Highlights of Summer 2019

It's that time of year again -- Summer, my very favorite season, is drawing to a close, evidenced by shorter days, once again crowded subways (filled with my fellow commuters fresh from vacation) and temperatures that are pleasant rather than unbearable. I tend to feel a bit melancholy in late August -- vestiges of that sort of back-to-school feeling that has never left me, even though I haven't been a student in ages? -- and I annually lament the loss of sunshine, sundresses, and watermelon season.

(You "Fall" people with your love of sweaters and boots and scarves and autumn leaves have always befuddled me, by the way). 

But Summer 2019 and I had a good run! We traveled, we ate spectacularly, and we cooked; we saw friends, and family, and spent time near the sea and ocean, and ate lots of ice cream, too. Here are the highlights for you, and my salute to the best season of them all. Until next year!

Long Weekend in Procida

Procida is a small island off of Naples, one that is delightfully  accessible (1 hour train ride from Rome-Naples, and a 40 minute ferry ride, and that's it!) and incredibly beautiful. It seems to be overshadowed by the showier, more famous Ischia and Capri, and is all the better for it; Procida was peaceful, calm, and with few tourists (at least in mid-July). The island was picturesque and could be crossed in half an hour on foot; the beach was a dazzling five minute walk from where we were staying; the views were gorgeous, with lots of clear blue water and sky and colorful buildings and tiny boats; the food was delicious, the people were generous, and overall it was a perfect couple of days. One of the highlights? Befriending a family of Neapolitans sitting next to us at the beach, who were all curious about our lack of tans ("Why did you come to Procida if you want to stay out of the sun?! Tell everyone you went to the mountains instead, ok?") our vegan travel companion ("A life without mozzarella di bufala is a like a life without oxygen") and then fed us lunch, parmigiana di melanzane made the Neapolitan way, with two different kinds of meat (vegans be damned) and tomatoes and eggplant picked from their garden that morning. Ahh, Italy. Icing on the cake: We stopped in Naples for lunch on the way back to Rome, and ate our weight in perfect, Neapolitan pizza.


Class with Carla

I've said it before -- hereherehere and here -- and I'll say it again: there is nothing I enjoy more than spending time at Latteria Studio with Carla Tomasi (vegetable whisperer, preserver, teacher, cat guardian, and all around know-it-all, in the best of ways). Latteria offers Market-To-Table classes, a lovely experience where participants are taken to a local market to buy fresh ingredients to cook with. I was lucky enough to help Carla with one of these classes in July, where I took a wonderful group to a small market in Monteverde to stock up on all sorts of fantastic cheese and produce and herbs to go on to make an impressive menu, or rather: fried zucchini flowers and sage leaves; homemade focaccia (zucchini flour + anchovy, tomato + oregano); caponata; borlotti beans with mint and vinegar; rice-stuffed tomatoes with roast potatoes; gnocchetti sardi with a fresh tomato sauce; a riff on tiramisu, with cherries; and cannoli. It was all fantastic, summer-y and so much fun. See for yourself!

Maccheroni, Trofie, Fusilli 

As you may recall from this post last month, Julia Ficara is 1/2 of the marvelous cooking school that is Grano & Farina; she is a sfoglinaor expert pasta-maker, one who works without the use of a machine but rather with a rolling pin, producing fresh pasta equal to that of any Italian nonna. In continuing with my pasta quest, I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to learn how to make trofie -- squiggly, cheerful pasta typically paired with basil pesto -- plus spiraled fusilli and long, hollow maccheroni. The trofie were tricky; the fastest way is to make them is by rolling them in two deft motions with your hand, one forwards to roll the pasta into a small log, and then back to create the squiggled sort of shape (you can see a video of Julia demonstrating how to do this here). The easier way to make them is by using a bench cutter, though it isn't quite as fast, and I started with this. With Julia's careful guidance (bench cutter out straight in front of you like you're reading a book! now drag it down towards me!) I made enough progress. The maccheroni and fusilli -- formed with long iron rods, one very thin (maccheroni) and one fatter (fusilli) were a little easier but still require some practice, a question of deftness and sureness of movement and of applying the correct amount of pressure to get the pasta to the right width and keep it from sticking to the rods.  I still need a bit of practice, but expect to see these shapes in the Pasta Series soon! Bonus: we conducted the lesson on Julia and Pino's lovely terrace, and then had a fantastic dinner of trofie afterwards.

Dinner at Osteria Fernanda 

Hold the press: I've found a new favorite restaurant, one that I will recommend wholeheartedly when friends or friends of friends come in to town, a place I will surely be dining often. It's called Osteria Fernanda -- just around the corner from Latteria Studio, turns out -- and it was one of the best, most exciting meals I've had in Rome, perfect if you're looking for something a little special and different. We went for the five course tasting menu, and feasted on a very creative amuse bouche (example: a seaweed "cannolo" filled with raw fish and yazu) a dish with fresh sardines and citrus, a secondo of roast pork with a red pepper sauce, and peanut ice cream with ginseng, vermouth and popcorn. The best course? A simple dish of bucatini all'amatriciana -- my very favorite way to eat pasta! -- made to perfection, with a lightly spicy tomato sauce, crisp guanciale, and just the right amount of Pecorino cheese. Bonus: Homemade bread with the very best French butter.

Trip to Rhode Island 

As per summer tradition, I traveled -- along with an overweight suitcase full of cheese, olive oil, and other gifts -- to my home state of Rhode Island for two weeks. It was a whirlwind of friends, family, and food; I went to Boston, and Newport, and Providence, and Block Island; I met up with my childhood friend who I hadn't seen in 3 (!!!) years and who had since had a baby, and spent the day catching up with my best friend Kelly; I taught my mom how to make gnocchetti sardi, spent lots of time with my Dad (include a visit to his office, see below), had a whole week with my brother who flew in from D.C, and saw my aunt and grandmother. I taught my Nonna Ada how to make a few new pasta shapes (I know! I'm obsessed) and even my brother helped out. I made very American pancakes, and homemade ice cream, and as if that wasn't enough, visited the ice cream shop I went to as a child (pure nostalgia!) and ate vanilla soft serve with sprinkles. We indulged in a box or two of freshly made donuts, discovered an excellent Syrian restaurant opened just a few months ago by refugees, and overall spent a good stretch of time together, my brother and sister and parents, which is rare and always special (the 6th member of our group, my sister-in-law, had to work. Boo!) Photos below!

Big news! I'll be taking the month of September off -- gasp! -- a first in P&B history. This will be to recharge my batteries somewhat, but also focus on changes I've been wanting to make to the blog for a while. Stay tuned! I'll be back with more recipes in October -- in the meantime, I'll be keeping the blog's Instagram and Facebook page updated. Have a good start to the Fall everyone!

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