Posts Tagged ‘Food’

International Cooking in Italy

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

by Tina Ferrari

Yes, yes, I know.  I live in Paradise, the land of the best pasta, coffee, wine, ice cream, etc. in the world, so why would I ever crave any other food?

Well, as much as I love the variety here, sometimes I miss things that I would eat at home in the States.  When I was living in Argentina, a good friend of mine, Joli, found a great recipe for flour tortillas.  Since there isn’t much variety in the food down there, it was a delight to be a guest in her house and be able to eat things such as fajitas or tacos. Things you just don’t find in Buenos Aires, and things you certainly don’t find in Lecce, Italy.

This week I am visiting a friend in Bari, which is just a couple hours north of Lecce, and I decided I wanted to prepare a meal as a sign of gratitude.  Well, we all know how Italians are when it comes to tasting other people’s cooking.  I’m always afraid to make traditional dishes here because on top of the “buono, buono!” I have to listen to “It needs more salt”, and “You make a good sauce, for an American”…  I seem to have the most luck when I prepare things that are not Italian.  My Italian friends rave about my international cooking and I find that they are always open and interested in trying new things.  Since I’m the straniera, foreigner, it’s probably more exciting and fun if I bring something new to the table.

Today I prepared fajitas, using the recipe Joli uses for tortillas.  You can find it here, and you’ll see that it’s quite easy.  For filling, I cut up small slices of beef, a couple of bell peppers, an onion, and since this is Southern Italy, a peperoncino, chili pepper, for spice.  I sauteed those together.  You can’t get sour cream in Italy, at least not here in the south, so I used Fage Total yogurt as it makes the best substitute for sour cream.

My friend and his daughter had fun putting the fajitas together, and I enjoyed sharing something new with them.

What are some recipes you simply can’t do without in your adopted country?

Tina Ferrari is a tango dancer, translator and writer currently based in Lecce, Italy. She writes atAffordableCallingCards.net as well as on her own blog,Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

There’s More than Munchies in the Mezzogiorno

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

Last week I wrote a post at my site, My Bella Vita, that was a spin-off of a post written here at ACC by my fellow expat-in-southern-Italy and travel blogging friend, Tina of Tina Tangos. My post, A Few Things to Love About Southern Italy caused quite a stir when it was posted on Facebook because, gosh darn it-three things to love just ain’t enough.

… or so they said.

Still, it is important to note that there are more than munchies in Italy’s Mezzogiorno. With that in mind, here are three southern Italy traditions I’ve grown to love!

1. Eating on Schedule

Yes, I said there are more than munchies, but that doesn’t mean food isn’t an integral part of our lives. Here in Calabria, we live (and die?) by our mealtime schedule. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner more or less at the same time every day-a routine I mourn for when stateside meals have me dashing through a Chic-Fil-A or filling up on frappuccinos.

Why is this important? I eat less and feel more satisfied here in Italy than I do when I’m in the states.

2. Walking is Expected

My husband was shocked the first time he visited me in Texas and noticed that I drove around a parking lot three times looking for a suitable spot.

“You just passed a row of empty places,” he told me.

“Yea,” I told him, oblivious to his intention. “But they are so far.”

“Cherrye,” he told me. “We are young … it’s not raining … we can walk.”

It seems obvious now, but willingness to walk is a cultural thing-one I’m glad I picked up on and have adapted into my life … even back home.

Just last Christmas, my mom, husband and I were rushing to finish our lists. We told Mom to drop us off on the street-because we could each walk where we needed to go quicker than we could battle pre-Christmas Eve traffic. She did. And yes, people looked at us strangely, but I’d gone to two stores and my husband had shopped in one in the same amount of time it took my mom to get through traffic and find a parking spot.

Why is this important? In addition to the obvious health benefits of walking , I feel stronger and have more energy when I walk often.

3. Finish up with Fruit

Ok, so maybe it *is* all about the food, but I love that we finish off every lunch and dinner with a serving of fresh fruit. Often this fruit is from our garden-oranges and mandarins in winter months, plums and figs in the summer, but sometimes we supplement with watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, strawberries and cherries. Delizioso!

Why is this important? I’ve found eating fruit after each meal helps me stay full longer and since I’m on a schedule, it ensures I get enough fresh fruit each day.

