Sunday, May 16, 2010


It's not always easy to whip things up in the kitchen like I used to in the “pre-Roman” era. Rome might be an amazing food city, but in the age of globalization, the US wins again as far as convenience in finding ingredients. For example, I am on the hunt for more than one type of baking chocolate, a staple in the kitchen of a baker! So far, there are just bars of Nestle (!!) “fondente”, totally standard melting chocolate, not so impressive! No mention made to whether it's semi-sweet, bitter-sweet, etc. I would certainly like a huge chunk of Belgian chocolate like I used to buy at Whole Foods. Anyway, Italians are born foodies so it must exist here. I'll just have to search harder. No one I know here likes to bake, so I'm finding it hard to get much advice on the subject.

Meanwhile, I have a new favorite nut! The hazelnut, which if Italy had a national nut, it would be this one. I always used to leave them behind in jars of mixed nuts and I never really gave them the time of day. But you taste “nocciola” gelato and tell me the hazelnut does not earn your utmost respect!! Yesterday being the umpteenth day of rain here, we're all feeling kvetchy and I'm staring into an almost bare cupboard (I like to shop almost daily—gives us an outing!) and so to lift my spirits I melt the whole bar of fondente, which as it turns out is only a little stronger than milk chocolate, pour it over roasted hazelnuts spread on some parchment paper. Let harden, and voila my own free-style chocolate bar. Didn't much help baby's yearning to go outside, but chocolate and hazelnuts gives a girl just that extra bit of patience.

Years ago, I used to make little clusters by melting dark chocolate and then combining that with shredded coconut and slivered almonds and spooning free-style clumps of it onto parchment to cool in the fridge. It actually contains healthy fats and anti-oxidants so in fact it doesn't even count as dessert. Ha! Next I will try pistachios and raisins.

****SPQR, initials for the latin phrase “Senatus populusque Romanus” (the Senate and the people of Rome) appears everywhere in Rome (even on all the manhole covers), as it is the motto of the city of Rome from ancient times.

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