December 31, 2006

Market to Table- Certaldo Francesca's Pumpkin Risotto

At Saturday's market in Certaldo, the local farmer Francesca is a wealth of knowledge and gave me a recipe for Pumpkin Leek Risotto.

She only sells what she grows, and I trust a woman with a smile!

Risotto di Zucca Gialla

2 young leeks
extra virgin olive oil
chili pepper flakes
1 lb pumpkin
1 c Risotto rice,arborio, canaroli or vialone nano
( I use Pila Vecia from Gabriele Ferron in Isola della Scala)

1 cup water
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Clean the leeks and finely slice.
Place in pot with extra virgin olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pot.

Cut the pumpkin into small cubes and let cook with the leek.
Salt to taste and sprinkle with chili flakes.

When the leeks are carmelized and the pumpkin tender, about 10 minutes, add the rice.
Stir to mix well and "toast" the rice.
It should be covered in oil and hot.( Each grain shiny, not swimmin in oil)

Add 2 cups boiling water. Salt to taste. ( I use water instead of boulloin cubes or making broth and let the flavors of the risotto speak! There is enough flavor with veggies, great olive oil and wonderful sea salt)

Cover and let cook for 14 minutes.
Uncover and stir.

The rice should be cooked and the liquid absorbed.

Now add 1 cup of additional boiling water and the grated parmesan cheese.
Stir until the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is "all'onda", wave-like.

This will create the perfect creaminess, without adding cream.
Stirring releases the starch in the rice and binds with the liquid and cheese to create the PERFECT NON-STIR RISOTTO!

December 27, 2006

dreams of sugar plums.....

Pre-Christmas, we head out to get some Christmas cheer somewhere else!
Last year was Palermo, this year Brussels.

Home to lace, chocolate, waffles, Belgium endive, Brussel sprouts?

I am still on chocolate overload from my tour in October, but this was chocolate lover's heaven. My favorite was Piero Marcolini, looking more like Tiffany's than a chocolate shop! And he is also eye candy!!!

I stayed away from chocolate, but caved in to my weakness for caramels!
We went through one box while we were there and had to go back from another to bring back to Florence. The caramels are flavored with pineapple, passion fruit, ginger and chocolate!

We also picked up a bar of Venezulan chocolate with carmelized pecans crushed in it.

The city itself was all dressed up, fabulous street festival that went on and on. Over 240 stands.

The streets smelled of mulled wine, chocolate and the brisk cold made my eyes freeze!!!!

Stand with creche figures, gift items and food, food, food!

The architecture was fabulous, the Grand Place ( pictured below) was the center of the festivities. Over 240 stands, ice rink, light shows, ferris wheels and fun extended all over the town from the Grand Place to the Place Saint Catherine.

The streets were packed at night. We enjoyed eating at one of the fish markets turned restaurant, a stand set-up in the front of the shop, grilled calamari with prawns and a glass of white wine. 10 Euro enough for both of us to share! The menu also had 2 kinds of fish soup and snails, the street snack of Brussels.

We love to see flea markets and went to two while we were there. The larger one held on Sunday at Sablon, both Saturday and Sunday. I found an old chocolate mold for 6 euro and was happy. Then off to Jeu du Bols, which was more of a free for all!
Stuff all over the huge piazza, we went during the week and it was a real mess, but Sunday it was nicer..and found more stuff!

Was so cold though kept having to stop for soup, or coffee to thaw out.
We really enjoyed the corner bar where we had the soups, lentil with cumin and zucchini.
I then noticed a specialiy,called a tarte. it was like a savory thin waffle, topped with fresh tomatoes, raw white onion, coriander, eaten folded like a pizza. FABULOUS.
the owner had several lebanese specialites too.
We would return. I love bar food!
They have their own site too, was like eating in a flea market!

December 24, 2006

True Gifts!

Have a dog-gone good time this Christmas!

Thank all of you who gave from the bottom of your hearts.. and pocketbooks, to the
Menu for Hope.

The amazing amount of over $58,000 was raised!

For a list of the winners, check in at Chez Pim, January 15th.

Enjoy the holidays!

I will be catching up with my blog... this week!

December 19, 2006

Menu for Hope III

In this season of giving... and getting it is nice to have a chance to do both and help a good cause. Last year's auction raised over $17,000 for Unicef and this year is already up to $30,000 for UN World Food Program.

There are incredible prizes offered by famous chefs and generous food bloggers

Here is how you can donate... and get the chance to also give something to yourself.

My Chocolate Guru David L. has put together the European list
and explains very well how it works.

Bid on one of the fabulous prizes being offered listed on ChezPim's website.

I have offered a one day market tour and class, if you would like to bid it is EUO6

Here's what you should do...

1. Go to the donation page.

2. Make a donation! Each $10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Do tell us how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code-for example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UW01 and 3 for UW02. My prize number is EU06. If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

3. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

4. Check back on Chez Pim on January 15 when we announce the result of the raffle. The drawing will be done electronically.

Mille Grazie!