Archive

Journal


Time can get away from all of us… That is especially true for this blog.  It was not on purpose, just a pause to accommodate life’s busy time.

Traditional Italian noodle from scratch

 

I was cooking earlier today and it was Italian of course.  Maybe two days ago I had come across a video online about how to make traditional spaghetti from scratch using all-purpose flour, salt, and an egg.  That’s it!  So simple yet versatile.  Every culture has a variation of the noodle because it’s the backbone of comfort food with a bit of fun.  No matter how many years pass us by, you have to admit that slurping up a noodle from your plate brings a smile to your face.  I think the noodle is a bit like an archway… Stay with me.  A noodle can support just about every meal you pair it with!  I’ve even had a cinnamon noodle dessert and it worked perfectly!  An arch can support so much weight while allowing things to pass under.

Arc de Triophe

Many countries pay homage with an arch.  the infamous Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Forum arch of Titus in Rome, and many more.  Just like the noodle there are a variation of arches that can be used for a multitude of purposes with some built as a monument, some for bridges and other cut throughs.  Life has offered me a few practical metaphors and the arch is definitely one of them.  Whenever I look at architecture, I compare it to the human body.  Arches represent a strong pair of shoulders to me.     Whether you think of yourself as a monument to a tough life or you’re here to help others through to the other side or you’re here to support someone else, just remember it’s always important to have a strong base.  That for me is the love of my life, family and God.  Without a strong base the arch and its purpose will fall.

Full view of The Forum

Arch di Tito

The Colosseum

Entrance to Colosseum


While traveling, I have  experienced a bevy of different cultures and cooking styles which have allowed me to pick up some appetizing

My local Italian market

recipes to delight my taste buds.  The most significant of all delectable treats; Roman pizza!  Every now and again my senses are tipped off by either a sound, smell, or sight that bring me right back to life in Rome.  Today, it was a song by Luca DIriso, an Italian singer, which happened to make its way onto my Ipod via a random playlist.  At a stop light it all came rushing back, I could feel the cool breeze rushing through the corridor and into my apartment.  Luca’s voice belted out, “Ci vuole calma e sangue freddo, calma ya!”.  It’s as if someone pulled the steering wheel to the left and I was on my way to the local Italian market rather than home.  When I strolled through the front door I could hear the soft sounds of an Italian opera playing over the speakers and a few older Italian men speaking in native tongue with hand gestures accompanying the emotion of their conversation.

The ingredients in the sauce make or break the pizza.  Most think that an Italian pizza sauce consists of a chemistry set worth of ingredients however this is contrary to the truth.  5 ingredients at most make the perfect sauce and measurements are the key.  The 5 ingredients that are included are Italian

Dough, toppings, and sauce ingredients!

tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Some prefer to include a rich red wine or olive oil as well.  I have been known to add a few dashes of red pepper flake for a bit of a kick, but that is usually topped on the pizza after cooking.  The dough must absolutely be fresh.  A frozen piece of dough tends to be more chewy and less airy with a crunch.  I brush on a thin layer of olive oil and sprinkle flour on both sides.  The cheese I use is fresh mozzarella in water.

Cooking method is crucial if you are in search of a smokey flavor.  The Roman’s use a wood fire oven and there is positively nothing like it.  For my cooking method, I used a charcoal grill and tossed on a piece of applewood.  Any fruit bearing type of wood brings about a full body richness to the ingredients of the pizza.  Once I had already started heating the grill and putting my ingredients together, I wondered how the pizza would not slip through the grate.  I had a pizza stone, but I was a bit apprehensive to put a cold stone directly over an intense heat which would cause it to break.  So, I preheated the oven with the stone inside up to 500 degrees fahrenheit.  As soon as the grill was up to the proper heat of 475-500 degrees, I pulled the stone out of the oven with my fireproof grill gloves and transferred the stone onto the grill grate about 7 inches above

Charcoal grilled pizza with a bit of applewood for flavor!

the coals.  I put the cover on and let the stone rest on the grate for about 10 minutes in order to ensure no breaks or cracks would occur.

I then sprinkled corn meal onto the pizza stone to prevent the dough from sticking and I slid the pizza onto the stone.  I could already hear the sizzle and it was music to my ears!  The Italian song was playing again in my head and I was back in Rome!  Be sure to keep checking the pizza every 5 minutes and try to rotate it in order to ensure even cooking.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking, I put the grill top on and closed the smoke release in order to really saturate in that wood smoke flavor into the pizza.

