October 25, 2005

Friends Food and Fun in Florence..

A great group of friends got together for a week in Florence at Divina Cucina.

Todays market inspired us to make stuffed zucchini blossoms, with a fresh goat cheese ricotta, from Baroni Alimentari

fried artichokes, fresh pasta with white truffles and fabulous french butter.

The White Truffle from Conti, was 20 grams, 60 euro and we just heated some butter warmed the truffles in the butter and then tossed in the fresh fettucine with freshly grated 4 year old parmesan, from my friend Bonat from Parma,I can also buy this at Baroni!

I quess you can tell I basically live between the Conti and Baroni stands!

Our main course was Veal scallopine with an herbed cream sauce with 25 year old balsamic vinegar with sweet and sour shallots, and for dessert, a light limoncello mascarpone mousse with raspberries and incredible strawberries ( in October?)

We drank a 1999 Cevaro white wine that glistened gold!!!!

Not bad for the first day of class!

October 24, 2005

Truffles.. not chocolate!

After a week of chocolate I am glad to be back to the Central Market and savory food!

When we talk about Truffles here... they are black or white..and not chocolate!
Both are in season now.

We bought one of the black truffles for class the other day at the Gastronomia Perini and just simply grated in on top of a porcini mushroom sauce.

The mushrooms were sauteed in garlic and mint, slowly cooked in olive oil with a pinch of salt, a splash of white wine and then pureed.

We used my microplaner to grate them into the puree and served them on warm toasts.
What could be easier!

I think the black truffle cost about 25 Euro.
I bought it from Claudio Perini at the Perini Alimentari at the Central Market in Florence.

October 22, 2005

not prunes

Here's what's in the market today!

lunch anyone?

these are fresh white truffles from San Miniato, Tuscany also has tons of white truffles, as well as Alba!

By christmas, these will go to about 350 an etto, which is 100 grams, about 3 ounces!

October 20, 2005

Prune Thursday

David , wild thing that he is, said
"Hey,I love prunes.. let's do a Prune Thursday" .
I adore Prunes, which can be a problem or a good thing.

I started dreaming about what I could make, but then decided that for his blog event, I should stick to something Tuscan.

When I teach my classes here in Florence we don't have time in a one day class to do long recipes like this, so when I am off, I like to cook the Slow Food recipes Slowly!

So for this recipe, I used the wild boar, which I can buy right here at the market and marinated it, then broke out my clay pot from Colle Val'D'elsa and watched a good movie as the stew slow cooked. The house smelled fabulous, my hubby was happy and so was I. Thank you David!

When I first started shopping the Central Market here in Florence, my wild boar butcher would have whole wild boars, fur and all!!!
Now things have tamed down some and the only fur is on the tiny stuffed wild boar he keeps in the counter!

So let me share some of my happiness. This is an ancient recipe from Florence for Cinghiale in Dolce Forte, which is a wild boar stew, with prunes, and chocolate.. Incredible! Sort of a Tuscan Mole.
I have made this with pork shoulder too and it comes out great.
Traditionally this is made with wild game, either hare or boar.

The marinade takes out the gaminess, and the chocolate and prunes give an incredible richeness and silkiness to the stew.


I wanted to get my photo up and give those reading my blog a heads up if they also want to partipate!

Cinghiale in Dolce Forte

2 cups red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
I tbs pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stock, chopped

3 pounds wild boar, venison, or pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
4 tbs butter or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
I tbs pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)
1 tsp chili pepper or more to taste
Salt, to taste

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tbs pine nuts
3 ounces dried prunes, cut in half
Grated zest of one orange or candied orange rind
1 tbs raisins

If using wild game, the meat should definitely be marinated.
With other meats, this step is optional but recommended.
Bring the marinade to a boil and let cool.
Cover the meat and let it sit in the marinade for 48 hours.

Remove the meat from the marinade.
Strain the marinade.
Sauté the onion in butter or olive oil until golden. add the vegetables from the marinade and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the meat and brown lightly, add the strained marinade liquid. Spices, salt and cook until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Add water if needed.

When the meat is tender add the prunes, chocolate, orange zest or candied rind, pinenuts.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve with creamy polenta or on a thick slice of toasted country style bread.

October 16, 2005

The Great Masters of Chocolate

They say if you want to play a better game of tennis, play against someone better than yourself.
I believe the same goes for food. Eating out a a wonderful restaurant is inspiring, taking a class on a new cuisine gives me a new boost, watching how someone else teaches makes me a better teacher.
New techniques and tricks for whatever we do makes us better.

This week I conducted a trip for professionals to see the great masters of chocolate at work! Tuscany's chocolate makers on the whole are artisans, small production and very creative. I had taken the Ecole Chocolat class online, been a pastry chef in a past life and have made chocolate, so was prepared.

We tasted.. watched... and learned new tricks!
Paul De Bondt, Roberto Catanari, Vestri Family, Slitti family as well as Perugina's new school where we did a wine and chocolate pairing.

Our group was great too, sharing information and their personal experiences in the Chocolate world.
To me Food should be a giving thing, often it is not.

It was a true pleasure to see how passionate these masters of chocolate were about their art..and how giving!

True Masters fear noone!
A full fabulous week.. bring on the potatoes with salt!

October 8, 2005

Fall Market treasures

Fall is my favorite season to cook,slow stews, beans and soups encouraging long slow meals with friends and wine.

The rain has arrived, hopefully everyone got their grapes harvested in time, this years summer was not hot, and many left the grapes on the vine to catch the Indian summer, which came... and went!

But the rain brings us gifts!
Porcini mushrooms grow on a hot day after it's rained under Chestnut and Oak trees, so we are in mushroom heaven now.

Besides the Porcini, this week we also saw the beautiful OVULI, a rare mushroom, which when tiny looks like a hard-boiled egg (OVO in Floretine dialect), the bright yellow cap forming what looks like a yolk.

Other wild gifts of fall are the colored Cauliflower and broccoli!
something right out of a science experiment!

Fall also sees the return of Chocolate to the market!

The summer heat makes it impossible to maintain chocolate, so the plants close down and reopen in September. fun commercial chocolates like Baci and Pocket Coffee are at their best, being just made.
I am off to run a chocolate tour for professionals from Ecole Chocolat, a great online chocolate school!

They will finish the week off in Perugia at the incredible Eurochocolate festival in Perugia!