During the Spring 2012 I taught one of many interdisciplinary undergraduate seminars in the Experimental Study Group at MIT. Each class is based on the preparation of a simple delicious dish and on the bite-sized acquisition of parts of the Italian language and culture.
Videography by Graham Gordon Ramsay.

Click here to watch the videos in full resolution.
Buon divertimento!

[Safari and Google Chrome users may have trouble loading the audio files. Try to use Firefox or Internet Explorer instead!]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lezione numero dieci: erbettina e pomodorinaccio

For the complete video click here.

L'altro ieri (lit. the other yesterday, meaning the day before yesterday) era (it was) mercoledì venticinque Aprile. Il 25 Aprile in Italia è festa, la festa della liberazione. È il giorno che rappresenta la fine dell'occupazione nazifascista e la fine della seconda guerra (war) mondiale (25 Aprile millenovecento quarantacinque).
È una festa nazionale: in molte città sono organizzati cortei (parades) e commemorazioni (memorials).

Yesterday in class we baked la torta sbrisolona. 
In Italian a noun or adjective can be modified by taking the root and adding a suffix to express a particular quality.
The suffix -ona/one (f/m) is used when something is big, or a lot. La sbrisolona, can be translated into
 something like "the very crumbly thing"...but I will tell you more about it in a separate post.
Let's look at the most common examples of  modifying suffixes (in reality there are a lot more --- see e.g. http://italian.about.com/od/grammar/a/aa061108a.htm). Try to read them ad alta voce!!!!
Post a comment if you would like to hear the recorded audio. Ciao!


Diminutivo (it conveys smallness)


cucchiaio-> cucchiaino
pomodori-> pomodorini
piccolo-> piccolino
polpetta-> polpettina


Accrescitivo (bigness/largeness)


libro-> librone
Paolo-> Paolone
goloso (= glutton)-> golosone
naso (= nose)-> nasone


Vezzeggiativo (small+endearing) 


Paola-> Paoletta
casa-> casetta
erba -> erbetta
zii (uncles) -> zietti


Peggiorativo (ugliness/badness/dirt)


pizza-> pizzaccia
coltelli->coltellacci
parola (word) -> parolaccia (a bad word)
fratello (brother)-> fratellaccio



We use these suffixes a lot, sometimes even combined (colloquially, not in written):
che bella macchinettina! La mamma ha fatto una tortonaona (or tortonona) per il mio compleanno.
Mi piace cucinare con l'erbettina del mio orto (= kitchen garden). Che pomodorinaccio, è amarissimo (very amaro=bitter).


Esercizi: 

1) Translate into article+noun or just noun, using the right suffix:

- A small salad 
- A nasty herb (e.g. a weed)
- A big bed
- Stinky shoe (shoe = scarpa)
- A small pan
- Small breads (plural!)
- My dear aunts  (plural!)
- Big hands (plural!)
- A cute little girl
- A very nasty person (nasty= antipatico, opposite of simpatico)
- Nice little notebooks (plural!)

2- Describe in a few sentences a real or imaginary person or animal or location. Try to use at least two modifying suffixes.



Possible guidelines/keywords.


Persona:


Chi è, come si chiama, l'età (the age),
la statura/altezza (basso=short, alto=tall, di media statura = of average heigt), 
la corporatura (grasso = fat, magro = thin, normale), 
i capelli (plural!!!!) = hair (lunghi = long, corti= short, lisci = lit. smooth, straight, ricci = curl, neri = black , castani = brown, for hair and eyes, biondi = blond, rossi, bianchi, brizzolati = salt and pepper, grigi = gray, pelato/calvo = bald),
gli occhi (grandi, piccoli, a mandorla = like almonds, neri, castani, verdi= green, azzurri = light blue, grigi), 
il naso (a patata =), all'insù = pointing up, like tiramisù, piccolo, grande), 
ha la barba (beard), i baffi (moustache) porta gli occhiali (glasses),
ha le orecchie a sventola (protruding ears),..
come si veste (vestirsi= to dress)
il carattere: qualità e difetti
il comportamento (come è con le altre persone, come parla, come si muove), cosa gli piace, abitudini, feelings he/she inspires... 


