Spaghetti with Zucchini Flowers

fiori-01When I came to Italy and started shopping at the outdoor markets, I saw many vegetables that I’d never eaten before. One of them was zucchini with the flowers attached. I didn’t even know that flowers were edible.

The first time I ate zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca), I was in the countryside near Perugia and my host prepared the flowers in a traditional way, stuffing them with cheese and anchovies and then breading and frying them. The second time I ate them they were made into frittelle (fritters) and again breaded and fried. They were very good each time, but very heavy.

Last week I went produce shopping and I saw mini light colored zucchini with beautiful fresh flowers attached. I love an opportunity to try something new, so I bought ten.

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When I got home I went online and looked for zucchini flower recipes. I wanted something lighter so I opted not to stuff or bread them with anything. I found a few recipes for pasta with zucchini flowers and merged the parts I liked the best about them and came up with this dish.

I used whole grain spaghetti, zucchini flowers (I saved the zucchini for later), shallots (instead of onion), peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes), fresh cherry tomatoes, white wine, basil, olive oil, and salt.

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It’s a quick recipe and I lightly sauteed the fresh ingredients and made sure to keep the pasta al dente to keep the dish feeling spring-y. There was just a hint of hot pepper which complemented it nicely. I don’t think this is a good dish to make very spicy.

The zucchini flowers have a very mild taste. They definitely don’t dominate the dish. I’m curious if making this without the tomatoes would bring out their flavor more. The tomatoes were nice to have, though, because they kept everything moist.

By the way, since I bought ten zucchini and used seven in the recipe (I was just cooking for myself), the next day I sliced some of the zucchini to make this dish again, only with the actual zucchini this time, and with the three remaining flowers. I cut one flower off of the zucchini and a huge, fat, black slimy slug oozed out onto the cutting board.

I’m so glad I didn’t reach for that particular one yesterday or I might have lost my desire to eat the other flowers.

I just realized that the slug is hiding inside one of those pretty flowers that you can see in the pictures in this post.

Now try to get that image our of your head so we can move onto the recipe!

Ingredients (for two people, multiply as needed):
14 zucchini flowers, sliced in half lengthwise
14 cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves or quarters
6 shallots, chopped (you can use less if you’re not as big of a fan as I am)
A small pinch of peperoncino
Fresh basil leaves
2 servings of whole grain spaghetti

1. Saute the shallots in olive oil with a small pinch of peperoncino (how much depends on how spicy you like it).
2. After a few minutes, add the fresh tomatoes and salt and a little white wine and raise the heat to high.
3. Lower the heat and let everything simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes start to give off juice.
4. Add the flowers and saute until they reach the desired tenderness. Add a small amount of white wine (or water) if it looks like its getting too dry.
5. While you’re doing all that, cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and toss the pasta in the pan with the sauce until evenly coated.
6. Put fresh basil leaves on top and serve immediately.

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Enjoy!

Posted in Food, Photography, Recipes | 4 Comments

Tutto italiano Audio Magazine

377A0849-2Tutto italiano is an audio and print magazine created in Italy for intermediate and advanced learners of the Italian language, and I find it to be a good tool for students to advance their language skills and increase their understanding of the country.

The bi-monthly magazine comes with a CD containing transcriptions of the major articles. It’s a good idea to listen to an article, then read along with the print version, and then listen to it again for better comprehension. The speakers speak more slowly than actual Italian newscasters on TV, but the pace will be rather fast for foreign students and will help them understand correct pronunciation and the rhythm of the language, especially when used along with the print magazine.

The articles cover a range of topics including news, politics, current events, food, travel, and the Italian language, and there are also interesting features like the article in the January-February 2015 issue about Italian last names and how they are evolving.

For people who don’t live in Italy, I find such content to be useful for learning about the actual country and what’s going on here, as opposed to studying traditional texts that approach the language from a tourist or student perspective.

I must note that this magazine is not for beginning learners of Italian. The articles are of intermediate and advanced levels, difficult enough for students but easier to follow than a regular Italian newspaper, which can be confusing.

The articles are in Italian only, providing an immersion experience, but important words and phrases are highlighted and the English equivalents are provided. The magazine doesn’t teach grammar, so I recommend it be used along with a grammar text. The cost of the magazine may not seem very low (£99 / €120 / $150 for one year, with a discount for a two-year subscription), but I think the cost is balanced out by the amount of content contained in each print and audio issue.

I could have used something like Tutto italiano when I was learning Italian in the United States before coming to Italy, when I found it difficult to find advanced-level materials. If I wanted to read texts at that level I read Italian novels or short stories, which are wonderful of course, but for those who are interested in aspects of current Italian life, the magazine has the advantage of providing pertinent information on those topics.

