February 18, 2006

Spring is in the Air

Light showers and sun have brought spring to my house.
The first violets, called mammole, are just starting to bloom as well as the iris.

As winter slips away and spring enters, salads call my name!

The lack of sun in winter is counterbalanced by the arrival of oranges from Sicily.
Tarocchi are the blood oranges from Sicily and are splendid for a typical Sicilian salad with raw fennel.

The first time I ordered fresh orange juice in France, I was brough a 1/4 filled glass with a pitcher of water and sugar.. surely my french wasn't that bad.. but they make orange juice as we make Lemonade, as the oranges can also be tart!

Insalata di Arance e Finocchio

Olive oil

Using a sharp knife, remove the peel from the orange, taking away all of the white pith which can be bitter.

Slice the orange with a serrated knife into rounds.

Layer with thin slices of raw fennel.

Dress with olive oil.

Another salad that has become my signature dish is this Pear and Pecorino Salad

In Tuscany we serve cheese with pears instead of apples at the end of meal.
Inspired by this, I created a light easy salad which is fabulous to start a meal as well. The local cheese of choice is pecorino Toscano,a Sheeps milk cheese.
I use any pear, but change cheeses to match my pear.
If I use a ripe juicy pear, I may want a fresh pecorino cheese, simular to a montery jack and to serve it in chunks in a salad with the pear in cubes.

Today I found a crisp D'anjou pear and served it sliced paper thin on a bed of arugula which goes well with a more aged pecorino, which in Spain is called Manchengo, or a nice dry parmesan shaved on top.

Pere e Pecorino

Aged pecorino Toscano ( the Romano is too salty), Parmesan or Spanish Manchengo
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt, pepper, thyme ( optional)
Toasted nuts( pinenuts, hazelnuts, walnuts)

Cut the pear in half, remove seeds and slice the pears thinly and mix with the arugula and shaved cheese.

Toss the salad and dress lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Garnish with toasted nuts.Today I used walnuts, but pinenuts are my favorite.

Drizzle with honey, season with salt and pepper and serve.

We just tore up our herb garden today or I would have put some fresh thyme on the salad, a wonderful touch!


  1. If winter is slipping away to spring where you are...I'm on the next train!!

  2. I am putting the water on, let me know and I will butta la pasta!

  3. The blood-orange and fennel salad looks absolutely great! I have difficulty getting my wife to do the whole sweet/savoury mix thing, but I might be able to persuade her with this one!

  4. Thanks!
    It is a really refreshing and cleansing salad.

    Perhaps just sneak some orange into a regular mixed salad... and some thinly sliced fennel.

  5. I have known about your cooking school, but just found your blog today. Good stuff! I worked briefly with "Il Cecchini" last summer and you are so right: he is an amazing creature and his passion is contagious. Congratulations on the Mostarda recipe - my refrigerator is never without it!