The Most Disgusting Pizza I’ve Ever Had

Who knew there could be terrible pizza in Italy.  But trust me.  There is.  I witnessed it tonight.

I’m going to blame all this on the fact that I don’t speak enough Italian to ask “what is on this pizza?”

I saw artichokes and thought hmmm that looks delicious.  I’ll have that one.

Upon arriving home with my pretty little piece of pizza slices wrapped in paper,

I took one bite to find that the topping was something fishy.

Like some sort of tuna salad with mayo (but fishier), slathered on top of a perfectly good pizza base.

I couldn’t even eat it.  I even tried scraping off all the topping but that fishiness was all up in there good.  Into the trash it went.

I feel ill.

This must be God telling me that I shouldn’t be eating pizza during the week.

I should have stuck with the canned soup I originally intended to have.

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My First Time in an Italian Gym

After a desperate weekend of not feeling too great about myself, today I went and signed up for the gym.  I was so enthusiastic that after a reception where I stuffed my face with mini sandwiches, I made my way to the gym for my first work out in an Italian gym or palestra as they are called here.

I decided to start out slow after over a month of not exercising any more than simply walking.  So I did 25 minutes on a cardio machine that somewhat resembled an elliptical machine.

Now let me tell you a few things about Italian gyms, based on my first observation.

First off, you need to have a medical certificate to join.  Luckily, I could get one of those at work (they call it a medical certificate of fitness for non-competitive sports, makes me feel like weak sauce but alas I’m not competitive in sports.  So be it.).   It was sort of a waste of time.  The doctor asked me if there was anything wrong with me.  I said no and she promptly signed the form… One of the many markers of Italy’s inefficiency (not that the US isn’t either).

So with my medical certificate, I signed up.  The gym has a rule that you should bring shoes only to wear inside the gym.  I’m not sure how strict this rule is but on the first day, I figured I would follow the rules.

Shoes packed in a Zara bag, because I’m classy like that.

Then for storage… you need to bring a lock.  Italy is not like the US.  You can’t just go to Target and pick up a lock, a pair of socks, sunscreen and some peanut butter.  I had no idea where one goes to buy a lock in Rome.  Luckily, Cornell in Rome saved me and just gave me one to borrow.  They also mentioned I could have gone to a locksmith.  Who knew?

Case in point.  I now have a lock in my possession.  Hooray!

So after locking up my Zara bag that held the green flats I wore to walk to the gym, I jumped on the first familiar-ish looking machine in sight.  After fumbling with the buttons, I figured out how to enter all the information.  I was good to go.  From here, I realized three things:

  1. I am horribly out of shape.
  2. I forgot a towel.
  3. Italian men are ridiculous.

Let me elaborate on the third point.  Italians are really animated when they talk, which I appreciate.  The gesticulation carries on to the gym.  They’re also really obvious about certain things, like wearing short shorts and shamelessly checking out ladies.

I’m sure I’ll have some better observations when I made my way to the weight room tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

Mushroom-Spinach Risotto

Last Tuesday, after a full day of work and two hours of class, I went to the grocery store.  In my drowsy state of exhaustion, I decided I wanted rice.  Unknowingly I purchased arborio, the kind of rice used for risotto, instead of the regular longer grain rice that I’m accustomed to.  I don’t think it was a language barrier, as the box was clearly labeled “arborio.”  It was probably just that I was tired, hungry and not in the right state of mind.

Long story short.  I now have a box of arborio rice sitting in my kitchen cabinet.  Clearly, it can’t go to waste.  Neither can the huge bag of spinach that I purchased in a moment of desperation when I felt like I’d had it with carbohydrates.

But alas, carbohydrates can’t seem to escape me.  Luckily, they’re delicious.

Mushroom-Spinach Risotto

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup arborio rice
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
3 cups vegetable broth, warm
2 cups fresh chopped spinach
pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (or more if you’d like)

Heat oil in a pot on medium heat.  Add mushrooms and arborio, cook for 5-10 mins until rice begins to turn translucent.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.    Add white wine, stir until it is almost completely absorbed.  Then begin to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until the liquid absorbs.  Repeat until you’ve used all but a bit of the broth.  Stir in the chopped spinach and the last bit of liquid.  Keep stirring until almost completely absorbed, then add the pepper and parmesan.  Once all the liquid is absorbed, serve immediately.

Serves 4.

I think I’m going to suck it up and pay the 195 Euro to use a gym for three months.  I think it might be worth it.