Wbat are some of your favorite traditions, food-related or not, in your new country?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photo: flickr, by PhotoLab XL

Dining out In Zurich – For all Budgets

Monday, August 2nd, 2010
Photo courtesy of Hiltl

Photo courtesy of Hiltl

By Kristi Remick

OK, beating  a dead horse alert – Zurich is expensive.  Not only is it expensive, it isn’t known for being a food mecca and for a wannabe foodie like myself, it was one of the things that really unnerved me when we decided to move here.  I love to eat out and I even have a few rules:

A. It must taste and look good

B. The product must justify the cost

C. The service should be good as it is part of the experience

D. I must feel the need to rub my belly vigorously afterwards and/or be so in love with my dish that I talk to it like it is a newborn child…and not just any newborn child, MY newborn child

I have come to find out that my rules and eating out criteria are a bit too stringent for Zurich.  The food here doesn’t always taste and look good, the product very rarely justifies the cost, the service is typically short of mediocre and I as I indicated in a post on my site recently, my stomach has atrophied due to lack of use (it is a muscle you know).  Let’s be fair though, even though Zurich doesn’t have the plethora of good, cheap eats that I once took for granted in Atlanta, it does have good eats for all budgets…ahem, Swiss Budgets that is.

$ (5- 15 francs per person) Vorderer Sternen Grill – In my opinion the BEST veal sausage stand in Zurich and many will agree with me.  You will never find this place void of a line and for around 15 francs you can get a St. Galler Bratwurst, pommes frites and an ice cold tall boy beer. You can dine here or take your sausage across the street and dine on the lake.

$$ (15-50 francs per person) Hiltl – If there is a Zurich food institution, it is Hiltl.  Founded in 1898, it is Zurich’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. Since Zurich cuisine is heavily German influenced, the fact that a vegetarian restaurant has survived over 100 years in the land of sausage, cheese and potatoes is in and of itself a miracle. Boasting the most amazing buffet I have ever encountered and great a la carte selections, Hiltl is my “go to” place for a solid, healthy meal here in Zurich.  The food here is heavily influenced by a variety of Asian cuisines and even has some Swiss classics like the vegetarian form of Zuricher Art.

$$$ (50-120 francs per person) Restaurant Kreis 6 – The city of Zurich is divided into districts or neighborhoods called “Kreis” and this little restaurant, set in a small house where its walls are covered by modern art,  is cleverly named after its location.  I was unable to find their website but this restaurant came highly recommended to my husband and I for a romantic dinner location.  While the service was a bit rocky at first, the food and ambiance quickly made up for the few hiccups which were quickly rectified.  Be careful though, if you get an appetizer, main, dessert and wine, then you will easily ring up a bill of 120 francs (or more) per person.

$$$$ (Anything over 120 francs per person) Restaurant Mesa – This one star Michelin rated restaurant is worth the splurge.  The food was artistically presented, balanced and delicious.  The service was impeccable and I left with my pants unbuttoned.  If we can one day afford it again, we would happily go back.

I haven’t scratched the surface of what Zurich has to offer food wise because after being let down over and over again, I stick to what I know tastes good for the money I am willing to spend.  I need to get over this fear though and rely on recommendations from trusted sources. Anyone out there have a favorite restaurant in Zurich?  If so, help a wannabe foodie and her readers out?

When I am not busy stuffing my face with chocolate, you can find me over at From A to Z blogging about my life in Zurich Switzerland.

Three Things Kids Love About Southern Italy

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I’ve written a bit, both here at ACC and at my website, My Bella Vita about my summer adventures with my nine year old nephew and my friend’s 14 year old son. While I expected them to fall in love with the “hot Italian chics”-their words, not mine, a few of their favorite things about southern Italy took me by surprise.

Here are the top three things (these) kids loved about southern Italy.

1. Calzonesexpat in italy-calzones

Maybe it should have been obvious, but I was seriously shocked by how much my nephew loved fried calzones.

Just last night, he asked for a repeat dinner-of the previous night’s calzones-gobbled the goods before we drove the one kilometer home, and asked us to go back for seconds.

Luckily for us here in Catanzaro, there is a great little pizzeria that sells these babies, fresh from the grease, for just €1.00 each, so he can have an “all you can eat” without breaking the bank.

2. Castlesexpat in italy-castles

It is important to know that southern Italy’s castles are not like the fairy tale castles of England, Germany or France.

Oh no, these castles have suffered invasions, attacks, earthquakes and years of abandonment, so oftentimes you are left with a shell of the castle’s former glory.