Here’s a little peek inside:

377A0858 377A0859 377A0864 377A0866 377A0868 377A0870 377A0873More information can be found here: http://www.languages-direct.com/tutto-italiano-italian-audio-magazine.html

Full disclosure: I wrote this article myself and the views are my own. The links in the article are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you order a subscription from them. Thank you for your support if you choose to do so.

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La Fetta di Polenta (The Slice of Polenta)

polenta-01I apologize if the title of this post made you hungry. La Fetta di Polenta (The Slice of Polenta), as it is known, is a very unusual building in Torino. Its official name is the Casa Scaccabarozzi, after Francesca Scaccabarozzi, who bought it in 1859. (She was the wife of Alessandro Antonelli, who designed the most famous landmark in Torino, the Mole Antonelliana.) The Scaccabarozzi House originally had three floors, then Francesca’s architect hubby added two more floors and an attic.

La Fetta di Polenta, as we will probably agree is a much better name, stands on the corner of Corso San Maurizio and Via Giulia di Barolo and catches the eye with its yellowish color and very thin shape (hence the likening to the famous food).

As seen from the front, the side that faces Corso San Maurizio, it’s evident that this is a very curious building. The front facade is, in fact, five meters wide.

But take a stroll up Via Giulia di Barolo around the side of the building and you will see the other end, which has a width of just seventy centimeters.

This post has gotten me thinking about making polenta, which I’ve been meaning to do. I have a lot of corn flour left over from the first and only time I made it. What’s taking me so long? Why am I not more excited to stand over the stove-top and stir continuously for at least forty-five minutes? When made right, though, it is worth it.

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polenta-07From behind the building further down the street it’s easier to see the wedge shape of the building.

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Conquering the Alps on Snowshoes

snowshoeing-01 Well the Alps were walked upon in snowshoes, if not exactly conquered, during a two-day Easter holiday in the Parco Naturale Orsiera Rocciavré, a beautiful natural park in the mountains which you may remember from my hike there last November, sans snow, which I posted about here.

The weather on Easter Sunday was white. That’s the best way to describe it, as you can see from the first photos I posted below. It took over three hours to hike up to the Selleries mountain refuge on snowshoes, and it was a surreal experience walking through the snow, while it snowed lightly, and being surrounded by white fog on all sides. It was like being in a Daffy Duck cartoon when Bugs Bunny, the mischievous animator, erases the background from the frame.

We stayed the night in the refuge after eating a delicious traditional dinner there in a cozy room warmed by a wood burning stove. They even prepared an entire vegan menu for me and another woman who was also a vegan. Everything was so tasty, the only problem was that there was so much of it and I couldn’t even finish my second course even though I really wanted to. Really, just the antipasto, or the primo, or the secondo would have been a meal for me.

Easter Monday is also a holiday in Italy and the weather had decidedly changed. There wasn’t a cloud in the dark blue sky in the morning, and we headed up to reach a mountain lake for another day of snowshoeing. Unfortunately we didn’t reach the lake (not one of the other few people who set out for the lake that morning reached it either, because the route got too difficult to cross farther back). Still, it was intense physical exercise to climb the mountain on snowshoes, and it was calming to be surrounded by nothing but fresh air and fantastic views.

The little vacation was relaxing and peaceful, and I enjoyed being one of the very few people up there on the first day, with the only things on the agenda being to climb and then rest.

Here are some photos of the landscape. The clouds that blew in later on the second day were a very dramatic touch. I saved a couple of my favorite shots to post later.

 
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snowshoeing-07  snowshoeing-08  Polenta stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes

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For the non vegans

snowshoeing-11 My primo… I do eat a lot of pasta al pomodoro if people don’t know what kind of pasta dish to make a vegan. But it was very tasty.

snowshoeing-12 The non-vegan primo

snowshoeing-13 This was out of this world… on the left is mushrooms in some kind of tomato sauce and on the right there is a cabbage dish. Everything was exquisite.

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Posted in Outdoors, Photography | Leave a comment

Blogging Again

IMG_5272Hello everyone, while you may have feared that SimplyItaliana had given up the ghost, I assure you it was just sleeping while I solved some frustrating technical problems that kept me from blogging and at the same time went through a very demanding few months.

I missed this space and I’m very happy to be back.

This post is just a little note to say I’m still here. Please enjoy these photos of my snowshoeing trip in the Alps on Easter Sunday and Monday. There will be more later! Easter was cloudy and foggy and snowy and then Easter Monday was a beautiful clear sunny day, as you can see in the photos. The sky really was that blue.

See you real soon!

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The Art of Going Into the Forest… In Lights

story-01Every November in Torino, light installations are displayed in various locations downtown, and they stay up for the Christmas season. They are created by artists and vary from blue rings of light around a church at the top of a hill to birds, textured white balls, colorful mosaics of light, and representations of the solar system floating in the night sky above the busy city streets. The installations, called Luci d’Artista (Artists’ Lights), which seek to display publicly accessible modern art, have been illuminating the streets and piazzas of Torino for seventeen years, and they are moved around the city to different locations each year.

