Tasty Travels: First stop, Italy

I'm moving to Rome. That's it. Done! Goodbye house, friends, family. It's been swell, but I gotta go. This is how it plays out in my dreams anyway. Having been back from our Mediterranean vacation for 2 weeks now, reality has finally set in that I will not wake up in the Eternal City any time soon. We cruised to Sicily, Naples, Athen, Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, and Kusadasi and though they all offered amazing sights, sounds and culinary delights, Rome felt like home. Upon arrival I quickly picked up a few lovely words that seemed to fall out of my mouth every few minutes. If Gray stopped to look at a building or peer into a book shop I yelled, "Andiamo (Let's go)!!" Alternatively, if I saw any type of food store (which was about every 500 feet) I'd scream, "Andiamo", and dash inside to peruse the wares. I also had a sweet little habit of saying "Ciao" at every passing scooter. Just FYI, almost everyone rides a scooter in Rome. Gray claimed my Italian verbosity was annoying (granted) but it made me feel like a friendly local. Ciao, Ciao, Ciao!

Our first morning in Rome I peeled open my jet-lagged eyes to the smell of freshly baking bread. I would soon find out it was not just any old bread, it was croissants. Hot, buttery croissants that arrived at our breakfast table in a shamefully overflowing basket every morning. Now I try not to eat bread very often (it puts me straight to sleep) but that first smell on that first day set the tone for the entire trip. Bread, Miss? YES PLEASE, and lots of it. When in Rome, right? We walked all over the city, stopping only to walk inside one of the million churches or grab a snack. My favorite stop however was the open air market at the Campo Di Fiori. This is the market in Rome and after walking down the first isle I was in tears for lack of a kitchen. The produce was absolutely gorgeous and I loved seeing all the Romans in their everyday shopping rituals. I walked around each stand, pretending I was there to pick up ingredients for my upcoming dinner. At one point I was actually asked for directions by an Italian, which created enough tingle in my toes that I completely forgot my burning desire to cook.

Almost all of the goods were recognizable, except one. While sweating over which olive oil to buy, I noticed an elderly woman and an equally elderly vendor vehemently haggling over the price of apples. Of course, I couldn't understand anything the woman was saying but her eyes, flailing arms and intonation said it all. After 5 minutes of back and forth the vendor abruptly changed course and convinced the woman that apples weren't the way to go at all. He quickly reached down and from behind the register produced a basket of mini strawberries. She stopped cold, grabbed at them immediately, paid full price, and scurried away. I walked behind the man to get a better look at the oddly recognizable fruit. They were definitely strawberries, just tiny. I wasn't sure how to get my hands on them, besides following the old woman's example of screaming at him in Italian. (Andiamo! Grazie! Ciao!) He seemed to be guarding the little red jewels for dear life, which of course made me want them more. I thought for a split second about miming the universal sign for "I want your berries", but upon reflection and envisioned embarrassment, I sadly moved along down the market. We soon went to lunch at a restaurant just off the Campo that had outdoor seating outside the front door. We were basically seated in the middle of the street, with waiters dodging scooters to serve us our cloud-like gnocchi. Man, I love Italy! For some reason I decided to look at the dessert menu first. Three lines down in the middle of page I read, "Fragoline di Bosco- Little Strawberries." Bravo!

So, where am I going with this story? I can't really tell you. All I can say is that in Italy, just ask, and you shall receive. It is a beautiful, historic, luscious city that is filled with delicious foods, gorgeous sights, and gracious people waiting to share the love of their city. Go as fast as you can!

Spring Pea and Pulse Salad

Serve 4

I found this recipe in a beautiful Italian cookbook off Piazza Barberini. The recipe caught my eye immediately and I memorized it so as to give it a Jamie Living twist at home. The marjoram really makes the dish so do not leave it out. I also made two other revisions adding roasted potatoes and braised baby artichokes respectively. Both were to die for. Experiment and enjoy!

1 cup English shelling peas, shelled 4 scallions, chopped 2 handfuls arugula, washed 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped 2 1/2 cups Ayecote Morado beans, cooked and patted dry (you can also use kidney or cannellini beans) 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed Sea salt Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (my fav is Bariani as you know)

In a sauce pan, boil 3 cups of water with a liberal dose of salt. Add the shelled peas and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain, and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, add the chopped scallions, arugula, and fresh herbs. Set aside.

In a large saute pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat at medium. Add the cooked beans and allow them to crisp up (if the beans are not dried properly they will not crisp). After 5 minutes add the sugar snap peas and cook until the peas are just browned, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, stir well, and add the mixture to the arugula and scallions. Toss in the blanched shelled peas and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and serve!

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