So, I was surprised by how much the boys enjoyed them. The castle they most enjoyed (seen above) is Murat Castle, located just off of the main piazza in Pizzo, Calabria. I’m not sure if it is the castle’s imposing presence on the Tyrrhenian, the mock soldiers inside or the idea of tough men fighting tougher wars, but they loved it.

3. Beachesexpat in italy-beaches

Ok, so I really kinda figured the boys would love the beaches, but I was still surprised at just. how. much.

Seriously, they couldn’t get enough of the creamy tan sand, frothy waves and blue-green waters of Calabria’s coastline.

In fact, they couldn’t settle on just one beach and instead urged me to take them on day trips so they could check out the beaches in other cities around the area. Their favorite-if not for the warm Tyrrhenian waters, then for the topless sunbather-was the beach (pictured above) just beneath the Murat Castle in Pizzo.

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about her adventures in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro.

Photos: iskcon.net, Cherrye at My Bella Vita

More Things to Love About Living in Italy

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

by Tina Ferrari

Will I ever run out of things to love about Italy?  I doubt it.  Here are my latest three favorite things…

Going out to buy wine. Everywhere else I have lived, purchasing wine has naturally involved buying a bottle at a time.  In Italy, you will certainly be able to do that, and good wine does not cost very much.  It’s an essential food here, and therefore accessible.  Something I have noticed a lot, particularly here in the Salento, is the act of going to a wine producer’s outlet and having them fill a jug several liters full of the elixir.  Prices are around 1 or 2 Euros a liter and if you know where to go, the quality is good.  I have found my place, where I am able to get three liters of wine for around 4 Euros or less.  If you consider that a bottle of wine is less than a liter, then you have an idea of what a good deal that is.  Once you get home, you simply transfer the wine from the large jug to more manageable bottles, and you’ve got enough wine for the week.

Gelato, even for the slim and trim. I love that gelato is not frowned upon as a diet-killer.  Here, particularly in the summer, it’s perfectly acceptable and normal to consume it on a very regular basis.  I have it almost every day (and no weight gain!).  I remember once commenting that gelato must be fattening, and a rather svelte Italian friend said, “Ha! You silly. Gelato doesn’t count!”   Of course not.   And it can make you so happy!  When I need a pick-me-up, I simply hop over to Natale, the nearby gelateria, and get a cone with two wonderful flavors such as pistachio and pine nut, and then I walk over to the Roman amphitheater in Piazza Sant’Oronzo and stare at it as I indulge in my nice cold treat.

The produce. Things look like they’ve just been picked here.  The zucchini still has the flowers attached.  Tomatoes are all kinds of different shapes and they actually taste like tomatoes.  Greens need to be washed really well because they still have dirt on the roots. Things are available in season and it doesn’t cost a lot to buy vegetables.  It’s amazing how high your quality of life feels when you don’t have to worry about being able to afford to eat healthy.  And with so much flavor, who can complain?

Tina Ferrari is a tango dancer, translator and writer currently based in Lecce, Italy. She writes at AffordableCallingCards.net as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

Three Things I’d Take with Me if I Left Italy

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I’ve written a lot over the last few weeks about the things expats miss about home. As an expat in Italy, I always stock up on my American supplies … Velveeta, Ziploc bags, Big Red gum. But I’d know I’d miss Italy if I wasn’t here.

In fact, just last week I wrote about the things my husband and I would miss most about the bel paese if we left. But we’d also stock up.

Here are the top things we’d pack in our bags and take back with us if we lived in the US instead of Italy.

Divella Pasta

Yes, yes, yes … they sell pasta in America, but once you’ve tasted the real deal, and by that I don’t mean homemade pasta, but the dry pasta they sell in Italy, you wouldn’t settle for less, either.

Lately, we have been addicted to Divella pasta, a Pugliese brand pasta that keeps its al dente texture and tastes great with a variety of sauces.

We’d most definitely pack a bag full of assorted shapes and sizes to use in the US and to share with our American friends.

Aiello Coffee

We test-drove every Italian coffee imaginable when we opened our B&B, from Lavazza to Illy to Catanzaro’s own Guglielmo, but the winner was Cosenza-made (Calabrese) Aiello.

There is just something about that bright red bag and strong, robust flavor that keeps us coming back for more … and more … and more … .

And we’d definitely pack it up and take it with us if we ever left.

Kinder Surprise Eggs

While I could certainly live without the Kinder Sorpresa eggs that leave crying kids all over Italian supermarkets, my nine year old nephew couldn’t, so we’d have to pack a few boxes to hold him over until our next trip to Italy.