After removing the pizza from the stone and onto a cookie sheet, I let it cool for about 5 minutes and then cut it.  The pizza cutter crunched into the crust and I could see the fatty oil running from the salami.  Most people prefer wine or beer with their pizza, but for me nothing is better than an ice cold coca cola.

“Ho l’acquolina in bocca!” which mean “My mouth is watering!”

This may infuriate a few Italian food purists, however I should be pardoned since I am born and raised in Atlanta; Coca Cola headquarters.  So, just sit back, throw on an Italian song by Luca Diriso, bite into your grilled pizza, and relax with a smile.


My brother and I embarked on many journeys together throughout our lives.  We’ve been all across

My brother, Jason

Europe as well as up/down the east coast of the United States.  I can say without hesitation that each trip has been filled with copious amounts of laughter, inside jokes, and even a few moments of serious discussion.  Maybe we had a few misunderstandings or disagreements along the way, but they were all insignificant since I can not recall any argument.  If you are reading this and thinking about embarking on a journey of your own for any extended period of time, it is important to choose your traveling companion wisely.  I was lucky enough to be the youngest brother of four males in our family.  I have a special relationship with each of them and traveling with any brother would most definitely be dissimilar from the other along each journey.

One trip I love to recall in particular was a journey through the Swiss Alps with my brother, Jason.  The

Driving through the Alps in Switzerland

landscape, from a distance, is as if you are staring directly into a snowy mountain masterpiece painted by none other than Bob Ross.  Driving through the winding mountain roads with cyclist, motorcycles, and other automobiles, I could spot lone trees speckling the white and silver Alps.  A few times along the way my brother would roll down his window and let out the loudest yodel/catcall with motorists turning their heads.  For those not familiar with the “southern catcall”, it is a bloodcurdling yell that you would hear at concerts such as, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toby Keith, and ZZ Top.  Moving on…  I, of course, lifted my “Guide through the Swiss Alps” book to cover my face as a I slouched down a bit in my chair.  I could just imagine one of the cyclist taking a turn over the side of a mountain face after his ear was blasted by my brother’s southern rendition of the Ricola commercial. E.g. Ricola Commercial YouTube.

Once we crossed the pinnacle of the mountain we were driving, we began a lazy drive down into the town which was situated in a luscious green valley that wrapped around the perimeter of the valley.  I looked across the steep ridges and cliffs trying to focus all my senseson the magnitude of my

The valley in which our hotel was situated

surroundings.  I heard a soft, deep pitched ringing off in the distance.  As I walked down a steep road, my senses fixed upon the object that was producing that sound.  It was a large cow grazing in the distance with a large cowbell dangling underneath it’schin.  Cold air from the flowing streams could be felt within each of my breaths.  My eyes were bouncing from each vivid color as if I only had a limited time to process it all.  My brother and I reached the bottom of the hill on foot and a lincoln log type structure donned the name of our hotel.  As Jason checked us into our room using his impressive German vocabulary, I wandered the lobby and flipped through each brochure.  My legs ached from such a long drive and I was more than ready to stretch out for a few minutes before heading to dinner. Jason waved his hand and I grabbed my bags as we headed up the creaking

BUNKS?!

wooden stairs to our room.  He had a grin that crept on his face ever since he had taken the keys from the receptionist.  It looked like he wanted to laugh, but since he was always in a good mood I did not dwell on it.  He unlocked our door and started dying laughing.  My brother has a contagious laugh and I was laughing along with him before I even knew what he saw.  As I entered our Swiss hotel, I saw that our room contained bunk beds.  All I could do was turn to him and say, “BUNKS?!”  He was laughing

so hard that I think a few weary travelers poked their heads from their rooms to see what was happening.

Memories like these are what have made me the person I am today.  All my brothers have impacted me in ways that have changed and shaped my character for the rest of my life.  Jason gave me the opportunity to visit him and be his traveling companion throughout Europe 7 different times!  I learned three important lessons along the way.  Jason taught me to always look for a bright side to things.  As

Descending into the cavern in Switzerland

simple as that sounds, it changed my entire thought process and has opened up doors of opportunity beyond anything I could have imagined.  Look for the good because the bad will always pop it’shead up, so there is no need to make that list.  The second thing was that there is always something better out there.  I was astounded by the tunnels we drove through to get to our destination.  Jason would

say, “If you think these cliffs and tunnels are incredible wait until we reach the other side.”  Finally, Jason taught me what a man should strive to be.  My brother exudes kindness, self-control, and optimism.  Family are not just people you are raised among.  Family is deep.  Family is love.  Family is about learning who you are and what you can become.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

-Richard Bach

Holding on for dear life!