Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Malloreddus with lamb ragù, a Sardinian pasta

One of the main differences between Dead Chef and a serious food blog is that the serious food blogs publishe holiday recipes on time, so that readers have all the time to make up their minds on their menu, buy the necessary supplies, and even attempt a recipe once before the big day. So it is with a little shame that I present you with my Easter recipe a full two weeks after Easter. The recipe is Malloreddus with Lamb Ragù, which should lessen the shame quite a bit since it's a pretty damn delicious.

So, Easter. I love lamb: so soft, so flavorful, so fat. It was one of the main reasons that Mr Bee and I spent our honeymoon in Sardinia, the beautiful Italian island that is heaven on earth and that perfected the use of lamb in cooking to an art. Among the million amazing dishes we tried on our 6-day trip (we ate in our sleep, too), there was a simple pasta with a lamb ragù that captured our hearts and possibly initiated their clogging. The pasta was malloreddus, a traditional small "dumpling" you can find in specialty stores or at conventional grocery stores under the name of "gnocchetti".

The main focus of the recipe, however, is the lamb ragù. I based my recipe on the Florentine ragù preached by Giuliano Bugialli in his precious tome The Fine Art of Italian Cooking (incidentally, a great culinary history book, too). I made Bugialli's ragù many times with beef, veal and pork, and even turkey (surprisingly flavorful), and it always comes out extremely well: rich, earthy, velvety, and abundant. I believe the secret lies in the use of dried porcini mushrooms to impart a robust, earthy vigor to any sauce. You might want to find some good-quality dried porcini for this; I get mine straight from Italy.

Once you have your lamb ragù, you just mix it with the cooked pasta and serve the dish drizzled in good extra-virgin olive oil and topped with grated Pecorino. It's a super-flavorful pasta with the pomp of a winter recipe and the simplicity of a last-minute spring lunch. Perfect for Easter, then, or right afterwards.

Malloreddus with lamb ragù, a Sardinian pasta



4–5 large pieces of dried porcini mushrooms 
3 tbsp EVOO + more to top off pasta in the end
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery rib, minced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs tomato paste
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 C red wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb canned tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 1/2 C vegetable stock

1 lb malloreddus (or Barilla "gnocchetti")
3–4 tbsp grated Pecorino, preferably Sardinian

  • Soak the mushrooms in a cup filled with warm water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Make the soffritto: Heat the EVOO in a large pot (I use a Dutch oven), and then add the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and let cook at a low heat until soft and a little caramelized. You might want to splash some water here and there if the soffritto ever gets dry.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Turn the heat to medium, and mix in the ground lamb. Sauté for 15 minutes, then spoon off most of the fat. Unless you want to keep it, of course. I'm not judging. *tips hat*
  • Add the red wine and cook until evaporated, for another 10–15 minutes.
  • While the wine cooks down, pureé the tomatoes with an electric blender.
  • Once the wine is cooked down, add salt and pepper to taste and mix in the tomatoes.
  • Lower the heat and cook for 25 minutes.
  • Remove the porcini mushrooms from the water, give them a good squeeze, chop them, and add them to the sauce.
  • Strain the water from the dried mushroom through paper towels or a fine sieve to remove any grit.
  • Add the mushroom water and vegetable stock to the ragù and cook for another 1 1/2 hours.
  • Cook the pasta in abundant, salted water, then strain and mix with the ragù in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle the pasta with EVOO and top with grated Pecorino.

Note: If you really cannot find malloreddus, you can use other types of short pasta like conchiglie, orecchiette, elbows... Do not go as small as orzo, though, or it will turn into a sad slop of a dish. 

Another note: The original recipe was for a beef ragù, but I made it with veal and pork and even with turkey, and it always turned out great. And at this point, you can use it for anything you want,  from pasta to lasagne to chili to the Sloppy Joe of you life. 

And since we're making pasta, let's refresh our basic pasta skills:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Forgive this silly post, but the entire family is sick and suffering from massive sleep deprivation, so this is the best I can do. As some of you may know, I am ambivalent about superheroes and their unironic stronghold on the contemporary male psyche. I really hope children will grow less obsessed than their fathers with high-flying musclemen dealing with unresolved childhood traumas. To speed up the process, I've started my own little campaign of placing superheroes into a more rational perspective. It all began when I revealed to my Italian nephew that the name Wolverine is not a play on the word "wolf", but it refers to an actual skunk-like species whose name in Italian is gulo gulo, which sounds a lot like "ass ass". He was crushed, but I believe for the better.

