Friday, July 11, 2014

Roman Holiday (sans Gregory Peck)

Before I say anything about my 4 day trip in Rome, you should know something about me. My favorite movie is Roman Holiday. I've seen it probably at least 7 or 8 times. Because of this, the idea of going to Rome (although it was my second time there) is a bit romanticized in my head. I always pictured myself  in a little white blouse eating gelato on the spanish steps and riding around on the back of a motorbike with Gregory Peck.

However, since my stomach would swell up like a balloon if I ate real gelato and I now have my own wonderful version of Gregory Peck back at home in Morocco, neither of those things seemed quite appropriate. So my friend Melissa and I did a lot of other good things instead.

Let me take you on a little photo journey of the highlights:

Melissa and I (being sort of art history geeks) both agreed that one of our favorite things we saw was the Gallery Borghese, surrounded by the lovely Borghese Gardens.

I know I know there are sooo many museums to see in Europe, but the Bernini statues displayed in the Borghese are worth a trip. Believe me.

We attempted to hit all of the major tourist attractions later each day (after 6pm) so as to avoid the high noon crowd with the walking headsets and tour guides frantically waving umbrellas. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. We managed to see the Colosseum during the tourist lull, but the spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo were a bit crazy. Sometimes it was like dodging tidal waves. 

We did a lot of walking around the quaint little side-streets until we would stumble on gems like a raw vegan gluten-free gelato shop. Sound impossible? Nope. It was all of that plus one of the most delicious things I've ever put in my mouth. Grezzo saved my life from being eternally gelato-less.

And of course, my favorite thing about Italy. Each evening we attended a magical thing called aperitivo, in which you buy one drink between the hours of 6 and 9pm and are provided with free dinner.

Well, technically you just get mini appetizers, salads and things from a buffet table near the bar, but if you load up your plate 2 or 3 times and ignore the stares from haughty Italians who know exactly what you're doing, that's a full meal right there. My favorite bar we went to was a cozy little hole in the wall called Caffe Bohemien. It was complete with comfy couches, antique books on the shelves, a chandelier over the bar, good food, and the best aperol spritz I've ever had.

Let me tell you- 4 days in this city is not enough. I feel like there are so many nooks and crannies that are just waiting to be explored, plus I love having the chance to learn and practice more Italian. Audrey Hepburn began my fantasized romance with Rome, but my own sliver of experience has caused a real love of the place to bloom.

I would love to hear if anyone has other suggestions for next time (fingers crossed) I get to visit!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Peach Pie Crumble Bars

Okay, I have no excuse anymore. It's deep summer. I am finished with work (for the most part). I am on a sort of vacation and suddenly I have this funny thing called free time. What do I do with myself for the next month?

Here's my plan so far:
-travel until I'm broke
-read more books
-bake things for friends and make them happy
-write for this blog again

Actually, I've already got the first one covered. I am currently in the midst of a two week trip to Rome, Istanbul and Barcelona. Travel stories and photos coming soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to give you guys a little sweet taste of what I've been cookin' up in my kitchen. These bars are like a summery explosion in your mouth. Nothing beats butter, sugar and fresh peaches. Make these, sit on the grass with bare feet, soak up some sun, and be happy.

Peach Pie Crumble Bars
(vegan option)
adapted from The Tart Tart

makes about 12 bars

245g flour
75g rolled or instant oats 
110g sugar
40g brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
180g cold butter, cubed (or can easily substitute cold vegan margarine for vegan option)
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water

1 kilo fresh peaches or nectarines, cut into small cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orang blossom water (optional)
juice of half of a lemon
85g brown sugar
15g cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 190ÂșC. Start by mixing all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the cold butter, using your fingers to combine until it reaches a sandy texture. Mix in the cornstarch and water and form 2/3 of the dough into a ball, placing in the fridge while you make the filling. The other 1/3 of the dough should stay crumbly, but you can put that in the fridge to chill out too.

Mix all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir well to coat the peaches completely. Set aside.

Take out your dough and press it into the bottom of a well-greased 9x9" pan. Spoon the peach filling evenly on top, and sprinkle with the remaining crumbly dough. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until the top starts to turn golden brown. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before cutting into bars.

Yes, I know it's hot and your oven will only make it hotter. These are worth it. Sorry not sorry.