A Post, and a recipe in the fight against Hunger…

“50 millions Americans exist without enough to eat in a nation with more than enough food.”

This is what I learned thanks to the eye-opening documentary about hunger in America, called A Place At the Table.
When Pablo was three weeks old, we realized he wasn’t gaining weight. I was breastfeeding exclusively at that point, and wasn’t producing enough milk to feed him sufficiently. When I found this out, I had this feeling of panic, guilt and overwhelming sorrow. If Pablo had been crying so often, it’s because he was hungry.  I thought, “I am a mother, and I have been starving my child.”

This terrible feeling I had, resolved in a matter of hours by supplemental formula and a reassuring pediatrician, this unbearable feeling is felt by millions of mothers and fathers on a daily basis as they face the unfathomable burden of food insecurity. They do not know where their or their kids’ next meal will come from. 1 out of 5 children, 16 million kids, struggle with hunger in America. 

Levels of food insecurity match high rates of obesity. Some children are obese and hungry because they eat nothing but chips, cookies and sodas, as those are the only “foods” their family can afford. Meanwhile, our government is massively subsidizing the huge agro-businesses producing these non-foods.

So the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest.

How can this be possible? 

I am not an activist at heart. I often feel helpless in larger causes, and feel my only way to make a difference is to try to focus on nurturing the Good around me, one person at a time.

And I suppose this post is one very small way to do that.

The challenge set by The Giving Table for Food Bloggers Against Hunger, was to present a “budget-friendly” recipe, and reflect on what I would do if I was hungry. At first, I had planned on posting a soup recipe, before realizing families on food stamps most likely do not have blenders or mixers. So I tried to come up with a nutritious meal with minimal means.

If the food stamp program gives about $4 per day per person, that meant I had 16 dollars for a family of 4, a little over $5 per meal. I went to the supermarket with my $5 budget in mind. I walked in, passed the $4.99 box of cookies, and $5.99 cheeses, and started looking for my ingredients, counting pennies. Organic was out of the question, of course. I splurged with the sardines in olive oil (vs. the less expensive ones in soybean oil). Buying dill was a downright luxury. The lemon, I got from my neighbor’s tree to stay within budget.

Bottom line is, I’m humbled and I take a lot for granted. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to live like this, day in and day out. I can’t imagine not feeding Pablo any fruits and vegetables.

I have been sharing with you here my journey nurturing my son. I am always in awe of potential. Of how much is possible, if we can nurture our children and help them grow a healthy body and mind. Like a gardener feeling a profound need to nourish his seedling, to create all the right conditions for it to grow, to protect it.

This potential is being destroyed, malnourished, starved, for millions of children, with devastating mental and physical consequences. Today. Right here. Millions of futures are stunted.

If you feel strongly about it, here are some things you can do:

– Get informed, starting with the Share Our Strength website.
– Go to this link and take 30 seconds to send a letter to Congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation.
– See this documentary either in theaters in your city, or on demand through iTunes or Amazon.

And on a personal level, let us continue to promote the family meal and the use of real food by supporting local organizations focusing on education about real food, by talking about it around us in the community, by finding out where our food comes from and boycotting processed junk foods if possible, and by cooking at home and appreciating the immense value of real food. Let us revive the lost of art of homemade family cooking, of gardening one’s own foods, within our family, our circles.

And let us be grateful for the access to those real foods and the ability to have a place at the table.

Sardines two ways

Inspired by “Sardines en boîte, les 30 recettes cultes” by Garlone Bardel

Note: This is two separate meals, feeding 3-4 people each.

Age for babies: 8-12 months

Grilled sardines with onion, garlic and lemon


1 can of sardines in olive oil
1/4 small onion
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 potatoes
1/2 cup peas
2 slices of wheat bread

Quarter the potatoes, place them in cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Open the can of sardines, and pour 1/2 of the oil into a frying pan.

Dice the onion, slice the garlic. Slide the slices of garlic between the sardine fillets in the can. Add the onion on top. Drizzle the juice over it, and place the can in the broiler for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the peas and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Remove the peas, reserve the oil. Place bread slices in the frying pan and toast/fry with the little bit of leftover oil.

In a plate, mash the peas with a fork. Spread on the fried bread.

Serve the grilled sardines with half a mashed peas toast and a couple of pieces of potato.



