April 30, 2006

Getting Ready for Mother's Day

My mom loves anything Rose...perhaps because she was born in Portland Oregon

I am lucky, when I bought my rundown, totally to restore, moneypit 1/3 of a farmhouse in Tuscany ( NOT FRANCES MAYES), it had an antique rose bush.

It survived the restoration,being moved and my not being a gardner.

I have been making Rose Jam, and now am trying my own hand at Rose Syrup.

This is for my mom... Happy Mother's day!

Sciroppo di Rose

3 cups of aromatic rose petals, not sprayed!
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
4 tbs lemon juice
red food coloring ( I am trying red poppy petals!)

Rinse off the rose petals to remove dust and any ants or spiders.

Bring water to a boil.
Turn off heat and add petals ( rose and poppy).

Let sit for 12 hours.

Strain the water from the petals, saving the water in a pot.
Squeeze all the water out of the petals into the pot.

Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil.

Turn off and bottle.

Rose syrup is fabulous on yogurt, ricotta or in drinks.

Tuscan Spring-wine and roses

One of the pleasures of my job is showing people treasures I have found in Tuscany.
Spring is one of my favorite seasons to tour.

Last week I had a private group for my Chianti Classico Tour
We were blessed by the weather god and had no rain.

One of the wineries we visited is Casa Emma, located just off the highway and easy to find. It is open for free tastings, but if you like, they also accept groups for a tour and tasting with a light meal. Fabrizio and Paolo do a fabulous job and are very knowledgable and fun... not to mention incredibly good wine and food.

Casa Emma Estate

sliced beef and pork salame with walnuts and raisins

hand-sliced prosciutto

some of our food served with the tastings of wonderful wine.

The hills turn a lush green with the rain and the warm days encourage the hills to fill with flowers.

The vines are filling with leaves and the first tiny bunches of grapes are just flowers with pollen now.

Lilacs and iris show Florence's love for lavender ( purple is the color for the city's soccer team) and my antique rose is in full bloon already.

As in France, roses are often planted at the end of the vineyard rows.
My friend Isabella has made an incredible Rose Syrup that was picked by Saveur magazine as one of the top food products of 2005. She makes it at her farm near me,using the Gallica Roses, a lovely pink antique rose which I also have growing in my garden. Her mother is from Liguria where the recipe for the Rose Syrup comes from. Isabella is also the advisor for Casa Emma, where it is possible to visit their Botanical Gardens.

As part of our tasting menu, Fabrizio served the Rose Syrup on a fresh pecorino cheese ricotta, spring in a bottle.

We first visited San Gimignano on market day, really a little too crowded to enjoy the city, but we found some great treasures to take home as gifts. San Gimignano is filled with artisans, not just tourists shops and is a real living city. To see it at it's best, avoid going on Thursday, which is market day, and if you can, go in the afternoon after most of the tour bus craziness is done.

I enjoy San Gimignano in the evening and love having dinner here and walking around the city, abbandoned by tourists and lit up showing off the beautful towers.

One day of our tour was also the Festival of the Buona Stagione held every year in Panzano.
I always love a party!

Part of the festival is an artisan show in the piazza in lower Panzano, this is one of the locals, Giocondo and his wife with his hand-woven baskets. He also plays in the local band.

We then headed up to the upper village for the parade, reenactment of a hanging and a spectacular flag throwing exhibition by the team from Castiglione Fiorentino, near Arezzo.

What's not to love about living in Paradise?

April 18, 2006

Divina Cucina...on the Road

Last month I spent three weeks... on the road.

It is always hard for me to leave Florence, I have really become more Italian and more a homebody instead of the wandering gypsy I was.

First stop home, then up to Sonoma to teach at Ramekins, I taught 4 classes, here are some shots of the Naples menu class.

Last year, we went to Naples for the Christmas fair, and I discovered some wonderful dishes I had only read about. We visited Pompeii, and the wonderful Museum in Naples which has some of the mosaics saved from Pompeii, gave me some great ideas for my bathroom.
I think my husband is worried!

My Naples menu for the class in Sonoma was:

Mozzarella in Carrozza- mini fried mozzarella sandwiches

Peperoni Mimi alla Ferrovia- Roasted pepper rolls with bread "meatball" filling

Acqua Pazza- a fabulous recipe which in one pan creates both your first course and main course. Roasted Fish in "Crazy Water" with garlic, olive oil ,chili pepper, white wine and Shrimp, Mussels and Sea Bass. The Sea Bass is served on the side and the rest sauteed with pasta as a incredible one course meal. We saw this often in Naples, sometimes called Santa Lucia.

We also made Casiatello, a rich rolled bread, filled with salame, prosciutto, black pepper, parmesan and swiss cheese..and the secret ingredient.. LARD!!! Traditionally made for Easter with eggs baked on top, we are lucky enough to find this at a local baker in Poggibonsi that caters to Napoletano clients.

Our dessert was also a speciality for Easter, Pastiera. Although I think there was doubtful students that this dessert was going to be good, all were pleasantly surprised.

Not a cheesecake, but more like a delicate sweet quiche, this light dessert is made with boiled grain ( we had found boiled Farro) which is added to the ricotta and eggs and sweetened with sugar and orange flower water and cinnamon and baked in a very delicate crust.

The students did a fabulous job with all the dishes!

Once a year I attend a culinary convention with IACP , the culinary association I belong to.
It is my chance to network and connect with my collegues.
This year it was in Seattle so while on the west coast I also planned to visit with family and teach some classes.

I also presented a panel at the IACP conference with my friend Kate Hill from Agen, France and Fergus Henderson from St John Restaurant in London and myslef from Tuscany.

Our panel was on Artisan Pork Traditions in Three Countries and called Saints Preserve Us, in honor of this we created another blog called Going Whole Hog
We had over 250 people in attendence so was a great turn out.
Also speaking with someone as important as Fergus, we were invited to some fun meals with some of the board members and other panelists.
At one dinner, met Brian Fagan, one of my husbands favorite writers on Mayan history, when I mentioned this to Brian, he said..." Ah, the Mayans were so boring!"
He was presenting a panel about "Fish on Friday" from his new book.
It is facinating to see who is involved in food... anthropologists???
We ARE what we eat.

As part of our tasting, I smuggled in some Burro di Chianti from Dario of the Macelleria Cecchini in Chianti, a wonderfully rich herb infused lard. Adam at the W hotel also recreated my Soprasatta of pig trotters and cooked the brined Pork Belly for Fergus. ( recipes on the Whole Hog Blog)

So for myself for Easter had to follow my nose...I saw a suckling pig in the market and went nose to tailagain!


after, roasted with only extra virgin olive oil and sea salt
Finger licking good.

Happy Easter to all.

April 8, 2006

Another 3 minutes of Fame!

I will be on the NPR radio show Good Food Show with Evan Kleinman Saturday!

I understand you will also learn how to make your own Peeps, what more could a person want!