In fact, it is the one thing he requests each time we visit.

Hey, expats, what would you take back with you to the US if you no longer lived in your adopted country?

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and travel consultant living in Calabria, Italy. She can organize a group Calabria tour or help you plan a custom itinerary for your family from her website, My Bella Vita.

Photo: Continental Food UK, Wikipedia Commons and Sweets 2 UK

Italy and the Importance of Eating

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

by Tina Ferrari

Almost lunchtime in southern Italy

Almost lunchtime in southern Italy

I have had several American visitors over the past couple of months and have had a chance to hear firsthand what impressions people have when they visit – particularly when it comes to food.  I was lucky enough to grow up with a more Mediterranean eating style, but having others visit who are not used to it has opened my eyes to three things that are very important here in the culture, but perhaps strange for other people:

The importance of eating. If one thing is true about Italians, eating is very important for them.  Any time I go anywhere with a group to any sort of occasion, it either surrounds food, or by lunchtime (1 pm) or dinnertime (about 9 or 10 pm here in Puglia) we look at our watches, drop what we’re doing and dedicate ourselves to the meal – and if we’re at home this includes using a table cloth and setting the table properly.  This shocks (and pleases) my American visitors every time – in the American culture, sometimes you either grab something quick to eat at the computer while you’re working, or you are so busy you forget your mealtimes.  I can’t imagine most people I know here forgetting a mealtime, ever.  And considering how good the food is, I can’t blame them!

The importance of courses. The main observation my friends make when they visit is, “Gosh, they really eat a lot here!  It’s too much food!”  I had to think about this, because it sounded rather strange.  Here in southern Italy I find the portions are perfectly reasonable compared to those in the U.S.  But I think people who visit may feel so full after a meal because they are not used to taking their time and eating one course at a time.  It’s really not *that* much food, it’s just separated into courses and one thing is eaten at a time. That does tend to fill you up faster.  I also tend to believe that the ingredients are so whole and unadulterated down here that food seems a lot more filling, so even though you’re eating less, you’re filling yourself up with all kinds of great nutrients, instead of eating a lot of empty calories.  Just a thought.  Have no fear though – if lunch is big, dinner is small, and vice versa.

The importance of generosity. Of course, if you are a guest in a Mediterranean home, the whole “moderation” thing goes out the window. The people here love to host and love to be generous with what they have.  It’s a favorite thing of mine about living here – people have no problem being generous, be it food or a ride or the washing machine (yes, I borrow friends’ washing machines at the moment).  My secret, in case you plan to visit and are a guest in someone’s home, is eat slowly and understand that nobody is trying to wreck your diet, they just want to embrace you and make you feel welcome.  And no, we don’t eat like that every day, only when we have special guests.  It’s all about you.  It’s overwhelming if you’re not accustomed to such meals that can last quite a while, but that’s what grappa and espresso are for at the end of the meal. ;-)   Buon appetito!

Tina Ferrari is a tango dancer, translator and writer currently based in Lecce, Italy. She writes at AffordableCallingCards.net as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

Top Things I Won’t Leave Home Without

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

We are in the second week of June and this expat is happily at home with her Texas-based friends and family. There is nothing like going home, seeing familiar faces, frequenting familiar haunts and yes, I’ll admit it, sometimes equally as important … eating familiar food.

I have to say, though, I come home twice a year-each summer and again at Christmas-and each time I stock up on my American goodies.

When I first moved to Italy four years ago, I’d buy my Gold Toe socks, fill up during the Bath and Body Works semi-annual sales and even buy my makeup and remover.

But luckily, things have changed.

I am no longer am addicted to Gold Toe socks and Sephora’s recent addition to our shopping center has helped with the makeup, lotions and shower gel dilemnas.

Still, there are a few things I still import.

Things an Expat in Italy Brings from HomeMedicine
I recently realized you can indeed buy Ibuprofen in Italy, but yowsers is that stuff expensive. Instead of forking over €12 for 12 pills, I run by Walmart and stock up. In addition to Advil, I always carry Tylenol, Tylenol PM, DayQuil and NyQuil and vitamins, for both my husband and myself. We also bring American-strength deodorant.

Books
Even though I have had good experiences with Amazon UK and am addicted to reading through the Kindle App on my iPod Touch, I still like to buy a few books from the US. Usually I buy work-related books to help with my freelance writing career, but I’ve also been known to stalk the sales counter at our local B&N. Old habits die hard.

