I’d like to thank all of you for your birthday wishes. I had a wonderful day and was thrilled that you enjoyed the White Chocolate-Raspberry Tart. I was hesitant to post about my birthday as I felt it might be a bit over-the-top. But I couldn’t resist sharing my special tart for my special day. So once again, I thank you.
Before I get into the business of this post, I wanted to send a reminder, on behalf of my dear friend Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Sensual Gourmet, regarding the second Canadian Blogging by Post. If you blog and you live in Canada, I urge you to participate as it’s a wonderful way to meet fellow bloggers in this beautiful land of ours. The details are all here, but the deadline is fast-approaching so be sure to sign up.
And now for the business at hand.
I spend quite a bit of time reading all the incredible food blogs out there. I do this partly for entertainment, partly for inspiration and partly for the sheer love of food. I am consistently amazed at how creative and brilliant you all are. I have a pile of recipes clipped from your blogs to prove it.
But every once and awhile, I will happen upon a post that for one reason or another touches me deeply. I had this very experience when I came across Orchidea’s post about Minestra di Riso e Latte (Rice Soup with Milk). If you don’t know who Orchidea is, she is the creative force behind the beautiful Viaggi e Sapori. Orchidea is Italian, but she lives in Stockholm, Sweden. I haven’t "known" her for very long, but in the time that I have known her I’ve been impressed by her charm, her writing, her photography and most of all her cooking.
Her recipe for Minestra di Riso e Latte, in particular, captured my fancy. It’s very similar to a dish that I had often as a child. While I have no clear recollections of my mother making this for me, I do remember my dear Nonna preparing it for me often. She would add a bit of butter and parmigiano to boiled rice, with some of the cooking water added in. It produced a creamy, buttery and cheesy dish that was a bit more soupy than risotto, but comforting to the very core.
My maternal grandmother, my Nonna, was a huge force in my life. When my mother went back to work after my birth, the commute that both my parents faced was long. By the time they picked me up after work and drove home, they realized they were spending very little time with me. They made the decision to have my Nonna take care of me during the week. On Friday evenings they would pick me up and they would then drop me off again on Sunday nights.
This may sound like a strange arrangement to some, but in our Italian background grandparents are very often the primary caregivers for young children. So until the age of two, I spent my weeks happily in the care of my Nonna. While I undoubtedly missed my parents, I could not have had a better guiding hand for those formative years.
Seeing the picture of Orchidea’s Minestra di Riso e Latte opened the memory floodgates and I recalled the happy times that I spent with my Nonna, and of course, the incredible food she made for me. Her food was simple, brave, uncomplicated, pure, flavourful and honest. Today it would probably be described as "rustic." But to her, it was simply the best food to put on the table to feed her children and grandchildren.
The memory of her rice with butter and parmigiano transported me instantly to the beauty of her kitchen. I remember the warmth, the comforting aroma of her cooking and the sound of her voice. And those memories are so deeply comforting … just like soupy rice with butter and parmigiano.
I was reminiscing about my Nonna’s cooking in the days after reading Orchidea’s post, when I had an idea. I approached her with a suggestion for a one-off event, about the dishes of our childhood that comforted us then, and continue to comfort us now.
I realize that there are a number of events constantly being planned in this Blog Universe, but Orchidea and I thought it might be special to stop for a moment, reflect and post about that special dish, from our youth, that meant so much. We ask that you share your special memory with everyone by November 15th. Be sure to e-mail Orchidea at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com. We will post a round-up on the 16th or 17th of November. Be sure to use the Technorati tag "Dishes of Comfort" and feel free to post your photos to the Flickr Group, "Picturing Dishes of Comfort."
As for the dish that you see at the top of this page, like my grandmother’s rice dish, le patatine fritte (small fried potatoes) are one of those childhood joys. My mother had no trouble whatsoever getting us to the table whenever a plateful of these golden, crispy delights appeared.
While the type of potato used depended entirely on whatever we had in the pantry, they were always made the same way. Cut into small cubes, they were fried in a mixture of vegetable oil and olive oil until they were deeply golden. As soon as they were removed from the pan, they were showered in salt. What pleasure they would bring!
When I visited Italy in 2003, I had the pleasure of spending time with some friends of my father. As I sat in their kitchen and chatted with them, I noted that they were preparing patattine fritte for lunch. And to my delight, they added a sprig of rosemary to the frying potatoes. The aroma was heavenly. Ever since then, I have done the same. No matter what is going on in our lives, this dish is always a very special treat.
So I leave you with these patatine fritte and with the following question: what is your childhood comfort dish?
Le Patatine Fritte
Treasured family recipe.
- 4 potatoes, medium to large-sized, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- (1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large sprig rosemary
- salt (to taste)
- In a large saute pan, heat the vegetable oil and olive oil. The oil is ready when you drop in a potato cube and it immediately begins to sizzle.
- Carefully add your potatoes in an even layer. Resist the urge to move them around. Leave the potatoes to fry for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, carefully flip the potatoes and fry for another 5 minutes.
- Once again, flip the potatoes and let them fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. At this point, begin to flip them every 3 to 4 minutes until they are golden.
- At this point, add the rosemary sprig and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- As soon as the potatoes are deeply golden and the rosemary begins to turn golden, remove the potatoes and place then on a platter lined with paper towel.
- Immediately salt the potatoes and rosemary. Let them sit for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Transfer the potato and rosemary to a serving plate and commence fighting with everyone at the table over who gets the most potatoes.
Note: This recipe will serve 4. The guideline we use in terms of serving size is that we use one potato per person at the table. We like to use sea salt on these potatoes.
*A special thanks to Miria who corrected my spelling on patatine (not patattine). I can’t believe I made that mistake!!! Gee I hope my Italian professors weren’t reading …