Saturday, March 01, 2008

Say Cheese! : What's In A Name?

unfortunately I've forgotten the name of this cheese, but it sure was good! I'll find out the name as soon as possible!

Yesterday I was at Il Contadino, that fancy grocery store that I've mentioned before which has recently been renovated and where you can find a wonderful selection of cheeses. There are a few good cheese stores in Macerata, and I have typically stayed loyal to one called La Casa Del Parmigiano in the city centre--I always go there to buy old standards: classic aged Pecorino, Pecorino Sardo, the Marche cheese Pecorino di Fossa, and cheeses we use in recipes, like Gouda and Edam, and I've always been really happy with the store because their cheeses are excellent quality and their prices are more than reasonable. In fact, I can normally get better deals there than at the big grocery stores, and we've noticed that stuff like their "Yogurt Greco" (which we use as a subsitute for sour cream) is much tastier. I still love that place and go there often, but Il Contadino is nice because, even if the prices are a bit steep, they have this outrageously large selection--it seems like there are new and different cheeses stacked up everywhere, some hiding behind others--the place is just full of all kinds of variety.

So yesterday I had an hour of free time, and I went by there for the first time in a while. I picked out the above cheese, and grabbed a couple of standards: Scoparolo (a new favorite) and Burrata (an old favorite). The unfortunate thing is that I can't seem to remember the name exactly: could it be Pincio? They told me it was a cheese from the Veneto region of Italy, and I think it is a cow's milk cheese--in fact, it reminded Antonello of Grana Padano, a popular DOP cow's milk cheese in Italy that many people use to substitute Parmigiano. I guess it does taste like Grana, and the consistency is quite similar (although this "Pincio" cheese isn't as grainy as Grana Padano) , but I also think that is more flavorful and a bit sharper. I was happy that it wasn't overly sharp--nothing like the Testun that I tried a while back. It's a great aged cheese, and has a slight bitterness to it, which I found pleasing. Anyway, I really liked it, it's a very nice cheese to eat by itself, and I was happy to find a tasty aged cheese that wasn't pecorino this time.

Don't worry, I'll go back to Il Contadino soon and find out what the name of the cheese is! And I might just buy another hunk of it to eat with lunch. :)

Have a great weekend, and enjoy your cheeses! Sorry I have been so bad about reading other people's blogs--I really need to catch up!


Friday, February 29, 2008

What's For Dinner

With all of these hectic schedules, it's a miracle Antonello and I have actually had a chance to have lunch and dinner together this week, much less prepare the food we eat. In fact, it hasn't been easy at all: two days this week, when I only had an hour for lunch between lessons, we met at the Chinese restaurant near my work and ate springrolls and tofu stir fry, and the ever-popular fried ice cream that you find here.

Toward the end of the week, though, I was able to get a bit done (especially on Wednesday, when I only worked half-day), and I prepared a few meals that were meant to last longer than just one meal. I was proud of myself for thinking to marinate some feta in advance in order to make baked feta: a deliciously simple warm and tasty meal that makes a really quick dinner, in situations like these, where we both work long hours. It's the easiest thing in the world: just take blocks of feta and add thinly sliced onions, sliced red peppers, sliced tomatoes, oregano, hot pepper, and olive oil--marinate it all together closed in a sheet of plastic wrap for a little while, and then, once the plastic wrap has been removed, wrap it in aluminum foil and pop it in the oven to cook for about half an hour at very high heat. It comes out all steaming and smelling amazing, and opening each packet is like a little gift. The cheese is soft enough to spread a bit, but still consistent enough to eat with a fork, and it's delicious with bread and salad. Oh, it's also a really good campfire food. Anyway, it was the perfect thing to make during this busy week.

Two other meals I made were cicerchia--a plan-ahead soup, like lentils, but with the strange cicerchia pulse that might be hard to find outside of Italy, simply because it probably doesn't have much export value. A cicerchia is something of a chickpea, but not nearly as soft when you eat it. It's one of those things that makes you wonder WHO could of thought of eating this strange looking food, but it is normally pretty tasty in the end. Also, for tomorrow I planned ahead and made marinated eggplant. Although it takes a bit more time, it's a great thing to have in the fridge, and it's simple and delicious.