Today, I'm making sure that my son's budding admiration for Spiderman is kept in check with this little song. To be administered three times a day for two weeks, at monthly intervals.

Spiderman theme song, revisited.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015



As I approach the mid-point of my journey on this planet (take that euphemism), I am starting to question more and more the meaning of it all, and what should be my line of conduct for the rest of my life. I know I've abandoned the staunch idealism of my youth, but I'm also wary of the comfy judgementalism of old age. So I have come to my personal conclusion. Presently, I have been trying to live according to the Buddhist precepts of "letting go" and "releasing the ego", which I combined in my personal mantra of "letting myself go". Which brings me to the next point.


As long as I can remember, I've done all I could to avoid physical exertion. Sweating and toiling for the sole purpose of sweating and toiling always sounded absurd to me, and a long time ago I decided the best exercise would be walking briskly because I was late for stuff. It worked, until I had kids. After my second pregnancy, I found myself as strong, nimble, and quick as an octogenarian toad. So last week I appealed to the last bit of energy in my atrophied muscles and signed up for a barre class. Cursory research told me that barre is an exercise inspired by ballet and Pilates, and pictures showed slender, smiling women in yoga pants gracefully holding a ballet barre and keeping a perfect posture. More importantly, none of them was covered in sweat. It looked dreamy. Well, I had my first class on Sunday, and please know I'm in physical pain even now as I type this. Barre is not easy. There was a moment where I had to sit on an invisible chair with my back against the wall while opening and closing my legs for what I'm pretty sure was 45 minutes (okay, maybe 3). I was shaking like something powered by a steam engine and I was pretty sure my kneecaps would pop out and my ligaments would roll out in the air like curly ribbon on a gift box. I had none of the grace and poise I was envisioning, I was sweating through every pore, and every single time the instructor was not looking I would flop down on the floor like a sorry, empty tutu. All that said, I'm not giving up. Even with all the pain and humiliation, my barre class is an excused absence from my house. I'll take it.


For many reason that may or may not include my clumsiness and lack of manual skills, I watch a lot of video tutorials in my spare time. One thing I cannot explain is the directors' over-reliance on upbeat ukulele music (like this), the kind you are also likely to hear on most tech gadget commercials. Actually, it's not so much that I don't understand it as I hate it. Really, it makes my nerves jump out of my skin. I don't know exactly why... I suspect it might be a reaction to the current infantilization of everything and the modern penchant for unthreatening cuteness. I promise, though: If I ever make a video tutorial, the soundtrack will be this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Is it Spring already? No, it isn't, but we're getting there, right? Aren't we??? If I sound desperate, it's because I am. I have spent the entire winter indoors trying to keep my children entertained yet safe while throwing Cheerios at them at hourly intervals. I may have survived, but barely. The only thing that has kept me mentally stable has been googling diagramming apps, an old passion of mine. So here are four pie charts to summarize the seasonal activities of average parents. If someone ever asks you, "What do you do all day?", then show them these.

How parents spend their Spring

How parents spend their Summer
How parents spend their Fall
How parents spend their Winter

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Here is the second installment of the lessons I've learned as a mother of 2 kids under the age of 3. (Here you can find Part I.)  My chidren, MiniBee and MicroBee are now 4 and (almost) 18 months, which means I'm still in the trenches, but breathing some, too. I hope some of these thoughts are going to help parents about to embark on the double-parenting adventure, although I know very well that everything you are reading here you will forget within minutes of your second birthing experience. Good luck!


You are surely wondering how on earth you will be able to have two children nap at the same time or at different times of the day. I have no solution for you, I'm afraid. Having two children following two different napping routines is olympically challenging. A classic two-hour routine right after birth saw me nursing MicroBee to sleep while listening to MiniBee trashing the living room downstairs, then drag an overexcited MiniBee to his room and read him stories for 45 minutes so that I could finally leave the room only to hear MicroBee waking up from is nap. I would then pick MicroBee up and be greeted downstairs by MiniBee announcing he would not nap that day. So my advice is, do whatever you can. It will be over someday, somehow.


When you had your first child, you spent all of your energies crafting the perfect amount of quality mental stimulation to be balanced with strict routines and a plenty of nurturing affection. Your first child is a genius with massive potential in practically all areas. As soon as the second comes along, all comes to a halt. I'm sorry to tell you this, but now that you're a family of four, your youngest will drag you all to his/her own level, nullifying all of your previous efforts. You are exhausted, and all you can muster is going through the motions of the simplest activity that will make the youngest happy. In my case, it's banging toy cars together. (You will always choose to cater to the one who screams the most and is closest to your ears.)


