Tag Archives: Palermo

Can This Recipe Be Saved?

Hi everyone, it’s hack time again. First up: cooking.

This weekend, DH and I struggled to fix a chicken dish that was weirdly sweet. After adding multiple ingredients, it was eventually quite good. But it got me researching solutions to some common kitchen problems you might encounter, too.

soup-greens-869075_640

KITCHEN HACK: Adjusting a Recipe

Too Salty

  • If you can rinse off the overly salty ingredient (such as the brine on your olives), that’s an easy place to start.
  • Add a raw potato (you don’t have to cut or peel it) to a liquid dish such as soup or curry. Potatoes will soak up some of the extra salt as they cook and add starch that will further dilute the saltiness.
  • Rice or a small amount of flour are other options.

Too Spicy

  • As with saltiness, adding starch is a quick fix for an overly spicy soup or curry.

Too Sweet

This is a common result when using carrots, red peppers or other vegetables with hidden sugars.

  • Add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or a spoonful of apple cider vinegar.
  • Balance the sweet taste with more seasoning to make the dish spicier.
  • Add a fat such as olive oil or avocado.
  • Try adding tangy yogurt if it’s appropriate for your dish.
  • Add more liquid to dilute it.
  • Avoid adding salt, as it will bring out all flavors, including sweetness.

Too Sour

The best way to counter too much sourness is to add sweet, salty or savory flavors. Think of the way a salt rim balances the sweetness of a margarita, or how adding carrots rounds out the taste of a marinara sauce.

Too Bitter

Leafy greens such as kale, collard, and mustard greens can be overpoweringly bitter. Other ingredients with a bitter edge include coffee, espresso, cocoa and herbs and spices such as parsley, paprika and cayenne (red) pepper.

Bitter is the opposite of acidic or sour so adding vinegar, citrus juice or yogurt can help balance the dish.

  • Squeeze some lemon over sautéed greens.
  • In Mexican cooking, lime helps balance red spices such as chile powder which can taste bitter.
  • Add a dash of grated nutmeg. The nutty taste helps balance other flavors.

HOUSEHOLD HACK: Splinters

 

wood-1693434_640

Don’t you hate those suckers?! I’ve collected a few tips for your next run-in with old furniture, fences or floorboards. It almost makes me wish I had a splinter so I could try them out. Almost.

  • Baking soda technique
  1. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda or baking powder with a few drops of water until it forms a paste.
  2. Apply the paste to the splinter.
  3. Wait 10-20 minutes until the skin swells a little and the splinter pops out of the skin.
  • Use a piece of duct tape or a drop of Elmer’s Glue to remove the splinter.
  • Soak. Pour some white vinegar into a small bowl. Soak the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the splinter has risen sufficiently out of the skin’s surface, it should be easy to remove with tweezers.

IMG-0045

FOLLOW-UP: Sicily

IMG-3159 (1)

My friend O suggested a post on my Do’s and Don’ts for next time. If you’re planning a trip to Sicily, here are a few post-vacation thoughts.

What I’d do again

  • Reserve Blacklane upon arrival at an unfamiliar destination. It will cost more than a taxi but the price is established and paid by credit card in advance. Benefits: 1) You won’t be driven all over the place to run up the meter. 2) You won’t have to change money at exorbitant airport rates. 3) Drivers are safe and you can request one who speaks your language. 4) The cars are cleaner and nicer than cabs.
  • Rent apartments instead of staying in hotels. Cooking (and grocery shopping) is fun and cheaper than always eating out.
  • If you plan to drive into the country, consider an apartment rental outside of the city so you can easily get in and out of town.
  • Buy tickets online in advance for popular museums and attractions.
  • Bring a good map and pocket Italian language guide.

What I’d do differently

  • Don’t plan on using Taormina as a base from which to travel to other areas unless you book a tour from town. It’s well located but too hard to navigate in and out.
  • One day is sufficient unless you really like to shop.
  • I’d spend more time in Palermo (better shopping, too).
  • I’d rent a place for a week about an hour’s drive from Siracusa and Noto. I’d rent another place for the second week an hour’s drive from Ragusa and the coast.

FOLLOW UP: Biscuits

IMG-0034

I’m still experimenting, but so far Alton Brown’s recipe checks all the boxes.

Curious about the meaning of the word “hack”? Originating as a computer term, it “… refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency….”

Sicily, Part 2

First, some overall thoughts:

  1. Sicily is BIG.  We barely scratched the surface and I can’t wait to go back and see things we missed.
  2. Sicily reminds me of my earliest trips to Italy, when it truly felt different from home: few tourists, little English, no giant chain stores, and you could get right up close to anything that seemed interesting.  I loved it.

