basil

Feeling giggly about GIGLI :P

Time flies.  It’s already been two months since I moved to Italy.  From Yuen Long to the hills of Teolo and now I can finally call the small town Castelfranco my home.  I don’t know for how long but I’m definitely embracing every moment here.  Many friends asked if I like living in Italy and I couldn’t think of a better way to express my enthusiasm but to praise about its amazing fresh produce.  I’m not kidding.  Italian fresh produce is really one of the many reasons why one should take pride for living here without any doubt.  And of course there is more to love about Italy whether it'd be food, people, fashion, design, or tradition.  The list is endless.  

My everyday living seems like a fun journey and I seldom get bored.  I met a lot of cool people and got heaps of inspiration everywhere.  I sometime wonder why I appreciate living abroad so much more than before.  I did spend my entire teens and early 20’s in NY but I can't retrace the same amount of joy I have now.  My only explanation is the inevitable truth with age comes wisdom and I learn to appreciate smaller things.  And I might’ve finally found my true passion in life — food.  

I can’t remember when exactly I came across this pasta name — gigli.  All I recall is that I naturally pronounced it as “geegly.”  And the two Italians (Marco and Carlo) who heard me at that time immediately burst out laughing.  Honestly, I’m still having a hard time trying to pronounce this comical term.  It’s supposed to sound something like “GEEEEeeg’Yeee.”  Well, that’s what I’ve gathered so far.  

So gigli the pasta was introduced by my food guru aka Duccio from The Geometry of Pasta.  Gigli is Italian for lilies.  This also explains why the pasta shape is like a flower. I’ve made two different sauces to go with this pretty pasta.  Simple and delicious!  Oh and let me share some other photos I took when I was at Padova before.  

Creamy mushroom and ricotta gigli

Servings: 2 persons

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients: 

100-150g white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

50g ricotta

1 cup milk/cream

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 lemon juice and zest

1/2 glass white wine

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp dried oregano (optional)

1/4 cup grated parmesan

200g gigli 

extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions: 

1) Bring a pot of salted water to boil, cook pasta according to its package label.  *Drain the cooked pasta 1-2 minute earlier and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water for later.  

2) Preheat a saucepan with olive oil on medium heat, cook onion for 3-5 minutes until translucent, add mushrooms, garlic, and dried oregano.  Stir and add white wine. 

3) Let the alcohol evaporates, add milk and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 5 minutes with a lid on.  Add ricotta.  Stir and season. 

4) Add the cooked pasta and the pasta water to the saucepan.  Mix well.  Heat off.  Add parmesan (leave a couple tablespoon for garnishing).  

5) Garnish with some chopped parsley, a twist of lemon juice+zest, grated parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil before serving.

Gigli with tomato sauce

Servings: 2 persons

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

2-3 plum tomatoes, chopped into chunks

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 can tomato sauce

1 handful fresh basil

1/2 glass red wine

1/4 cup grated parmesan

200g gigli

extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions: 

1) Bring a pot of salted water to boil, cook pasta according to its package label.  *Drain the cooked pasta 1-2 minute earlier and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water for later.  

2) Preheat a saucepan with oil on medium heat, cook onion for 3-5 minutes until translucent, add the chopped basil and tomato with red wine.  Reduce heat to low after the alcohol evaporates.  Season.  

3) Cook the sauce for 3 - 5 minutes with a lid on low heat.  

4) Add pasta water, grated parmesan and cooked pasta to the saucepan.  Mix well.  Heat off.  

5) Garnish with some fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil before serving.  

Il Salone e la Piazza is known as one of the ten best markets in Italy

Vendors set up shop every morning but Sunday.  So if you want to get some ultra-fresh produce, better get there before noon.  :) 

Yes, strawberry is in season.  They taste as good as they look.  

Needless to say, my girlfriend and I had our little shopping frenzy LOL

Yeah, falling in love with Padova is easy.  

Fragrant Spicy Veggies with Lettuce Wrap

The holidays are coming.  I'm sure many of us have already started our holiday menu planning.  This dish is great as a starter.  It actually came to mind because I got some lettuce that I was desperate to get rid of.  Plus I didn't want to eat a salad that is made with lettuce for the next three days.  And I certainly don't want to put any of my food to waste.  

So I remember this delicious Thai dish that I used to love -- minced spicy pork with lettuce wrap.  I recall all those lettuce greens served on the side.  So this is a veggie version of that.  :) And this dish is another perfect leftovers recipe.  I think most meat eaters would love it too because the taste is just phenomenal plus it looks presentable. ;)  I highly recommend you to try making it.  

Happy Holidays! 

Love,

Cindy x

Fragrant Spicy Veggies with Lettuce Wrap

 

Servings: 2-4 persons

Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

1 eggplant, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 cup corn

1 capsicum, diced

1 bunch string beans, chopped into small bits

2 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 bunch spring onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp sesame oil

1-2 tbsp fish sauce* (optional) 

1 lime zest & 1/2 lime juice

1 tsp sesame seeds

2 tbsp thai basil pesto

1 bunch fresh lettuce leafs 

extra-virgin olive oil

Dipping Sauce Ingredients: 

1 tbsp brown sugar

2-3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce* (optional) 

2 tbsp sesame oil 

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 fresh lime juice 

1/2 chopped chilli

2 tbsp chopped spring onion or coriander 

Thai Basil Pesto Ingredients: 

1 bunch thai basil

1/2 green chilli and 1/2 red chilli 

1 garlic clove

extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions: 

1) Preheat a frying pan with olive oil on medium heat, cook eggplant for 3-5 minutes first.  Then add the chopped vegetables such as corn, beans, capsicums, and zucchini.  Cook for another 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Add a splash of fish sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar.  

