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, March 27, 2012

Italian April Fool's Day: Pesce d'Aprile

The Italian April Fool's Day has more fish than our celebrations in the USA. The tradition is to tape a paper fish to the back of an unsuspecting friend and then ask:

L'hai visto? (Have you seen him?)
Chi? (Who?)
Il pesce d'Aprile! (The April fish/fool!)

I know I'd rather receive a chocolate fish, or two: 

Plan your next trip to Napoli in April 
to try these chocolate fish by Gallucci

The Italian language has many fish jokes, fish chocolates and fish expressions. Here are a few great fish expressions in Italian from (can you guess their literal meaning?):

buttarsi a pesce — to make a dive for, to begin an activity with enthusiasm
chi dorme non piglia pesce — the early bird catches the worm
i pesci grossi mangiano i piccini — the big fish eat the small fry
non sapere che pesci pigliare — to be at one's wits' end (or at a loss), not to know which way to turn
pesce grosso — bigwig, big shot
trattare a pesci in faccia — to mistreat, to humiliate
un pesce fuor d'acqua — a fish out of water
un pesce lesso — a boring person

For more on Pesce d'Aprile, watch an April Fool's joke in Italian, learn more joke-related vocabulary, and prepare fish-shaped cookies

Monday, March 19, 2012

D.C. Pastry Alert: St. Joseph's Day Pastries @ The Italian Store in Arlington

Cannoli and pastry cream filled Zeppole di San Giuseppe from The Italian Store in Arlington, Va.

I clapped when The Italian Store’s salesperson said they carry St. Joseph’s Day pastries today. These hard to find (at least outside of NY/Northern NJ) are, hands down, some of my favorite pastries. The salesperson smiled with her own pastry joy.

The Zeppole di San Giuseppe are a traditional specialty from southern Italy. The Italian Store prepared them with both cannoli (ricotta) cream and pastry cream. To make them yourself, watch a chef from the Academia Barilla prepare them (fried, with an option to bake).

The holiday celebrates the feast day of St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, according to Catholic tradition. For this reason, it is also the Italian Father's Day. And there's one more reason to celebrate: For those named Giuseppe, today is their onomastico (name day, like another birthday.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Buono!: Kale Risotto

Since I keep reading about how kale is a super food, I was lulled into buying the most gigantic bag of kale. After sautéing some for a side dish one night, mixing some into a pasta sauce with Italian sausage another, roasting some until the leaves got crispy like chips and then adding the rest to a soup, I had too many plastic containers of kale in my fridge.

I decided to repurpose my kale soup (garlic, salt, pepper, kale and water) and make risotto.

Risotto (Arborio rice cooked slowly in broth with other ingredients, usually spices or vegetables) is a fairly forgiving dish. Like pasta, it is a great base for your favorite flavors and vegetables. And leftovers.

There are only a few basic steps to follow before adding your own touch:

-- Buy Arborio rice. You can call other things, like a bowl of peas “risotto”, but it isn’t.

-- Quickly sauté the rice in olive oil before adding the broth (or other liquids, like wine.) This will help the individual rice kernels to keep their shells’ integrity instead of breaking down and becoming quite mushy.

-- If you keep stirring hot (read: boiling) liquid into the rice in a pot over low heat, the rice will cook without burning. 

Here’s a good, basic recipe for risotto. Most recipes call for grated cheese mixed in as you are cooking, but I reserve the cheese for a garnish later. I also rarely add the wine, unless I have some leftover.

Risotto can be quite healthy. Tuscans rarely add heavy cream to their risotto and you don’t need to because the rice becomes creamy on its own through slow cooking. You can also rely on olive oil, instead of butter, when you start the dish.

For my kale risotto, I used the kale soup as the broth. When I first sautéed the rice, I adding four heads of crushed garlic and extra hot pepper.

You can’t go wrong, unless, perhaps, if you try to cook your lovely rice in the microwave.

What’s your favorite risotto recipe?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Garzanti Linguistica Free Online Dictionary

Garzanti Linguistica offers a free, online Italian-English dictionary (after a quick registration). They are my go-to dictionary source online. Scroll down to the "free consult" on this page and start learning dictionary definitions of any word.

What's your favorite new word?