Wandering around Gracia

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As you might have noticed from previous blog posts or following our Instagram feed, all the three of us have definitely left Barcelona, the city where we met and found the energy and the sprint to start our incuQIna project. We fell in love with this place and spent long days and nights exploring its hidden corners, eating in different restaurants, drinking in bars, chilling at cafes and shopping in many markets. It will always have a special place in our heart, and we want to share with you some of our favorite insider’s tips for food-related spots around the city, taking you for virtual walks around different neighborhoods.

Fra_gracialogos  A square of Gracia, pictured in an artwork by our Francesca

We’ll start with the “barrio” we used to live in: Gracia! Even though we could be talking nonstop about places here, we made a small selection of bars, cafes, restaurants and spots linked to special memories. Please feel free to write to us if you have some other suggestions, comments or any questions!

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Laura’s frittelle

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Pst, do you wanna know a secret? 

The one and only ingredient that can never miss in the kitchen is curiosity.

Remember  a few weeks ago in our “focus on food” post we talked about buckwheat? Today we are announcing the winning recipe that featuring this pseudo-cereal triangular in shape and unusual in taste.

The winner is a delicious appetizer that our friend Laura prepared for us during a nice Sunday lunch. We were immediately captured by her enthusiasm and by her sweet ways of approaching the cooking process and how she was justifying herself while taking out the ingredients from the bag: “this is the first time that I prepare them!” she went, smiling as usual. We thank Laura because she reminded us about how cooking is something as visceral as eating, an instinctive process that comes from a need but it’s expressed at its best when approached with curiosity.

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Easy Risi e bisi

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Here comes the summer, and the usual bustle of village festivals that animates the weekend of our beautiful Italy.

Every place around the peninsula has its own culinary specialties and gluttonies, influenced by the local products, nature, climate. All our regional dishes come fromtraditions handed down by man and women who loved and knew how to farm, grow, take care and love their lands and territories.

Just this week our Anna was back in her “blue” Euganean hills, and the recipe that we propose to you today is therefore a spring dish from Veneto combining two ingredients typical of these areas: rice and peas.

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La crostata di zia

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Today we are going to share one of our family recipes. The “crostata” is a very common italian sweet, which has a butter pastry base generally filled with jam or cream and fruits. It’s a perfect breakfast-tea-after meal treat. And yes, it’s buttery. So buttery. No detox involved here.

In Camilla’s family it was the cake for every occasion. Her aunt is the one always appointed with the task of bringing to family dinners and parties the “crostata di zia” (aunt’s pie), and everyone, literally everyone loves it. During the years she perfected her art in the making of the dough, in choosing the best jam (she prefers the sour cherries one), finding the best way to decorate it. Its fame expanded outside the family borders: friends of the family, in-laws, friends of friends would ask for it. Whenever Zia was invited to a dinner or a party and would enter with her rounded tin covered in a colored rag, the host would ask-expectantly- “is this your crostata?”.

And then the population is divided into who likes better the sides better and who likes better the jam-filled center, and so you can see people teaming up between jam and sides eater, dividing their last pieces.

There are different traditional ways to make the pastry. Some put the whole egg, some others only the egg yolk, some will work the butter and the sugar together at the beginning. Well, we think this is the best way to make it. And we also love the hand made lattice, made of thick hand-rolled pins.

The dough is also perfect to make cookies. We made a stock and brought it at some friends place with small cookie cutters and prepared them with a 4-years-old, it was a success!

We also made a small video, of Zia herself making the crostata. It’s a short nice tutorial that guides you through the recipe and shares some of her secrets!

Enjoy, and let us know how it goes!

Serves some friends -Medium difficulty- Prep time: 30′ +1h rest +40′ baking

You will need:

  • 4 egg yolks (from medium or large eggs)
  • 200 gr. butter
  • 200 gr. sugar
  • 400 gr. flour
  • 1 jar of your favorite jam/marmelade

How to:

  1. Beat the yolks with the sugar until soft and creamy;
  2. add the softened butter into pie and the flour and mix quickly;
  3. form a ball with the dough, wrap it in plastic film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour;
  4. the dough will be now a little hard, but knead it quickly with a pinch of flour and you’ll see that it becomes immediately smooth and elastic. At this point you can use to make a tart, cookies or anything you can think of.
  5. For the tart, roll two-thirds of the dough and put it in baking tin that you have already buttered and floured;
  6. trim the excess on the sides with the knife;
  7. pour the jam on the dough and spread it up to a centimeter from the edges;
  8. use the remaining dough to make the lattice and the edges;
  9. bake in the pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until the the dough is golden;
  10. let cool, and then Buon Appetito!

