A walk! And spaghetti with zucchini and basil

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Already late June! We are out of lockdown in Rome, there are green figs and huge watermelons and lots of cherries in the fruit and veg shops. I can see the hipster bar across the piazza is busy (it has outdoor seating) and it is so nice to hear voices in the streets again. I am still wary so we are not out much, and only with masks, but getting a takeaway pizza after three months was amazing.  It is really great to start seeing a few friends now and then, while maintaining distance. We are all still working from home, going better than expected. Our cloth mask collection is growing.

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Today we actually left our neighbourhood Garbatella for the first time since March, and walked across the river to Marconi to pick up something at a shop. Lots of people out, almost all with masks, but it feels like life is a little more normal. People out on bicycles with their kids, others were chatting on the sidewalks, with patient dogs waiting on leashes, enjoying the lovely sunny weather. So many shops had SALDI signs (sales). It’s a tough time for businesses.

Home again: What to have for lunch? We had lots of leftovers in the fridge, including the fabulous Ottolenghi mushroom lentil ragu,  which we had the other night on spaghetti, but that ragu will feature in a vegetarian moussaka tonight. Yes, a friend is coming for dinner! It is SO NICE to talk to someone in person and not via a computer. We will have drinks on the condominium rooftop terrace, then dinner, all maintaining fresh air and distance.

Anyway, we needed lunch, soon. UK football has started again this weekend, they are playing with empty stadiums but showing games online (with crowd noise dubbed in, it is really odd). This is a big deal for my husband (UK club season ticket holder), who has been doing most of the cooking this spring. So I promised to assemble something. The lone zucchini in the veg drawer, one box of leftover cold spaghetti, hey presto!

Spaghetti with zucchini and basil
2 tbs olive oil
1 zucchini  (if you have 2, even better)
1 clove garlic
leftover spaghetti, about two portions (or cook 180gr dry pasta)
salt, pepper
5-6 basil leaves, torn
parmesan to serve

Wash the zucchini, slice in two lengthwise then slice it into thin half moons. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan, toss in the zucchini and fry at medium to high heat, not so hot that anything burns but so the zucchini cooks and some get a little golden. Add chopped garlic, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. If you have basil, a few leaves town and added in is great. Once the zucchini has a little colour, add the leftover cold spaghetti  (or pasta of your choice) and keep heating this in the frying pan until it is all hot. Move the pasta and zucchini around so it all gets warm without any zucchini bits burning. Grate some parmesan and voila, lunch in six minutes, just in time for the football game.

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Hope you are all still doing well!

Calamari and potato stew

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Working with home is busier than expected, not the long days with leisurely lunches I had imagined. I go from online meeting to spreadsheets to next online meeting, and often it is my husband doing the cooking on weekdays. But this time I stepped up. Our veg box arrived from L’Alveare, along with eggs, rabbit and calamari, and the next day I dug out a wine-stained recipe for Ligurian stew with seppie (cuttlefish) and potatoes. This is very simple, but needs a bit of time, so it is perfect to assemble and leave simmering while you have a Zoom drink with a friend.

Getting a five kilo veg box is interesting, and so far it has been fun to work out what to cook. It’s all from within 50-70 km of Rome. We had fresh fava beans, carrots, salad, green tomatoes, and lots of fennel. We made pickled fennel and fennel pasta bake with lemony breadcrumbs, both which were delicious. Now we have cicoria, brocoletti and spinach jostling for space in the veg drawer, along with Roman zucchini, so maybe a green spring risotto will appear in the next days. Maybe also zucchine a scapece, fried zucchini slices dressed in oil, vinegar, garlic and mint? So many possibilities! It’s a little overwhelming after four years in Ghana with more limited vegetable options. It’s also so nice to have access to all my cookbooks. Like old T-shirts: if I do not use them now, I never will, so it’s time to use them or pass them on.

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The original recipe calls for seppie, but I used calamari, with more potatoes, and it was lovely. This is for two people, with a little left for lunch the next day.

Calamari and potato stew

500 gr calamari, cleaned
500 gr potatoes, peeled
4 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic
parsley
generous pinch of dried chili flakes
small glass of dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt

If you have a cast iron pot, use that — something with a heavy lid is best, or a very tight-fitting lid. Heat the oil, and gently fry garlic and chili flakes (or chopped fresh chili , if you have it).  Slice calamari into strips and add to pan with parsley (dry, or fresh chopped). Pour in white wine, cook on low heat for 25 min or so. I enjoyed more of the white wine on a call with a friend in Chicago.  Now, chop the peeled potatoes and add them to the pot, keeping the heavy lid on – you do not want the steam to escape. Relax while the stew continues to simmer with lid on for another 20-25 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked but not falling apart. You might need a little stock or wine if it looks dry, this did not need extra liquid. Salt and serve.

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Not quite a seaside lunch at Fiumicino, but it was really good! I really appreciate being safe in Rome, and hope that phase 2 of our lockdown here goes well.  There may be a second wave of infections following the partial lifting of restrictions. There have definitely been a lot more people out since Easter but most Romans have been incredibly disciplined. We have no family here, and cannot see friends yet, so thank goodness for good Internet. It’s a tough time for many small businesses, and we do not know what the summer will bring. I am crossing fingers for continued calm and safe days for all.

May Day, fave and pecorino

img_20200501_122742_4It’s May Day, a long weekend here and the end of week eight of lockdown. From Monday we can go for walks, which will be wonderful. Quite a few people are ambling around already, it is definitely getting livelier in Rome by the day. The traditional primo maggio concertone (big concert) will be online tonight, spring is definitely here. I’ve seen locals out in T-shirts, there is fresh asparagus and soon strawberries.  We got a veg box delivered yesterday from L’Alveare, which had lots of fave fresche (fava beans, or broad beans.) Time for a traditional first of May lunch, fave e pecorino. Ideally eaten after a trip to the countryside, with a glass of crisp cold white wine.

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No countryside this year, but we peeled the fresh fava beans sitting in the kitchen, listening to bird song. The ones on the left have the outer layer removed, maybe not needed as these are very fresh, but we have plenty. We also have plenty of time this spring. I was sorting cookbooks today (they ALL spark joy) and will pull out some less used ones to experiment with, esepcially now that we know how to shop online. The shops are well-stocked, I am just trying to avoid closed spaces. I’ll try more It looks like I’ll be working for home for a few more months, so I’m thinking about how to set up a less temporary workspace. On Tuesday my boxes arrive from Accra, so I’ll deal with that first. It will get hot in Rome soon enough, but nothing compared to the heat and relentless humidity of Accra.

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No pecorino cheese, but we had fresh, crumbly robiola and cheese with walnuts with our fave, with flatbread left over from a Persian dinner (Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime, and Smoked aubergines with garlic, both highly recommended. Standing on the balcony today, seeing people jog by and walk their dogs and randomly (!) bump into friends, albeit with masks and at a distance, there is a good feeling that this too shall pass. I hope the same holds true also for you.