From the moment I saw this recipe I knew I wanted to try it. A combination of salmon, chives, lime zest and a cheese I’ve never tasted sounded intriguing. Robiola is an Italian soft-ripened cheese of the Stracchino family. It is from the Langhe region and made with varying proportions of cow’s, goat’s and sheep milk. Outside of Italy, you can pick it up at an Italian specialty store. If you’re not able to find it, you can substitute with ricotta or a mixture of ricotta and mascarpone cheese. You can find the original recipe (in Italian) here. It was the first time I’ve cooked a dish that combined pasta and fish. This dish is so delicious, I was not disappointed! This recipe is fairly simple, quick and easy.
Here in northern Italy, rice is king. Rice has been cultivated in the Po Valley since the Middle Ages. So it is no surprise that risotto is a staple dish in these parts. I have loved risotto for years and even before moving to Italy, risotto was a regular staple at our family dinners. Risotto is usually served as a “Primo” (first course) dish which is followed by a meat or poultry second course but it can also be served as a main dish. Since moving here, I have seen and tasted a myriad of risotto dishes, everything from lobster to blueberry risottos. The flavors and combination of ingredients seem endless.
One thing I’ve learned about Italians is that they love tuna. In Italy tuna is used in countless ways – in pasta, pizza, piadini, panini and much more. I still haven’t warmed up to the idea of tuna on pizza. I haven’t tried it so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I love shrimp but I have yet to embrace the Italian way of eating shrimp. Most of the time, here in Italy, shrimp is served intact. I’ve watched with deep admiration as Italians artfully dismember the little creatures as they eat them. I really have tried to learn this skill but, sadly, I end up embarrassing myself and making a mess. Not artful at all. I suppose I need more practice.
Like so many others, during quarantine, I’ve made an effort to create a rhythm to daily life for my family. I try to find ways to enjoy simple pleasures. One of the ways I’ve sought to do that is making our meals special. Whether it’s trying new recipes, perfecting favorite dishes, or having fun with the table setting, making mealtimes an event helps us to look forward to something pleasurable, something that brings us comfort. There’s a reassuring comfort in a favorite dish and excitement in trying something new. I love that around 2 p.m. every afternoon my youngest son asks the same question, “What’s for dinner?” It makes me giggle because it’s evident he’s anticipating and thinking of what’s to come.
This evening the Italian government just announced that ALL schools in Italy (the entire country!) will be closed until March 15. My son is on his second week at home from school. Thankfully, his school has organized lessons online. Many of us living here in Northern Italy were hopeful that schools would reopen next Monday and that life would return to some resemblance of normalcy. As of today, the total number of cases here is 2706, with 107 fatalities, most of which are here in Lombardy.
In need of comfort food this last week, I instinctively turn to risotto. For me risotto is the perfect comfort food. It’s warm, rich, creamy and can turn a bad day into a holiday. Risotto is king here in the north of Italy. The Po valley is one the world’s most famous rice production areas so it’s no wonder risotto is a specialty of the north.
What’s one to do when things shut down due to the Coronavirus? Try a new recipe! Last week will be remembered in Milanese history as the week the Coronavirus outbreak shut down the city and most of Northern Italy. It was a tense week as most folks stayed indoors, watching the news and trying to wrap our heads around what was happening. The week unfolded like a Sci-fi movie plot: no one in the streets, people stockpiling supplies, a rising death toll, and unscrupulous people taking advantage of others. So with more time on my hands and a desire to escape the constant barrage of bad news, I headed to the kitchen.