Sardine, cottage cheese & pea tartine


1 can of sardines in olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cottage cheese
4 slices wheat bread
1 tbsp diced onion
1/4 cucumber, diced
2 sprigs of dill

Open the can of sardines, drain and reserve the oil.

In a frying pan, heat a bit of the oil over medium heat, add the peas and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Place the peas on a plate. With the remaining oil, fry the bread slices over medium-high heat until just brown on one side (one at a time, adding a bit of oil every time, if frying pan is small).

In a bowl, mash the sardines, peas and cottage cheese together with a fork. Stir in the onion.

Spread the mixture over the bread, add a few pieces of cucumber and a bit of dill for garnish on top.

Three great French recipes

For this guest-post, I wanted to share three recipes for a French meal – appetizer, main course and dessert. The dessert is a little more elaborate than a typical school night meal, but it is so delicious and summery I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. So here’s your menu, if you choose accept this little challenge of eating like the French for a meal
Cold Sorrel Cucumber Soup

Cooking time: This is fairly quickly made, 10-15 minutes, but does need to chill for a few hours. You can make it the day before or a few hours ahead.

4 slices of bread, crusts removed
1 bulb of fennel, stalks removed, bulb sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
A large handful of sorrel leaves
1/4 green bell pepper, cored, seeds removed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 cup of cold water + some to soak the bread
1 1/2 tsp salt

Soak the bread in cold water.

Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables.

Drain and squeeze the water out of the soaking bread. Place wet bread in a blender.

Add the fennel and some of the cold water and blend on high until liquefied.

Add the cucumber, sorrel, bell pepper, cumin, vinegar, olive oil, salt and rest of water, blend on high until very smooth.

Place the blender pitcher, covered, in the fridge for a couple of hours at least, until chilled.

When ready to serve, blend it one more time for a few seconds, and pour in bowls.

 Veal Blanquette

Adapted from At Home with French Classics by Richard Grausman, as well as my mother’s recipe.

Cooking time: Ok, I’ll admit this is a bit involved. You should count about 90 minutes to complete this dish, with some downtime while it cooks. But it is well worth it and is even better the next day!


3 pounds of veal shoulder, cut into bite-size cubes
1 onion, studded with 2 cloves
1 large carrot
2 leeks, washed
1 turnip
2 stalks of celery
3/4 lb mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 Bouquet Garni: 1/2 stalk of celery, 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 4-5 sprigs of Italian parsley
25 – 30 pearl onions (the easiest is to buy them frozen if you can find them. Otherwise, peel, trim the root end but the onions must stay whole)
2 1/2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups (dry) of rice of your choice

Place the veal in a large casserole or Dutch oven and pour 8 cups of cold water over it. Bring to a boil, skimming the foam from the surface frequently.

Meanwhile prepare the bouquet garni: take a piece of celery stalk, cut it in half lengthwise. Place 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme in the hollow of the stalk, cover with 1 bay leaf and 4 or 5 sprigs of Italian parsley. Cover with the other half of the stalk and tie together with kitchen twine (see photo above).

As soon as the water with the veal boils, add the studded onion, the carrot, leeks, turnip, celery and the bouquet garni (all the vegetables go in whole, as they are not meant to stay in the dish, but to give the stock flavor). Reduce the heat* to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

(*It is important not to let it boil very strongly, or the broth will evaporate and you will not have enough to make the sauce and cook the rice.)

Add the pearl onions (if they’re frozen, just run some cold water over them first) and simmer (still covered) on low for another 35 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Drain the meat and vegetables, reserving the stock. Put the veal, pearl onions and mushrooms in a large saucepan. Discard the bouquet garni.

The remaining vegetables (leeks, celery, turnip, carrot, half of the onion) are typically discarded, but I find that to be a shame. If you have a baby, toddler or young child, mixing all those veggies makes for a very tasty soft puree with lots of vegetables. You can mix in a food processor and place in 2 oz container (or ice-cube tray), and freeze if needed.

Cook the rice in a saucepan or rice cooker, using 2 cups of the stock and 2 cups of water.

Reduce the remaining stock by boiling over high heat (uncovered), until you have about 3 cups left.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture (called a roux) is pale yellow and frothy, 30 to 40 seconds. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reduced veal stock, and whisk until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil, 2 or 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and add salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously for 10 seconds. Simmer gently, whisking from time to time, until the sauce is the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Skim off any butter at the surface.