When your oldest child turns four, s/he will enter the horrifying stage of potty mouth, during which s/he is going to repeat swearing you say at home together with mystifying coinages s/he will pick up from other children (welcome to "fart sauce"). At the same time, your youngest will be the impressionable toddler dealing with his or her first words. You will then enjoy having a toddler whose only words are "mom", "dad", "shit", and "stupid". I can tell you there are not a lot of good sentences coming out from this.


You will think back at those days when you were only dealing with your first and wonder what the fuck you were complaining about. When you have a second, the idea of having to deal with one tantrum, one meal, one potty-training disaster will sound like being transported into your early 20s on a solo vacation to a Caribbean paradise. Of course, this doesn't mean you start judging parents with only one child. You are just gaining some very much needed perspective. Sometimes you'll even go as far as thinking that, if you had three children, then the two you have would look like a stroll in the park. But that's usually when I slap myself really hard on the face.

Read Fool Me Twice, 2 Kids Under 3 (Part I).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Text image, "The best things in life require a babysitter."
My oldest (MiniBee) turned 4 recently, and my youngest (MicroBee) is two months shy of 18 months, which means that at some point I did have 2 kids under 3 to take care of. It might be the biggest cliché ever, but time did fly since MicroBee was born, and today I look at this tall, brooding preschooler and this dancing, dumpster-diving toddler and I can't believe they are my sons. So I decided to stop and think about what a crazy roller-coaster the past two years have been, and which lessons I've learned that can be passed to future parents of 2 under 3. Here is Part I!


Everybody knows that nobody cares about your second pregnancy, but you'll be surprised by how little you will care yourself. Personally, I could never remember how many weeks I was, I'd ask strangers at the supermarket whether smoked salmon was safe for me, and I started talking to the baby inside me only when they told me he was fucking breech (don't worry, I kept it somewhat civilized).


Being the compulsive parenting-book reader that I am, I was surprised by the lack of well-established manuals for parents with young children. How I am supposed to raise these kids without expert advice?!? The reason is very simple: No parent of a toddler has the time to read such manuals (and I suspect no parent has the time to write them, as well). And even the freaks like myself who sacrifice what little sleep they have to read parenting books usually know at this point that these books are a hoax and that everybody is just winging it 99% of the time.


Believe me, as much as my wonderful MicroBee is a beautiful smily angel from planet Happy, not a day passes that I don't ask my husband what we were smoking when we decided to have a second child. You might have two children on paper, but it will feel like you have half a dozen. In any case, you're outnumbered, even when your partner is around. The only way around this is to be perfectly organized, frantically stacked with supplies, and always ready to deliver the best possible response for every demand from your children. I guess what I'm saying is, good luck.


Children under three still like to be held and carried places, so it was no surprise to me that the arrival of a baby would only intensify this need. Your children will both need to be held, often at the same time, so there will be times where you're going to have to do that. Hopefully this will happen after your birthing stitches have been removed. It does make for some great photos of course. Smile, always, so at least one day you can pretend that it was not excruciatingly painful.


If you think you had mom brain the first time, think again. Actually, you can't. Your head is now occupied by two massive yearly planners filled with information to be dealt with at all times. No personal reflection will ever be possible again, and memories from your youth will come in blurry flashes only during the deepest of sleep. (And a side note to this. The term "mom brain" is used to imply that mothers become stupider with the arrival of children, and nothing angers me more than hearing this. Mothers do not become stupid; they are simply flooded with a myriad of information of both mundane and critical importance. And even with the occasional slip-up they do a pretty damn good job with it regardless of the minutes that they sleep per day.)

Read Fool Me Twice: 2 Kids Under 3 (Part II).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Detail of matcha chocolate cake dusted in cocoa powder and powdered sugar

My oldest son, MiniBee, turned four (!) a couple of weeks ago, an event that was celebrated with friends and with a deluge of Venice Carnival sweets and a two-batch Pandecocco coconut cake. A couple of days later, we also had a smaller family celebration that required yet another birthday cake. As any parent knows, children are only slightly more traditionalistic than the most conservative old-Europe grandparent, so there was no way MiniBee could hear the words "happy birthday" without blowing on proper candles on a proper cake. I needed a recipe, and I remembered one for Chocolate Matcha Bundt Cake from Bakerella (of the infamous cake pops) that had been sitting patiently on my Evernote for at least three years. I love matcha and I enjoyed it in many versions on my 2009 food pilgrimage to Japan, and I especially love how it couples lusciously with chocolate. It all started when a friend gave me an assortment of fancy chocolates that contained a matcha-chocolate combination that was one of the highlights of my life as an eater.

