– Sweet –
Belgian summers aren’t exactly considered as tropical, yet we do get the occasional taste of it. Longing for those nice warm days to be here soon, I decided to get in the mood with some fruity desserts. When I bought the book Recipes of an Italian Summer I instantly had a crush on the crostata ai frutti di bosco or crispy forest fruit pie, with lemon filling. Admitted, it was a bit ambitious to start baking at 9pm – I’m still a rookie in baking so I didnt’ finish before around midnight – yet it was all worth it.
– Book review-
Last weekend I went to Passa Porta, probably my favorite bookshops in Brussels. I have to install triple locks on my wallet each time I go there, but regardless of how hard I try to stick to passive shopping, I rarely end up walking out without binded paper in my hands. This time my eye fell on Recipes of an Italian Summer (Dutch title: De Zomer van de Zilveren Lepel). Phaidon describes this book as “the ultimate Italian summer cookbook filled with delicious, easy-to-make seasonal recipes” but then again they published it, so why would they claim otherwise. Recipes of an Italian Summer is the follow-up edition of The Silver Spoon, which is considered as the bible for Italian cooking.
Since I bought the book 5 days ago, I have tested 4 different recipes and most of them were enthusiastically approved. The pictures inside are honest – the food looks like it has actually been prepared, not polished and glued to the plate like you see in some other cookbooks – and the recipes are easy to read. The two ribbon page markers are an extra treat for ribbon lovers like myself. A tiny downside of the book is the large variation of servings on which the recipes are based. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll be cooking for 16 persons. Typical Italian family dinner size that is I guess.
All with all, I’ve been having a hard time leaving this book on the bookshelf. It’s definitely a must have for summer.
Recipes of an Italian Summer, ISBN 978-0714857732 , Phaidon.
– Italian cuisine-
I love risotto. To me it’s the perfect dish for those days where I don’t feel like eating pasta – in my case that would be again pasta – or the regular Belgian potato. Risotto doesn’t require high kitchen skills, but a good amount of patience is not a luxury. This is not a meal to prepare when you want food on the table fast, or when you have 13 items on your to-do-while-cooking list. Give risotto the time and patience it deserves and you’ll be rewarded with great taste. The number of possible combinations with risotto is almost endless. Today’s choice landed on asparagus. The season is coming to its end, so why not enjoy the last bits of it.
Asparagus risotto: 500 gr white asparagus, 100 gr small green asparagus, 350 gr risotto, 1 1/5 liter vegetable stock, 1/2 white onion, butter, olive oil, parmezan cheese.
Clean the asparagus (tip: for white asparagus you need to remove the skin, but not for the green asparagus since it has a soft skin) and boil al dente (5-8 minutes depending on asparagus size). Cut the asparagus tops and put aside. Chop the rest of asparagus into pieces. Shortly sauté in butter and season with salt & pepper.
Boil the vegetable stock.
Chop the onion and fry in a good amount of oil (about 3 table spoons) and some butter and leave to simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes while stirring now and then. Add the risotto and stir well while getting the heat up to medium-high level. Once risotto has become translucent by the oil, add the asparagus pieces (not yet the tops) and start adding the vegetable stock. This is where you need your patience on the table. You should add the stock in very small portions (about one sauce spoon at a time) and make sure each time the fluid is absorbed well before adding some more. Don’t test your luck by adding all at once, unless your aiming for a sticky mass without any structure. Depending on the type of risotto you use, this process of adding stock can take up to 20-25 minutes. Remember to continue stirring!
Add the asparagus tops at the very end to keep them crispy and serve with roughly grated parmezan.
Asparagus risotto is a good match for different types of fish, or also meat. I combined with pork, seasoned with pepper & sea salt, balsamico vinegar and sugar.
Another burger place in town. Usually I don’t like chic clean interiors too much, but in this case the owners kept enough cosiness in the place to feel at ease.
The menu lists burgers, salads and eggs, all in true NY style, although I couldn’t really say because I’ve never been to the actual Big Apple. It’s been on my to-do list way too long now. I tried the lamb burger with rocket, sundried tomatoes and mint yoghurt, my boyfriend had a chicken-avocado burger. All burgers come with a fresh veggie salad and home made fries. My burger was good. As in really really good. Portion wise I must say that I could have dealt with a bit more than what I had on my plate. But this makes a good excuse for ordering dessert, which I didn’t do this time. Makes a good excuse to go back, you see. At the same time you don’t want to go there too often, unless your weekday dining budget is calculated with some margin – a visit will cost you about € 20-25 for main dish and glass of wine.
The service was friendly and very smooth, although we went on a Wednesday, which is the night when all restaurants around Chatelaine are stuffed with hungry folks. I’m definitely tempted to go back and try one of the salads.
P.H.A.T., Rue Américaine 22, 1050 Ixelles.