I went downtown to run an errand and in that street, I saw this fable written in the sky. From where I stood under the first line, I could see the words stretching colorfully as far as the eye could see, getting smaller and smaller as they disappeared into the distance.

I never saw these lights before, and even though I had more errands to run, I took the time to take a pleasant walk down the street and read the story line by line. The people around me were rushing about but I felt calm as I stopped the middle of the street under each phrase (it was a pedestrian-only street) and read.

The fable is called Lui e l’arte di andare nel bosco (The Man and the Art of Going into the Forest) by Guido Quarzo. This year it is set up in Via Carlo Alberto.

Here it is. I translated each line under the photos so you can follow along if you don’t speak Italian. Please forgive any errors.

story-01The city was full of noise

story-02it was getting harder and harder

story-03to speak and to listen

story-04and then there was the silent forest

story-05but in the silence of the forest

story-06people got lost

story-07Those who couldn’t stand the noise

story-08of the city went into the forest

story-09and the silence carried them away

story-10And so there was a rumor that

story-11there was an ogre in the forest

story-12Soldiers were sent

story-13and they disappeared too

story-14When he, the crazy one, arrived in the city

story-15he found noise and long faces

story-16someone told him the story

story-17of those who disappeared in the silence

story-18and he felt a great desire

story-19to take a walk in the forest

story-20But he understood that it was necessary to study

story-21the language of the wind, of the rain

story-22of the stones, the wood, and the earth

story-23And after much studying he invented

story-24a strange stick that made

story-25a soft sound with each step

story-26 [noise words]

story-27And so the forest wasn’t

story-28so silent anymore

story-29Then the shapes of the trees and

story-30of the earth tried to trick him

story-31but he, with his pocket-knife,

story-32carved the wood and gathered stones

story-33and fastened branches and made

story-34whales ogres lady elephants

story-35The illusions of the silent forest

story-36became things one could touch

story-37and all of those who were lost

story-38began to crop up

story-39like mushrooms

story-40From that day on, all of the children

story-41wanted his noise-making sticks

story-42so they would not get lost

story-43in silence and in noise

story-44and when they asked him

story-45what name to give to his sticks

story-46he said: call them rattles*

story-47and so it was

*I’m sure this sounds better in Italian. A sonaglio is a metal object filled with small pieces that produces noise when you shake it. It can refer to a child’s rattle, the tip of a rattlesnake’s tail, or a rattling object in general. It can also mean a little bell.
Posted in Signs, Torino | 8 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving… a Day for Giving Thanks

To those of you who celebrate it, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. To those who don’t, today is a good a day as any to think about everything you are grateful for in your life. Send out a little thank you especially for the people in your lives.

If you have children or nieces or nephews, give them an extra squeeze today and tell them that they make the world a more special place. I wish I could do the same with my beautiful nieces. Give thanks for your sisters and brothers and friends and thank them for their love and laughs throughout the years. Tell your parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents how glad you are that they are around and how you appreciate what they pass down to you. I’ll be missing both my grandfathers this year, one who passed away a few days ago and the other over a year ago. But I was fortunate to have all four of my grandparents for many years.

If you are lucky enough to live close to your loved ones and see them often, think about their special qualities and the gift it is to spend time together. Abundance has nothing to do with our bank accounts or our houses full of stuff. Let’s give thanks this year for the abundance we feel with the people we love.

I am celebrating a little this year with two dear people and with one of my favorite things… food! Of course, food is the other main focus of this holiday, so that’s not surprising. Stay tuned for photos and Happy Tofurkey Day.

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Buoni Regalo per Natale – Christmas Gift Certificates

1IT: Cercate un regalo speciale ed originale da mettere sotto l’albero quest’anno? Donate un buono per un servizio fotografico ed i ricordi dei vostri cari dureranno per sempre!

EN: Are you looking for a special and original gift to put under the tree this Christmas? Give the gift of a photo shoot and your loved ones’ memories will last for a lifetime.

*Effettuo servizi a Torino e nelle zone limitrofe. / I offer photo shoot in Torino and surrounding areas.

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Posted in Baby Photography, Battesimi - Baptism Photography, Dolce Attesa - Maternity Photography, Photography, Prematrimoniale - Engagement Photography | Leave a comment

Baby Photography: Alessandro

IT: Ecco alcune foto di Alessandro, un bimbo carino e attivo di sedici mesi, scattate al Parco Valentino a Torino. Gli piaceva giocare con mamma e papà e il suo sorriso illuminava la giornata coperta.

EN: Here are a few photos of Alessandro, a cute and active sixteen-month old baby, taken in the Valentino Park in Torino. He had fun playing with Mom and Dad, and his smile brightened up the cloudy day.

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