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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

OK— I lied. We’re not going gluten-free, but we are definitely trying to go gluten-low! A friend of ours, Chris “single-and-ready-to-mingle” Dunn (a.k.a Dunny), has been gluten-free for about 4 1/2 years. Listening to Dunny talk about how radically his health has been improved by eliminating gluten from his diet has been enough to make Ryan and I at least question whether or not it is something we want to consider.

Now, where I come from, going gluten-free could be considered blasphemy. I’m Italian (well, at least a very dominant part of me is) so by saying you’re going to eliminate gluten… you say no to homemade pastas, beautiful semolina loaves of bread, and tiramisu. Blasphemous. But, at the same time, it calls to mind the fact that a true Italian diet (lots of fish, veggies, and fruits) is actually closer to a gluten-free life style and less like the Americanized CiCi’s pizza -tyle Italian (garlic bread, pizza, pasta) that we’ve come to know.

After sorting through countless articles trying to figure this gluten thing out, I’ve come up with two good articles. The first one, by Russell Meyers, explains Celiac Disease and gluten problems in laymens terms (hallelujah!), and the second one, Gluten Free Goddess, provides some great recipes, as well as great FAQ and advice for going gluten free.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that Ryan and I have Celiac Disease— that’s statistically improbable. But, I do think that there are certain merits to eating gluten-low. For starters, by eating gluten-low, it encourages you to eat low-carb: adding more veggies and fewer processed carbs to your meals. And, while I don’t necessarily believe Ryan nor I have Celiac’s Disease, I don’t think it’s a black-and-white issue. I think there’ s probably a spectrum of gluten-sensitivity in which you could be affected negatively by gluten but not to the extent to which you’d be labeled with the disease. Some chronic signs of gluten problems are: diarrhea, gas, bloating, and stomach cramps. And, while I don’t want to necessarily admit to having any of those, I will say that it would be worth it to me to adjust me diet to decrease the occurrence of those symptoms. How’s that for diplomatic?

So, what is that gorgeous picture that I posted above? It’s a gluten-free, delicious recipe that I just had to share. I caught Ellie Krieger on the Today Show on Monday morning, and what she was making looked so good I had to try it. If you fast forward to about the 3rd minute, she begins to make the recipe that you see pictured above and below.

I did, however, do a few things differently than her: I didn’t add carrot, I added a bit more tomato paste (maybe twice as much), and I added a dash of red pepper flakes for a kick. I actually made the ragu at about 11 o’clock in the morning before I went to work and then re-heated it right  before I pulled the tilapia off the grill later that evening around 7 o’clock.

I used tilapia instead of salmon— it’s cheaper and a nice change of pace.  All I did to prepare the tilapia was salt and pepper the filets in the morning (then let them stand in the fridge for a few hours), then I whipped up a marinade of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and let the filets marinade for about 20 minutes, and then I threw the filets on the non-stick grill for a few minutes until lightly browned. Finished product:

Delish and 100% gluten-free! Not missing my pasta at all!

 

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Sometimes when Ryan goes out of town, it can be really overwhelming and slightly depressing for me. He’s off working and traveling in great cities like LA, San Diego, and San Francisco and I’m stuck in Cville doing his chores. I’ve found that the key to having the week go by as quickly and painlessly as possible is to keep my schedule packed with appointments with great friends and to do as many things as I can that I can’t do (or at least don’t normally do) when he’s here.

For instance, right now I am watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians (a show Ryan has banned from our TV for being “too trashy”) and I’m eating Strawberry ice cream by the half-gallon (a flavor Ryan would never compromise on). Yesterday, I went to see Jennifer Aniston’s new flick The Switch (a movie I would never be able to coax Ryan into seeing). So, basically, while Ryan is gone, I am getting as fat and dumb as possible.

