Wednesday, March 30

Trip to Italy

Copeland and I had an amazing dinner in Italy a couple Saturdays ago.  Okay, so technically we weren't in Italy, BUT the quaint Pizzeria we went to transported us back five thousand miles and two and a half years.  Yes, it was that powerful.  We had two recommendations in a single day to try Bella Napoli, a restaurant neither of us had heard of.  To our delight, it was nothing short of pure-pizza bliss.  Like all good things, we finished our meal wanting to shout from the rooftops and share the love we discovered in Edgehill Village.

We followed signs that were tucked in a secluded alley of an old brick building -away from the chatter of a bustling Saturday evening -straight out of the narrow streets of Sorrento.  As we turned a dark corner, white globe lights were strung between the fortress-like brick walls - illuminating a few picnic tables that carried fun and energetic conversations, all the while hinting that Spring had sprung in Nashville.
picture courtesty Bella Napoli

The Neapolitan owner selects a few key ingredients to be shipped from Italy, which I believe is the secret to it's authenticity.  Just like the food in Italy, most of the items chosen are free from additives and preservatives- something I'm sure is responsible for the amazing taste.  The pizzas are baked in a 900 degree wood-burning oven that lightly crisps the bottom, while keeping the rest of the crust soft and chewy.  Cope and I shared a pizza - mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, cherry tomatoes, arugula and parmesan.  Mmm.  And HOLY tiramisu! I don't even like tiramisu, but I had a hunch with this place.  It wasn't too boozy and the espresso was super mild.  If you're here in Nashville, you must pay Bella Napoli a visit.  And if you aren't, well then (cough -family and friends), this place alone will make your trip worth it and less expensive, I might add, than the real deal.

After the cleanse, I started introducing wheat and gluten back into my diet slowly, and each time it was like a punch to the gut.  I don't think I'm allergic to either, but maybe a little sensitve to them.  So lately I've been experimenting with Bob's Red Mill (gluten-free) pizza crust at home.  (Sidenote:  This in NO way compares to the real deal.  This only justifies the trip afterwards to Sweet Cece's.)  It has a heartier taste and texture than regular pizza dough, and if you're up for the healthier version, you should be able to find Bob's Red Mill products at most grocery stores.  Otherwise, below is a recipe for a standard pizza dough that creates a perfectly crisp and chewy crust when cooked on a hot pizza stone.        

Use your imagination for toppings... provolone and broccoli rabe, figs and brie (you know I'll be smuggling those across state lines when we visit California over the summer), or like below...

Three Cheese Pizza with Onion, Sage and Arugula 
recipe adapted from Gourmet Italian

Pizza Dough (below), shaped into a ball and allowed to rise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound fontina cheese
2 ounces crumbled gorgonzola
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
6 large sage leaves, thinly sliced 
1/4 cup grated parmesan
4 ounces baby arugula

Preheat Oven:  At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, place stone in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Shape Dough:  Dust dough with flour, then transfer to lined baking sheet.  Pat out dough evenly and stretch into a 14-inch round, reflouring fingers if necessary.  

Assemble Pizza:  Brush dough with oil, leaving a 1-inch border, then scatter fontina and gorgonzola over dough.  Scatter onion and sage leaves over cheese and sprinkle pizza with parmesan.  Slide pizza on parchment onto pizza stone.  Bake until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is bubbling, 10-15 minutes.  Slide baking sheet under parchment to remove pizza from oven, then transfer to cutting board.  Top with arugula.  

Pizza Dough 
1 1/4 ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees), divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes.  (If it doesn't appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast).
Add 1 3/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt and oil and stir until smooth.  Stir in enough flour (1/4-1/3 cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl.  (Dough will be slightly wet.)  
Knead on a floured surface, lightly reflouring when dough becomes too sticky, until smooth, soft and elastic, about 8 minutes.  Form into a ball, put in bowl and dust with flour.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.  

Buon Appetito!

