We arrived in Rome on March 1st after 6 months in Tokyo, for the second leg of my husband Dick’s sabbatical year. I hope to catch up with a photo log of our time there. I think I had a bit of writer’s block after the publication of My Japanese Table in September, so I am picking up the blog here in Italy.
It is nice to back in Rome where we will be for the next 2 months. It is early spring and the weather is beautiful. I have finally adjusted and have stopped trying to bow to everyone and am substituting si for hai! We have a small studio apartment at the Residence Sacconi in the northern area of central Rome; just 5 stops on the tram to the historic center. It has a tiny galley kitchen, about 1/3 the size of a walk-in closet, with windows on two sides so the light is great. I love this little set-up with its narrow 2-burner stove top. I have 4 pots including one for pasta, of course, and an 8-inch frying pan.
I can cook, wash the dishes and reach everything in the cupboards and dorm-size fridge without extending my arms! I shop daily and cook almost every night — my kind of fun!
The windows look out onto carabinieri barracks, a restaurant with specialties from the Trentino region and a wonderful Italian bar/caffe owned by Jesus – that is his name and it is written on his forearm too. He lifts the metal door at about 5:45 AM. Customers begin coming at about 6:00 AM for their morning shot of espresso – about 1 tablespoon of the thickest darkest Java, knocked back in seconds. He has pastries for breakfast, panini for lunch and drinks at the end of the day.
Two steps from our residenza is a green grocer run by handsome young men from Bangladesh. It is carciofi (artichoke) and mandarin orange season.
I am definitely going to try making the artichokes. I can buy them whole, as above, or cut myself some slack and purchase them pre-trimmed at the outdoor market that pops up every Friday. Here they are floating in lemon water.
I got inspired the other day to make giardeniera, the Italian mixed vegetable pickles after seeing pyramids of hefty heads of cauliflower, red peppers, carrots and celery.
The colorful combination reminded me of how much we like this vinegary melange and how easy it is to make. Besides garlic and dried red pepper flakes, bay leaves are also used for seasoning. I went to the local store to buy a package of bay leaves, alloro in Italian, and a woman standing next to me, pointed to the bushes lining the street, “that’s where I get mine, just wash them very well,”she said.
So I picked a few!
My version is made with a sweet and sour vinegar mixture and no addition of olive oil to the jar. That can come later if you wish.I usually will make several quarts of pickles, but with little space for storage I made just one jar of approximately 3 cups jar used a variety of veggies.
Although it is a little more of a fuss, I set a pot of water to boil and cooked the vegetables in seriatum, one after the other. I do this because the vegetables have varying cooking times and this method helps them retain their distinct flavors. I reserved the nutritious cooking water and used it as the stock for a vegetable soup with chicory and borlotti beans the next day.
Makes about 3 cups
2 tablespoons + teaspoons salt
1/4 large head of cauliflower (1/2 pound), broken into florets
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch thick slices
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch chevrons
1/4 red pepper cut into 1/2 x 2 inch strips
1/2 pound peeled cippolini onions
1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes (or red pepper and parsley flake mixture)
3 garlic cloves, cut into fourths
3 -4 bay leaves
1. Sterilize a large quart size glass jar and lid, by filling with boiling water. Pour out the water and set on a clean kitchen towel, face down until you are ready to use.
2. Have on hand a large bowl of cold water. In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a boil and add the salt. Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon transfer the cauliflower to the cold water bath. Then transfer to a colander to drain.
2. Continue to cook each vegetable separately, setting each into the cold water (refresh the water along the way) and transferring to colander.
Carrots and green beans – 2 minutes
Celery and red pepper – 1 minute
Cippolini – 3 minutes
3. In a separate small saucepan add the vinegar, sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt. Heat on medium low until the sugar has completely dissolved.
4. In a large bowl add all the vegetables and mix with red pepper (or red pepper/parsley mixture if using) and toss with a spoon.
5. Pack the vegetables into the sterilized jar, gently pushing them down. Add the vinegar mixture.
6. Add the bay leaves and garlic slices and push them down into the vegetables with tip of a knife or chopstick.
7. Secure the lid on the jar and place in the fridge for 48 hours. They will last about 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Serve as is or drizzle olive oil over the pickles.
Buon Appetito !