Tag Archives: Taormina

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.

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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

 

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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.

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FOLLOW-UP: Sicily

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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

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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 4 (The Forces Aren’t With Us)

Day 13: Surviving Taormina

We bid farewell to Sabrina and drive to our next home-from-home, Taormina, a few hours away.  This is where our best-laid-plans are totally shot to hell.

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The trip starts promisingly, as we get back to Caltanisetta without getting lost. But then…. We hit a double roundy-round and Betty wants us to take one of the exits. Well, that doesn’t work. We try EVERY GODDAMN EXIT until we realize that the one correct exit is the one that is blocked off.  Needless to say, there are no signs to help and we are stuck in Caltanisetta.

DH finally has a brainstorm:  Follow a truck because surely a truck is going to be headed for the highway, right? YES! We are out of the city and see signs for the A19 highway.

New crisis: I need a rest stop and there are none.  Betty steers us to a gas station, which has a hunk of concrete blocking the door to the restroom but do I care? No, I do not! Ignoring the man outside who is yelling in Italian (which mercifully, I do not understand) I hustle out of the john and get back in the Fiat.

Needless to say, 5 minutes after we get on the A19 there is a bonafide rest area. F’ me and thanks, Betty.

OK, our new destination is the promisingly-named Taormina Lux Apartments, with an address per booking.com of #46 San Pancrazio, which we enter into the GPS. We have arranged to meet Emanuel the condo agent and are now running 1/2 hour late but all things considered that’s not too bad.

We arrive in Taormina to see that San Pancrazio is a winding thoroughfare — very busy — with nowhere to pull over but I spy #46 and hop out of the car to ring the doorbell. Nada. It’s clear that this is not the entrance so now what??

We call and text the agent multiple times as we circle around and around in the insane traffic of San Pan-Crazy-O and are finally forced to travel up to a small area by a bakery where we can pull over.  This would be fine except that a cop keeps trying to shoo us away and a woman who has stopped for ice cream wants our parking spot.

Finally we get through to Emanuel who says he will meet us there in 10 minutes. 45 minutes later he actually shows up and we follow him to the apartment parking area which turns out to be BEHIND the street. How in hell were we supposed to know this?!?! We are now molto stressed out and more than a little irritated, especially DH who has had to drive around in circles for over an hour.

The complex itself is a maze and “helpfully”, none of the units are marked, nor is the key. But the apartment has a well stocked kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a large veranda overlooking the pool with a view of the hillside and ocean. IMG-3085

It’s now getting late so we dump our stuff and go exploring for lunch accompanied by wine, which we both desperately need at this point. Sapori di Mare hits the spot.

IMG-3078Taormina has been a vacation destination for centuries and it’s easy to see why. Despite being very touristy even at this time of year, it is extremely pretty. You just have to look up above the stores and down the little alleys to catch a glimpse of its natural beauty.

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FullSizeRender (28).jpgWe buy some cheese, wine and pastry at Pasticceria D’Amore for a simple dinner later and go back to collapse.

Not so fast. Trying to find our room in this apartment complex is like being trapped in an Esher drawing.

Up 3 levels. Down 4 levels. Across to one elevator.  Down a hallway. Back to the other elevator.  We can see where our patio is (pool level) but damned if we can figure out how to get to it.

But we do, and vow to take careful notes tomorrow of exactly how to  retrace our steps. Zzzzzz.