When the moon hits your eye

So it was just a typical Sunday morning in Florence: mopeds zooming by on the streets (people probably sent out to get bread before the bakeries close at noon), hearing Giovannis saying “Ciao’s!” to Marios at the extraordinarily strong (and seemingly aggressive but really loving) pitch that old Italian men have mastered so well, smells of tomato sauces and meat stews permeating out of every kitchen window. I love Sundays in Italy for all of the above reasons. The city seems to be in a big, lazy hangover from the night before, the (local) shops are closed, the streets are empty in the morning except for church goers (and Americans like me who do such sacrilegious things as jog on the Holy day). But in general, one feels no other choice but to get in the flow of an Italian Sunday, with a lack of motivation to do anything but move at a snail’s pace; whether strolling the streets or spending 5 hours in the kitchen depending on your age and gender (Italian Moms and young women are nowhere to be found after 12 pm as I can imagine they have a huge undertaking of feeding some sort of army by 3 pm).

I also get that feeling that I should be getting ready for a nice home cooked meal, as Sundays in New York were also about having a lazy day with the family hanging around the house. With my father watching soccer downstairs and my mother either cleaning or yacking away to some aunt or cousin on the phone, I usually had the freedom to experiment and get creative in the kitchen (except when one of my parents would but-in and throw off my flow, sending me into a tizzy. You see both my parents are excellent cooks and as their child, I feel inclined to ignore whatever they say and yes, usually end up messing something up along the way. But hey, that’s just how parent-daughter relationships work I think).

(I know it’s so overdone but…) for a quick interpretation of what my Mom (and most moms I know) sound like:

ANYWAY, after my stint at the health food store, much to my father’s dismay, this led to the integration of some interesting foods into our weekly rotation. For example the (healthy and delicious!) grain Quinoa along with spices such as turmeric (creates a beautiful burnt orange color when mixed with brown rice!) and curries occasionally made their way into our nightly meals. While there were some hits and definitely some misses, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have the time and space to flex my cooking muscles in a fully functioning life-sized kitchen.

Adjusting to living in a studio with an itsy weetsy corner of a kitchen, sans full spice cabinet has definitely been an adjustment but it seems I am slowly finding my way. So it being a Sunday and me feeling nostalgic and wanting to get my hands dirty, I decided to whip out my Joy of Cooking bible and get a pizza dough going. (I mean, when in Rome, right?)

So first things first. I put some appropriate beats on my iTunes to get me in the mood and then got started reviewing the recipe. You can never go wrong with a little DM.


Earlier in the week I scoured the isles for yeast or “fermento” making a few wrong decisions along the way. If shopping for yeast in a foreign country rely on what the picture shows you and avoid anything with a cake on the cover. This implies that there may be baking powder and/or soda and other strange substances inside; a simple mistake (which I made twice).

Phew! Got the basics down. Recipe and yeast, check!

The key players: yeast chilling in some lukewarm water for about 5 minutes, flour (I had 00 super fine), and a tablespoon of salt. (I also add a little sugar to kick up the yeast but shhh don't tell my father)

IT'S ALIVE!!!! Cooking with yeast is fascinating to me. It's like a bear that's been hibernating for a while and you need to slowly give it nutrients (water, salt, a little sugar) to wake it up. If the water is too hot, you could kill it, too cold, you won't get it moving and your dough won't rise properly. So many factors at play here!

Yeast is kicking, have my 00 flour ready and a big dash of salt (tablespoon to be exact)

With a few whirls around the bowl I combined the ingredients by hand.

Now the workout begins. I threw some flour on the table and got to kneading the bread. You should knead for about ten minutes making sure to streettttccchhh the dough and then curl it back on itself and then streeeettcchhh it in another direction!

Air pockets when kneading are a very good thing.

Che bella.

A very important "note to self" that I taped onto the side of my mini oven. I feel like my entire life is a bunch of little notes: notes to remember how to conjugate this or that verb, name of good bakery that woman at market told me about or note of place across the river that has amazing leather that English girl in elevator at school mentioned. Ah, just great little tidbits all compiling themselves at the bottom of my bag.

Sundried tomatoes soaked in olive oil, oregano, peperoncino and some s+p. I topped this pizza also with some fresh tomatoes lightly sautéed, goat cheese, herbs and fresh basil.

Ok so I must admit this pic is a cop-out. I couldn't manage a glamorous shot of my pizza from earlier this week because I burned the sun-dried tomatoes and the goat cheese looked like white blobs of goo through my camera lens. Soooo I am exhibiting a pizza that Rob and I made last time he was in town. How handsome is that new oven???

All it took was a little courage for to me tell my landlady that I thought I would have an oven in the apt. She replied in Italian, "Si, you have a microwave oven." So I told her, "Si, ho capito. Ma, preferisco un forno per cucinare il pollo, pizza, le torte..." She shot back with a look of surprise, admitting "Ho pensato che tutti studenti americani hanno preferito un microwave!" I then tried to be funny and remind her that I could be considered American AND Italian (you know with my FOB parents and all...) so I also like to cook with real ovens, but I don't think she understood where I was going with that one. Then there was an awkward moment of silence (cricket), followed by a promise that in 2 weeks she would bring me something. To my disbelief, like clock work my microwave was switched out with this cute (confusing) table top oven gadget in exactly 14 days!. Just when I had written off this culture as being incapable of doing anything in a timely fashion! Couldn't be happier!

While my dough recipe needs a few adjustments, for example, next time I will combine the OO very fine grain flour with a larger grain to give it a little more texture, I am excited to be back on the creative cooking bandwagon and will keep you in the know on any new revelations in this department.

For now, I just got to Munich this morning. Will be in town visiting Roberto for the next days (gotta love being back in school and having scheduled breaks). We have a full itinerary of eating as much dark German Bread as possible and will also be making a trip to  Haus der Kunst (www.hausderkunst.de) which I am pretty psyched for. Rob´s parents are coming in from Stuttgart to Munich for dinner Sunday night and it´s always great catching up with them over a long dinner and good wine.

Will give a full report of highlights next week. Tschuss!!

Oh, I almost forgot, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!


About Lauren Raffaela

Ciao ragazzi, mi chiamo Lauren. I am writing from Florence, Italy where I am in school for a Masters in Museum Studies. When not in school I spend my days strolling the streets, trying to look like a local. I love to people watch, go jogging before the city is awake, have small talk with old ladies and am constantly stopping to read menus in restaurant and cafe windows just to see what they're up to. My favorite gelato flavor is noccioloso and I try to control my intake to one (or two...) a week. My blog focuses on my adventures and discoveries - both about this beautiful city (and country) and about myself. If you would like to touch base or have any questions please feel free to leave a comment on my posts and I'll be sure to get in touch. Grazie and ciao!
This entry was posted in Florence, Food, Italian culture, Living abroad in Italy, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When the moon hits your eye

  1. Ali says:

    This blog really makes my days (in this case, nights) better. No joke.

    You made pizza. In Italy.


    Screw America, you are living the dream! And I’m living vicariously through you. Hope this arrangement is okay.

    I already missed you Piccolo, but reading this makes me miss you that much more.


  2. leslie montauk says:

    love ya lauren you always make me laugh miss you happy holidays

  3. Alexandra says:

    Look in the fridge area near the butter and you’ll find live active beer yeast that works better than the dry stuff for pizza and anything salato 😉

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