Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Merbaum on Italian-Inspired Raw Food: Green Mango and Papaya Papardelle

I met today’s guest blogger, Lindsay Merbaum, in 2003 at Sarah Lawrence College. We immediately had much to discuss: we were both writers interested in food. I appreciate her sharing a recipe with us today.

Lindsay Merbaum holds an MFA in Fiction from Brooklyn College. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Epiphany, PANK, Dzanc Books Best of the Web, The Collagist and Our Stories, among others. Until recently she lived in Quito, Ecuador, an experience that inspired the novel on which she is currently working. She lives in San Francisco and works as a personal raw food chef and a ghostwriter.

Italian-Inspired Raw Food: Green Mango and Papaya Papardelle

I’ve recently developed a tag line: I’m not a raw foodist, I just cook like one. (Rather, I don’t “cook” as eating raw means never heating food above a minimal degree point, though what exactly that point is depends on who you ask). My job is to prepare raw food, a position that represents an intersection of my interests: I am a writer, which means I am a creative, driven person who likes to keep unusual hours doing unusual work; I love the pleasures of eating/cooking and fancy myself something of a budding foodie; I recently moved to San Francisco, where all kinds of things are possible, after living in South America for four years where a very limited quantity of things were possible. Add all of these things together, and you come out with me, a fiction writer who works as a personal raw food chef in San Francisco.

Not following the ideology of raw—or fully comprehending the subtle distinction between “live” and “dead” food, or “not-live” as the more tactful like to say—does not mean I don’t appreciate the value of eating fresh, healthy food made from scratch. That is actually something about which I am quite passionate. 

So far, my favorite raw food recipes are Italian-inspired. The manicotti I made for a dinner party, using rolled slivers of zucchini as noodles with a nut “cheese” filling, was described as “orgasmicotti.” Raw lasagna made with layers of zucchini, bell pepper, avocado and tahini and turnip or radish slices filled with nut cheese, folded and topped with tomato sauce to create ravioli have also been big hits. But for this post, I’ve chosen to share “Green Mango and Papaya Papardelle”, based on the recipe from Raw Food for Everyone by Alissa Cohen. The original recipe does not call for mango, but the day I had scheduled to try this recipe, I happened to peel a mango for breakfast that seemed ripe but wasn’t yet sweet and decided to make pasta out of it. The color and taste combination was spectacular. Here is my version of this original and gorgeous dish:

Green Mango and Papaya Papardelle

1 large, ripe papaya
1 large, unripe mango
1 clove garlic
1 ½ cup cashews
½ cup pine nuts
1 small shallot
2 tbs mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
½ cup currants, soaked in apple cider vinegar for 1-2 hours, drained
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
fresh arugula leaves
1 cup water

To make the pasta sauce, combine in a food processor or a high-speed blender the cashews, pine nuts, garlic, shallot, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Blend until smooth and add water as needed to thin out the sauce.

Cut the papaya in half and remove the skin, then cut it in four pieces length-wise. Peel the mango.  Positioning the fruit over each serving plate, use a peeler to create wide, noodle-like strips of papaya and thinner mango noodles, gently mixing the two together.

Scoop the sauce onto the center of each plate of pasta. Sprinkle the dish with the vinegar-soaked currants and then a handful of arugula leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Italian Easter Traditions

Easter wouldn’t be complete without a Colomba, a cake (loosely) in the shape of a dove, or a giant chocolate egg with surprises inside. 

I’ve always purchased both in Italian stores, but there are recipes available online for the Colomba.

Looking for more? Last year I wrote about preparing an Easter Pie and hard boiling eggs - perfectly.

Buona Pasqua! Onto preparing the shopping list for this weekend…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

Preparing eggplant parmesan takes a little while because there are a number of steps, but it is a fairly simple and straight forward process. It can also be a lot healthier than the greasy, heavy versions you might pick up in your local deli-section of the supermarket.

A friend recently told me about the cooking program Under The Tuscan Gun with Debi Mazar (I know her best from her role as Shauna on HBO’s Entourage) and her Tuscan-chef husband. Their recipe and video of preparing eggplant parmesan is quite close to the recipe that I learned to make while living in Florence, Italy.

A few notes that I’d add to their recipe: I dry and lightly wipe the eggplant slices with paper towels after they’ve sweated a while in a colander. This will help to remove the liquid and excess salt. I also suggest brushing them with olive oil (instead of canola oil) and either baking or frying them without coating them in flour.

What personal touches have you added to your favorite eggplant parmesan recipe?


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Web Find: Moving to Italy?

If you've thought about moving to Italy, you'll enjoy this article by Karen Mills in The Wall Street Journal: Moving to Italy: How a Tennessee native - after toiling in piles of paperwork - found a new life in the city of Florence. She kindly shares details, from her visa application process to some specific costs in her new city. I think you'll find it quite insightful!

If you are are a writer currently living abroad, in Florence or elsewhere, you might be interested in the editor's note:

Thinking about living—or just traveling— abroad? This is part of a series of travel stories in which we ask Americans living overseas, full time or part time, to profile their adopted locales and guide would-be visitors through the best the areas have to offer. Send us your suggestions at