Now, someone could argue that matcha is a risky choice for a preschooler's birthday cake, and I can definitely tell you that when MiniBee heard his birthday cake was made with TEA, he was not at all pleased. But, in rebuttal to any concerns and objections I have two points to make:

1. Children will eat any cake that's placed in front of them, especially when decorated with birthday candles.

2. It doesn't matter whose birthday is it: If I'm baking or buying a cake, I need to like it first.

The second point is actually a corollary of my favorite parenting rule:

Substitute "wear" with "eat" and "oxygen mask" with "damn cake" and you'll see what I mean.

But back to matcha. For the cake, I used some unsweetened matcha powder I bought at HMart. And since the party was attended only by five people, I decided against the Bundt format and made a simple layer cake instead, halving the ingredients and making a couple of variations (more egg, less sugar, and my trusted addition of plain yogurt to guarantee a moist texture). I also suspect the matcha-chocolate combination works best in a slimmer cake. What can I say? I think it's classier this way. And as someone who wears German slippers all year round and whose every food contains 15% dog hair, let me tell you: I KNOW CLASS.

The final matcha chocolate cake was delicious, sweet and grassy and elegant (disclaimer: see my standards above), and perfect to be enjoyed with or without children.

Oh, if you wonder about MiniBee: He had two slices and was happy as a clam. And so was I.



Chocolate Mixture
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Matcha Mixture
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened matcha
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
1 C sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
3/4 C milk
1/2 C yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Grease and flour a 9'' springform pan. You can also line it with parchment paper if you prefer.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the chocolate mixture.
  • In another small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the matcha mixture.
  • In yet another bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, then add the rest of the wet ingredients.
  • Divide the wet ingredients evenly between the two flour mixtures, stirring until combined.
  • Pour the two mixtures into the pan. Bakerella suggests doing this in tablespoons to maintain the two colors vibrant. I poured half mixture at a time and then swirled them with my finger.
  • Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let rest of 10 minutes and dust with cocoa powder and powdered sugar.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Trays with sweets typical of Venice Carnival: Frittelle, Galani e Castagnole
Today is Mardi Gras, which is the day of the year I traditionally spend sobbing in my pajamas because of homesickness. The reason? In Venice, today is the end of Carnevale ("Carnival" in English, if you seriously need a translation), my favorite celebration of all, and the one I miss the most since I've moved to the United States. Venice Carnival has been synonymous with great fun and great food since I was born. As a little girl, the fun consisted of wearing my chosen costume on multiple occasions—Venice Carnival lasts a little over two weeks—at school, on strolls around my town or in Venice, and at children's birthday parties. During each outing, us kids were allowed to throw confetti in each other's eyes and then litter the streets with colorful serpentine throws. To make things even more interesting, the right princess or pirate costume could grant you multiple fiancés by the age of 9. As a teenager and then young adult, the fun was pretty much the same, but it happened at night and was quite a bit boozier.

Now let's talk about the food. During Carnival, bakeries and pastry shops in Venice and the rest of the Veneto region start churning out an avalanche of amazing fried sweets, namely frittelle, galani, and castagnole. Venetians of all ages stuff their faces with these beloved sweets at all hours of the day. Let's see them in detail:

  • Frittelle are little sweet and soft doughnuts with raisins and pine nuts and sometimes filled with crema pasticcera (pastry cream) or zabaione, and dusted in granulated or powedered sugar. They are the Holy Grail of Venice Carnival foods.
  • Galani are paper-thin rectangles of lighlty-sweetened dough, deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar.
  • Castagnole are small round fried cookies very similar to shortbread. For some reason, they are the least popular among Carnival sweets, even though they are completely delicious in their own right. I am afraid they are unfairly obscured by their high-performing cousins (a phenomenon I will now call "Unfair Eclipse Syndrome").

To lessen my desperate homesickness and to share a little of the joy of Venice Carnival with my insatiable children, a couple of years ago Mr Bee and I started to make all these sweets at home with acceptable results. This year, however, we knocked one out of the proverbial ballpark by finally landing two perfect recipes for frittelle and galani that I want to share with you today. Get a Carnival mask on, hang some streamers around your house, gather friends and love interests, and deep-fry these gems: This is the closest you're going to get to my beloved Venice Carnival.