Reduce the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved veal stock over high heat, until only a few teaspoons remain, and whisk that into the sauce. Remove the sauce from heat.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks and cream together, and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of the warm sauce. Then whisk the egg/cream mixture back into the rest of the sauce. Return to the heat, bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and pour it over the veal, mushrooms and pearl onions, coating them with the sauce.

Serve a portion of rice, with the veal and sauce mixture on top, spoon over some extra sauce. Bon appétit!



Notes:
1. This keeps very well and is known to taste even better the next day. You could even make it (the veal, not so much the rice) a day prior to serving it. Just let cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a boiling water bath: by placing the veal in a bowl, and placing that bowl in a larger pan with boiling water over low heat. Stir gently and reheat for about 15-20 minutes.
2. I highly recommend finding veal shoulder, and not settling for veal “stew meat” or other cuts you might find. Shoulder meat is very tender and perfect for this dish, otherwise, the meat might be somewhat chewy.

Cheese

Serve cheese as the French do, towards the end of the meal, with a simple green salad with vinaigrette (1 part vinegar, 3 part oil, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper), to help digest.


Peach Gratin Soufflé

Adapted from Cuisine Actuelle.fr

Cooking time: This takes about 30 minutes total to make, but I swear, it is like a warm cloud of summer in your mouth!

4 ripe peaches
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of cream of tartar

In a saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk cream. Toss in the bean as well. Bring to a light boil, remove from heat and cover, letting the vanilla infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

Meanwhile, peel the peaches, take out the stone and quarter them. Butter a baking dish.
Place the peaches in the dish.

Separate the yolks from the white.

In a large bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar, add the flour. Then add the milk/cream/vanilla mixture, whisking well. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. It will thicken into a cream consistency. Remove from heat and let the cream cool completely.

(The recipe can be prepared to this point a few hours in advance. Then you just have about 10-15 minutes of prep/cook time before serving. In a French meal, I would start doing this last part while the guests are eating the salad and cheese, chatting and digesting…)

Preheat the broiler at 500°F.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until they form peaks. Incorporate gently into the cream, “folding it in” (don’t stir) with a rubber spatula.

Cover the peaches with this mixture. Place in the broiler (in the middle of the oven) for about 5-7 minutes, until golden on top.

Take out of the oven and let it cool down to warm.

Serve warm in bowls with a spoon. (If you have leftovers, you can refrigerate and serve chilled.)

Herb pasta recipe

I am happy to report I stuck to this project long enough to make it to post 100! For this post I am going to give you a super simple pasta dish, but mostly I want to thank some of the people that have inspired me in this journey with their blog, their comments and their support. Read the post to the end and grab your well deserved awards!

Herb pasta

Ingredients

  • pasta (your favorite kind)
  • EVOO
  • herbs (your favorites: I used sage, thyme, rosemary and chili flakes)
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. For the pasta I just cooked pasta and tossed it with olive oil and herbs. Pasta was just boiled in salted water according to instructions, for the “sauce” I mixed in a bowl enough olive oil to toss pasta in, rosemary, thyme, sage, and a tiny bit of chili flakes. I put the bowl in the microwave for about 30 sec to warm up the oil and extract the flavor from the herbs and then tossed my pasta with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
  2. It is usually my go to dish when I am home alone for lunch and I’ve been working so hard I suddenly realize I am starving and have to eat something right now!

Risotto alla scomorza recipe

As you know at this point I am on vacation somewhere in South East Asia, actually if everything goes according to plan I should be in Bangkok.

So today I present you a guest post from one of the first blogger I started following regularly: Manu from Manu’s Menu. I found Manu’s blog early on my blogging days: I was looking at pics for pasta carbonara to get inspiration for one of my first pic and her photo immediately captured my attention. I followed the link and I discovered her wonderful blog.

As I started following her blog regularly I discovered she was also Italian and living far away from home. I also discovered how warm and supportive she is. She has been one of my early supporters and has always been encouraging and helpful leaving me more nice comments than I can count!

And, of course, I love her recipes: how could I not love them? I especially love how she is recreating hard to find Italian dishes like focaccia, piadina, panini al latte and il panzerotto di luini (!!!) at home! I just wish I had her patience and her gift for photography.

