I haven’t been writing much here, this week.  It has nothing to do with us heading to Italy in 12 days, 7 hours, and 32 minutes.  Really.

I mean…  just because I’ve been spending every waking moment looking at maps, train schedules, events, and attractions for our 15-day vacation doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking.  I have been.  But I must admit that The Vacation has taken up most of my time.

It hasn’t been about planning the vacation. Tickets are bought and apartments are rented.  We have tickets to get there and places to stay when we arrive.  It’s more about learning the lay of the land.  Studying maps and figuring out where things are, what’s going on, how to get from Point A to Point B.

While there are a few things that I definitely would like to see – and we have bought some advance tickets –  for the most part, it’s doing what we feel like doing when we feel like doing it.

The one thing we have NOT done is search out restaurants or take restaurant recommendations from friends.  We’re going to be in Italy.  The food is going to be good.  As I said in the Travel Blog, I’m not a fussy eater.  Some of the best and most memorable food I have ever had in my life has been street food. I’d rather eat with the locals than a celebrity Chef del giorno. Really.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely love a great meal prepared with the best ingredients with the utmost care and skill, but both of my feet are generally planted down here in reality-land.

Your best whatever and mine would probably be different, anyway, because so much of what makes something “the best” is more than the ingredients or presentation.  It’s the weather, the lighting, the comfort of the chair, two glasses or three glasses of wine…  Was the waiter flirting with you as you ordered and what was the wait?  Were you seated immediately or did you have to wait for an hour for your table?  It’s amazing how horrible a wonderful meal can be when the peripherals were off…  It’s also amazing how wonderful an otherwise mediocre meal can be when the stars are all aligned…

The whole reason for going is not to see everything we can see – it’s more about experiencing the culture and being a part of it.  It’s why we have rented apartments instead of staying in hotels.  I worked in hotels for close to 15 years.  The room amenities and decorations may vary, but at their core – they’re all the same no matter where you are.

So…  where was I?!?

Ah, yes.  that wonderful Blueberry Tart up there.  It was quite simple.  A single crust blind-baked and filled with a vanilla pudding and topped with blueberries.

I have a standard pudding I make and just tweak it a bit for a firmer or looser consistency.

Basic Vanilla Pudding

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp butter

Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan.  Add milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook over medium heat until thickened – about 3-4 minutes.  Beat egg in small bowl.  Add a bit of the hot milk mixture to the egg to temper.  Add it all back to the pot and cook until thickened – another 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter – stirring until butter is melted.

If you want it a tad thicker, use two egg yolks and a couple of scant cups of milk.  Thinner?  Add a scosh more milk.  Basic.

Now…  man does not live by dessert, alone – although I’ll hit the dessert buffet before the entrees if they’ll let me – so we have had a few other goodies.  A green bean salad, for one…  Fresh green beans, tomatoes, red onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  And just because I had three slices of bacon in the ‘fridge, crumbled bacon on top.  It carried us through a couple of meals – along with Mom’s Potato Salad.  A salad I cannot make in a small quantity.

With grilled pork chops and roasted potatoes.

With BBQ’d Short Ribs.

A salad with grilled chicken.

And another salad with grilled pork chops.

So the culinary week in review is posted.  The Travel Searching is still ongoing.

And Mad Men Monday is back tomorrow.  I skipped it this week because we didn’t watch it until Thursday.  But with just two episodes left… something special is going to be called for…