Friday, September 30, 2011

Genovese Pesto - Saigon & Florence

My old way of doing pesto in Saigon, Vietnam

Buonasera ragazzi e ragazze!

How time flies that every time I will find time to blog, weeks passed by already and September is ending tomorrow. I have been learning a lot from my cooking school with my dearest teacher Chef Marcella and figo Chef Damiano. One of the remarkable learning I had so far is doing the authentic Genovese pesto. This Italian pasta dish hails from Liguria region and from the province of Genova. I learned that you never cook a pesto which I usually do in my own style and sometimes put bacon on top or chicken. I remember how my Italian boss said it's bastardizing pesto when you add meat. Pesto is pesto in its simplest form and he was right because he is from Genova. So from that learning and new techniques I learned from my Italian teachers, pesto is now one of my favorite staple pasta dishes.

My new way of doing pesto in Florence, Italy

If you notice the picture of my pasta on top which I did when I was still in Saigon, it's quite a bit oily and dark. This one with the linguine pasta is refreshingly green and not oily. How lovely this pasta especially putting my new favorite Pecorino Romano from sheep milk. And the word Pecorino derives from the word Pecora which means sheep. What also excites me doing this pesto sauce is because I have now few Basil pots at my veranda where I usually sits for breakfast and doing skype with my friends.

My pesto ingredients are ready to be blended

My veranda with my Basil pots

I have been out of town lately and I really promise to post separately the pictures of the town I visited. I visited the not so touristy places like Bologna, Lucca, Siena and Fiesole---they are nearby town in Florence. Quaint, beautiful and quiet. But of course I never fail to gaze nor explore the beautiful city of Firenze and one of my favorite spot is the Piazzale Michaelangelo. You will have there the overlooking of Florence with all its landmarks including the river and the cinematic Ponte Vecchio.

Overlooking view of Firenze with Ponte Vecchio

So far I have been around with so many places in Florence like restaurants and pubs with my classmate and new friend Maija. She is from Finland and a very nice girl. I would love to share you guys more of my adventures next time. I have been learning a lot of Italian now and improving just by hearing from my new found Italian friends. And I have some good news next time and I hope I will have some more. Meanwhile, I am excited because I am going out of the country and going back to Spain this time Madrid. I was wishing I can also go back to Barcelona because I really love it but 4 days off school may not be enough. This is it for now...

Ciao Bello and Bella! :-)

big hug,
joanie xxx

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dolce Italia: Gelato & Panacotta

Fig Gelato (Done at school)

Buongiorno Sabato!

It's a lazy Saturday... after I woke up around 10:30 am. Just finished having my pesto spaghetti for lunch and strawberry milk shake. Well it's been two weeks since I came to Italy and a lot of things are happening aside from school activities which are more important things than anything else. I have met a few Italians so far from a coach surfing meet-up party and then I visited a design agency in Firenze which considerably the biggest in town. I must say I met good Italian people so far and I am looking forward to meet more.

The past weeks I also familiarized myself on walking around the city from my house to different point areas like the city center where all the historical places are situated like the Duomo, Stazione Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and Punta Vecchio. I attempted to go to Boboli garden but I failed. Before reaching the area I got tired because there are pandemonium of tourist everywhere and it's friggin' hot. But there was this day that I succeeded to reach the Piazzale Michaleangelo which is on the hill overlooking the entire Florence. And I plan to go back again there today with my friend.

Last week I also met up my friend from Milano to have a whole day of fun in Bologna. I had two gelatos that day plus one giant pizza that we shared. We toured the center of the city where all the universities are situated and then we climbed Torre Asinelli and had a view of Bologna as a red city because of its terracotta color. As much as I wanted to avoid shopping, when there is a sale it's hard to resist---and so I did! Bologna was a fun day indeed :)

Panacotta topped with Peaches (Done at home)

Everything is incredible in Italy. The people, the language, the places and of course the food! I just love going to supermarket and market with my trolley bag to buy some good meat, fruits and vegetables. Everything is fresh and of good quality even the dairies. I just love every single moment I spent purchasing food that I often can't find in Asia. My now favorite market is Mercato Ambrogio which is not far from where I live and it's highly recommended by my chef teacher.