Food, Food, Food
You can take the girl away from the Mexican border, but you can’t keep the Mexican cravings away. I always buy Velveeta cheese, taco Seasoning, Jambalaya mix, canned soup for cooking, Big Red gum and a few boxes of Ziploc bags … you know, to store all of my leftovers.

Are you an expat? If so, what do you buy from home?

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and travel consultant living in Calabria, Italy. She can organize a group Calabria tour or help you plan a custom itinerary for your family from her website, My Bella Vita.

Photo: Cherrye Moore, My Bella Vita

Little America in Catanzaro

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

New York has Little Italy, London has a China Town and Catanzaro has its own Little America.

Or so it seems.

Right in the middle of Catanzaro between the downtown area and the beachfront neighborhood, Catanzaro Lido is an international grocery store that will darn near make an American expat feel at home.

And that store is Lidl.

This German discount store has over 8,000 stores worldwide but when I’m inside, I feel like I’m at my local supermarket at home, browsing for Mexican chips and chocolate chip cookies.

Some of the best things I’ve found in Lidl include:
- Bluberry muffins
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Grapefruit juice
- Bacon
- Tortilla chips
- Popcorn
- The most American-tasting OJ I’ve found in Italy

These things are such a welcome treat that I forgive their overly cheesy American-sounding product brand name … McKennedy.

Sometimes Lidl will host an international week, such as “American Week,” “Mexican Week,” “Greek Week,” or even Thai, British or Swedish weeks.

When they do, I stock up on cheddar cheese, pancake mix, pecans, dried cranberries, cranberry juice, flour tortillas, extra-large burrito-sized flour tortillas, jalapeno peppers, Mexican salsa, Greek olives, peanut oil …

I, do, however, skip their “American” pizza. Eek. Just look at that corn over there.

Unfortunately, I’m not always the first one to the store when they release their new products and I’ve missed my all-time favorite American breakfast item-bagels.

I rarely miss out on the good stuff, though. In Lidl, I’ve found Mexican tequila, Scottish Whiskey, Greek wine and Ouzo, as well as the hard to find green apple liquor and coconut rum.

Yes, yes, there are many things an expat can love about Italy, and having this little taste of home, just a few minutes down the road, makes a world of difference.

Expats, is there a Lidl near you? If so, what have you found?

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and travel consultant living in Calabria, Italy. She can organize a group Calabria tour or help you plan a custom itinerary for your family from her website, My Bella Vita.

Photo: cndrnh

Mediterranean Simplicity

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

by Tina Ferrari

I know it seems like all I talk about is food when I discuss my life in Italy these days.  But let’s face it: what’s the first thing people think of when they think about Italy?  I think food is such an important part of a country’s identity and that your openness to your new country’s way of embracing food can determine your experience as an expat.

One of my favorite things about eating in the Mediterranean is the sheer simplicity.  So many things here are not simple: the bureaucracy, traveling around southern Italy (I’m finding it’s easier for me to get to Buenos Aires than it is to get to Sicily), and the streets of my neighborhood in Lecce.  But the food – the food is so incredibly simple and refreshing.  Everything depends on the ingredients.  The recipes are not complex – the less you do, the better.  But the ingredients have to be right.  And here they are so, so right.

Take beets for example.  Here, they call them carote rosse, or red carrots.  My friend suggested yesterday that we make a beet salad.  He had been cooking some beets all morning long and was excited to bite into their softness.  To anyone who isn’t aware of how different and bursting with flavor the ingredients are here, this sounds boring.  But wait.

We carefully sliced each beet, and placed the slices in layers in a bowl.  I was on salt and olive oil duty.  With each layer of sliced beet, I added salt and olive oil (and some vinegar), while my friend added mint leaves that he had picked on his terrace.  We continued until the beets were completely sliced.  We mixed our beet salad and ate it with some beautiful locally made bread and a glass or two of wine.  The strong fragrance of the mint, combined with the sweetness of the beets and the peppery flavor of the olive oil, made for a satisfying lunch.

When some of my American friends back home think of cooking, they are intimidated and discouraged, thinking you have to have a thousand cookbooks and all the time in the world.  But here, I’ve learned that all you need is a few nice ingredients and some olive oil.

What have you learned about food in your adopted home?

Tina Ferrari is a tango dancer, translator and writer currently based in Lecce, Italy. She writes at AffordableCallingCards.net as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

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