Blueberry Crumble Pie

If you ask anyone what the best things about Summer are, you're likely to hear things like: longer days! the sunshine and warm weather! whole days at the beach/pool! shorts and sandals! ice cream cones and lemonade! All acceptable answers, of course. I love these things too. If you're talking to a foodie/food blogger, however, you're likely to get different answers, things like: zucchini and corn! strawberries and cherries! basil and tomatoes! watermelon and blueberries! Indeed, summer is a season where so many fantastic ingredients are at their very best, making it a wonderful few months to cook in (not to mention it's just the time of year for barbecues, picnics, and dinners outside). 

But back to that last one, blueberries! Nothing quite says Summer like blueberries, eaten plain by the handful, used in berry shortcakes, or baked into cobblers, crisps, and, my very favorite option, pies. This Blueberry Crumble Pie is the very pinnacle of Summer pie perfection -- here we have a sweet juicy blueberry filling balanced out with a bit of citrus, poured into a buttery, flaky crust and topped off with a spicy sweet cinnamon crumble. A note on this crumble: not only is it delicious, it's also far easier than your usual lattice pie crust -- no need to roll out and cut and position dough on the pie, just combine your ingredients and crumble (hence the name) them over the top. This recipe would be perfect for any Fourth of July celebration you've been invited to this weekend, likely to overshadow any fireworks that are planned. Really.

A couple of notes: You could easily use a mix of raspberries and blueberries in this pie (served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, you have a red, white, and blue theme perfect for the Fourth). The pie crust dough can be made up to two days ahead, and refrigerated wrapped in plastic wrap. You could probably use a store-bought pie crust here if you wanted to make things easier, but I always use the recipe below. The original recipe said that the pie would take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to bake, but I found mine was done in less than an hour -- every oven varies. I found that the crumble browned way too quickly (as you can see in the photos) so if this happens to you, just cover the pie with some aluminum foil. This pie should be allowed to sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving to allow it to set -- you can make it up to 8 hours ahead and leave it to sit at room temperature. Enjoy!

BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE PIE

Crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for surface
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
5 cups (about 26 ounces) fresh blueberries
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

    For the crumble:
    3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

    Freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

For the crust: Pulse 1 1/4 cups flour, butter, and salt in a food processor until mixture resembles sand. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Pulse until the dough starts to come together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, use the heel of your hand to smear each portion of dough twice in a forward motion to distribute butter. Gather all 4 dough pieces into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill dough until firm, at least 1 hour. 

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13" round. Transfer to pie dish, pressing the dough onto bottom and up sides of dish. Fold overhang under and crimp edges decoratively. Pierce bottom of crust in several places with a fork, then chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with foil and place on a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375°F. Line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and pie weights. Bake until crust is pale golden, about 12 minutes longer. Transfer crust to a wire rack; let cool.

For the filling: Whisk 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add blueberries and lemon juice; toss gently to coat and evenly distribute. Let filling stand, tossing occasionally, until berries release their juices, 20-30 minutes. 



For the topping: Whisk flour, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Add melted butter; mix topping with fingertips to blend. 

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spoon the filling into the crust.


Sprinkle the crumble over the pie. Bake the pie until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cover the pie with aluminum foil after 30 minutes if browning too fast. 

Let pie cool on a wire rack. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired. Serves 8-10.  

Recipe from www.epicurious.com



Where to Get the Best Sandwiches in Rome

Along with gelato, pizza, and pasta, one of my favorite things to eat in Rome are sandwiches, or rather panini. I know, I know -- "sandwich" is not really what first jumps to mind when one thinks of Italian cuisine or Rome in general. That being said, it's sometimes nice to take a break from the carbonara and set aside my usual margherita in favor of a sandwich, which can be a real work of art, when done well. After all, a really good sandwich is much more than a matter of putting a few ingredients between two slices of bread. For me, the filling ingredients must be fresh and meld together well, the bread must be flavorful and fresh with a soft interior and a crunchy exterior, and the bread to filling ratio is equally important (no one wants a sandwich that is all bread, good as the bread may be!) Creative sandwiches get extra bonus points in my book, too.

