Today Zanzana has baked some bread with extra-virgin olive oil. This reminds her when she was studying at university and working in a rotisserie on afternoons and weekends. She was preparing bread with L., the owner, on Sundays, in the early morning, as the store was not receiving bread on that day as during the week. To be honest, L. was making bread and Zanzana was helping, but she has probably understood some basics and anyway found the whole process quite fascinating.
She has prepared this kind of bread also for Christmas lunch, when her family visited her. The result was quite good, even if Zanzana normally prefers to bake more rustic, crispy kinds of bread, as you can read here, while this is a soft one.
She got her inspiration here; this is the recipe she has used today:
1 Kg Flour, divided as follows: 50% Manitoba or “0” Flour, 40% “00” Flour, 10% wholemeal Flour;
200 gr. sourdough (this was quite strong and ready for making bread, as Zanzana used it a lot in the last days, otherwise you have to refresh it the day before);
Water as much as needed, 2 cups more or less;
100 gr. Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
1 teaspoon of honey;
1 teaspoon of salt.
Melt the sourdough in warm water, add honey and flour, add salt, knead everything for 15 minutes, adding water until an elastic dough is done. Let the dough grow for 15 hours, knead again and give bread the shape you prefer. As you can see, small rounded panini or “maggiolini”, long rolled panini, are the best for this type of bread. You can leave them grow for another hour, then put them in the oven at 180 degrees, after having sprinkled them with a little olive oil and flour. They can cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven, but be careful as they don’t have to get out too tanned!
Happy New Year and Buon Appetito!
Zanzana wrote about her dream for a Vegetable Garden here. There was a deadline for taking a decision, so she went to see the place.
The association Angoli di Terra has its Vegetable Gardens in the Southern part of Milan, around 4 kms from Zanzana’s home. That day Milan was covered with snow, so it was not easy to reach the place by bicycle.
She met at the entrance the person in charge of everything, Claudio, who, after introducing each other, asked her: “Who is going to dig?” Probably Zanzana’s aspect did not suggest him the idea of physical force, but she made him notice that she arrived there by bicycle after we got 20 cms snow the day before. He looked reassured, so Zanzana received all the indications in order to go and see the currently free slots. There were other people as well there, as the free slots were 4 in total. She walked down the small hill you can see in the picture until her candidate vegetable garden, n. 27, which you can admire here below.
As you can see, it is quite big! She entered inside and checked the cupboard, that can be used for chairs or gardening tools. In fact she was not sure, as she liked also another slot, but eventually preferred this, a corner one (she followed also the advice of a gardener, in the age of her father more or less, who accompanied her on the way).
She went back to the entrance, and this was really the most complicated moment: she did not know at all what to do. First she sent an mms with the vegetable garden picture to a friend and colleague who unexpectedly said one day at the Survival Compromise: “I want to work in a Vegetable Garden!” Zanzana has now a solution ready for her! 🙂 Of course the answer to the mms was something like: “This will be a vegetable garden, now it looks like a snowy field“. Then she discussed a little more with Claudio, explaining her fears and her lack of experience. He said this can quickly become a big passion, but it still requires committment, and he added Zanzana will not be able to go every weekeend to the beach, during summer (she is not in fact, but he could not know). He wisely suggested her to manage things step by step, and to try growing a few things first, avoiding to plan for a forest. He also mentioned it will be necessary to take clear agreements with friends and relatives for the work to do, as Zanzana mentioned the fact there might be someone helping her. Zanzana eventually phoned home before deciding, and she found a great support this time, so she said yes, and agreed to send the contract on the next Monday.
