So here it is October already and if I were a good little food blogger, this post would involve a pumpkin. Ideally, something that could be called Decadent Pumpkin Fill-in-the-Blank. (Ok, brief aside…did pumpkin marketing frenzy start with those Starbucks drinks or what? It’s too much.)
There will be things pumpkiny and squashy soon (It is fall. Oh, well). But I returned less than a week ago from traveling in Italy and that’s pretty much all I can think about. I spent two whole weeks(!!) there, not an epic amount of time, but enough that I felt totally immersed. In the language, food, art. The color of the sky and the taste of the caffè. Every night since I’ve been back home, my dreams have been set in Italy. I’m still processing it all.
Being in Italy only made me hungry for more Italy. I soaked it up, and it will be spilling over and inspiring me for a long time – hope you don’t mind.
Italians make their way of life a priority. It’s a life close to the earth, the seasons, and hundreds of years of tradition, but the basis is simplicity. It feels so different from how we live here in the States, which may explain why it seems idealized to me. I saw an art exhibit spanning the 16th and 17th centuries in Florence, at the Uffizi Gallery. It’s titled Puro, Semplice e Naturale: Pure, Simple and Natural – those are the perfect words to describe what I love about the place in this century.
In a few weeks, I’ll be sharing more about my experience as a DaVinci Storyteller, which is what brought this Italian adventure my way.
For now, here’s a few shots I took while wandering in Florence one beautiful day; the first was a small produce stand I walked by on a narrow street near the Duomo and the second an inviting-looking restaurant, open and ready to serve pranzo.
After I left the three other Storytellers and we all went our separate ways, I stayed on for a few extra days in Florence and then took the high-speed train to Rome, where I spent the remainder of the week before flying home. I’ve been longing to see Rome, and it didn’t disappoint me in any way. On the contrary, it was almost too beautiful for me to comprehend. I took so many photos (I posted some on my Instagram) that I’ll need to dedicate a few pages later to share them with you.
Trust me when I say I ate very, very well and was endlessly inspired by life alla Romana. I’m more than just a little in love.
One day I had lunch at Obicà Mozzarella Bar, the casual restaurant and pizzeria that inspired Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton to open Osteria Mozza. Obicà has a few outposts in cities around the world (including one that recently opened in New York – lucky me). As the name of the place suggests, their menu revolves around a house selection of the freshest, handmade mozzarella in different styles. I had a salad of black Venere rice strewn with roasted eggplant, sundried tomatoes, basil leaves and on the side, a small bowl of stracciatella di burrata ; a type of mozzarella that resembles very thick cream. It was outrageously good.
The recipe I’m signing off with here is really just an inspiration of the one I ate, since Numero Uno: I didn’t have utterly delicous, homemade stracciatella di burrata (I’ve barely made it to the grocery store since I’ve been home and even if I had I wouldn’t be finding that); and Numero Due: I hadn’t eaten breakfast and was so hungry I didn’t feel like roasting, assembling and fussing over the salad just as it was composed in Rome.
Italian black Venere rice has become a favorite of mine. It’s a cross between an Asian short grain black rice and an Italian variety. It cooks in about the same time as brown rice, and it fills the kitchen with a buttery-nutty smell while it cooks, kind of like basmati. I try to cook extra (like when I make brown rice or farro) so that I can use the leftovers the next day for lunch.
- 1 cup Italian black Venere rice
- Kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Suggestions for serving:
- Fresh mozzarella, sliced or torn into pieces
- Roasted red bell peppers, sliced
- Sliced mini cucumbers
- Roasted cubed eggplant and or baby zucchini
- Fresh basil, parsley and arugula
- Bring a saucepan (at least 3 quarts) of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt and the rice. Cook until the rice is just tender, with a tiny bit of bite in the center of the grain; 25 - 35 minutes. Drain.
- Put the rice in a large bowl and pour over a few tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice. Season with more salt to taste.
- Serve warm in bowls topped with mozzarella and garnished with your choice of fresh or roasted vegetables and greens.