All summer while we cycled across Holland, Belgium and France---and even during our stay in London---we sought out Italian food. Sure we would try new food, but part of risking adventure means finding some comfort and familiarity in the crevices. Sure we sold our house, our cars, left our neighborhood, school and city... and yep, we packed all of our belongings into some storage warehouse south of Seattle. And we bought bikes, packed them into boxes, threw them and ourselves onto an airplane and... had a gin and tonic. If you have been reading this blog a bit, you know that our lives have been based in Seattle for a dozen years. And you would also know that we were determined to go abroad for a year. In our case that meant cycling for a few months then landing in Florence, Italy to resume 'routine life' during the school year.
My point is, despite all the changes and novelty and wing-sprouting, we still sought comfort by means of food. And since it wasn't coming from my own kitchen (too big for my panniers, apparently), we had to seek it out while hopping from city to city. Of course simultaneous to our bike/scenic tour we were having a food tour. We have strong notions of what people eat for breakfast in France (croissants, hot chocolate, an egg) and lunch in the Netherlands (sandwiches with chocolate nearby). We found both novelty and familiarity in food across multiple countries. But we also veered toward restaurants with foods we know we love: Greek (for the meat and dips), Italian (often to order pizza and carbonara) and Spanish (tapas---we fell in love with chorizo...).
The boys in particular, had a penchant for carbonara.
Something I have made for years, in the simple form of Alfredo sauce with peas, prosciutto & Parmesan. A few times this summer, we encountered a more 'authentic' version: carbonara that included an egg (either mixed in or on top). What we found fun was all the variations on carbonara; one was creamy sauce with pancetta and a poached egg on top (our favorite), another was an egg mixed in last minute (not our favorite).
Now I love my original version, but am always open to improvements. Since we have landed in Florence, it has been my self-applied job to play a bit in the kitchen (and I am just getting warmed up). I have made both the carbonara with a poached egg on top (awesome... a bit like breakfast for dinner with pasta Alfredo thrown in), and recently I tried the carbonara with the egg mixed in last minute (the hot noodles cook the raw egg). The latter I cooked from a new cookbook I am reviewing, from Giuliano Hazan (son of famous cookbook author Marcella Hazan). It was super rich, a bit too creamy with the egg mixed in with the cream sauce. Not to say the book isn't great, I always give a book at least half a dozen recipes before the verdict drops. We just happen to have quite well-developed opinions on carbonara.
More soon. I am currently working on making daily focaccia. It is beautifully inexpensive, entirely rewarding and one of my near-term cooking goals---to make consistently scrumptious focaccia.