You can read more information about the history of Venice Carnival in this post I wrote for Multicultural Kid Blogs

Venetian Carival Frittelle, with and without custard filling


Makes 20–25 frittelle. Just remember crema is optional: Frittelle are amazing on their own.
Ingredients for crema pasticcera
1/2 quart of milk (I would not use non-fat here)
lemon rind of half a lemon, cut in one piece (use a vegetable peeler)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Ingredients for frittelle

oil for frying
1 ¼ cups water
pinch of salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar (that's right)
1 ½ cups flour
6 eggs
orange rind (grated)
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup raisins
¼ pine nuts
oil for frying
granulated or powdered sugar for coating


Make the crema pasticcera
  • Pour the milk in a saucepan, add the lemon rind, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy.
  • Add the cornstarch to the egg mixture and stir together.
  • Remove the lemon rind from the milk, and pour the milk slowly into the egg mixture, stirring to prevent clumps.
  • Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and let it thicken on low-medium heat until it reaches a creamy consistency. The crema will continue to thicken, so leave it somewhat runny.
  • Let the crema cool down before using.

Make the frittelle
  • Place water, butter, salt, and sugar in a small pan and bring to a boil.
  • Add all the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan to form a ball. This takes less than a minute.
  • Let the dough cool, then add one egg at a time. Make sure each egg is incorporated into the dough before adding another one. (I’d use a electric mixer here, if possible. Unless you enjoy the arm workout, of course.)
  • Mix in the the rest of the ingredients.
  • Heat oil to 370* degrees and fry the dough in small balls (use two spoons) for 5–6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked throughout. Note that frittelle will first puff a little and then puff up even more after a couple of minutes of more.
  • Roll frittelle into granulated sugar or dust with powdered sugar.
  • When cool, fill the frittelle with about a tablespoon of crema pasticcera each, depending on size. I used a whipped-cream syringe similar to this one but way crappier. If you don't have a syringe, I guess that you can cut the frittelle open and fill them with a tablespoon of cream.
*The usual optimal frying temperature is 375, but that cooked our dough too quickly so it was burned on the outside and still raw on the inside. Five degrees made all the difference!

A tray filled with Venetian Carnival Galani


oil for frying

4 eggs
4 cups flour
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sparkling water
grated lemon rind from one lemon
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp grappa (optional)
2 tsp vanilla extract


  • Mix the flour, sugar, and butter together until coarsely combined. You might want to use an electric mixer for this part, otherwise use your hands and be quick.
  • Add the eggs, lemon rind, and salt, Grappa and vanilla and mix.
  • Add sparkling water as needed and a little at a time until the dough becomes soft and stretchy. It should resemble fresh pasta dough, if that helps.
  • Cover the dough and let it rest for an hour.
  • Roll out the dough with a roller (champion) or with a pasta machine, going up to the smallest setting so that galani are paper-thin. If you've never used a pasta machine before, check out these instructions.
  • Cut dough into large rectangles with a pasta cutter. (Parents of young children: I couldn't find mine once so I used a Play-doh cutter.) Rectangles should be about 2x4'', but can be VERY irregular, so don't worry too much about it. 
  • Place rectangles on a floured kitchen towel.
  • Fry the galani in 375 degree oil for a few seconds, or until slightly colored and puffed up. 
  • Let rest on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar. Galani last beautifully for 2–3 days in a dry climate.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Espresso cup where the froth looks like a skull
What is Mr Bee's espresso trying to tell me?
Sorry people, I've been busy with kids and work recently, and my Hotpoint stove died for good last week, so I have neither blog-post ideas nor Instagrammable food (unless you really want to see the calzone I ordered yesterday for delivery). So I've taken an old post from Italian Dead Chef, vintage 2006, about opening your heart to the person you love. Spoiler alert: DON'T.

I moved in with Mr Bee almost three years ago. When I first I came over, on a sweltering hot June day, I brought only one piece of luggage for three months. In that bag, I carried the minimum necessary amount of clothing for a Washington summer and a immigrant-family-size stockpile of Italian food such as Gragnano pasta, fresh ravioli, dried porcini mushroom, hunks of Parmigiano Reggiano (crustless, from the heart of the wheel), frozen home-made pesto, and coffee. In those three months, I committed to preparing daily and irresistible Italian meals, flaunting a continental nonchalance that Mr Bee could simply not resist.