Now Zanzana is wating to meet again Claudio and the new gardeners like her, in order to get the keys of the gate and the basic information to start working. She is still very afraid of her decisions, but she also feels very calm somehow. She is making in her mind the list of the vegetables and other plants she would like to grow; she is surfing the web 20 hours a day in order to discover the most updated digging techniques; she went to a garden center close to her home, in order to understand how much money she will need in order to buy the first basic tools, but she did not dare to ask the people there; she is checking, month by month, what she would be supposed to do in the vegetable garden…
Zanzana feels very happy when she thinks that she eventually decided to do that. We surely spend too much time talking and complaining, while it would be much better to try new ways, when we feel that we need it. Zanzana knows the work to do is a big point: she does not want to leave this responsibility on someone else (nobody would take it anyway), but she will for sure need help. She also knows quite some people who would have time to do that and who would feel better, committing some time to gardening and growing vegetables. She is planning to ask, but she is also preparing not to feel deceived, in case she receives a refusal.
Getting her vegetable garden is for sure the biggest change, and probably biggest Christmas gift, Zanzana received this year: now beside the challenge to manage it, she hopes to make of it something useful for everybody!
Zanzana recently went to the Park, for her riding lesson. She will tell you later on about that, because they gave her a new horse 🙂 After that, she went to a Farm, Molino San Giorgio, just in the middle of the Park, to buy milk. One day, a colleague at the Survival Compromise, said: “You can live a whole life without milk!” Yes, but our lives would be much worse then! In fact Zanzana drinks and uses a lot of milk.
The milk produced here is organic: imagine, organic milk at 20 km from Milan! Moreover, this milk is not pasteurized, so you are supposed to boil it before drinking it (even if Zanzana does not), and strange to say, it is cheaper that milk that you buy at the supermarket (unfortunately in Italy organic products are always more expensive than normal ones). It is sold through an automatic machine (this is compulsory here), so you can bring your bottle, refill it, and avoid using a new plastic or glass one.
This time, Zanzana bought also some Yoghurt, even if normally she makes it, but the bottle was already empty at the end of the day 🙂
The Farm has a lot of animals and works also as ‘Didactic Farm’, so that children and school groups can visit it and learn about work in the country, animals, life in the nature. Unfortunately, if you are not on an official visit, you can not get really close to the animals, but you can anyway see donkeys
geese and of course cows. In his picture, you can see the signs sayings that it is forbidden to enter 🙂
Zanzana, as you know, has always lived in the city, and for a really long time she could not imagine herself far away from the fancy life in Milan, and from the trendy streets of the city center. Then one day, she just felt all this was over, and she started to miss a countryside she has’t really ever known. So now, even if she is quite happy, she is in the middle between her regular city life and a deeply missed and until now just imagined life far away from the city, in a farm, in the countryside…
Zanzana’s beloved one is Albanian. He and Zanzana really like beans, as every type of simple, genuine food: you will not find a lot of ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ in Zanzana’s kitchen! Zanzana also thinks that beans don’t have the place they deserve in contemporary kitchen, while she prepares them at least once a week.
Cannellini are small white beans, with relatively soft, thin skin, quite sweet taste. The best ones in Zanzana’s opinion are the ‘new’ ones, the smallest ones. They are very common in Mediterranean kitchen and also throughout Italy, especially in Tuscany, where you can find memorable recipes for them.
This is the recipe Zanzana prepares more often, inspired by the way beans are prepared by her husband’s family. It will take you up to three hours preparation, even if you can do many other things while they boil.
250 gr dried cannellini beans
a small onion
one ladle of self produced tomato sauce (the one you would use for pasta; you can use also some tomato concentrate, one spoon)
extra-virgin olive oil, butter, salt, chili (optional)
Soak the beans in water for at least 8 hours, then boil them for at least 2 hours. At the same time, prepare an onion ‘soffritto’ (fry the onion with olive oil), then add it to the beans after at least one hour cooking, together with salt. After half an hour add the tomato sauce and leave the beans cooking until they become ‘creamy’.
Last but not least, complete with a little chili and butter (25 gr.).
P.S. The writings on the bowl above are not in Albanian, but in a Northern Italian dialect, from Cremona region. Zanzana will tell you how she got that!