December 31, 2005

Some Pig



As we welcome in the New Year, my mind turns to all the things I have planned for 2006.
In March, my friend and fellow cooking teacher, Kate Hill of The French Kitchen in Agen and I will be presenting a panel on Pork with Fergus Henderson of St. John's in London, the man whose book, Nose to Tail Eating, inspired out panel called Saints Preserve Us , the raising, preparation, preserving and the artisans and chefs that continue these age old traditions as well as the farmers who the pig provides year long substance.

In celebrating our lovely pigs, we are spending long cold winter days, testing recipes.
Many of these are SLOW FOODS, taking time to cook, slow simmering or roasting.

San Antonio Abate, St Anthony ( the Abbot) is the Patron Saint of Farm animals, as is always pictured with a pig at his feet, and other animals in the backround.

To celebrate San Antonio on January 17th and to incourage others to take time to do some slow cooking, Kate and I are going to organize a contest.
More coming after the First!

Get ready to go Whole Hog

See Captain Kate's blog entry.. and get cooking!

New Year.. New Dreams

We didn't have a White Christmas, but we are having a White New Year's!

Florence was dusted with a blanket of snow, enough to stop quite a bit of traffic and leave many people on foot. Truly a Silent Night!

Looking out the window onto the Central Market was like a scene from a dream..and the snow prevented the open air market from opening. There was no way the stalls could be pulled out with the ice and snow.



We had to wait to drive back home to Certaldo, as we could not be sure to reach home if the roads were closed due to snow and ice.

Leaving Florence during the day, with the light of day was a better idea as the countryside was hit much heavier than Florence was with the snow.


New Year's is the time for resolutions.. plans and dreaming..
I wish that all your dreams come true!

Set your goals and drive staight ahead, don't stop!

Auguri per 2006

December 27, 2005

Sicily loses one of it's sons

I was saddened to see this news after just returning from Sicily.

I had seen Vincent at the IACP conferences I attended, and his love for his Sicilian heritage all become clear to me on this visit.

I am sorry to not be able to see Sicily with him as I had hoped!

Moved by Mothia


As much as Palermo perturbed me, Mothia ( or Mothya) soothed me.

Arriving on a calm day, off season, we were they only visitors to this sacred spot for salt lovers.



The windmills were still, and the salt laid to rest for the winter under brick roof tiles.



The salt making process begins in May when the sun and wind begin to work with the help of man, turn into diamond-like crystals.


The picture below is from the Mothia website, showing the process involved in this ancient tradition.



The via del Sale, salt road led us from Marsala up to Trapani.

I can't wait to return in late spring to witness this act of love!
Because people working with such passion, provide such positive energy, we all need to recharge our batteries and what better place.

Here in Florence, where in the old days, a salt tax was placed by the government in Pisa, the salt was only for the wealthy.
To this day, bread in Tuscany is made without salt, and the food is heavily salted.

I have learned that not all salt is alike, and have quite a salt collection.
Of course from Mothia, but also from Puglia, Croazia, France and now Pink Crystals from the Himalayan mountains!

I highly encourage you to taste what you are using, and spend a little more for some of your basic pantry items and you will be pleasantly surprised!

I once did a salt tasting with Barbara Tropp, when she did a class in Venice at the Cipriani, which changed my life!

Try a good salt on a simply grilled piece of fish or meat..with some great oil, a little lemon...

Spend more time shopping than cooking.. it's all about the ingredients!
Keep it simple.

December 26, 2005

Palermo: Pensieri and Pigs


Pensieri, are thoughts...
one of the most famous proverbs concerning Palermo is:

Cu' va a Palermu e nun va a Murriali si nni parti sceccu e torna maiali

Those who visit Palermo and not Monreale, arrive a donkey and return a pig


I left a pig!


I really didn't mean to, I adore Mosaics and Monreale was one of the only church museums I really wanted to see this trip.
But I was so overwhelmed by the immensity of the city, the architecture in contrast with the destruction and what I was seeing just walking around. I needed to get out to the sea, so we left without seeing Monreale.

I did however pick up a San Antonio statue, which is rather funny, as he is the patron saint of Farm Animals, and pork butchers.


I am doing a presentation in Seattle for IACP with Kate Hill of the French Kitchen and Fergus Henderson of St. John's in London, author of From Nose to Tail.

So Pigs are on my mind in all I do right now!

a picture is worth a thousand words
so here are several thousand words..


Palermo's soccer fans graffitti in the Vucceria market



I found this sign in a lovely park near the sea in Palermo, Joe Petrosino, a Cop from New York, was shot down here by the Mafia



The huge cathedral downtown, stretching over the street


Art deco bookstore sign near the Ballero' outdoor market

December 25, 2005

A Christmas Gift!


There is nothing like A REAL hot Chocolate, made with Chocolate!

The foto is from a tiny bar in Erice where we went in search of the famous Maria Grammatica's pastry shop.
We stopped at the first sign we found saying they served Maria's pastries, and our friend from Gusto in Trapani had told us we MUST have hot chocolate at Maria's/

This hot chocolate must have had a WHOLE bar in per cup of milk.. it was pudding and with the pastries.. almost overkill.. almost!
Then walking out of the bar, we found the pastry shop itself!

More on that later.


My friend Leonardo Vestri shared his recipe with me.
and the secret is using real chocolate.
I like to use a really fabulous chocolate at least 60%.