Also, I've stocked up on cheese, so that will be good for next week and for tomorrow's cheese-of-the-week. Hopefully, with creative planning, next week won't be hard to organize in terms of meals, but I'm still not looking forward to another similarly busy week. I'm ready to go into hibernation--that sounds rather nice, actually. Wake me up when spring comes.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Late Night with Stelle In Italia

It's so late, I have worked ALL day and, unfortunately, I didn't have time to run. Plans were changed, so I had to work eight hours of intensive English, plus another couple of lessons too. What a day. I'm exhausted. I hope to run tomorrow, since it's a bit of a better schedule, but right now I'm ready to hit the hay.

Anyway, here's what I've got to show you--my English students' blog:

Pasta, Zucchinis, Eggplant, and Rocket. Yeah, the title's weird, I know. They're a fun group, though.

Have a great night, and I hope to blog a bit more tomorrow!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Getting Through Day 3

Today was Day 3 of "Jackie's Hectic Week." It was technically a day off--I only worked a half day today. What did I do?

1. Slept in. Just slightly.

2. Watched American television by way of Quarterlife, an internet series that will soon be on NBC, and got caught up (read: watched WAY too much TV) with the series. Soon after, I began to stress about the fact that, technically, I'm too old for the show--the 25 year old lifestyle is definitely not me anymore. Was I ever quite like that?

3. Read about these top 10 American restaurants.

4. Got sidetracked while on the New York Times travel page and dreamt about visiting Sydney's rock pools. Doing laps in the ocean? That sounds neat to me!

5. Did very little housework. Yay!

6. Got my students talking by creating a "conversation deck" with notecards where the students wrote the questions. Not quite 52 cards, but close enough. I gathered all of the cards together (anonymous), and we read aloud one student's question-- if you could be born again, would you prefer being a woman or a man? Deep stuff, huh? What's your answer?

7. Downloaded Portuguese podcasts from ITunes (free!) to work on learning the language. There are all sorts of different podcast possibilities for language learning, and, like I said: they are free. Give it a try!

8. Started making dinner--baked feta.

What didn't I do?


And so the big question is: will I run tomorrow? I hope so...but tune in tomorrow for "Jackie's hectic week" to find out. Sorry, no preview to offer except that it's gonna be another busy day.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day two

"If it were not for hopes, the heart would break."
- Thomas Fuller

Why are Tuesdays always bad days? It just seems to be working out like that for me lately, and today started out with me not wanting to even get up out of bed, and now is ending with me just wanting to get some solid sleep. Ugh. I'm tired after two long days of work (yesterday was especially tough), and I ended my lessons today at 10:30, my last lesson being rather difficult to get through, as it was two hours long, and the students seemed set on speaking only in Italian. Not fun.

So I'm just greeting you today with a little quote that I keep on my computer, and a nice goodnight. I hope to do a better job of writing tomorrow. I've been spending so much time preparing lessons and then teaching that I feel like I can't get much of anything done, and it's upsetting me a bit. Work is crazy, and as soon as it all ends, I'm off to the states--my ticket is for March 12th. I wish I had more time between hectic schedules and my flight to the states, but it has just worked out this way.

Only one run in so far this week, too--who knows if that will increase? I'm hoping to do a bit of jogging tomorrow morning--but sleeping in sounds so tempting!

Have a great evening. More tomorrow...


Monday, February 25, 2008

Macerata Monday: Facade

I used to believe that this church of The Immaculate Conception (Immacolata Concezione), which is on a busy street leading to Macerata's city walls, was one of the oldest churches outside of the city center. As you might have seen last week, I posted a photo of the facade of the church of Santa Croce, which really is one of the oldest churches in the area outside of the medieval walls. Anyway, the church facade that you see before you now is not only NOT one of the oldest churches outside of the walls, but it would actually be considered one of the newer ones. Placed as it is on a busy street near the old centre of town, this church used concrete for building. It's facade is very pleasant, and inside, the church is grand, dark, and has a baroque-feel to it. It's peaceful, and the flicker of candles light the corners of darkness.

I've been drawn to lots of churches these days--I guess it's because I'm making up for the fact that I always forget about Macerata's beautiful churches. I almost never include them for Macerata Monday, and I tend to overlook them. The reason for this is that there aren't a lot of finished facade churches in town. Most of the city centre churches--with an exception for maybe four or five--stopped building when they finished the interior, lacking funds to build an inviting facade. Even the duomo is without decoration.

But there are still quite a few beautiful churches, and a lot of them do exist outside of the city walls. I will just have to explore a bit more.

Anyway--very busy day today! I hope to talk about it a bit tomorrow, but for now, I need dinner, and then sleep!