We are listening to: 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLZ-i2hu6GA

About buckwheat (and a contest

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Dear friends of incuQIna, we are happy to introduce you to the new “focus on food” ingredient. We started this series with the well-known carrots, and we decided now to move to a not-so-well-known but really interesting aliment: BUCKWHEAT!

We are also launching another CONTEST, and the rules are the same as last time: we want to know what is your favorite recipe that has buckwheat as an ingredient, we’ll test the best ones and finally declare a winner publishing the recipe (see last month outcome)! You can either send your recipes to incuqina@gmail.com, or leave a comment in this post or write us on our facebook page. Send us your recipe before the 31st of May 2015!

Name and history

So let’s start from the name, which is already tricky and misleading: buckwheat in fact doesn’t have anything to do with wheat and doesn’t belong to the Graminae family. So what is it exactly? Often included into the pseudocereals group, it is the achene (dried fruit which contains one seed) of a plant (Fagopyrum esculentum) that belongs to the family of Polygonaceae, the same of rhubarb and sorrel. It is naturally gluten-free and suitable for people with celiac desease.

Its cultivation started most likely in China, in the wonderful region of Yunnan, one thousand years ago. Around the 14th-15th centuries it spread across all Asia and Northern Europe, and it was introduced in the U.S. by the Dutch during the 17th century. Nowadays the main producers (and eaters) of buckwheat are Russia and Poland, where the plant can thrive even in poor soil and live through freezing temperatures. During spring time it blossoms with white and pink flowers, loved by bees that use them to produce a delicious, dark honey.

Use
Similar in size to wheat, buckwheat fruit seeds are three-sided and resemble the shape of beechnuts, therefore requiring special milling equipment to remove the outer hull and make them edible. After being de-hulled, buckwheat shows a brownish-light green color. Roasted buckwheat aquires a stronger nutty flavor, while unroasted it keeps a milder taste. It can also be ground into flour (used in the famous breton Crepes, italian Pizzoccheri or Russian blini) and mixed with gluten-containing flour for baking.

Nutrition

As all whole grain products, buckwheat has a good content of fiber and a low glycemic index, being thus suitable for diets of diabetic people. Moreover it is useful for prevention of diabetes type 2 thanks to its content of chiro-inositol, a compound that seems to increase cell sensitivity to insulin.

Because of its high amount of flavonoids such as rutin and quercitin, powerful antioxidants, its intake has been connected to reduced risk of developing high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. Buckwheat also provides a good source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and copper. Finally it is important to underline that despite its relatively low (11%) content of proteins, buckwheat contains all the 8 essential aminoacids, even lysin. Nutritionally speaking, a real bomb!

Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to TCM, buckwheat has a cool energy and it’s sweet in flavour. Its action goes mainly to the digestive system (Spleen and Stomach), but also on Large Intestine and Heart (reinforces blood vessels). Buckwheat becomes a very powerful tool in case we need to give our body a good source of energy but at the same time we want to drain Dampness and purify Heat, because it moves energy downwards, being therefore a good food to eat during spring-time.

Cooking with buckwheat:

Try the grains: toast it in a pan with a little bit of oil and then let them cook in double amount of water (covered) till the water dries. You’ll find a nice base for warm salads, a substitute for cous cous or rice.

Tempt yourself with its flakes: a perfect breakfast in a porridge (we made it with almond milk!) or simply mixed with some yogurt and, why not, fresh berries.

Wanna test yourself with some low-gluten kneading? Pizzoccheri are perfect in this season, and we shared last year our (lighter) version!

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Do you want to know more?

www.whfood.com

www.usaemergencysupply.com

www.agraria.org

It’s salad o’clock

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And what about salads?

According to taste and tradition, salads appear on menus in different positions: in the North of Europe they are often featured among the first or main courses, while as we move south they are often just considered simple side dishes, a light accompaniment to heavy main courses.

Today, dear friends of incuQIna, we’ll introduce you to a salad that can stand for itself being a rich, nutritious and colorful dish. We designed this recipe for the Mojo-yoga Yoga&Detox retreat: together with our friend Marijke, talented photographer and brave cook, this Mechelen-based studio organizes two days of detox and yoga practices in the relaxed contour of Zeeland. We’ll keep you posted about this!

But let’s go back to our salad.

It’s vegan and gluten free, with mixed raw and cooked ingredients that create a crunchy and soft texture. It’s quite fast, really easy (no special skills, no strange ingredients required) and really good.

Potatoes and chickpeas will provide the solid foundation and, thanks to their thermal neutral nature and their sweet flavor, they bring a good amount energy to the center (in Spleen-stomach). Green beans are also moving in the same direction and calm thirst, while the addition of artichokes makes this dish perfect for spring thanks to their calming/draining effect of liver and biliary vesicle. Finally, the cherry tomatoes add crispness, color and they are a comforting sign that summer is not so far away! Add some flax seeds to give consistency to the light dressing, and and enjoy!