Side note: at a certain point during the research of this post - on perhaps my 5th sandwich in just a couple of days -- I turned to my sister and declared "I think I might turn into a panino soon." If I'm typing this, you know that my fingers haven't turned into bread or slices of prosciutto (phew) but it was a close call. So, without further ado here is a list of places in the Eternal City that guarantee you a delectable panino (to be edited and added to as my sandwich adventures continue).


Mordi e Vai

I'm starting with Mordi e Vai because their sandwiches are perhaps the very best I have ever eaten, anywhere. The ever present long line in front of the Mordi e Vai stand at the Testaccio Market makes me think I'm not the only one who feels this way (you have to take a number in order to be served, but don't worry, the wait is never long). Mordi e Vai stands out for their use of typically Roman ingredients and recipes in their sandwich filings, like: trippa (tripe), carciofi alla romana (artichokes with parlsey, white wine, and garlic) and picchiapo', (spicy braised beef with carrots, celery, and onions) as well as the typically Roman vegetable, cicoria. They also make sandwiches that echo classic Roman pastas, like veal in a creamy cacio e pepe sauce with zucchini flowers or my personal favorite, the scottona all'amatriciana, braised beef in tomato sauce with guanciale, all finished off with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese. These sandwiches can be slightly messy (but deliciously so) so remember to have a few napkins handy. Yummm. Below: panino with scottona all'amatriciana; panino with allesso e cicoria, or braised beef and chicory. 
Address: Nuovo Mercato Comunale di Testaccio, Via Beniamino Franklin, 12/Ea or Via Appia Nuova 22 (new location).
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8am-3pm


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

  

 

Panino Divino

Run by a husband and wife team, Panino Divino is a tiny little sandwich place not far from St. Peters, a great lunch option if you want to avoid mediocre food and tourist traps. These are not sandwiches for the faint of heart -- these are serious sandwiches, with fillings stacked high, so large that you can easily save the other half for later (this is what I usually do anyways). The porchetta sandwich here is my usual choice (pictured above as the main photo for this post) but you'll also find other great options like prosciutto with scamorza and sun-dried tomatoes, mortadella with balsamic vinegar and parmesan, and salame, grilled veggies, and caciotta cheese. Don't eat meat? No worries! Panino Divino also provides extensive options for vegetarians (grilled eggplant and zucchini, with pesto and Emmenthaler cheese, for example). Added bonus: Panino Divino also makes taglieri or selections of sliced meats and cheeses, and also offers wine by the glass to round out your meal. Below: the counter at Panino Divino; me and my sandwich getting photo bombed by St. Peter's.
Address: Via dei Gracchi 11
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10am-9pm



 

Trapizzino

A cross between a tramezzino (an Italian sandwich served on white bread) and pizza, the trapizzino and consists of a triangle of soft, freshly baked bread that can be stuffed with various fillings, including meatballs, chicken alla cacciatora, and braised beef. My very favorite here is the parmigiana, or eggplant cooked with basil, tomato, and cheese. In addition to trapizzini, Trapizzino also offers fantastic suppli' (a fried rice ball) in various flavors. Do note that Trapizzino has limited seating room -- just a few small tables -- so be prepared to take away if need be. Below: me with our trapizzini; a better shot of the trapizzini, one alla parmigiana and the other pollo alla cacciatora (slow cooked chicken with herbs and balsamic vinegar).
Address: Via Giovanni Branca 88 or Piazzale di Ponte Milvio 13
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 12pm-1am


Baguetteria del Fico

If baguettes aren't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think sandwiches in Italy, think again -- this little sandwich shop makes spectacular baguette sandwiches. Here you can choose from a variety of sandwiches already designed for you on the menu (speck, gorgonzola, radicchio, and walnut cream! roast beef, mushroom, and caciocavallo! jamon serrano, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes!) or you can create your own sandwich. You can also choose between a classic or whole grain baguette. In addition to sandwiches, the Baguetteria also offers excellent taglieri (i.e an assortment of different cheeses and meats) a wide beer selection, and a selection of made-in-house desserts (cherry crostata and chocolate cake, to name just two). Added bonus: the Baguetteria is right near Piazza Navona, making it a great place to eat if you want to avoid falling into a tourist trap for lunch. Below: The Baguetteria; my sandwich with turkey, brie, walnuts, and lettuce on a whole grain baguette (yum).
Address: Via di Parione 34
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11am-12am