But my little secrets and cute cooking tips did not last long. My American student was more curious and eager than I hoped, and within a year he had unveiled my bottomless ignorance in the kitchen. Who betrayed me? Coffee.

The Bialetti family
When I arrived in DC with a Bialetti stovetop coffee maker and four packages of Lavazza Qualità Oro ground coffee beans, it was easy to seduce Mr Bee, who had almost never had a coffee in his life. Unfortunately, the initial dose was so addictive that Mr Bee soon developed an obsession for espresso, a subject I know... well... NOTHING ABOUT. Sure, I drink espresso in Italy all the time, but ask me about how to do it, and I will deftly change subject.

Since Mr Bee was introduced to Italian coffee,  his love for the Arabica bean has exploded in the following purchases: a vintage Gaggia espresso machine, a burr coffee grinder (no blades, are you crazy?), a 4-lbs package of original whole coffee beans from the famed coffee shop Sant'Eustachio in Rome, two heavy-duty tampers, two metal pitchers for frothing milk, a knock box, set of two-ounces thick porcelain espresso cups, and a barista manual written by a visionary alchemist from Seattle who is considered the true prophet of espresso in America. Needless to say, we put my Bialetti aside and switched to fabulous morning espresso.

All this makes me really happy, of course, because the espresso I now drink at home is very high-quality and comes in a pre-heated cup. The problem arises when, in a hurry early in the morning, I dare make my own.

At whatever ungodly hour of the morning I decide to have my espresso, Mr Bee appears in the exact moment I try in vain to press the coffee into the handle, and balks in terror. The reason? I'm not pressing hard enough. Personally, at 6 in the morning (and also at 7, 8, 9, and 10), I can't even make a fist, so you can very well imagine how hard it is for me to apply 40 lbs of pressure to the portafilter. When the coffee finally drips inside my cup, too quick or too liquid, Mr Bee shakes his head with the most heartbreaking sadness: if I had to waste the good coffee imported from Italy, could I at least ask him to prepare it? He's almost about to leave me alone, when he notices that the crema on my coffee is too pale, a sure sign that the water was not hot enough, or that the coffee had not been pressed uniformly or vigorously enough. God helps us all when I add my teaspoon of sugar! Sugar in my coffee is the epitaph of my coffee disaster.

So I can't help thinking back about those days, a long time ago, when I would smile at Mr Bee and show him how much coffee you put inside you stovetop coffee pot, and how you can make a quick crema by whisking a little coffee and sugar together with a teaspoon. His eyes were wide open with wonder, and I felt like proud and generous ambassador of a wonderful heritage. Now that Mr Bee has unveiled my cheap kitchen tricks and my botched, sub-par Italian coffee, I wish I had kept a few tricks for myself. Damn Italian hospitality.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Here is another Betty Crocker vintage recipe card from a 1971 collection I found at a yard sale (and please check out my other entries under Vintage Recipe Cards if you're interested in America's culinary skeletons in the closet). Today's recipe is titled "Adventure in Space" and belongs to the category of "Children's Parties". From its appearance I can only imagine this is aimed at elementary-school children whose parents understood they love science fiction and can't wait to humiliate them in front of their schoolmates.

Betty Crocker 1971 recipe cards: Kids party ideas, alien-shaped pastry
Interplanetary communication: YOU'RE A DORK!
Let's talk about the image here. We see a handful of pâte-à-choux "aliens" (Betty calls them "Space Visitors" in the back of the card) with currants for eyes. Toothpicks are used for their little antennae, which I suspect are indispensable, otherwise who would recognize these round baked beings as extraterrestrials, as opposed to, I don't know, anthropomorphic profiteroles? The leader of the group is clearly recognizable by the two jelly beans on the antennae, which I bet endow him/her to communicate in all the languages of the galaxy. The star base (or starship, or throne) is made of Jell-o and requires the use of a star-shaped pudding mold.

It's hard to look at this photo and not realize how much kids food has evolved to suit modern mothers with a crushing sense of guilt and crafting time on their hands. We live in the century of cake pops, FFS. And have you seen these Star Trek Valentine cookies, these Star Wars macaroons, this Battlestar Galactica cake, or this cake with teeth?? This space-inspired fun kid food from the 1970s looks completely amateurish. But I can't be too sarcastic, since I suspect even these misshapen pastry turds may be beyond my very pathetic manual skills. So I'll laugh just a little bit, and stick to my usual simple cakes for my kids' parties. And I'm really, really strapped for ideas, I'll get inspiration from my usual guy: Dead Chef calling Orson. Come in, Orson.