Serves 4 –Easy- Prep time: 30′ (plus 1 day of soaking+1h cooking the chickpeas)

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You will need:

  • 50 gr dried chickpeas (150 gr already boiled)
  • 600gr potatoes
  • 3-4 artichokes (about 1kg)
  • 300 gr green beans
  • 15-20 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 lemons
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup flax seeds

How to:

  1. ChickpeasSoak them  overnight; drain them and put them to cook in a large pot with cold water. Let cook for around 45 minutes, then add some salt. If you are not going to continue cooking immediately, better leave them in their own cooking water;
  2. Potatoes:Peel and boil them until tender, then drain and cut in 4.
  3. ArtichokesFill a bowl with cold water and the juice of half a lemon. Clean well the artichokes removing the hard external leaves and peeling the stem. Remember to always rub them well with a lemon to avoid oxidization. Cut them in 4 and get rid of the internal beard and thorns and leave them in the bowl with water and lemon until you are done cleaning all of them; put them to boil together with the green beans for about 15 minutes
  4. Green beansRemove the edges from the green beans and wash them; put them to boil together with the artichokes for about 15 minutes
  5. TomatoesWash the tomatoes and cut them in 2;
  6. Flax seedsSoak them for 4 hours or overnight. Drain and wash them well.
  7. Combine all the ingredients, then season with the flax seeds and a vinaigrette prepared with 6 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt.

We are listening to: 

Spring detox: done!

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You thought the detox put us K.O. but NO! We are still alive, dear friends, and stronger than before! 🙂 Today we’ll do a little recap and share the aftermath of our experience with you.

We admit that the first few days haven’t been easy, but we made our best to get some cleaning done and eliminate the surplus form our dining tables. With surplus we mean all those excess that have easily become habits and don’t do anything but make us more tired and heavy. In return, we have rediscovered the pleasure of enriching our daily dishes with many seasonal vegetables: we splurged on green herbs and artichokes, spring products with a deep purifying action. We did not forget to add a little flavor to our sober dishes with some spices, and we had been particularly generous with turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory very helpful to liver (remember to always add a pinch of pepper to activate its properties). Fruit was the main star of our breakfasts, and we never forgot to bring some nuts and other dried fruits to munch on during the day, to not indulge in some other sin of gluttony. Now let’s see what have been the most critical moments.

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A nice fruit breakfast

Giving up coffee was for Anna the most complicated thing to do. For her is not just a simple drink but a pleasant ritual that marks the time of her days, making them more beautiful. Replacing coffee with green tea helped preventing symptoms from caffeine abstinence, but let’s face it: it is not quite the same as a cup of espresso!

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Asian-style vegetable soup for a light dinner

For Camilla a similar problem arisen to say no to beer, companion of many social moments in Brussels, her temporary home. But she finally managed to keep on meeting people and instead of ordering one of the many delicious beers, prime products of Belgium, she opted for scented infusions and fruits and vegetables juices, which gave her energy for walking marathons around the city to discover its hidden corners.

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Having a ginger-apple juice instead of a Brussel Beer…

Our Francesca din’t join our adventure this time, since spring has not yet hit Boston and when it is still cold is not advisable to undergo this type of dietary changes. However, she already tested herself with Ayurvedic detox and fasting practices last autumn, but now that it is facing the challenges of the New Continent needs of strength and of our full support, ergo absent justified.

And how are you? Did you take some days off to put some order in your food habits? Ready to see what’s the next stage of the program?

Save the Scraps! Squids on broad beans puree leftovers

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Today’s about food waste and leftovers recycling: because of habits, ignorance or commonplace, we end up trashing every day lots of perfectly edible food.

Every time you buy and eat the marvelous fresh beans just don’t throw away the pods: save them from the trash bin and throw them in the pan! Wash them, get rid of the hardest edges, and put them to boil together with a potato. Drain them when soft, blend all together and adjust of salt and olive oil. Voilà! A rather fancy broad beans puree is ready for the table! We served them with delicious squids quickly cooked in a pan (but grilling them would have been perfect too!) topped with caramelized lemon.

Since overfishing is an issue, we also invite all of you to consume fish in a more responsible way: do it less, buy fish of a certain quality and make sustainable choices, healthier for you and for our planet. Choosing a good fishmonger is essential! Look for someone who is well prepared, that can help you understand the origins of the fish you are buying and who respects the sea.

Regarding food waste, have a look to this amazing website from Livia Casali: https://ecocucinaen.wordpress.com/  She is all about cooking with those things wrongly labelled as “food scraps”, and turning them in delicious, nutritious meals. We tried some of her recipes and they are really delicious, and an eye opener of all we can use and recycle in the kitchen!

So, if tomorrow you’ll celebrating worker’s day with a picnic with Fave e Pecorino, keep the buds!

