June 26, 2005

Calcio in Costume.. or boys in tights

Originally uploaded by divinacucina.

Summer is a series of Celebrations..... and the heat is on!

The summer solstice came in full force, bringing record high heat!

June the 24th is St. John the Baptists day, Patron Sain of Florence, celebrated with a Renaissance parade, a game of Calcio in Costume, which is sort of a combination of rugby and soccer, but in full wool renaissance costumes. There are over 350 people in the parade, representing the old rulers of the city of Florence, to soldiers with metal armor and the four soccer teams, representing the four Quarters of the city, Santa Maria del fiore ( the Duomo), Santa Spirito ( oltrarno) Santa Maria Novella ( the train station) and Santa Croce.

In the countryside, the fireflies are out, and today the cicale, (locusts) have started their song, a true sign that summer is here. In Marcialla, the small village near Certaldo where I live, has the Music festival, the village sets up a restaurant in the piazza with incredlibly thin crust pizza's and other menu items.. and the concerts are after dinner. Free... just come to the Piazza and hang out!
Music varied from the local music school recital to the crazy Banda Bandaccia, of creative hand-made instruments and wildness abounds in the playing! Tonight is Brazilian and there will be dancing in the streets!!!

From my window in Florence I know that summer is here as the color palate of the market has changed from green to red.

Tomatoes, strawberries, red peppers the red onions from Tropea, all calling out to me!

Teaching cooking in the summer is hard, as the season tends to require cold foods, salads and lots of fruit.

But, man does not live by salad alone.

I am trying to not use the oven, which is easy as most Florentines do stove top roasting, and really don’t cook many sweets.

I love to prepare more southern style foods now, such as Caponata, the wonderful Sicilian vegetable stew, with it’s sweet and sour flavor it is great served room temperature or even chilled. In Florence we make a simpler version, using only peppers and onions, called Peperonata.

Yesteday in the market, I spotted the MOST beautiful apricots, that were so small and looked as if they had just been picked off the tree. Incredible flavor.
I am going back to get several kilo’s and will make some jam as well as bake some.

My favorite recipe is for peaches or apricots, but I have also done pears!
A perfect example of the simplicity of tuscan cooking!

Oven roasted Apricots

Open the fruit and remove the pit.

Make a filling of crushed amaretti cookies, softened butter and cocao powder.
Form small balls and press into the fruit.

Bake until the fruit is hot, about 20 minutes in a preheated oven (350)

Serve room temp or chilled with ice cream

June 20, 2005

Bonsai Olive with Cat

Originally uploaded by divinacucina.

Two years ago for my birthday, my friend Gianna and Stefano who have a hot air ballon company in Tuscany gave me a bonsai olive tree.

Not much happened, but this year, I will have a olive harvest!
I almost died with the amount of olive pollen that was produced this year, giving me asma attach and keeping me house bound several weeks ago.

The good news is that the trees are full!

I live in the middle of an olive orchard, and if it isn’t windy at the time the trees are full of pollen, they can’t self pollenate and hence few olives, as last year. We had wind and tons of pollen.
This years harvest looks really promising as does my tiny bonsai!

When we harvest, I will post my olive recipes for raw olives, I love mine salt-cured, to me the easiest and most flavorful way of preparing olives and keeping them. I have tried the other recipes with caustic soda, not me!

My olive

Originally uploaded by divinacucina.

My first Bonsai Olive....
which will be a full sized olive, although the tree is bonsai.

I will check to see how his progress is going compared to the olives in the orchard near by.

June 19, 2005

Leo's Artichokes

carciofi di leo

Today I am in the middle of my artichoke labor of love!
Trying to get artichokes this year was hard!
Even with Leo, my artichoke maestro, I barely could get 150 baby artichokes.
We had hail last week, which ruined much of fhe crop, and as I was at Leo's stand some lady was buying them all up!
Luckily Leo had put some away for me, the tiniest, but she went into a buying frenzy when I was ready to get more..and bought up almost the whole table!

What is great, is I got ANOTHER recipe from Leo, his Frittata di Carciofi , Artichoke Frittata

Leo's Frittata di Carciofi

Taking some of the artichokes, cut and cleaned as for the fried artichokes, saute them in oil until browned on both sides.
Remove extra oil.
Pour in milk, and cover pan and cook until milk is absorbed.
Salt lightly.
Beat eggs, add some grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and add to pan, cover and cook until the egg sets.

You could also finish in the oven.


The milk gives this recipe a really incredible flavor and texture.

Days of Rest

In Italy, Sunday's have always been a day of rest.
That may mean spending 5 hours on the freeway to get to the beach from Florence, but with only one day off a week, for many it is worth it. The extra day of work a week pays off at vacation time , as they have a 5 week paid vacation!
Most take 4 weeks in the summer, all of August, and one week in the winter..skiing!

I prefer to rest!
So last Sunday I attended Certaldo's Dinner honoring Boccaccio.
It was held in the streets, a fabulous sit down dinner for 350, catered by my friend Giuseppina.
Throughout the evening we were entertained by the Theatre Company Drago Nero, with acrobats, fabulous costumed actors on stilts, reinactments of battle's and music.

The menu was:
A fried bruschetta with herbs and tomatoes
Pecorino Cheese and red onion jam ( Certaldo is famous for their red onions)
Onion soup( of course)
Roasted pork shank
Herbed salad with fruit
Biscotti and Vin Santo

June 12, 2005

Wine with Friends

Originally uploaded by divinacucina.

Life is too short to drink bad wine!
Last week when we stopped by the Casa del Vino to buy wine for class,my friend Giacomo was there and introduced us to Baron Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi, his family created CHIANTI..
who better to advise us! Needless to say we drank well that day, Geremia 1997!

Gianni is my wine guru! After we finish shopping the market, we stop by, for a little prosecco and a snack while Gianni pairs the wines to our menu!

Tough job, he is always so right! This is my way of learning.

We made Dario's Arrosto Fiorentino, and it was a perfect pairing. Try it!

It is a fabulous recipe for summer, a short cooking time in a very hot oven and then serve the meat in the infused oil! A great recipe for the eye of round which is usually a tough peice of meat used only for braising, the quick high heat barely cooks the meat , making a tender roast beef.

Over cooking will make this togh, so leave the meat nice and rosy on the inside.

If some of your friends like meat well done, reheat the slices, and don't ruin the rest ot the meat for the others!

I'm back!!!

Well... I am back and going to start blogging again.
Have been in a fast fabulous spin!

Featured in Town and Country Travel Fall 2004, and now in May's Bon Appetit..

It seems like the weather this year is repeating itself and the cool winds and hail the other day, make cooking more fun!

Just when I was ready to get into a salad mood.. soups and risotto's are still in!