Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Buried Treasure

The web is a wonderful thing. It brings people, places and information from all over the world right into our homes. It can also bring you recipes from all over the world. After having successfully translated the recipe for Consommé con Tempestina, my appetite was whetted for more real Italian recipes. I knew they were out there.

And they were. Here are just two sites that have loads of recipes:

Donna Moderna
Cosa Cucino

I have a little familiarity with Italian since at various times I’ve attempted to learn it on my own. More importantly, I have a good Italian dictionary. Although Google provides some language tools, including translation of Italian to English, the translated text will at best give you a general sense of how it reads – which usually isn’t good enough for a recipe. In fact, Google’s translations can be downright amusing. Here is Google’s translation of a recipe for Pine nut Biscotti:

Worked until obtaining a smooth and soft paste 300 g of sifted flour, 120 g of spezzettato and already soft butter, 3 egg yolks, 150 g of sugar, the grattugiata rind of 1 lemon and a pizzico of knows them. Incorporated 1 bustina of I leaven not too much vanigliato for cakies and 50 g of sminuzzati pinoli fine. Stirred, then obtained from the paste many large littles ball like inserted walnuts and to the center of ognuna 1 pinolo. You cover one plate with paper from furnace. You align the paste littles ball distancing them one from the other, therefore fairies to cook for 15 minuteren in preriscaldato furnace to 180 °C.
Fairies to cool completely biscotti and, before serving them, spolverizza you them with sugar to veil.

Some words are left in Italian, others are translated into the wrong words (fairies?), and the word minuti (minutes) is consistently translated to minuteren (that’s not in my English dictionary). But still, it’s a starting point. Here’s a glossary of Italian cooking terms which may also be helpful. Fortunately, the language and format of recipes are universal. So even if you have trouble translating every single word, you can fill in many of the blanks yourself.

Once you’ve translated the recipe to English, you’ve got to worry about the weights and measures. If you have a scale, you can easily weigh the ingredients. If not, you can try to convert the weights to volume measurements by using information provided on nutrition labels (i.e. 1 teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams, so 100 grams of sugar is 25 teaspoons, which is half a cup plus one teaspoon). Liquid measures are straightforward: 240 ml = one cup of liquid. Last, you need to convert the temperature. To convert degrees Centigrade to degrees Fahrenheit, multiply the number given by 1.8 and add 32, or just go here. I’m still trying to figure out how much baking powder is in one bustina (envelope or sachet). I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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