2) Add the chopped garlic, spring onion, ginger, and chilli.  Cook 3-5 minutes.  Add basil pesto and fresh lime juice and zest.  Season.  Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes more to allow all the flavors to come out.  Heat off.  Set aside. 

3) Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and garnish with some coriander if you like. I didn't have any so I skipped that. 

4) Serve this fragrant spicy veggies with some fresh lettuce leafs and the sweet and spicy dipping on the side.  Enjoy!

Fragrant Spicy Veggies with Lettuce Wrap

Fragrant Spicy Veggies with Lettuce Wrap

Fragrant Spicy Veggies with Lettuce Wrap

Vegetarian Meatballs Pasta with Spicy Marinara

Cooking is easy but creative cooking (not that I'm saying mines are creative; what I'm saying is to come up with new recipes everyday can be fairly challenging) often requires some sort of stimulants and this recipe was inspired by Woody Allen's movies.  My sinusitis hasn't been cured completely yet.  So I am still coughing quite a bit and my sleeping schedule has gone awry due to the medication.  I have a real hard time falling asleep before midnight.  While most people are sound sleep, I'm wide awake trying to make use of my insomnia.  I usually watch movies or some cook shows, continue reading my never ending list of articles and books, or gorging on Pinterest.  

Last night, I saw a couple of Woody Allen's latest films, To Rome with Love and Fading Gigolo.  I don't want to sound like a critic here and start judging or analyzing the film dialogue.  In my opinion, most of his movies' plots are quite similar -- melodramatic love stories and there's always some sort of infidelity engagements involved.  But I must say his films are always beautifully shot with a nice soundtrack selection and great casts plus they are always easy and relaxing to watch.  I especially love the song that was played at the end of To Rome with Love.   

After seeing those two lovely movies, my longing for New York and Italy obviously grew ever more intensely.  Actually, I've never been to Rome and the closest I've ever gotten to was San Benedetto del Tronto.  Yes, it was beautiful there and same for the people.  As for Rome, I would love to go there for just a few days.  I want to try the famous and classic Cacio e Pepe AND attend one of those grandiose music gigs at the Rome Olympic Stadium.  I also got a list of other places I really want to explore in Italy such as Sardinia, Sicily, Pompeii, and many more.  ;P

So this pasta dish I had today was kinnnnnnnnda inspired by these movies.  I didn't have much choice since I haven't gone grocery shopping this week and all I got in my fridge was some leftover vegetables, a few slices of old bread, and an eggplant.  I think a lot of us might have a misperception about the taste of food being judged by its exquisiteness.  I know for many Chinese back in the days, displaying the certain sorts of food on the dining table is a signature of one's wealth.  Truthfully, most of my favorite dishes were made out of the humblest ingredients.  I must admit that those meatballs I made today were delicious.  I don't want to brag about it so I would let you be the judge if you would try out this recipe one day.  AND the most wonderful thing about this recipe was that it's made out of mostly leftovers.  I mean of course you have the liberty to use all fresh ingredients.  That's entirely up to you but I don't think it is necessary at all.  

Enjoy your weekend! 

Cindy x

These little delicious "veggie balls" took a bit of time to make but they were indeed worthwhile.  

Servings: 2 persons

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients for the eggplant balls: 

1 medium eggplant

1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 

1/2 red capsicum & 1/2 green capsicum

2 garlic cloves

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 red chili, finely chopped

1 bunch fresh parley

1 tsp cumin powder

2 slices old bread (about 50-60g)

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

extra-virgin olive oil

Ingredients for spicy marinara sauce: 

1/2 can tomato sauce

1-2 garlic cloves

1 bunch fresh basil

1/4 cup red wine

1 bay leaf

1/2 red chili, chopped

1 tsp sugar

Ingredients for pasta (optional): 

200g pasta (spaghetti, linguine, penne, fusilli, or orecchiette)

1-2 tbsp grated parmesan (optional, you may exclude it if you are a vegan)

extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions for meatballs: 

1) Preheat oven at 180-200ºC.  Get a baking tray, add eggplant and onion with olive oil. Season.  Roast the vegetables for 20-25 minutes.  Stir occasionally to avoid burning the vegetables.

2) Blend the roasted vegetables with the rest of the greens and 2 slices of old bread in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add more old bread if the mixture is too wet.  

3) Use your hands to roll the mixture into 6-8 little meatball size.  Cover each meatball with panko breadcrumbs before transferring to a baking tray.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to the tray.    

4) Roast the meatballs for 20-25 minutes until the meatballs turned golden.  

Instructions for spicy marinara: 

1) Preheat the saucepan with oil, add garlic, chopped basil, chili, and bay leaf on medium heat.  Stir fry for 1-2 minutes.  

2) Add the tomato sauce and red wine, let the alcohol evaporates.  Reduce heat to medium-low after the sauce starts to boil.  Put a lid on and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  

3) Add 1 tsp sugar and season.  Heat off.  

4) Serve with cooked pasta or as an appetizer.  Garnish with some fresh chopped basil or parsley and grated cheese.  

A delicious vegan dish that's made with the simplest ingredients.