Zia Rosetta

As the name suggests, Zia Rosetta makes all their sandwiches on rosetta bread, or rather a kind of chewy white bread with a segments resembling a rose (photos below). This little hole in the wall shop makes a variety of creative sandwiches, from smoked salmon, arugula, and ricotta (called the Marion -- my personal favorite) to chicken salad with curry and apples to one with bresaola, strawberries, and a balsamic reduction. You can also order mini sandwiches on mini rosette, perfect if you want to sample more than one kind. There are lots of vegetarian options on the menu (my favorite has hummus, avocado, and tomatoes) as well as specials of the day (most recently prosciutto and fig, and meatballs with cicoria). In addition to sandwiches, Zia Rosetta also makes great salads and centrifughe, or rather drinks made with all different fruit and vegetable juices (kind of like a smoothie). Added bonus: Zia Rosetta is located in the artsy, hipster neighborhood of Monti that is also worth exploring (not far from the Colosseum). Below: Le Petite Lisette sandwich, with mozzarella, eggplant, pesto, and tomatoes; the Marion sandwich; tiny sandwiches; the inside of Zia Rosetta.
Address: Via Urbana 54
Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 11am-3:30pm; 6pm-9pm. Saturday and Sunday: 9am-9pm.

 

 

Paninoteca Orfeo - Il Re della Notte 

Open from lunch to the very early hours of the morning, Paninoteca Orfeo is the go to place for a late night sandwich craving. Here there is no set menu, but rather a variety of ingredients to pick and choose from to design your own sandwich. Select your main filling (chicken, turkey, bacon and egg, or beef, for example) and any other toppings you'd like (artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, chicory, zucchini, olives, roasted potatoes, spinach, mozzarella cheese, and different sauces like BBQ, ketchup, mayo, Tabasco, or mustard are just a few of your options). The Paninoteca also offers delectable, addictive fries to keep you sandwich company. Not in the mood for a sandwich? Paninoteca Orfeo also makes various pastas, and Nutella crepes if you're craving something sweet. Added bonus: The Paninoteca Orfeos located in Via Oderisi and Via Tiburtina also deliver right to your doorstep (www.justeat.it).  Below: My phone died right before I arrived at the Paninoteca (whoops) so here are some photos courtesy of Paninoteca Orfeo -- the sandwich filling selection, plus two of their sandwiches.
Address: Via Oderisi de Giubbio 141, Via Tiburtina 190, Via P. Togliatti 903  
Hours: Via Oderisi and Via Tiburtina: Monday-Thursday, 12pm-4:30pm, 6:30pm-5:30am. Friday-Sunday, 6:30pm-5:30am. Via P. Togliatti: Monday-Sunday 12:00-14:30, 19:30-23:30.

 

Da Simo...Pane e Vino

Like Mordi e Vai, Da Simo specializes in sandwiches made with typically Roman ingredients/inspired by typically Roman dishes, like trippa (tripe), cicoria (chicory), carciofi (artichokes), and amatriciana. Roman touches aside, they also offer other fillings like pollo con peperoni (chicken with peppers,) polpette (meatballs,) spezzatino di vitella (veal) and caponata (eggplant, tomatoes). My absolute favorite here however is the coda alla vaccinara (braised oxtail) sandwich. If you've never tried oxtail, it tastes just like beef, and when braised and cooked with tomatoes, celery, and carrots and served on a toasty roll, it's pure panino perfection. Note that you can choose between a small or large sandwich, depending on how big your appetite is that day. Below: The shop from the outside; 1/2 of my sandwich with coda alla vaccinara. 
Address: Via di Parione 34
Hours: Every day, 11am to 11pm