I've been learning a lot from my school. Food encyclopedia of Italy and the whole world is massive information that one person cannot learn in one day or in an instant. That's why I am here for few months to learn as much as I could. And I am proud to say that I have made my first fresh gelato with figs which I made at our school with the help of our chef teacher. Then as I try to exercise my expertise mastering the panacotta, I made one at home. The cream and milk were so good! I topped it with my preserved peaches (which I made in our school last week) to compliment or balance the good taste. I am looking forward to post more stories, arts & design, food photos, exciting information & trivia about Italy and of course recipes!

Ciao for now Bello & Bella!

big hug,
joanie xxx

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Italy!

Xin Chao everyone!

Hope it's not the last time to say this greeting after leaving Vietnam last week. Yes you heard it right! After the long saga of waiting my Italian student visa, it arrived 6 days before I left Saigon. I had sleepless nights prior to that because of the uneasy feeling that I may not be granted one. Though, I am confident that they will because UK issued me a new visa, so I assumed another Schengen visa wouldn't be a hassle. But we never know 'til we get the stamp on our passport. And I am glad that they gave me one! It was very tiring packing my stuff from my apartment in 10 boxes and bidding goodbye to everyone.

My last cooking buffet in the cafe where I work as weekend chef was a big success. Unexpected number of guests arrived to avail the buffet menu as I bid farewell to my Vietnam culinary and advertising adventures. I can't thank enough all the people who manifested their heart-felt support in every little thing I do. So that's probably one of the things I would miss in Saigon.

I arrived Milano at Malpensa airport last Sept 3 at 7:30 in the morning. My former Creative Director/friend from Philippines is currently based in Milan and he picked me up in the airport and I stayed at his place for two days. His cousins are very warm and accommodating in the house where I stayed. They even brought me when they went to outskirt of Milan to attend a Sunday mass with a massive Filipino attendees. The name of the church is Caravaggio, named after famous painter Michaelangelo Mersi da Caravaggio who was born in Lombardy, Milan. I surprisingly had fun attending the mass because the homily was very nice and it was hosted by an Italian priest who spoke three languages at that time. He delivered the entire mass 90% Filipino and 5% of English and Italian. That totally amazed me!

After two days I left Milano on Sept 5 to move to Firenze, Italia--where my culinary study will take place. I will tell you next time the beginning of my Florentine life story in the next posts I will be having. In the meantime, I would like to share all of you the first ever successful cake I baked. This successful baked cake is a milestone for me since I am not into baking but I guess the world of culinary is not just about cooking but baking as well.



• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 4 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons warm water
• 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla
• 2 cups cake flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 tbsp Matcha powder (diluted in hot water)
• 1 pack Jello caramel
• Milk
• 1 cup cream
• Butter (of course)


Put the sugar and matcha liquid in a blender or food processor. Add this mixture to the softened butter. Beat with a mixer on medium until fluffy. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the eggs to the sugar and butter one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Add the water and vanilla. In a different bowl, use a whisk to mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the rest of the ingredients. Mix on low. Then add the rest of the flour mixture.

Now beat at medium speed until the cake batter becomes shiny. The mixture should also turn a white color. Do not skip this step or reduce the mixing time. The longer you mix the batter, the more air bubbles you create. This is what makes sponge cake recipes light and fluffy. This step of the sponge cake recipe should take about 15 minutes.

Pour sponge cake batter into two round cake pans that have been greased with shortening well and liberally floured. If they haven't been greased and floured thoroughly, your sponge cake recipe will stick to the cake pans.

Bake Matcha sponge cake in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for approximately 25-30 minutes. The sponge cake should pull gently from the sides. It will be golden in color and spongy to the touch. It should spring back when touched. To be sure the sponge cake is done, test the center with a toothpick and see if it comes out clean. Do not open the oven while the sponge cake is baking. Remove the Matcha sponge cake from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10-15 minutes before removing the cake from the cake pans. Let the sponge cake cool completely before putting the caramel pudding mixture. Just follow the instruction of jello pack when adding milk in the mixture then add some cream and butter and put it in a piping bag then top the sponge cake.

I dedicate this post to the birthday of our beloved Mother Mary...

Buon Contempleanno Vergine Maria! :-)

big hug,
joanie xxx