Even though I walk everywhere here, I don’t think it’s going to cut it.  I hadn’t realized how lucky I was to have a cheap gym so close to me in Ithaca.  While I don’t miss the snow, I definitely miss how easy it was to work out.

I’ll keep you posted on the gym dilemma.  Any thoughts?

Cena di Domenica

Let me start by saying that this title might be grammatically incorrect.  Surprisingly, being in Italy has yielded little opportunity to learn Italian.  However, I might leave fluent in French.  Today I spent the majority of the day reading reports in French, who knew I still can read it… but google translate helps… On to Sunday… Domenica!

A new tradition has started.  Well, at least, I hope it’ll catch on.  Inspired by the Biscotti Queen and her family, the grad students and I have decided to start a Sunday Dinner tradition.

My roommate and I both love to cook.  So it sorta works out.  Plus, he’s Sicilian and doesn’t fool around.

Now this wasn’t your average Sunday Dinner.  It started around 3:00pm and ended around 8:00pm, and it was amazing.

It started with an unorthodox, antipasti.  Not meats.  Instead, cream puffs.

Nancy and I love sugar and she stopped at a bakery before arriving.  They were amazing! Some were filled with lemon cream and others with a chocolate cream.

To die for.  So while Nancy and I munched on cream puffs and waited for the others to arrive, Joe started making primo piatto.

Once Lis, Kyla and her friend Giuseppe arrived.  We were ready.

Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare

Delicious!

After some sitting and chatting, I made secondo piatto.  It ended up being some strange version of saltimbocca. Thinly pounded chicken breast, rolled with prosciutto and sage, cooked in a butter wine sauce.

Not bad.  For contorno, rosemary roasted potatoes.

 

Nancy and Lis both brought dessert.  However, I only remembered to photograph what Nancy brought (other than the cream puffs):

Some sort of delicious crostata! I was pleased.

After dessert and coffee, we were sufficiently full and basically ready for the night to be over.

Next time, I want to make primo and leave the meat making to someone who knows what he’s doing.

Valentine’s Day

Forget the pink and red.

Today has been all about green.

Pasta e fagoli con pesto e rucola

Translation: Pasta with cannelini beans and pesto with arugula

It was delicious, but honestly, it’s been a rough day.

I really wanted gelato.  Not far from my house is a gelateria… why not?

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Roma, Roma, Roma

Apparently, soccer football is a big deal around these parts.  So when some fellow interns asked if I wanted to go to a soccer football game, I couldn’t say no.

Roma vs. Napoli

Sounded great!  Then I found out we were sitting in the “fan section” and I was overly worried, because everyone told me the Roma fans are CRAZYYYYYY.

 

In reality, it wasn’t bad.  Not nearly as much shoving and hooligan-ing as I imagined.  But that probably had to do with the fact that Roma lost and did not score once.  Boo.

But I had fun with some new friends, a new scarf and some Birra.

I promise I'm not actually drunk. This is just a bad (but the only) photo of me

 

For next time, I’ll make sure I’ve learned all the words to this song:

 

 

Pasta alla Puttanesca

I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’ve never been a big fan of pasta.

It just was never that exciting.  UNLucky for me, I’m spending the next few months in the land of pasta.

But as the saying goes… When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

So I’m trying, and here’s my experiment.  Pasta alla Puttanesca, which I guess literally means “whore style pasta.” It’s not a Roman recipe originally, and I like to think I’m not a whore, but why not give it a shot.  While I’ve never been a big fan of pasta, I’ve always loved sauce (or “gravy” as they call it on The Sopranos) and more importantly I love olives.

I have no idea if this recipe is anywhere nearing authentic, but I read the basic ingredients of Pasta alla Puttanesca, took a quick trip to the grocery store and came up with this:

To be honest, it was delicious. And to be even more honest, I didn’t measure these things.  So these are estimates of how much I used.  If you give it a try, add stuff and keep tasting and adding more until you like the flavor.  After all, who cares about authenticity if it doesn’t taste good to you? (At least in your own home)

Puttanesca (ish) Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced (apparently the original version doesn’t include onions)
2 gloves of garlic, minced
2 cups tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried basil
1 cup sliced olives
3 tbsp capers
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of fresh italian parsley, chopped

Heat oil in a large pot, add onions and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add tomato puree, tomato paste, basil, olives, capers, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 15 minutes, then stir in parsley.  Simmer for another 15 minutes or so, really the longer you simmer it the better.  If your sauce is too thick, add a bit of water.

Serve over pasta and enjoy!

And enjoy I did, standing at my window, admiring the view

Off to Florence for the weekend!  Be back with pictures!

Spaghetti alla puttanesca