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Lugano, Switzerland- Day One

When we decided to come to Switzerland, I wasn’t too excited.. why, you ask? Well, nothing against the beautiful country but I just didn’t think it would offer very delicious food except yummy chocolate and yummy cheese! Well, I guess there is nothing wrong with the two things but it wasn’t what I had in mind. I decided to change my mindset and told myself not every trip has to be filled with delicious food… it is supposed to be a gorgeous country and that is what I should be paying attention to. As I was convincing myself, I realized we had an option of going to Lugano which is very close to the Italian border- yay!! I knew the food would be delicious down there.. and here we are- first day in Lugano and so far so good. Well, it has been a tiring day after landing in Zurich at 8 AM, stopping for a delicious cappuccino and pretzel, catching three trains and arriving in Lugano at 1 PM! The journey to Lugano was absolutely breathtaking with the most amazing vistas.. too bad we were half asleep. All I could think was, what a gorgeous country!

Lugano Day One Arugula Salad

Arugula and Parmigiano Salad

We arrived at our hotel and dropped the luggage off as our room was not ready as yet. A very short walk later, we found ourselves enjoying the gorgeous Lake Lugano. We walked around and found  cafe/restaurant over looking the water. We ordered a delicious, local rose from the Ticino region- it was yummy… we washed it down with a delicious arugula and Parmigiano salad and a mushroom and spicy salami pizza. The food was yummy and so was the gelato that my daughter had three times!!

Spicy Salami and Mushroom Pizza

Spicy Salami and Mushroom Pizza

Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Pancetta

Pizza with Carmelized Onions and Pancetta

  • Pizza dough from your favorite pizzeria, divided into eight pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup pancetta, chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt

Heat a medium frying pan with the olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the onion slices and fresh thyme. Mix well and sauté on medium heat. Add salt and mix well. Cook on medium heat for a good 20 minutes or till the onions are translucent and soft with a soft golden color. Be careful not to burn the onions. Keep aside.

  • 16 Fontina Slices (2 on each pizza)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Roll out an individual pizza and add some fontina slices on the surface. Add the desired amount of caramelized onions on top. Bake pizza till the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.

Lamb and Mushroom Pizza

Lamb and Mushroom Pizza I had a lot of leftover lamb from the other night. I divided the meat into two bags- one went into the freezer and one in the fridge. I plan on making a lamb ragu served on top of pasta or even better- polenta, in a few weeks.

The leftover meat in the fridge will be used for pizza.

We love making pizza at home- we usually do it on Friday evenings. I buy some dough from a local pizzeria. One ball of dough is good enough to make four to five individual pizzas.

As usual, I always have fresh tomato sauce in the fridge. I love using it for the pizzas- nothing like your own homemade, delicious sauce.

I made a quick topping with cremini mushrooms, chopped up lamb and some white truffle paste- the secret ingredient. It gives the dish a very rounded, complex flavor- one of my favorite things to add to pasta, etc.

The pizzas were delicious- especially because of the lamb and the truffle paste. Try this combination next time you are looking for a new topping for your pizza.
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A Great Leftover Recipe: Ground Turkey (Dahi Keema) Pizza Quesadilla

keema-pizza-quesadillaThis is a great snack or meal idea for when you have leftovers. In this case, I had keema or ground meat cooked in delicious spices. We had a great meal with fresh rotis and some lentils.

It was one of those crazy busy days and I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare a meal. I did have the leftover keema but not enough for another meal.

I decided to use it for another quick meal. Quesadillas and pizzas come to mind when I think of using up leftovers. I had a carton of tomatoes which I roasted simply with olive oil and salt. I put the tomatoes through a food mill (or a processor) and made a quick sauce. I used the sauce as the first layer on a whole wheat tortillas. I then topped it with the keema, cheese and some pickled jalapenos. I topped the ensemble with another tortilla and cooked it till the quesadilla was crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside.

I served it with a salad and some wine- perfect evening…
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Zucchini Pesto Pizzas with Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Zucchini Pesto Pizza Okay, so this is a delicious concoction. While we were in Umbria at a very small yet great restaurant- we were served a variety bruschetta. One of them was green and tasted like heaven. We asked about it and found out it was made out of freshly picked zucchini. It was processed simply with extra virgin olive oil and salt. 

So, that is what I did. I bought some lovely looking zucchini from the farmer’s market. This pesto is so simple yet delicious. I made it and wasn’t sure what to do with it. My daughter had been complaining about me not making pizza at home. That is what gave me the idea to use the pesto for the pizza.