Without further ado I give you MANU!!!

I was so thrilled when Pola asked me to write a post for her!  Why?!  Well, because I love her site.  We have many things in common: we are both Italians living abroad and trying (hard) to maintain our Italian culinary traditions in places where we cannot always find all the ingredients we have grown up using and eating.  It can be hard at times, but we also discover other cuisines along the way, which is great!  Anyhow, this time I decided to keep up our Italian tradition and prepare one of my favourite Italian dishes for her: risotto.  I found an authentic scamorza affumicata (smoked scamorza cheese) at the Italian store and I could not resist it.  I love this lightly smoky cheese, especially melted on pizza, in a sandwich and in… risotto.  Before I leave you to the recipe I want to THANK Pola for giving me the opportunity to be a guest over at her beautiful site and for being such a supportive and lovely fellow foodie and friend!  Enjoy!

Ingredients

    • 350 gms rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone nano)
    • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 glass white wine
    • 1 lt stock (preferably chicken or vegetable stock)
    • 180 gms smoked scamorza cheese, cubed
    • 30 gms butter
    • 50 gms Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
    • Salt to taste
    • Pepper and more Parmigiano Reggiano finely grated to serve

Directions

    1. Start by putting the stock in a pot and heat it on the fire. The stock has to be hot all the time while you are cooking risotto, so that the rice temperature does not drop when you add the stock to it.
    2. Put the finely chopped onion and the extra virgin olive oil in a pot and let it cook on a slow fire, until the onion becomes soft and transparent.

    1. Add the rice, mix well and let it cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until it becomes translucent.

    1. Now pour in the white wine and let the alcohol burn off by cooking on a high flame.

    1. Then add enough stock to cover the rice and turn the fire to medium-low.

    1. Keep cooking, occasionally stirring the rice and adding stock little by little, until the rice is cooked. It is going to take approximately 18 to 20 minutes depending on the rice you are using.
    2. When the rice is ready, put the fire off and add the chopped smoked scamorza, butter and Parmigiano Reggiano to it.

    1. Mix very well, until the cheese melts and the rice becomes creamy. Make sure that your risotto is moist (or, as we say, all’onda – which literally means wavy) and not sticky. You can do that by adding 1 or 2 extra tbsp of stock if needed. Check for salt and season to your liking.
    2. Serve with some more grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper on the top.

NOTE

  1. Whenever you cook risotto, do not wash the rice before cooking. The starch is needed for the risotto to become creamy.

Easy Japanese Potato Salad

Today, I should be somewhere between Cambodia and Thailand in a natural park where I will hopefully see elephants and other animals as well as beautiful waterfalls and vegetation.

And today I present you Nami from Just One Cookbook. I love Nami’s blog. All her recipes look and sound incredibly tasty! She presents mainly typical Japanese dishes and breaks them down perfectly, so that you have the impression it is easy to achieve her level of perfection, but I am sure it takes her talent to make such good dishes look so good.

For today Nami chose to prepare Japanese Potato salad, which is coincidentally one of my favorite Japanese dishes. I had no idea what made Japanese potato salad that creamy and now I know!

Japanese Potato Salad

Hello everyone!  I was so honored when Paola asked me to guest blog on An Italian Cooking in the Midwest!

I’ve mentioned in this post on my blog how much the Japanese love Italian food.  I’m no exception.  I truly adore Italian food and I can eat it every single day!  I was very happy that I found Paola’s blog so that I can learn authentic Italian recipes! There is nothing better than learning real Italian food from a native Italian right?!  While visiting each other’s blog, I learned that Paola likes Japanese food.  So today I’m excited to share one of my favorite home cooked recipes: Japanese Potato Salad.

What is Japanese Potato Salad?  The main difference between Japanese and American potato salad is that Japanese potato salad always use mash potatoes. The rest of ingredients include ham, cucumber, carrot, egg, and sometimes corn or thinly sliced onion. It requires Japanese mayonnaise which is made with egg yolks instead of whole eggs, and apple cider (or rice) vinegar instead of distilled vinegar.  Over all it is creamier in both color and texture and the potato salad is very mild and creamy.

I hope you will also enjoy Japanese version of Potato Salad.  Paola, thank you so much for having me over at your blog!

Enjoy!!!