Wednesday, May 4, 2011

simple and good

For Will's 30th birthday I took him on a surprise trip to Rome, which sounds glamorous and extravagant when I just say it like that. In reality, it was a very, very shoestring budget vacation. We were already living in Europe so we took advantage of some uber cheap Ryan Air flights and instead of staying in a hotel, I found a convent near St. Peters that rented out rooms. Yes, a convent. Run by Phillippino nuns. Which meant that the language barrier was quite something when it came to checking in and out.
Because we were a) on such a tight budget and b) had a toddler in tow, we didn't eat at very many restaurants. I can only recall one, actually. Instead we bought groceries at the little market across the street where the nuns shopped, stopped in delis and at Pizza windows or bought sandwiches from a lady down the street who had a small shop and who adopted us the first day, squeezing out cheeks and kissing us every time we passed. I've never eaten so well in my life. Honestly I could have spent the rest of my life eating foccicia hacked from giant slabs in the market bakery, fruit ripe to the point of bursting from greengrocers, and squash blossom pizza. And also salami sandwiches. Salami sandwiches made up a good percentage of our meals because Briton would eat salami by the pound and because it was easy to buy the ingredients, toss them in our bag and have them ready to go whenever we got hungry, a beautiful thing when you are travelling with a two year old. They were simple. Fresh bread, fresh mozzarella, torn apart with our fingers, and slices of spicy, buttery salami. Nothing else. Nothing needed.
I've been in a cooking funk lately. Too tired, too busy, too blah when it's humid to really be interested in standing in the kitchen. So we've been having a lot of really simple suppers here. Some of the time that means Mac and Cheese or Ramen, I'm not going to lie. But it's also mean grilled chicken and lettuce on naan or sliced steak (grilled again, I'm taking full advantage of the grill while I can!) on tostadas. Or Salami sandwiches. They aren't quite as good as those Roman meals. But I'm amazed at how wonderful a really really simple meal can be.
What's your favorite simple meal?


  1. For us, the easiest meal is pasta with a little fresh Parmesan and maybe some basil and toasted pine nuts.

    The next easiest meal is probably slow-cooked beans ladled into tortillas and topped with a little cheese.

    Our third favorite easy meal is omelets filled with veggies, herbs, and/or a little cheese.

  2. We saved money in Rome by doing our own grocery shopping too. I wish I had stuffed my suitcase with nutella and illy coffee when we left.

    I guess my favorite simple meal is homemade pizza. I make the dough from scratch, but it isn't hard--just about 10 minutes. Then you can relax for an hour while it rises. I've found that the best sauce is the Harris-Teeter brand "traditional" spaghetti sauce. Really! H-T brand cheese and pepperoni are good too. You have to get the "fancy" cheese. I have a pizza stone, but I usually use my pizza pans that have holes in them and let the pizzas cool directly on the oven rack so the crust is very crispy.


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