Serves 4 -Medium Difficutly- Prep time: 40 minutes

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You will need:

  • 4 squids
  • 1 lemon (BIO!)
  • broad beans pods
  • 1 potato
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 glass of white whine
  • 2 tsp sugar

How to:

-the puree

  1. Clean the broad beans and cut off the edges, peel the potato and put everything to boil until soft;
  2. drain (keeping half a cup of water aside) and using a hand mixer blend everything together. Use a little bit of cooking water and olive oil to make the blending easier. Adjust of salt.

-the caramelized lemon skin

  1. Peel the lemon and cut the skin in stripes;
  2. put half a cup of water in a pan to boil with 2 tsp of sugar and let boil for 3-4 minutes;
  3. add the lemon peel and let cook for 5 minutes.

the squids:

  1. Clean well the squids, removing all the internal parts and the outer skin;
  2. heat up a little olive oil in a pan, and add the squids;
  3. cook for 2-3 minutes each side, then add half a glass of white wine and let cook until it dissolves. Alternatively, grill the squids;
  4. lay some broad beans puree, then the squids and finish off with the caramelized lemon.

We are listening to:

Fave e pecorino

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What are you up to on the 1st of may? We will be celebrating worker’s day having a picnic with a bunch of friends, and as a Roman tradition has it we’ll start it off with Fave and Pecorino!

This is really not much of a fuzz to put together: in this season it will be easy to find fresh broad beans in many well-provided greengrocers, and for the cheese head to your local cheese shop and buy some Pecorino DOP (be careful about the quality and origin of it). You are good to go! Lie your blanket on the grass, open a bottle of red wine and start eating the beans directly from the pod while nibbling on some pieces of cheese.

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And guess what? As it often happens with many traditional dishes, this combination is very well-balanced on the energetic profile. Pecorino, being a ripped sheep cheese, is warm in energy and heats up digestive organs, nourishing Blood and Yin very well. The alliance with beans reduces its natural tendency to increase Dampness: broad beans in fact, as all pulses, have a mild diuretic function. They act on Spleen and Stomach thanks to their sweet flavour and neutral energy, by helping digestive functions.

Remember that the pods are also edible, and they can be used and cooked! So don’t throw them away and we’ll soon show you how to prepare them!

As easy as can be, as good as it sounds: try it and enjoy the taste of simple things!

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We are listening to:

Past’ecceci

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Today’s special is a traditional italian “minestra”: Pasta e Ceci!

Yes: we had been traveling a lot, we mostly live abroad, and we love other culture’s way of cooking, but finally we still love to come back to our roots and comfort ourselves with mamma’s food. In this case, this think Chickpeas and Pasta soup comes from the roman rural tradition, and our Camilla re-discovered it during her recent stay in her hometown.

As often happens with traditional recipes, we found combined here a perfectly balanced dish: slow-releasing carbs (pasta), vegetal proteins (from chickpeas) and unsaturated fat (olive oil). Perfect also for any vegetarian or vegan among you, we suggest it especially for lunch, accompanied by some vegetables as a side dish: it will make you full and satisfied but not heavy!

From the TCM point of view, pasta e ceci makes a perfect dish for springtime: chickpeas have a neutral/fresh thermic nature and a mild nutritional action on Liver’s Blood. And regarding rosemary, this is a faithful ally to fight the tiredness of these days!

Once again, a simple demonstration on how eating well for our body is easy and really tasty.

And finally, mum’s secret: Pasta e Ceci tastes better the day after you prepared it!

Buon appetito!

Serves 4 -Medium/Easy- Prep time: 2h (plus one night for soaking the chickpeas)pasta e ceci (2 of 4) copy

You will need: 

  • 250gr
  • 100 gr pasta (preferably fresh egg pasta, like fettuccine), small or cracked in small pieces
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • some rosemary (or sage,  if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp of tomato concentrate or 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt

How to:

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight;
  2. drain them and put them to cook in a large pot with cold water. Let cook for around 45 minutes, then add some salt. If you are not going to continue cooking immediately, better to leave them in their own cooking water;
  3. keep the cooking water aside, and make 2/3 of the chickpeas (drained) into a purèe with a food mill or a hand mixer;
  4. sauté a clove of garlic together with the rosemary (or the sage) with some olive oil in a large pan;
  5. after 2-3 minutes add the tomato sauce/concentrate and let cook for another 2-3 minutes;
  6. add to the pan the chickpeas+the chickpeas purèe, and cook on a low fire for 5-10 minutes;
  7. bring a part of the cooking water to boil and use it to cook the pasta;
  8. when the pasta is ready mix in the pot all together with the chickpeas;
  9. serve warm or cold. Keep the remaining cooking water in case you need to warm up the minestra for another meal.
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We are listening to: