Gina and Gina
You may not know that my 'Italian' name is Gina. There is no exact translation for 'Janelle' so one day mio marito (my husband) slid in the name 'Gina' when an Italian was having difficulty pronouncing 'Janelle.' It stuck. It became easier to introduce myself as Gina... and really a hoot to adopt a new 'nickname' at this point in the game (never mind the childhood nicknames, right?). Actually, all four of us have Italianized names: Gina, Giacomo, Antonio (shortened to 'Anto') and Franci (Caleb is my 13 year old, his name is awkward to pronounce so we encouraged him to use his middle name 'Francis' which translates to 'Francesco'). Put him on a soccer field... and they immediately shortened it to 'Franci' or /frankee/).
Fun to have an Italian counterpart name. No doubt we are developing new appendages to our personalities while being here, so why not give our 'new me' a 'new name'?
I recently cooked with my friend Erika, at her agriturismo. She happens to have a nickname too (affectionately given to her from a friend): Gina. We have had a few good laughs via our mutually adopted nickname.
I keep thinking in my mind: Giada, meet Gina and Gina. Giada as you know is the famous TV personality/chef who brings Italian cooking to the eyes and kitchens of America. TV or not, I love the concept of 'Gina and Gina.' Two talented chefs who rub off on each other, sharing tips, recipes, mistakes-gone-well and plating beautiful, delicious Italian food: dish after consecutive dish.
All of that to say, here are a few little bullet-points of kitchen tricks Gina shared with me (that I don't want to forget!):
- instead of water, use lemon juice when making caramel---it keeps the caramel malleable for 10-15 minutes after it cools---long enough to make fancy designs to top your panna cotta.
- if using a processor to beat egg whites you have to make sure the 'bowl' is squeaky clean or it won't work. To make sure a 'clean' bowl is really 'clean,' rub with lemon juice and salt, rinse and dry thoroughly.
- easy, cheating tomato bechamel? Can of high quality tomatoes with a little whole milk (or half and half). (We used for making eggplant Parmesan).
- when it comes to melting, stirring chocolate: use a wooden spoon (nothing metal).
- silicon is fantastic; use it for cakes, muffins, timbales you name it---no butter or oil required. Nothing sticks!
Molto Grazie Gina! Maybe we should write a cookbook together? Or do a little video clip?