Day 7: Palermo

Waking late after our midnight arrival and feeling peckish after last night’s feast of sandwich, chips and minibar, our first order of business is to find somewhere for lunch. The desk manager at Hotel No Frills makes a reservation at one that specializes in typical Sicilian food and it’s in the direction we want to walk, so off we go.

It’s Sunday, so everything is closed except restaurants and gelateria (gotta love a country where desserts are a priority). Families are enjoying the mild sunny weather as they stroll through piazzas and wide boulevards and we make our way to Piazza Verdi, where we’ll attend the opera tonight.

IMG-2911

Anticipating that we’ll want a snack before the performance, we make a reservation at the Teatro Massimo’s restaurant and continue to the famous Quattro Canti, also admiring the elaborate fountain in Piazza Pretoria and the churches just behind it.

IMG-2912After lunch, we stop for gelato, leisurely wander back to the hotel to change for the opera… and discover that the performance is at 5:30 p.m! ACK! No wonder the guy taking our dinner reservation for 6:00 looked at us so strangely!!! It’s already 5:00 so we throw on dressier clothes and zip back to the theatre, where we see yet another silly opera: Andrea Lecouvreur.

IMG-2921

The plot is a mash-up of French farce, Oscar Wilde, and high drama involving many people who are suffering from unrequited love.  Although there are subtitles in English, I have absolutely no clue what’s going on. Mostly I am wondering why the pudgy middle-aged stage manager doesn’t hook up with the middle-aged countess, instead of everyone pining for someone hopelessly unattainable.

The nice couple sharing our box are from Poland and are traveling on to Noto, which sounds beautiful so we add it to our to-do list.

Day 8: To Agrigento

We pick up our rental car at Hertz, along with a printed sheet of dire warnings about crime in the countryside, a GPS we call Betty (for reasons lost in the mist of time, our GPS is always “Betty”), and drive to the condo near Agrigento which will be our home for the next few days.

IMG-2923

Betty is doing pretty well with directions until we get closer and realize that our destination, Villagio Mosé, isn’t in her repertoire.  Luckily we have GoogleMaps and a general idea of where we’re going.  After butchering most of the street names — Betty’s Italian is even worse than my own and Porto Empedocle comes out “Hokely Dokely” — we find our condo, which is off Via degli Asteroidi (Asteroid Street? Huh?)

Sabrina, the manager, is very helpful and gives us some local maps, pointing out where to find the produce market and grocery store. Unfortunately, we discover that most roads do not actually have street signs because who needs them when only locals live here?!

Never mind. A few wrong turns later we find the market and load up on produce using our sophisticated language skills of pointing, holding up the appropriate number of fingers, and sticking to nouns. We repeat the whole process at the grocery store, where we stock up on essentials like milk, coffee, burratta, Sicilian wine (insolio and grillo are delicious whites; nero d’avola becomes our house red), swordfish and pasta for future dinners.

IMG-2930

Day 9

We begin with the astonishing Valle dei Templi (valley of the temples) — a stretch of remarkably preserved ruins that is one of those “you have to see it” kind of sights. The temples are huge, majestic and incredibly beautiful. Walking the mile or so from one to another where people walked so many centuries ago, you can feel the grandeur and history of this magnificent former jewel of the Grecian empire.

FullSizeRender (14)

IMG-2935IMG-2960We’ve worked up an appetite and stop for lunch back in Villagio M before exploring Agrigento.

IMG-2978IMG-2984

IMG_2999

Teatro Pirandello, Agrigento

Day 10: Out and About

Our laundry is drying outside in the sun, and we drive off for another day trip.

First we navigate interminable “roundy-rounds” (roundabouts), which adds a lot of time because Betty keeps telling us to take exits which are invariably closed for construction. (One town we pass is called Craparo; this pretty much sums it up.)

We eventually arrive in Racalmuto where Dear Husband is interested in seeing a little theatre he’s read about. The people who look after it seem amazed that anyone is visiting (sadly, there are no more performances because there’s no more funding) but they are excited to show us around, once we communicate (sort of) that DH is a university professor who teaches stage and film design.

Then, it’s on to Caltanisetta to check out another beautiful theatre (closed, dammit!), eat a wonderful lunch at Ristorante 900, look around the main square, and stop for pastry to bring back for dinner.  The Sicilians have quite a sweet tooth and the cookies are insanely good.

IMG-3001 (1)

IMG-3004 (1)

IMG-3009

FullSizeRender (17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I