Anna is at a workshop. I am on vacation. A good deal for me, no? To make up for it, have some pictures.
Well, I can now say that I may have discovered a hotel in Europe that I would gladly return to: Attico Partenopeo, in Naples, Italy. Why, you might ask? Well, as you may have realized by now, I have this thing for plants, and our hotel room, in addition to being decorated in a modern minimalistic style (yet still colorful, if the orange with black polka dots tiled bathroom is any indication), has a balcony filled with climbing vines in bloom that looks out over a busy Neapolitan street with views of a majestic building on a hill in one direction and Mt. Vesuvius in the other. There’s also the fact that I will be able to eat breakfast out on a similar balcony filled with even more brilliantly blooming plants.
I was just telling Peter how exhausted I get when I’m in the state of mind where it’s boring and depressing to spend time in our hotel room, since I wear myself out finding excuses to stay outside. Well, I seem to have gotten my wish, because I foresee evenings with a bottle of limoncello out on the balcony after an unbelievable margherita pizza in my future (actually, all I lack tonight is the limoncello).
Well, I didn’t think we could get through half the list of recommended restaurants and see many of the main attractions (at least from the outside, as I’m terrible about waiting in lines) during our first full day in Rome, but I guess I’ve outdone myself. That or I’m going to wake up next morning unable to move, as we spent literally the entire day walking or eating (10am to 10:30pm). Here are a couple shots we squeezed in between meals.
Now where did we eat, might you ask? You probably shouldn’t ask such questions in person, by the way, or you might never get a word in edgewise.
- Lunch: “da Giggetto” in the Jewish Ghetto. Great carciofi alla giudia (Jewish style artichokes), and because I can’t help myself when it comes to cheese, we also ate a ball of buffalo mozzarella; it wasn’t quite as good as the buffalo mozzarella I had in Florence last year, but I expect the quality will improve as we go further south.
- Best coffee in Rome: “S. Eustachio” near the Pantheon. Order a “gran caffe”, it’s probably the only espresso-like coffee I’ve ever really enjoyed.
- Some of the best gelato in Rome: “gelateria del teatro” down a lovely mostly pedestrian street. We tried basil white chocolate, tiramisu, and tartufo (translated as “four chocolate”, although I ordered it because of the candies of the same name that my adviser sometimes brings back from his trips to Europe). I wanted to order pistachio, but they ran out just as we were ordering, which is extremely cruel, but gives me a convenient excuse to go back.
- Dinner: “Bir and Fud” in Trastevere (also known as the place where I saw all the young people hanging out). We ordered pizza (margharita with San Marzano tomatoes and more buffalo mozzarella, you know, just to take full advantage of the situation) and some rare microbrewery Italian beers (a very nice IPA and a porter flavored with tobacco that was much more delicious than I expected).
Next week I’ll be at a conference in Naples, but more updates after that (unless the talks are unbearably boring… just kidding).
Like many things, I suspect that the kind of bagel one likes is the kind of bagel one had as a child. According to the various articles that have come to me as I trawl the internet, there are two kinds of bagels: the good ones, and the bad ones. The New York Times, unsurprisingly, takes as fact that the New York Bagel (whatever that is) is the standard to aspire to. But worry not, as apparently there are also bagels in places like Montreal and the Bay Area that will serve in a pinch.
Personally, I guess I am a bit of a bagel heathen: I always preferred the somewhat fluffy type of bagel found at a place like Noah’s over the “better” kind–which, as far as I can tell, is just denser. (This is judging by the bagels from the NYTimes-heralded Beauty’s.) I have, however, always liked homemade bagels, of any variety. The first recipe I tried was from somewhere on the internet; I thought it was the NYTimes (again) but I can’t find it now. Recently, though, I’ve made the recipe from Reinhardt’s book a few times and it has always been wonderful. The bagel is more of the New York style, and I think it is my favorite so far–so I guess home-cooked trumps regional prejudices yet again.
[Again from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day]
Dough [makes 8 bagels] (I always do this by weight)
1 Tbsp (20 g) barley malt syrup or honey
1 tsp (3 g) yeast
1.5 tsp (11 g) salt
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp (250 g) water
3.5 Cup (450 g) flour
Poaching Liquid (I don’t do this by weight)
2 to 3 quarts water (I don’t measure, just fill up at least 4″ of a big pot)
1.5 Tbsp barley malt syrup or honey
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Combine the dough in a large bowl and mix. Then mix some more, kneading some if you like, until well combined. You want to develop the gluten a bit here, but we’re not going to do any of that stretch-and-fold stuff that Reinhardt normally calls for (he doesn’t here). Cover and let rise for one hour, then refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 500 F. Separate the dough into 8 pieces. For each piece, roll into a rope-shape (Anna likes to insert raisins + cinnamon here) and them wrap around your hand and squish the ends together. Roll it off your fist and you’ve got a bagel!
Fill the poaching pot with (cold) water. Put one bagel in it, and if it floats you’re ready to go. If it doesn’t, wait 20 minutes and try again. Bring the water to a boil (without the bagels in it), then add the honey, soda, and salt to the water. Boil the bagels one minute per side (I can do 4 at a time in our pot). Put the bagels on a greased or oiled and parchment lined baking sheet–you really need the oil or it will stick to the parchment paper. I put them in the same orientation that I first put them into the poaching pot, as I think it looks a little nicer, but it really doesn’t make a difference.
Put them in the oven, lower the heat to 450 F, and bake for about 14 minutes. If they get too black on the bottom, but an empty baking sheet on a rack beneath the main sheet (mine always require this).
I’ve done up to 50% whole wheat successfully (and haven’t tried higher), with slightly more water, and they come out (unsurprisingly) somewhat denser. I once used barley malt syrup when I had some left over from a beer brewing (more on that later!), and didn’t notice a difference from the honey bagels–but I also used 50% whole wheat that time, and that difference probably swamped the difference in sugars.
I may have gotten a little carried away. This spring I tried an experiment of planting tomato, pepper, and tomatillo seeds under plastic gallon milk containers in the garden. You see, I have a very bad history of killing seedlings started in the house, either from neglect or overabundant watering, so I thought I would try to create a greenhouse environment outside where I would remember to actually water the seedlings regularly. I planted 9 seeds of something per mini-greenhouse (milk jug), thinking that the process was probably flawed in some way and that I might get one plant in the end that didn’t die from something or other (I’d read that tomato and pepper seeds can be hard to germinate). Unfortunately the mini-greenhouses worked almost perfectly, leaving me with 4-8 leggy seedlings per jug that I needed, all of a sudden, to find room for. The craziness has mostly died down now that I’ve pulled out almost everything else in the garden to make room for them. The count? 8 tomato plants, 5 red bell pepper plants, 8 pimiento sweet red pepper plants, 4 tomatillo plants, and hopefully a couple poblano peppers as well. Not to mention the fact that there may be some jalapeños and serranos in a couple of weeks. Peter is, as you might imagine, ecstatic at the prospect of there being less room for cucumbers and their ilk. I, on the other hand, have started panicking about where I will plant my summer melon seeds. There may be a pepper-melon-off at some point, but as Peter has started doing the majority of the watering (while I do the digging, planting, transplanting, and weeding) he has the upper hand. For now.
In other news, the summer squash plants already have large buds on them, which worries me slightly. I don’t know if I was quite prepared for zucchini season to start in April. At least the sweet pea blossoms are still doing their heavenly scented thing and the poppy seeds I planted in the fall are beginning to flower the most lovely, large, and delicate flowers. How the poppy seeds migrated to various places in the flower bed when I planted them within two square feet of each other is still a mystery.