Here's the recipe!
5 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder (Hershey's European Style, Van Hooten, or Droste)
2 tablespoons sugar
6-8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups milk

Chili powder ( optional)

Place the cocoa powder, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the milk in a saucepan and heat until the sugar melts, stirring well to remove any lumps. Boil and add the remaining milk. Heat to steaming, always whisking to incorporate the chocolate mixture.
Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir to melt the chocolate and let it sit. Reheat to serve, stirring well before serving.


Vestri serves the hot chocolate with a pinch of chili powder, or ginger if you like. You can also be really decadent and have your Vestri's ice cream, affogato, drowned in hot chocolate! 'Tis the season...to enjoy!

December 24, 2005

Christmas Greetings from Italy!

Signs of the time!







Sicily. Short but Sweet



We have started a tradition, leaving Florence in the cold winter, for our anniversary..and head off somewhere to see Christmas celebrations.

So I have started a short list, for some short holidays.
Going to Sicily has been one of my dreams for years.
I have a long list of places to visit in Sicily that I would need to move there to see it all. Next on the list is Modica, Noto and Ragusa all for foodie trips to the masters.

First on my list was Palermo, for the Baroque art and the open air food markets, not just one, but FOUR!

I am a market Babe.. ever since my first trip to France, then again in Greece, the Plaka really had me going... the late night trips to eat soup still remain in my memory.

The Bocceria in Barcellona is calling me back, they only close for a few hours a night to clean and it is such a vibrant place, filled with tiny Tapas bars.

In Palermo, I first visited the Vucceria during the day and was rather disappointed with how small it was. I thought perhaps it was a slow day or I was either too late or too early.




My second market was Ballero', much more lively, perhaps because we went later?







We also hit Capo and the flea market, but the best find was the Sunday flea market in Piazza Marina. Got some great stuff!

Heading back later one day to the Vucceria, we found it hopping, and then walked back through again after the market was closed, to find food stands open in the late evening!
This is what I was looking for!



We had grilled Stigliole, which are lamb or veal intenstines, of milk fed veal, very tender, grilled and served with lemon and salt. FABULOUS and FRESH.


This butcher- grill guy, had a whole table of goodies to chose from, my hubbie spotted another client getting a sandwich made from a green onion wrapped with fresh pancetta grilled and then topped with some secret sauce ( looked like chopped raw veggies).

I had just ordered Jamies Italy before going.. and this was it!
It was too bad I am not a guy to hand out like he did.. taking pictures and being one of the boys, perhaps on another trip.

I still need to think about what I saw in Palermo, before I write more.

The Centro Storico, historic center, still has an immense amount of destruction from the second world war.

One of the foto's I took, I later foundout, was used as an art happening by a Austrian performance Artist named Uwe Jaentsch,graffiti,decorations and a foto show.


We saw some of the foto's when eating at Ferro di Cavallo trattoria, the Mario's of Palermo. Reminded me of a young Andy Warhol.

This shot is of one of the buildings bombed in WWII, and never rebuilt, some of te building around it are being restored,but there are many left like this.
He painted the inside of the building with the BLACK SUN on the top floor, a take-off on the Sicilian orange sun which is seen everywhere, and then built this red cross on the inside, where he tied himself to the cross, and had people throw balloons filled with red paint. You can see where the paint hit.




We did 4 days in Palermo, and then headed down to Marsala, Mothya ( the salt flats) Trapani and Erice.

Each of these require a post of their own!
I am still overwhelmed by what I saw in such a short time that I need to think about it more!

Suffering from Stendahl's Syndrome.
The same thing happened to me in Oaxaca.. sensory overload in the big cities in a short time.


Too much!

December 12, 2005

happy campers!

just got a note from a past student that wrote up her experiences at class.. for those that would like a Taste of what a day is like

Thanks! always nice to have a pat on the back!

season for giving



another Blogger, Pim is holding an auction to raise funds for the needy.
For a very small donation to the fund, you have the chance to win some great prizes offered by other bloggers.. a $5 donation... is all you need to join in the raffle.

I am donating a copy of my recipe book which I give to my students in Florence at my school Divina Cucina
Like having a Tuscan Mamma in your house!

Here is a list of the other donations

Join us in making someone's life better!
happy holidays.

To make a donation Stop by this site

Peace on Earth!

December 6, 2005

Winter's Slow Soup


Winter has hit Florence full force, reminding us all that it was in November of 1966 that the Arno River flooded the city, bringing it to it's knee's and the wonderful support from the Mud Angels, young students.. and not.. from all over the world who ran to the rescue.

My husband who was 11 at the time, remembers how wonderful Florence was without traffic, the silence. Searching through the mud for treasures.

As we sit today in the on and off again storms, a great bowl of Minestrone hits the spot! Hoping that the melting snow and the ongoing storms don't bring on more floods!

We made my mother-in-law Tina Berchielli's Minestrone soup in class today, and the wonderful thing about minestrone, it that it has three lives.. the first as Minestrone, the second as bread soup and reboiling the soup, breaking down all the vegetables and cooking with bread give the most FLorentine of all Soups

The soup that keeps on giving.

Make a huge pot and invite over some friends ..
A loaf of bread a jug of wine...and Ribolitta

December 2, 2005

Cookie Blogs!

I am so excited..
Jennifer
has the first cookies up and I have the weekend off..
Start Cookie-ing!


Alberto's entries are up too!
94 Entries with many being multiple.. so start cooking now to get them all tried for the holidays!

Happy Baking to all!