looked something/made bigger an issue that maybe didn't need to be.

3) read the Marianne Williamson quote "our deepest fear" and internalize it. Starting my freshman year of college I titled my morning alarm as "it is your light..." So that is the first thing I am reminded of each morning. At various points in my life various lines have stood out to me. At first it was the first line, as MIT was very very hard for me and I CONSTANTLY struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Most recently though, the line " your playing small does not serve the world" has been on my mind and sometimes when I start doubting who I am to think I can achieve my dreams, I remind myself of that line. You are meant to be the best you can, it's up to you to decide how far you will go. Which leads me to my next and final point...

4) set goals, create a written (not mental) bucket list, and dream as if everyone aspired to be president or an astronaut. At some point, and I'm not sure when, it became uncool to talk about your dreams. It became childish to dream of something big, like kids do of being president one day or flying into space. I am gravely saddened by this and hope to break this standard. Every time someone asks me what I want to do, I tell them the truth, I don't know what nor why, but I feel called to greatness (for the past few years I've been thinking of getting into politics eventually, even though I hate politicians and politics, it's more of a calling at this point... Again, I don't know and I'm not too concerned at this point). Set both short and long term goals and know they will change and that is BEAUTIFUL. I wrote in my bucket list that I wanted to get into MIT for grad school (both masters and PhD) so when I got rejected my senior year I was really crushed. I was like, wait but I wrote this down, I thought there was some magic in this and everything I would write would come true....ha! Alas that is not the case. Sometimes minor changes happen (got into a WAY better masters program at MIT but only after getting rejected) sometimes really shitty changes happen (my grandpa died and my world shook, he was supposed to officiate my wedding, see me graduate from grad school as the first grandkid to do so, etc...I still tear up as I write this about him, but he has taught me a great many lessons this past ~9.5 months without him and lessons I wouldn't have been able to learn without his passing). So if there's one thing I firmly believe in above anything else in this world, it's that everything will work for a greater good and it's okay to give into the hope you feel about your future (Jer. 29:11was my school email for that reason). A friend's mom used to say, everything will be ok in the end and if it's not ok, it's not the end yet. Don't let the fear of not achieving your goals/dreams prevent you from setting them. Change is relative, so set a starting point and be open to what comes.

Now go, live life out loud and continue to make us proud. Steak, girl. ;) In case you don't know the quote I'm talking about, I've posted it below:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Overly sentimental and your pseudo cousin whether you like it or not!!,
Chacha