Duecento Gradi

If you've been living in Rome long enough it's likely you've heard of this one, and if you're traveling to Rome you've read probably already read about it in your guidebook -- Duecento gradi is quite well known by now. Located right near the Vatican, this sandwich shop has something for everyone, offering over 60 types of creative sandwiches with a variety of ingredients, as well as the option of creating your very own sandwich. My usual order is the Monti sandwich, with prosciutto, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil cream. Now, though I'd always had good experiences with Duecento in the past, I haven't had great luck recently. The quality of ingredients seem to have gone down, and the sandwich filling has been skimpy. When I went for lunch last week, my Monti sandwich had a very thin slice of prosciutto, and the whole thing was mostly bread (not what you expect after paying 8 euros -- though the bread was pretty delicious). When I asked the waitress if it would be possible to put another slice or two of prosciutto in the sandwich, she left, asked the manager, then returned and said no, that wouldn't be possible. Hmmm. It could be that Duecento Gradi is going through an off period (pressure from high season?) or that their success and popularity has led to a drop in quality (this happens all the time in Roman restaurants). Seeing as how Duecento has a good reputation and has been a solid choice in the past, I wanted to cover it on the list -- but do note that I recommend it tentatively. Maybe you'll have better luck than me! Below: my most recent Monti Sandwich.
Address: Piazza del Risorgimento 3
Hours: Every day, 11am to 2am


Hope this list was helpful! Feel free to leave any other suggestions for panini places worth trying in the comments suggestion. Buon appetito!

Avocado Basil Dip

I've never been much of a sports person. When I was growing up, I was bored to tears on a weekly basis as my brother and parents gathered around the TV on Sundays to watch "the game,"i.e the Patriots playing football, the Red Sox playing baseball, or the Celtics playing basketball. The family television was occupied for what seemed like forever -- especially those baseball games -- and I remember watching as everyone else reacted to the events on the screen with either cheers or groans of disappointment (this was my only indication of what was happening, as I've never understood all the rules of sports anyways). I entertained myself in various ways, looking for the best looking players on the team, deciding which team had the better uniforms, and, best of all, enjoying the game-watching-snacks my mom would make. We had onion dip with potato chips, honey barbecue chicken wings, and spicy chili, just to name a few. If we were lucky, my mom would prepare the ever-so-popular bean dip, made with beans (obviously,) sour cream, and three types of cheeses, all layered and baked in the oven and served with tortilla chips. It was not at all light, healthy, or classy -- but it was delicious in all its cheesy, greasy glory, and hey, everything in moderation, right? 

I'm a grown up now,  which means I no longer live at home and no longer have to watch sports on television -- nope, I don't even follow soccer here in Italy -- and I must say, my taste in snacks has grown up too. Today's recipe for Avocado Basil Dip is worlds away from my childhood bean dip, slightly more sophisticated and fresh and flavorful, made with creamy avocado, tangy yogurt, spicy garlic, tart lemon, and herb-y basil, topped off with a sprinkling of toasty pine nuts. It's kind of a cross between guacamole and pesto, and with the yogurt replacing the sour cream/mayo usually found in dips, it is actually quite good for you (hurray!) And if this weren't good enough, it is beyond easy to make -- one of those recipes perfect for the "I don't cook" crowd -- just a matter of putting everything into a food processor and pressing the "On" button. And there's more -- this dip requires no cooking, making it perfect for summer.

A couple of notes: Though this dip contains avocado, I found it does not turn dark green (like guacamole does) after half an hour or so of being out -- the lemon juice preserves the nice light green color.  Besides carrots, this is great served with celery, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, or quickly cooked string beans and asparagus. Finally, while most of you will enjoy this dip as a snack or light appetizer, I predict that by August I will be eating it as a meal accompanied by raw veggies, because as I've learned, anything above room temperature requiring even minimal heat is asking a lot during a Roman summer. If the weather is unbearable where you are, remember that dip for dinner is perfectly acceptable. Enjoy everyone!

AVOCADO BASIL DIP

Ingredients:
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pit removed
1 cup (8 ounces) plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup basil leaves, packed
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil 
A good pinch of salt
A few grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Crackers, pita chips, or veggies for serving

Directions:
Put all ingredients (except the pine nuts) in the bowl of a food processor. 

Blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper, or more lemon juice or basil if you want. Blend again. 

Place the dip in a serving bowl and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve with raw veggies, crackers, or pita chips. Serves 4 (or 2, if you're me and my sister).