Thursday, February 05, 2004


Art stained the wood for the pantry shelves in the garage with the space heater for warmth. It took him several hours, but he did save some time because we bought a stain/varnish, so there was just one step. Since these shelves are out of sight, a perfect finish wasn’t necessary.

Art brought the wood in the house after a couple of days so that it would completely dry, then we put them together, added some feet…just in case the water softener acts up again…and voila! We now have storage space! I moved a lot of things out of the kitchen cabinets, and I’m sure I'll rearrange even more once we get the new shelves. We need to stop in Marsciano and ask when they will be ready. I shipped some of my Mom’s crystal, and haven’t unpacked it yet…it’s a lot safer in boxes surrounded by bubble wrap and foam peanuts for now. Eventually some of that will be displayed in the new of the sections has glass doors just for that reason.

Speaking of Marsciano, they have a new piece of statuary in a small grassy section where the road makes a ‘Y’. At first glance I thought it was a mermaid, because on either side of the statue are wave-like sections, but upon closer inspection, it’s just a woman. A terra cotta woman. With long flowing hair. Lying on her side. Naked. There must be a story, but so far we haven’t heard about it. Maybe I’ll ask Marco, or stop by to see Donatella.

Yesterday was a good day, cooking-wise. I read on one brand of flour that “00” is the all purpose flour, while “0” is bread flour. I know I have that information written somewhere, but it sure was helpful to have it printed right on the bag. So…I decided to make an apple pie. Mauro is supposed to come for a meeting this morning, although Wendy has the flu and won’t be able to come. I thought it would be polite to have something to offer, so what could be more American than apple pie? Since it will be just us and Mauro, the meeting may not last as long, and we may not sit at the table to discuss things, so I’m not sure if the pie will be served this morning or not. Wait, let me rephrase that…I’m not sure if the pie will be served during the meeting…Art is warming it up in the oven right now, and I know for a fact that he’ll have some sooner or later. Probably sooner.

I also made rice and pork chops yesterday. When I was growing up, this was a regular time at our house. Since my mom was German by heritage, she never cooked a lot of rice…the only time I remember us having rice was with this dish. Anyway, it’s a simple dish, great for a cold winter’s night.

I wasn’t sure if the rice in Italy would work. All I know is long grain, medium grain, and minute rice. Risotto is very popular in Italy, and is usually made with Arborio rice. It is served with the rice cooked “al dente”, instead of the soft and fluffy rice that is typically served in the U.S. For this reason, I wasn’t sure if the Arborio rice would work in rice and pork chops…I wasn’t sure if the rice would absorb enough moisture to cook through. I did find some rice in the Coop that was labeled “long grain”, although it looks more like medium grain to me. And although the bag said it was to be used for risotto, I thought it was worth a try.

Here’s the recipe, just in case you’re interested: For a 2 qt casserole dish, brown 3 or 4 pork chops. I like to use the ones with the bone in, for more flavor. After the chops are brown, put them in the bottom of the casserole dish. Pour one cup of uncooked, long grain rice over the pork chops. To the skillet add 2 cups of water, some salt and pepper, and bring the water to a boil, scraping up the stuff left in the skillet. Once the water comes to a boil, carefully pour it into the casserole dish. Cover with aluminum foil and a lid…you want to keep the liquid/steam in the dish. Bake at 275 degrees for about 2 hours. You can vary the oven temperature...a little higher and it will be ready faster, which is handy if you are baking other things.

The good news for us was that it turned out just fine using the Italian rice! A touch of the old home in our new one. I am curious to see how the pie crust turned out using the Italian flour…I brought a can of shortening with me, for pie crusts, and also for biscuits. I haven’t made biscuits yet, but when I do, I’ll also use another secret ingredient, mayonnaise. Just a dollop of mayo to the regular biscuit dough really makes a difference. Give it a try sometime.

I plan to make a Derby pie to take to Ternana's...I know they won't be able to try it while we're there, but I would love to see and hear how they react to such a sweet and gooey desert! Mauro just left, and altho I don't think my pie crust turned out as flaky as it does in the U.S., it was pretty good...nothing I'm ashamed to serve to a guest or give as a gift.