Animale:


Che animale è, come si chiama, dove vive, caratteristiche fisiche, verso (the characteristic call/sounds produced), il comportamento, le abitudini, cosa gli piace
il rapporto che ha con te, feelings it inspires...


Località:


Nome, descrizione visiva (visual description --- colors, size),  suoni e rumori (sounds and noises), odori e profumi (smells and perfumes), temperatura, feelings it inspires,...



Monday, April 23, 2012

Lezione numero nove: un caffè per favore


 A famous song about coffee. Lo Zecchino d'oro is a popular children's song festival.
I bet you can understand most of the words  =)

Last week we had un ospite speciale: Fiorenzo Omenetto, Professore di Ingegneria Biomedica a Tufts. He did not join us to talk about his wondrous research (if you are curious you can learn about it here!), but to make tiramisù and chat about the italian coffee, il caffè italiano.

For the videos of this class click here.

Let's refresh some vocabolario!

- il bar in Italia is not a place where they serve just alcoholic drinks, but it refers also to a coffee house. People drink coffee al bar all the time, mostly standing at the counter (italian coffee is so small that you do not need to sit or carry it with you to drink it)

- caffè really refers to espresso, and it is served in a tazzina (una tazza piccola= a small cup)

- there is no small, medium, large: you either simply ask for un caffè (regular size), or
caffè doppio/caffè lungo (double/long: it has a little more water) or
caffè ristretto (lit. shrinked ->more concentrated, with less water)

- caffè macchiato caldo, "stained" with a tiny bit of warm frothed milk
macchia=spot, stain macchiare= to stain, caldo =hot

- caffè macchiato freddo, served with a tiny bit of cold (freddo) milk on the side, in a small jug

- cappuccino, served in a cup, it needs no explanation...but if you order cappuccino in the city of Trieste you may be disappointed, as they would serve you a miniature cappuccino, similar to a macchiato caldo. Trieste has its own coffee vocabulary that you may want to check before a trip. =)

- marocchino (lit. from Morocco): espresso, frothed milk, cocoa powder, served in una tazzina

- caffè corretto espresso "corrected" with a shot of liquor, typically grappa or sambuca

- caffè d'orzo, espresso made from barley, it is decaf and the taste is different, worth trying. It can be ordered in all the variations, just like a normal caffè.

- caffè decaffeinato or caffè HAG (from the name of a common brand)

- d'estate (di estate, during the summer) you can find caffè freddo

- caffelatte (or caffè latte) is the american latte; we make it mostly at home for colazione, it is very rare to hear anyone ordering un caffelatte al bar

- a casa, everyone makes caffè by using... the italian coffee maker, called caffettiera (also called moka, or Bialetti, from the name of the original brand).

La caffettiera - la moka - la Bialetti


Some other famous songs about caffè: 

Fabrizio De Andre’ --- Don Raffae’ (in dialect)


Zecchino d’oro --- Ninna del chicco del caffe’




Esercizi

If you are not sure about the pronunciation of any of the words, write a comment below and I will post the audio. Try first on your own!

1) Leggi ad alta voce e traduci (=translate), then repeat without reading. This is the most common conversation al bar

Cameriere: Buongiorno!
Cliente: Buongiorno! Un caffè per favore
Cameriere: Prego
Cliente: Grazie, quant'è?
Cameriere: Novanta centesimi [cheaper than Starbucks ;)]
Cliente: Ecco qua!
Cameriere: Ecco lo scontrino, arrivederci

2) Completa le frasi (follow the hints, although some blanks have no hint!), leggi ad alta voce e traduci.