Getting back to the great friends part. On Friday, I got to spend time with one of my favorite friends, Shannon Wendling. Shannon just moved back to Cville from Austin and I am so glad she’s back! Shannon is the kind of friend who is always up for anything… a night out on the town or a low-key vent session. I’m looking forward to many more fun times ahead in the next two years while she gets her masters!

On Saturday, another one of my favorite Pineapples– Neena– was in town visiting from LA. Neena was in town moving her brother, who’s a 3rd year at U.Va.,  into his apartment. Sitting around the dinner table on Saturday night with Shannon and Neena, I was so grateful for Shannon and Neena’s friendships. It’s amazing to think we’ve been friends for eight-going-on-nine years! Moving into Watson eight years ago and I had no idea I’d make friends– in that very dorm– whose relationships that would last well beyond college.

This morning, I was very lucky to have my parents come into town to keep me company. It also didn’t hurt that they brought me a gift basket full of goodies from DiCamillo, a delicious Italian bakery in Niagara Falls. I’ve already opened the pasta sauce they brought me from The Como… yum! I love having my parents so close that they can run up to Cville for just a few hours.

Later this week I have Jr. League meetings, movie dates, and a new job to keep me busy, so it should be a good week. Well… as good as it can be without Ry here.

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On Friday night, we invited our friends, Ethan and Allison, over for a crazy night of… pasta making. As you can see by Alli posing with the pasta above, it was a huge success! I have to say, before Alli arrived and saved me in the kitchen (Alli also comes from a crazy Italian family), I thought my pasta making venture was going to be an epic fail, but with a little bit of teamwork we ended up having a really awesome homemade pasta dinner (with sauce of your choice… pesto or alfredo). We used the pasta making attachment for our Kitchen Aid Mixer and it was so easy… no hand cranking, just press a button.

Sheets of pasta before they went thru the cutter.

I really wish I’d taken pictures of some of our other dishes that night because we really had quite a feast. Basil hummus, sausage stuffed mushrooms, rose sangria and Alli’s lavender and lemon cookies for dessert… it was pretty tasty. Ethan and Allison have been great friends to us, but they are especially great friends to cook with, laugh with, eat with and talk for hours. Cheers to many more nights like Friday!

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I have to say that one of the best perks of not having a full time job is the time it has allowed me to cook everyday. That’s right, everyday. I guess, to some,  cooking seems like an antiquated chore. And, yes, if I lived in Paris and had enough money to shop at Le Grande Epicerie, then, yes, I would never cook again. But, alas, I do not.

A friend of mine, another newlywed Allison Dodson, gave me a copy of The Gastronomy of Marriage to read. It’s a light, lovely book that follows an Italian-Chinese couple through their first few months of living together, planning a wedding, and shopping and cooking in NYC. What I love about the book is that she not only talks about her family’s deep roots in Italian cooking and how that plays such a large role in the family’s dynamics but she scatters some of her family recipes throughout the book, and I even tried a few of them.

One thing she mentions briefly in the book (as part of the research for the book) is that she kept track of everything she and her husband cooked for a year. I suppose she was hoping that some pattern, revelation, conclusion could emerge from all this data. So, I started, in a more biased and less anthropological way, keeping track of what Ryan and I were eating. I should say, I began keeping a list of meals that turned out well and that we liked.

Here are some of our favorites over the past few months. Let me know if you want the recipes!

– Egg noodles with white beans, arugula, tomato and goat’s cheese
– Corn Risotto (a ZoZo’s immitation)
– Asparagus, potato and leek soup
– Spaghetti with roasted tomatoes and romano cheese
– Sausage, potato and cheese frittata

What I like about this list I’ve been keeping is that it reminds me of the 11×14 sheet of paper that my mother kept on the side of our family’s refrigerator for years. The sheet was divided into sections— chicken, beef, pork, pasta— but over the years, from additions and drawing in the margins, all the columns seemed to run together until it was one big mosaic of dining options. The sheet was a matrix of sorts, a place where should could compare what she had on hand to the recipes she knew by heart. Skip the lugging out and dusting off of cookbooks.

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