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Magich in the Kitch: RDL Part 1

July 3, 2010

Cooking has always had a mysterious element to me. The raw ingredients are the white rabbits or the deck of the cards or that impossibly long multi-coloured silk scarf, the chef is the magician–creating something so unique out of his original, unexceptional  tools. I think it’s supposed to be that way, magical, I mean. Isn’t that why the term “secret ingredient exists”? Isn’t that what a chef is supposed to be? Mysterious, creative, energetic, imaginative, a master with his hands, with a knife–an inventor of sorts, but the one that copyrights his secrets in his mind, rarely passing them on, only to those that have earned and deserved them. That is what intrigues me about cooking: wondering how one art can be both so simple, or so complex, can evoke so many different emotions, can effect so many moods, can extend to so many different parts of your life–and most of the time, with you having no idea how it is done. It brings out the little girl in me (albeit, she is not very hard to find)

I have recently had the pleasure of meeting a true magician in the kitchen. My bf, GF, and I rank having slumber parties consisting of cooking and watching bootlegged movies as our favourite idea of a “date night”. We usually spend Saturday night experimenting in the kitchen of his basement and then Sunday immobile on the couch. We always save ourselves some leftovers in anticipation of hunger pang’s around noon the next day, which would of course come accompanied with no desire to go shopping for a new creation. Whenever I’m going over for the night (and cooking is not on the agenda) he always tells me to pack myself my dinner, a snack, etc…”we got nothing here, eh, my mom didn’t go shopping”. And trust me, he’s not lying. I’ve opened the fridge and the cupboards in curiosity, I’ve seen the bare shelves with my own two eyes.

But I am absolutely convinced that they have a secret cupboard, or at the very least, a factory of elves somewhere in the house that work silently over night to whip up some crazy delicious dishes. Because after every night I’ve spent there, I wake up to some amazing aroma of garlic, or tomato sauce, or stewing rabbit, or sauteed rapini, even despite the fact that front door hasn’t been unlocked yet and the cars are still cold from not being moved. However, alas, I have searched high and low and have found no hidden cupboard and no trace of worker elves. No no, this is indeed the work of one lady, the magician herself, Anna, GF’s mama.

A brand new nonna herself to beautiful baby Ella, Anna has spent much of her life in a kitchen. And not a professional one either. (I even learned this weekend that her mother and sister don’t quite possess the talent she does) Her techniques have been learned through her lifelong passion to feed her family only the best and freshest food (and through her husband, another excellent cook, and through owning a small family-run bar for several years). Every occasion at the Lisi household is celebrated with a big feast. The first time I met the family was over a Sunday lunch in celebration of his older brother’s birthday. My boyfriend and his brother always received their birthday presents in form of their favorite dish, and unwrapping presents from under the Christmas tree? That didn’t happen, simply because wrapping up snails and quails with bows and tissue would be less appetizing or sanitary. (My mom and I were shocked when we learned Santa never existed for them and gifts were always edible and never a surprise, but he was perfectly content with his tradition) They are one of the only families here, that I know, that still make homemade sausage (which are unbelievable, especially ground up in sauce and served with polenta), their own jarred tomato sauce, their own pizza dough, pasta dough and lasagna noodles. I can guarantee you that any meal made at the Lisi household is made entirely from scratch, well most of them, which is more than many of us can say.

I owe a lot of my recent passion for rustic food, simple ingredients and meat to Anna’s cooking. I’m always anxious to wake up on Sunday morning to see what she’s got going on on the stove or in the oven. I of course love the Sunday celebration feasts that happen for birthdays, holidays, baby showers and newborns. They have opened my eyes to the world of tripe, rabbit, osso buco and quail. But my favorite Sunday’s are the ones that come every week, the regular ones, when my plate seems to be filled with a incredible creation made from the ingredients of Neverland.

My favorite dish so far, which I don’t have a picture of, obviously, as it came to me out of nowhere, from left field, was the orecchiette with rapini. That’s it, that’s all it was. A bowl of cooked orecchiette and sauteed rapini–but it was outstanding, really, I was blown away by the flavours.

This Sunday we woke up to another surprise, and this one I was ready for:  

Homemade fettuccine (yes, the noodles were homemade), with tomato sauce and meatballs, sauteed green beans in garlic (and something else I’m sure which made them quite extra-ordinary) and chicken barbecued in a marinade created by my boyfriend, actually. (I’ll spare you the ingredients, as you may lose your appetite, but I promise it was very tasty)
So, if you ever are craving a magical adventure, and Disney Land just isn’t quite in your budget, let me know and I’ll take you on a culinary tour through the Lisi Land of Wonder. Trust me, Mickey will not be missed.
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