September 25, 2005

Rufina Wine Festival

The last of the wine festivals in September is the Bacco festival in Rufina.
We were on our way home from our friends Beatrice and Adriano's wedding in Castagno d' Andrea in the hills above Rufina and had to stop on our way back to Florence to let the wine cart pass by!

All the cars pulled over, the whole costumed parade from Calcio in Costume was also here, they have a blessing of the wine in Florence too with the cart.

The cart is stacked high with the classic fiaschi of Chianti Rufina. It was known as Chianti Putto, having a tiny angel instead of the Gallo Nero ( black Rooster) that Florence-Siena Chianti has.
My Florentine husbnad says that for Florentines, the Chianti from Rufina was always used as the tabel wine for everyday use and that Rufina was not abbandoned as Chianti was after the war, so wine was more available.

Today the cows just were't going to work!
Someone said the farmer had picked mismatched cows..and they were fighting instead of pulling.. so they unhooked them and the emergency tractor was brought in to pull the cart... smart cows!

September 23, 2005

Going whole Hog in Calabria

The Dodaro's Giuseppe and his daughter Francesca, went whole hog and the peperoncino festival. Their family stand, all pork products , with chili were fabulous.

Giuseppe has spent time in Toronto, and was thrilled to speak English with me.
I adored the 'Nduja, called a spicy salami, but when researching how to make it, found out it is really lard... with chili, aged and then lightly smoked, no wonder I love it! The pancetta and prosciutto's were also fabulous. But what do excpect, when they put their name on it, it is a guarantee!

I hope that it will soon be possible to get these products all over the world.

The 'Nduja is fabulous just on bread.. I LOVE HOT... more traditionally used to spice up a pasta sauce. We had a handmade pasta, fusilli calabrese with "nduja stirred in off the heat, which melted it and gave the pasta a rich heat!

Francesca wrote her thesis on Sua Maesta il Maiale, which I bought. It is only available in Italian, but a fabulous testimony to the traditions in Calabria ( and I am sure other parts of ITaly) of curing pork.

If you would like a copy, write to her through their website!

September 20, 2005

Recipes--- From my house to yours!

This is where I will put links to recipes on the blog to make them easier to find!

Watermelon Granita
Death By chocolate: Salame dolce, Vestri's hot chocolate, Chocolate Orange Vodka, Wild Boar in Dolce Forte ( sweet and sour stew)

Anchovy me

Fake fish
Fennel Pollen Pork with Grape "pearls"
Oven Roasted Apricots
and farther down on the same page.
Leo's artichoke frittata
Wild Boar Stew with chocolate and Chili, a Tuscan Mole

September 16, 2005

Chocolate and Chili

Get ready for Eurochocolate and Ottobre Rosso!
This year Chocolate and Chili are making a big splash!

HOT CHOCOLATE takes on a new meaning!

At the Peperoncino festival, Eurochocolate presented Paul DeBondt's newest chocolate's , with a smoked jalepeno and a habernero,as well as many other producers. For the first time, Chili is being featured in Perugia,much closer than Diamante!

I first enjoyed Chocolate and Chili in Mexican Mole, then from Sicily's fabulous chocolate maestro, Bonajuto in Modica, and can't walk by Vestri in Florence without getting some of their hot chocolate or chocolates with chili or chocolate chili ice cream,
Now everyone is excited about this fabulous flavor combination!

Even Dario is having Panzano Piccante...October 2, inviting the Peperoncino group from Diamante to join in the market/fair the first Sunday.
I am planning on presenting my own little surprise..
See you there?

A Diamond in Calabria

Just got back from the Peperonicino Festival in Diamante in Calabria.
It was a blast!

Although not a huge village, Diamante is on the coast, called the Riviera del Cedri, the Citron coast,famous for the giant lemon like Citron which is quite refreshing after all that chili.

The Calabrian Chili pepper comes both sweet and spicy, and they don't try to kill you with heat, but rather tickle your palate.

The festival has expanded quite a bit since it first started and now lasts several days and the number of stands has aslo doubled I was told.

There was a HOT Film festival, spicy cartoons and some curious spiced foods!

Of course the chocolates, which is quite a trend in Italy, but granita? gelato? pastry cream filled brioches.. bring them on!

As I catch up on my foto's will try to fill you in on the best!

September 4, 2005

Saturday in Siena

Living the Dolce Vita isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
The vision that most people have of living in Tuscany, or living as an expat comes from books like under the Tuscan Sun or A Year in Provence; written by people living here on vacation.
What a perfect way to see Tuscany!

Real life is a little more difficult, trying to coordinate work with opening hours of stores and banks, do wash and time the line-drying ( what’s a dryer?) with scattered summer showers can be tough!

Touring and sightseeing? How many people that live in LA go to Disneyland?

In Florence I try not to go downtown until the tour buses have left, same for San Gimignano , which is 14 km from my home in Certaldo.

Often your days off are spent just trying to catch up on cleaning, mail trying to get thing fixed and enjoying the time off in your garden. Gasoline prices are soaring and costs Euro 1,29 a liter so about $6.00 a gallon. Going for a ride becomes a luxury and with the quality of the roads, or lack of it, even the shortest distance becomes a major trip!

But somedays the travel gods are with you!
Yesterday while watching the news, we saw a event happening in Siena, about an hour from us. The Women in Agroculture, Donne in Campo, were having a small market/show.

Timing was perfect,a summer storm had just blown through, and traffic was non existent. We pulled into the parking lot by the Fortezza and walked right over to the Piazza Matteotti where the Conzorzio is and they had set up tents with the Stands.

Stands were set up with winemakers, cheesemakers and some other creative women who have gone outside the tradtional farming!