Andrea (in italian it is a male name): Ciao, ---- -----[how are you]?
Giacomo: Ciao, -----! --- ---[and you]?
A: Bene, ---- [can I] offrirti -- caffè?
G: Volentieri. Oh! Cosa ---- fatto alla mano?
A: Mi sono ------- mentre preparavo le melanzane
G: Mi dispiace
A: Non fa -----[nothing]. ---- melanzane alla parmigiana sono il mio ----- preferito
G: mmm, anche a me ------ molto.
A: Due caffè,-----!
G: Uno macchiato, per favore.
Cameriere: ----- [here it is]
A: Grazie
G: Grazie. -------[what do you do this weekend]?
A: ---[I have] una dozzina di compiti da correggere
G: ----[I understand]. Ma poi? Fa caldo, ----[we go] al mare con Giovanni, Sara e i suoi cugini,
vieni anche tu!
A: -----[good] idea. ---- lavoro come va?
G: Bene, ---[tomorrow I have] un colloquio per una promozione...
A: In bocca --- ----!
G: Crepi, grazie, spero di ---[to be] all'altezza
A: ------[I do not have] dubbi
G: ------- ---- ------[thank you, and thank you for the coffee]
A: Di ------. Ci vediamo. Ciao!
G: Ciao, --- ---- ---- [I call you when] decidiamo ---- -----[where to go]
A: Ok, benissimo

Friday, April 20, 2012

Il tiramisù

For the videos of this class click here.

 Tiramisù means pick me up (tira= 2nd person singular of the verb tirare, to pull or to throw -- mi = me -- su, without accent = up). It is such a popular dessert that it needs no introduction =)
The opposite of su is giù.

Ingredienti:

- 6 uova (eggs) a temperatura ambiente (lit. at environment temperature -> room temperature)
- 750 g mascarpone (about 26.5 ounces, at Shaw's you can find the brand Belgioioso)
- 8-10 cucchiai di zucchero (spoons of sugar)
- (a drop of marsala or rhum or another liquor)
- 2-3 packages of ladyfingers (savoiardi, you can find them in the Italian sector at any grocery store)
- a tablet of dark chocolate (cioccolato fondente, altough fondente does not mean dark,
but melting) or cocoa powder (cacao in polvere)
- caffè (coffee) as much as needed (1 or 2 cups are usually sufficient)

Procedimento:

1- in a ciotola (bowl) mescola (mix) the egg yolks (i tuorli or rossi d'uovo= lit. the reds of the egg) with the mascarpone [and the marsala]
2- in another ciotola whisk the whites (monta gli albumi or i bianchi) with the sugar (you can whisk by hand with a fork or a hand whisk, or by using an electric beater).
Then mix the two creams gently: you want to avoid the egg whites foam to collapse
3- in the meantime prepare your favorite coffee (I use espresso, I will write more about caffè in the next days), let it cool down and put it in a shallow dish
4- dip the ladyfingers in the coffee and make a layer on a rectangular pyrex/ceramic pan. Then put a layer of cream. Then another layer of soaked ladyfingers...
5- make in total 2-3 layers of ladyfingers, end with a thin layer of cream and sprinkle with shaved dark chocolate (you can shave the chocolate with a cheese grater) or cocoa powder
6- put in the fridge, if you have enough patience wait (aspetta, from aspettare) a few hours and enjoy. If you wait one day it tastes even better. Serve chill!

Variations: if you prepare tiramisù for kids, you can substitute the caffè with a mix of milk and decaf.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Buona Pasqua!

Auguri di buona Pasqua a tutti! In Italia everybody is eating agnello (lamb) and ends the
pranzo (lunch) sharing a colomba (literary dove, but in this case it is a cake shaped like a dove, see below).
Domani è Pasquetta (lit. little cute Easter i.e. Easter Monday): it is a national holiday and usually people have a picnic with friends...or if it rains, a long meal at the house of friends or at a restaurant.
We have a saying: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi. Christmas with yours (meaning with your parents/family), Easter with who (you) want.
However, when I was living in Italy I loved to stay with both family and friends and celebrate Pasquetta in the vineyard of my nonno: we would eat, walk, nap, sing, eat,...and of course go to church.



(pic taken from http://www.crossingitaly.net/travel/318/colomba-pasquale-the-recipe-of-the-italian-doveshaped-easter-cake/)

Involtini di pollo al latte

For the videos of this class click here.