As usual I bought pizza dough from our local pizzeria and decided to make individual ones. I had leftover chicken which I decided to use for the topping. I spread the pesto on the rolled out dough and topped it with fresh mozzarella cheese and chicken pieces.

The pizzas were delicious! My neighbors were outside and I decided to give them a taste. Even the kids loved it! I told the parents that the pesto was made out of zucchini and that they should keep the main ingredient to themselves! All in all it was a great experiment. Try it, I bet your kids will love it too…
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Third Day: A Visit To Perugia

Day 3 Perugia 030I am not sure where the chocolates were in Perugia- we didn’t  find them. Actually we didn’t really look for them- we were so busy eating pizza and gelato and it kind of slipped our minds. We headed off to Perugia around 11 in the morning after a delicious breakfast of eggs, cheese, bread and fresh fruit. I love having eggs in Europe- the yolk is bright mustard and the taste is amazing.

About 40 minutes later our car was climbing steep hills to get to this picturesque town. It is a lot bigger than Spello and definitely more of a city- it reminded us of Florence and Barcelona but it had it’s own charming winding, hilly, narrow streets.

We stopped for pizza and white wine. The wine was delicious and the potato and rosemary foccacia wasn’t so shabby either.Day 3 Perugia 034

We found something called a cafe crema- which was similar to a soft serve coffee ice cream but not as cold and a lot lighter. It was served in a shot glass with a spoon- absolutely delicious!

We headed back to Spello to find a dinner place. We desperately wanted to eat pasta. We found a place called, ‘Drinking Wine’ and sat outside under a huge umbrella.

Dinner started with a bottle of white wine and a platter of smoked salmon and tuna as well as a fennel and orange salad. We were eating family style and were looking forward to sharing everything. Soon our table was full of  pasta witha  wild boar ragu, classic lasagna, lamb chops and a pesto and zucchini lasagna. All dishes were unbelievably delicious. We were also munching on fresh bread dipped in the yummiest olive oil I have ever had the privelage to taste.

Some red wine came and later and so did dessert. A coffee semi-freddo and a pear and cinnamon cake. All was good, relaxing and absolutely perfect!

Today, I will be meeting a local Italian woman who will be teaching me some local cuisine. I am extremely excited and look forward to learning and sharing- so stay tuned.

A Homemade Pizza Recipe with Store Bought Dough- Plain and White with Spinach

plain-pizzaPizza is a staple in our house. I remember when my daughter, Sia was about two years and change- she was quite picky. She had no problem eating mushy food and didn’t want any texture at all. I slowly got her into the habit of eating adult food- pizza played a big roll in the process. We ran into our neighbors with their daughters around that time at a local pizzeria. Sia saw them eating pizza with olives- and that is what started her love of pizza- with olives! She must have eaten cups and cups of olives in the last four years. The people working at the place knew as soon as we walked in- a slice of olive pizza for Sia with a cup of olives on the side. I even looked up the nutritional value for olives- not too much. Since then, she has graduated to mushroom pizza. She loves it! She is very particular about the mushrooms though- turns out some places use canned mushrooms and they taste very different than the fresh ones. Well, she only likes the fresh ones- so we stick to our favorite pizzeria, Arturos.

I am always trying to make things she likes at home healthier so I don’t feel guilty about giving them to her more often. We have tried many different ways of making pizza at home over the years but nothing has been very delicious and authentic. What I like about making pizza at home is that I can control all the ingredients. I use my basic marinara sauce for the pizza sauce. I usually buy low-fat mozzarella cheese- although in this case I couldn’t find any so I used full fat- but I didn’t use too much of it.

I was making two pizzas that day- a plain one for the kids and a white one with spinach for the adults. I made the marinara sauce the morning of and kept it aside. I bought shredded low moisture mozzarella cheese to make my life easier. The plain one was quite simple to put together. I did add some olive oil to the crust before cooking it on the grill. The oil gives the dough a nice sheen and a crusty top. For the white one I mixed ricotta cheese with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. I added garlic powder and salt to season the cheese sauce. I sautéed frozen, chopped spinach with fresh garlic for extra flavor. Both adults and kids enjoyed the pizzas. I made a nectarine salad for the adults- the recipe will be up tomorrow. I served the apricot kuchen as dessert and of course some wine- we ended up opening two bottles! 

To read more about pizza making at home, please read my post in New York Times blog, The Local. It will be out Wednesday, June 24th.

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