Met a fascinating Dutch woman who grows Canapa and makes tisanes, liquore’s, cookies ( no not brownies!!) and sells what is left of the plant to people that make a canapa linen and also handmade paper! Canape was used to make cord in the old days here, My husbands grandfather was a funaio, a cord maker , from Figline Val D'Arno. She has created a Center for Archeo-ecologico tourism. Being in the heart of Etruscan ruins, near the Bay of Baratti a perfect combination.

Then I spotted a woman after my own heart, she raised Chili peppers! PeperRITA. We bought some of her great products, a salsa, ground chili, and figs in a chili syrup. Another non chili item was her DADO, for soups. Dado, is the Italian word for boullion cube, her blend is fresh vegetables,olive oil and salt pureed to start off any recipe. Great idea!

Turns out she will also be going to Diamante for the chili fest!

After touring the market and making other great finds, The Osteria del’ortolano from Florence and A woman with the Red Onion from Certaldo, selling her onion Jam…
Off we went to check out a wine bar which has always been closed when I have gone by.

Lucky me, not raining and it was open!

Liberamente, which means freely, but can also be taken as Libera MENTE.. free minded… is a lovely hip young wine bar right on the Piazza del Campo at La Mossa, where the Palio starting line is.

Originally opened by Gianni from Le Logge and artist Sandro Chia, it was recently taken over by two young friends, Antonio and Dimitri.

28 wines by the class and a wonderful menu!
We each had a glass if white, I had a Elena Wallach Gerwertraminer and Andrea had a Muller Thurgau.
Antonio brought us a complimentary tray of antipasti and we also ordered a salami tasting of the Cinta Senese, a local pig, which has almost become extint and now is making a comeback!
Siena is the spice capital of Tuscany, with Panforte and Panpepato being produced here, The salami’s are also heavily spiced and peppered, not so in Florence.
The whites were perfect with the Salami’s and the lovely basket of foccaccia’s served was also a nice break from the traditional unsalted breads.

I will go back to try some of the other meal items on the menu as it was the perfect people watching spot!

We saw a wedding, actually probably three or four, the most fun took off in the Piazza on a motorcycle!

Piazza Del Campo, 27

Wine Bar and Osteria in Siena

September 2, 2005

Tuscan 5 minute lunch... 3 Euro

I have been catching up on updating my website getting my tours ready for fall and all the things that back up when Florence closes in summer.

So today, off to the store for some grocery shopping at the COOP.
Quick lunch as we were starving.

We bought some:
Pre-sliced Carpaccio

and we had:

our wild arugula
some shave 4 year old Parmigiano from BONAT
Extra Virgin olive oil
Sea Salt
Chili pepper I made last week!

Placed the meat on the plate, placed a stuffed chili pepper in the middle, some wild arugula, shaved parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt!
Bon appetito in 5 minutes!

The meat cost 3 Euro at the a restaurant this would have been at least 8 euro a piece.

The Chili peppers sell for 11 Euro for a large jar, with 11 peppers.
I adore these chili's.This version is stuffed with a breadrumb, sundried tomato, tuna, caper and anchovy filling. LOVE THEM!

You can buy them already made from Mongetto

Next week I am off to Calabria for the Peperoncino festival in Diamante, and then down to Tropea where Italy's sweetest onions come from.
If I am lucky will also catch a Sagra, which are food festivals) featuring pork!

Eggplant Fetish

I must admit.. I have a thing for eggplants!
I love the color, the look,the feel and the flavor of eggplants!

Called Melanzana in Italian
from the latin Mela insana, a "not healthy" vegetable and was considered to be poisonous, but so were tomatoes and potatoes!

I love them grilled,roasted,fried... and even with chocolate! Yes there are several recipes of eggplants with chocolate in the southern parts of Italy.
Later I will put the recipe on for a Chocolate Eggplant Dessert from Amalfi and one from Sicily.

For the more traditional here is a favorite for the summer served cold. It is best made the day before to let the flavors blend.

Sicilian Caponata

This fabulous vegetable stew is wonderful as a cold summer dish or served warm.
There are as many versions as there are Sicilian cooks. Tomatoes were not introduced into Italian cooking until after 1650. I have chosen not to use them in this version, Many modern versions also have tomato. To me is seems more like Ratatouille.

2 eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 stalks celery, threaded and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 white onions, chopped into large pieces
1/2 cups pitted green olives, whole
1 tbs capers
1 tbs toasted pinenuts
2 tbs sugar
2 tbsvinegar ( I would suggest a red wine vinegar from Italy, if not the grocery store quality of Balsamic which contains great Italian red wine vinegar and is already a little sweet.)

extra virgin olive oil for cooking
sea salt or kosher salt ( no iodine!)

Saute the eggplant in a non-stick skillet, place in a bowl.
Saute the celery in olive oil, place with eggplant.
Saute onions and the bell peppers in olive oil until transparent.
Add the eggplant and celery back into the saute pan and cook together for 5 minutes and add the capers, pinenuts and the olives.
Add sugar and vinegar to taste.
Cook for 5 minutes and add salt to taste.

Add more sugar or vinegar as desired for the sweet and sour flavor.
If you are serving it cold, you will need to adjust the flavors and make your flavoring stronger.

There is another version where tomatoes are added too, this seems more like the French Ratatouille. Feel free to create your own version.

These flavors are ancient, sweet and sour, also called Dolce Forte and are prevalent in Spanish and Arab cuisines. Sicily, as Venice, were occupied by both and hence the influence in the cuisine.

EGGPLANT: I do not peel or salt the eggplants first. I think they are fine just cooked for this recipe.

OIL: I ONLY use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cook with, the best I can afford as it really effects the flavor of the dish. The vegetables here are really pan-fried, so use more that a couple of tablespoons to cook the veggies in...PLEASE.