I am a big fan of realistic books on culture and travel. Someone said “language is one of the most immediate ways to get to know a culture.” If They are Roses – The Italian way with Words by author Linda Falcone, editor The Florentine Press, and illustrator Leo Cardini, is one I read recently and really enjoyed. It is an light hearted comedic narrative by Falcone’s own experiences of living and working in Florence, Italy. Falcone is a columnist at The Florentine, Tuscany’s English-language newspaper that was one of the media partners of Florence Culture and Heritage Week 2012. Continue reading “If they are roses (and other Italian superstitions)”
Recently I came across the book “Unquenchable – A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines” by Natalie MacLean. I feel like what I want to do with voluntourism, MacLean has done it with wine. I am not a fan of reading wine guides for entertainment purposes, but this book turned out to be a collection of personal stories with the backdrop of culture and travel, so definitely interesting to me!
Each day of the week, MacLean takes you on a personal journey to a different country, exploring the rich wine regions of the world from Germany to South Africa to Australia. Through her witty narrations, she talks about the history about the wines, the geography of the region and the evolution over the centuries. The book also includes references to wineries (including value producers) and complete dinner pairings. The best part about the book is that it flows in a story-telling fashion, making it as interesting to read as a travel journal.
Reading Unquenchable is like going on a wine tour around the world without ever leaving your couch. Her descriptive writing makes you feel like you are actually there with MacLean on her little adventures. To complete the experience, make sure you pour yourself a glass of your favorite glass while reading Unquenchable. As for me, I have to try Nero d’avola just because it reminded MacLean of Italian actor Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) which happens to be my favorite movie of all times.
When I visited Morocco last Fall, I took cooking lessons from the locals, indulged in the native food and came home with some cookbooks for reference. Eating at home in Rabat was very different than eating at Moroccan restaurants. There were a variety of vegetables that were used in everyday cooking (and were delicious) which weren’t even listed in the restaurant menus. Perhaps you have also experienced the same tagines, couscous, bastilla and salad, but are foreign to Harira, poached artichokes, stewed pumpkins, etc.
Recently, I virtually met Zouhair Zairi (also known as Chef ZZ), a chef from Morocco who recently released his cookbook, Moorish Fusion Cuisine. It captured my interest immediately so I got my hands on a copy. As the book is titled, the recipes in the book are definitely “fusion.” Combining the commonly found ingredients in Morocco (pumpkin, artichokes, fennel, dates, saffron, olives, argan oil) with dishes inspired from the West (Bruschetta, Dip, Sushi, Flat Bread), Chef ZZ has created a fun and inspiring cookbook full of delicious recipes. There are also a few traditional dishes, such as Zahlouk (eggplant dip), Chicken Bastilla (sweet and savory pie), Chicken Tagine with preserven lemon and Moroccan green olives, Lamb Kebabs and many more that retain the elements of Moroccan cuisine.
The author has an inspiring story that proves that with hard work and strong determination, any dream can be achieved. Chef ZZ left Morocco for US at the age of 19, where he started as a dishwasher and ended up learning all aspects of the restaurant business. He ended up getting a degree in Culinary Arts and became an executive banquet chef for the 1996 Olympic tennis team’s “Gala Affair” in Atlanta, GA. In 2002 Zouhair opened his own restaurant, Spices in Maui, island of Hawaii. Chef ZZ now works at a five-diamond resort where his abilities and passion earned him the coveted Culinary Excellence Award from the JW Marriott Resort & Spa and a Certificate of Appreciation from the White House.
Get chef ZZ’s recipe for Tomato, Fennel, and Saffron Soup with Olive Oil–Poached Artichokes
Whether you want to impress your guests at the next dinner party or spice up your weekday dinner routine, Moorish Fusion Cuisine will give you “something different,” recipes you cannot find in any other cookbook.
In this recipe, Chef Zouhair Zariri, author of the book, Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World combines two of his favorite ingredients, fennel and artichoke to make a light, healthy soup that combines flavors of East and West. With the chill of fall creeping in, it is the perfect comfort food with a twist.Serves 6 to 8 Preparation: 25 minutes; Cooking: 1 hour, 30 minutes Ingredients: 4 whole artichokes, cleaned and quartered (leave stem on for presentation) 1 cup olive oil, reserving 1½ tablespoons 2 quarts fennel broth (see recipe below) 1 pinch saffron, toasted 1 shallot, julienned 2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin 1 whole fennel, julienned (reserve top part for stock) 8 organic grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes Kosher salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste Garnish: Zest of 1 lemon Fresh parsley leaves
Poach the artichokes as follows. In a small sauce pot, over medium heat, place the artichoke quarters in the olive oil and poach for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. Keep warm.
In a medium soup pot, bring the fennel broth to warm, add the toasted saffron, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, allowing the saffron to release all its flavors.
Meanwhile, in a separate soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the shallot and garlic for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the shallot and garlic don’t burn. Add the julienned fennel and cook for a few more minutes. Pour the saffron broth into the mixture and cook for 15 more minutes.
In a small sauté pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil over high heat and sauté the tomatoes for a few seconds or until their skins start to blister. Add to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle the soup into medium bowls and top with artichoke quarters crisscross. Sprinkle with lemon zest and garnish with fresh parsley leaves. Serve immediately.
Linda Watson helps people save money, eat well, and make a difference by cooking seasonal food from scratch at less than the food-stamp allowance. Her book, Wildly Affordable Organic is all about delicious recipes that are made from scratch using fresh ingredients. Why good? “Because you will save money and feel better” she says. You will also increase your self-sufficiency, reduce suffering, and help slow global warming.
Linda first experimented to see what it feels like to live on a food-stamp budget and how does one eat healthy (let along organic) being on it. Allocating just $1.53 to each meal, she challenged herself to create family-friendly recipes that were simple, delicious and affordable.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but it actually is not. Linda gives very simple tips throughout her book, along with her recipes. She talks about buying family-size bargains, making your own spice mixtures, cooking dry beans from scratch, freezing seasonal fruits and much more.
Even if you are a busy professional, you can Cook for Good by planning ahead and strategizing your meals. Linda claims that you can cook about 60% of your food from scratch in less time than it takes to watch a TV show!
I first met Linda at the IACP conference in Austin, TX back in June 2011. The moment I started talking to her about what she does, I could tell she was really passionate about making a difference in people’s lives. Linda believes that helping people get enough good food to eat isn’t just a matter of giving them money, although money is essential. Linda also campaigns at state and national level to encourage the government to fund and make more convenient its financial support for hungry people.
To learn more about how you can help yourself and the planet, visit Cook for Good.
I will be giving away a copy of the book, Wildly Affordable Organic on Twitter! If you like to enter to win, all you need to do is follow GoEatGive on Twitter. Drawing will be held on August 31, 2011 and the winner will be notified through Twitter.