I've been trying to catch up on old movies that I've somehow missed over the last 30+ years. 12 Angry Men, (spoiler alert: he didn't do it!), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (made the opening scene from Inglorious Basterds seem derivative, just swap beans for milk), On the Waterfront (my favorite IMDB trivia - Marlon Brando wasn't in the car when the camera was only on Rod Steiger in the famous "I coulda been somebody" scene - he was at an appointment with his therapist).
I've also really enjoyed watching Italian movies in their original language, with English subtitles - it's been a great way to hear Italian and instantaneously see the translation, although I really try not to watch the subtitles. In the past few weeks, I've watched I ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves), Cinema Paradiso and I plan on watching La Dolce Vita and Rome Open City. I loved Cinema Paradiso, of course, as many of the scenes were shot in familiar places and the story was so touching - I'll admit I got a little lump in the throat at the montage of cut scenes at the end! And Bicycle Thieves - I always thought it was "The Bicycle Thief", but if you've seen the movie, you'll understand why the true Italian translation makes sense - was truly amazing. I might be mistaken, but I think the stars were not professional actors (someone correct me if I'm wrong). The son was so good, the expression on his face when he sees what his father resorts to in order to keep his job. It's such a testament to great storytelling and direction that a movie with such a simple premise could be so riveting and devastating.
I've been cooking some as well - mostly because having the stove and oven on helps keep the apartment warm. My grandfather sent me his split pea soup recipe and I jazzed it up a little bit with some stinco di maiale (ham hock). The ham was delicious, so sweet - it was my first time using the hock for soup making. Not a ton of meat, but for 2 euro, I got at least 5 servings of soup out of it!
My fruttivendolo had a sign out for a vegetable called "coste" (Phillies fans: not that Coste) that I thought looked like bok choy. I looked it up in my Italian dictionary and there was no translation. My friend Fabbiola, who works at the little market, suggested that it was similar to chard. I tasted it raw - it had a crunchy texture with some nice salinity. I brought some home, steamed it with some couscous and a little olive oil, soy sauce and cumin.
I made stuffed artichokes twice this week - they were so good the first time, I wanted them again right away. Again, nothing too fancy, just some breadcrumbs, parmigiano, minced anchovy, sundried tomato, chopped celery leaf (in place of parsley - the fruttivendolo was out and I've got a big mazzo of celery that needs to get used up), and minced garlic. I learned a cool trick from Mark Bittman - Ang and I have been watching the Minimalist videos off the NYTimes website for the past year - he suggests if you don't have a steamer, you can turn two ramekins upside down in a pot, fill it with a little water, and then put a plate on top of the ramekins. You put your food to be steamed on the plate and cover and you have a DIY steamer! (This may be common sense to most people, but common sense doesn't always come easily to this brain!) Anyway, I steamed two artichokes for 35 minutes and made a little pasta to go along with it. Simple and really, really delicious.
Finally, I turned that famed master of Italian cuisine, the maestro of la cucina, the one, the only...Jaime Oliver. OK, it was a macaroni and cheese recipe. I don't even know how I ended up on this page, but something about fontina, mascarpone, parmigiano and mozzarella spoke to me. I couldn't tell you the last time I made mac & cheese (maybe back in the Beige Block days at Penn) but this seemed like another easy and delicious recipe to try out. It was indeed - although I think I'm going to continue to pay more attention to what the nice little nonna down the street has to say about Italian food as opposed to Mr. Oliver.