Friday, March 25

Simple Twist Jewelry

While I hope that every time you visit "The Local Olive" you find some form of inspiration, today I'm hoping you'll find something a little different.  Today I'm going to kick off a series of posts that have been inspired by people pursuing their dreams.  

I find myself getting excited about the times in which we're living and growing into so-called adults.  We're amidst all kinds of revolutions - the "green" movement, the "food" movement, and I've noticed there's another kind of revolution that doesn't get talked about all that often.  I was listening to NPR recently (I know) about how we've become a generation of DIY'ers and entrepreneurs that are taking risks and making sacrifices to pursue something we feel passionate about.  Sure enough, every time I turn a corner I meet someone who is pursing their dream -whether it's starting a magazine, creating a line of jewelry, becoming a photographer, songwriter or entrepreneur...the list goes on and on.

I recently saw a quote that said "if you do what you love, people will fall in love with you."  So true!  When I meet someone who is doing something they love, they exude a certain kind of passion and joie de vivre that I find undeniably contagious.  And it doesn't matter if they're passionate about glue.  I find myself appreciating glue and wanting to learn everything there is about glue.  And somehow glue inspires me to pursue that "thing" that gives me an inexaustable kind of energy and excitement for life.  For me, it's cooking and writing.  

So, I want to share the story of a dear friend who inspires me daily to do what I love.  She recently went back to her jewelry-making roots to start her very own line of Simple Twist Jewelry.  I love that after pursuing a career in graphic design, she went back to something that she has always connected with.  Her story reminds us that in order to discover your passion, it's as easy as going back to what flows naturally in your life.  Kim's artistic revelation truly makes this world brighter, and it doesn't hurt that her jewelry is gorgeous, creative and completely original to boot!

Visit her site to inspire zest in your own life, because that's what it's all about, right?  Surround yourself with only those who encourage and support you, and you'll inevitably bring inspiration to those around you by just being you.  You'll be a happier person for it, I promise.

SO, what makes your heart skip a beat?         

photography by claudia kay photo    

Wednesday, March 16

Mascarpone and Honey Tart with Oranges, Chocolate and Pistachios

"Not a great start there Amy," you might be saying to yourself.  It would appear that way, but I'll have you know it was in honor of Pi Day that I made this lovely tart.  Rather than discussing the relevance of the mathematical constant (because we're not real math-y people around here), what better way to  commemorate the national holiday of Pi...than to eat pie?  Not that we need a reason to justify such acts around here.

Luckily for us, a friend of ours is a great lover a pie, so we thought it would be fun to surprise him with a plethora of them (he had no idea there was such a holiday) after work on Monday night.  The look of shock on his face was hysterical!  It was SO fun surprising him on such a random day and it left us wondering why we don't do more unexpected and thoughtful things for others.   

One of the things I thought about darn-near obsessively during my cleanse was some concoction of mascarpone and fruit.  A favorite treat of mine is a bowlful of berries topped with a rich, sweet cream but since we're not quite in berry season yet, a mascarpone and honey tart sounded like it would do more than just satisfy.

The combination of decadent flavors and the presentation of this tart makes it perfect for a fun occasion, but it's simple enough to make on a whim.  Sweetened lightly with honey, the richness of the cream and mascarpone are perfectly complimented by the bright and sunny flavors of the orange and cinnamon.  Rather than using a regular pie crust, I layered the bottom with graham cracker crumbs and melted chocolate.  Writing this has me wishing I had taken some of the pie home, although my ass is thankful I didn't.

Below is my adaptation of the recipe, but you can find the original at

2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar

2 large bittersweet Ghiradelli chocolate bars

2 large navel oranges
8 ounces chilled mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey, divided
2 dashes of cinnamon, or more to taste
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios


Crust:  In a large bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup melted butter.  Mixture should be wet and clumping together.  Spread evenly on bottom of tart pan and press up against sides

Chocolate:  Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat.  If you don't have one, fill large saucepan halfway with water and place smaller saucepan inside.  Add chocolate and melt over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Pour over graham cracker crust and cool completely.  