Ingredienti per 2 persone:

- 500 g (about 1.1 lb) of chicken (pollo) breast (petto-> petto di pollo) thinly sliced
- 2-3 thin slices of prosciutto cotto (ham)
- fontina or scamorza or another tasty cheese
- about 10 fresh sage (salvia) leaves (foglie->foglie di salvia)
- latte (milk)
- olio d'oliva
- sale
- noce moscata

Procedimento:

1- Preheat the oven at 200 C/400 F
2- Out of 500 g of petto di pollo you should get about 16 thin slices (you can also buy the chicken breast pre-sliced).
3- Pound the chicken slices to tenderize them
4- Layer each cutlet with a small piece of ham, half a leaf of sage, a small piece of cheese and a few grains of salt
5- Roll up tightly and seal with a toothpick
6- Lightly coat the bottom of a porcelain or pyrex baking pan with olive oil
and place the chicken rolls (involtini di pollo) side by side
7- Let them bake for about 10 minutes, flipping them until some parts get brown
8- Then cover with milk, season with salt and ground nutmeg and bake for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the milk is creamy

In alternative you can cook the involtini in a non-stick pan or skillet initially at medium-high, then at medium heat.
When you will be over 21, between steps 6 and 7 you can add a glass of wine and let the alcohol evaporate.

Patate e finocchi al latte

For the videos of this class click here.


Ingredienti (for one baking pan):

-4-5 large patate (e.g. Idaho or Russet are perfect) and/or 2 finocchi (fennel bulbs)
- latte (milk)
- grated parmigiano
- olio d'oliva
(olive oil)
- sale, pepe nero, noce moscata (salt, black pepper, nutmeg)

Procedimento:

1- Preheat the oven at 200 C/400 F
2- Peel the potatoes and cut them in disks about 1/2 cm thick (1/5 inch)
3- Wash the fennel bulbs, remove the stalks/leafy part and slice them (there isn't an
ideal thickness, but if you make them thinner they cook faster)
4- Lightly coat the bottom of a porcelain or pyrex baking pan with olive oil
5- Make a few layers of potatoes/fennel and cheese, seasoning with a little salt, nutmeg and black pepper.
6- Add enough milk to cover
7- Top with grated parmigiano
8- Bake until the milk becomes creamy, the patate/finocchi are soft and the top is golden brown (based on the thickness, it usually takes 20-30 minutes)

Variazioni:

- you can add sliced onions and some garlic if you like them
- non-vegetarians can add a couple of thin layers of ham
- if you want to reduce the time in the forno (oven), you can boil the potates/fennel before placing them in the baking pan..but you will have one extra pentola (pot) to wash =P, so I do not consider it a time saver after all
- you can add different spices, such as curry (not much used in Italy, but tasty)
- you can use also the stems of the finocchi if you slice them very thin.
- Finocchi
are delicious raw, as a healthy snack, or in a salad.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lezione numero otto: la dieta mediterranea

Giovedì scorso (last Thursday) we had un'ospite speciale (a special guest): Anna Jasonides R.D., L.D., nutritionist from MIT medical. She made a great presentation about la dieta mediterranea: what it is, what are its benefits, and examples from the Greek cuisine.

The noun ospite can be used for a masculine or feminine guest, but you would use a different (indeterminative) article. una ospite -> un'ospite (f) vs un ospite (m, without apostrophe).

Anyway, here is her presentation (grazie mille!). For the videos of this class click here.



Esercizi (review):

1- http://www.italica.rai.it/corso.php
Click English, choose a style, choose the curriculum "by linguistic functions" and ascolta the dialogue "Parliamo di lavoro". Translate it.
Hints: guadagnare = to earn, ditta = azienda = company

2- Read and solve the activities of the section "Espressioni con avere"

http://web.uvic.ca/hispanital/italian/italian100/verbi/index.htm


There is a small error in the text: Italians would say "Ha sempre fretta" not "Sempre ha fretta".

After you solve the crossword, ascolta e ripeti


Espressioni con avere


3- Listen, read, repeat and answer the question after the first slide:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/lj/ingredients/slideshow/index_mac.shtml

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

VIDEO lezione numero cinque

MIT Tech TV

For the complete video click here.

For the whole lecture, recipes and exercises check the posts on March 8 and 10.