Meanwhile, grate enough orange peel to measure 1 1/4 teaspoons. Cut off remaining peel and pith from oranges. Slice oranges into thin rounds, then cut rounds crosswise in half. Place orange slices on paper towels to drain slightly.

Combine mascarpone, cream, sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, cardamom, and orange peel in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat just until blended and peaks form (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle). Spread filling evenly in cooled crust. Arrange orange slices atop tart in concentric circles; sprinkle with pistachios. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon honey and serve.

Friday, March 11

So Fresh and So Clean (Clean)

Welcome!  I know, I've been gone forever it seems but I've been a busy little bee!  For the last month, I've been doing some serious house cleaning.  Well, more like cleansing and as you can see, a little sprucin' up around here, too!  I hope you like it - it's simple and a bit cleaner than before, which seems to be in line with what I've been up to lately....

One of our goals for 2011 was to actually complete a cleanse.  We've embarked on a few crazy ones, and ended up a little worse for the wear.  The goal this time was mainly to purge our lifestyles of all the toxins we've been accumulating over the past year.  If you read my previous post, then you're probably aware that the cookies took control, and it was not a pretty sight, let me tell ya.  We eat pretty well on a regular basis, or at least I thought we did.  We try to stay away from processed foods and eat as much local/organic stuff as we can afford.  But after the 10th batch of cookies were made, it was time for a little rehabilitation.

We're nearing the end of our 21 day cleanse, and I couldn't recommend it more.  Clean, light, so full of energy - this is the way I'm supposed to feel.  My skin is glowing, my eyes are brighter, and I feel amazing!  In a nutshell, this cleanse allows your body to detoxify on it's own and get back to it's working capacity, which has been bogged down by our busy and toxic lives.  And there's a bit of a self-revolution involved when you challenge yourself to something of this nature.  This may sound silly, but it was up there with training for a marathon; it took a lot of patience with myself, and absolute dedication.  Having a sense of humor through the maniacal episodes was key.  Or maybe it was my husband's sense of humor that got me through; a smirk would cross his face as I would have some nasty little outburst that would usually make me laugh and realize maybe I was acting a little crazy.  The two things I've missed the most: (1) Coffee!!  This is one thing I'll have no remorse bringing back into my life.  I literally dream about my steaming cup of coffee with cream and sugar (gasp!).  And (2) cooking/baking!! I am SO ready to get back into the kitchen and start sharing things with you again.  We have just a couple more weeks left of winter (and it's been a looong one) and I can't deprive you of these Ruffo winter classics any longer.

I thought I'd share a recipe that has been a life saver for me throughout this cleanse.  My options have been somewhat limited as I navigate my way through the realm of super healthy foods, and because I haven't been eating much these days, I haven't had much to share.  I found this recipe on Oh She Glows, a blog dedicated to eating healthy.  The gluten-free baked goods caught my attention, but it was love at first sight when I saw this recipe.  If you love basil pesto, you're gonna freak over this.  It's so rich and creamy, you'd swear it was loaded with butter and cream.  Nope.  This has been my dish of indulgence over the past few weeks, and I plan on putting it into regular rotation even when I'm done with the cleanse.

Creamy Avocado Pasta

1 ripe avocado, pitted
1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
2-3 garlic cloves, to taste 
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh basil or herb of choice (cilantro's yummy too)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 servings/6 oz of your choice of pasta (we've been using brown rice spaghetti)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring medium size pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes (8 minutes for brown rice pasta).

Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and place pasta into a large serving bowl.  I like to pour a little olive oil over the brown rice pasta so it isn't so sticky.  Pour sauce over the top and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Please note: This dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce.  If using later, place sauce in separate, closed container and refrigerate.  Reheat noodles as needed and add sauce afterwards.