February 26, 2007

More leftover's

I really do love the end of the week, clean-out-the-fridge meals.

This week we made a saffron-pumpkin risotto one day, buffalo mozzarella as an appetizer...
so the left-over's became....

Arancini di Riso



Sicilian fried rice balls, made with the left-over risotti stuffed with some mozzarella.


You add a beaten egg to the cold risotto and some grated parmesan cheese
Form into a ball and create a small hole to push the mozzarella in.
Close the rice ball around the mozzarella and roll in breadcumbs.
Let chill and then fry!

The rest of the pumpkin ( which is a very sweet squash, not halloween pumpkins, but more like the Kabosha.

Zucca Gialla Grigliata


Grilled Marinated Pumpkin

I removed the thick outside skin and then thinly sliced the pumpkin.
I like to grill the slices in a little olive oil then marinate with extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar , sliced garlic and mint. It is a trick I learned in Sicily.



It is easy to look at recipes and go shopping, for me the real challenge is to create with what I have extra and to not just eat leftover's.

February 24, 2007

Leftovers- Divina Cucina Style!


When you work as a cooking teacher.. food gets left over often in class.

Sometimes there are only one or two students but the recipe is for 6 people.
I still make that recipe.

The other day it was Duck Ragu.
Am I lucky!

We sort of had to run through making a sauce that normally would take longer but it came out fabulously!

We began with cooking the soffritto ( the heart of all long slow recipes ) a blend of finely chopped carrot, red onion and celery in extra virgin olive oil until the vegetables began to carmelize.

Then we added 1/2 a duck, cut into 1/4 th's, placing it in the pan skin-side down.
When the skin was golden, turn the duck, brown on the other side and when done, splash with a nice glass of good red wine.

Turn down the heat and add a small can of San Marzano tomatoes, salt to taste, and we added some soaked porcini mushrooms.

Cover and let cook until the duck was done, at least an hour.

Let the meat cool and take off the bone.
Chop finely and put back into sauce.

Mix well and let cook a little more to blend the sauce and the meat.

Cook your pasta, drain well and heat together in pan with sauce, adding some grated parmesan cheese.

Bon appetito!

We served our duck ragu on Tortelli di patate, potato ravioli's a specialty from Mugello, the hills north of Florence.

My leftovers were a dry gnocchi from Sardegna, called Malloreddus.
no matter what you call it.. Yummy!

February 19, 2007

That time of year... Carnevale.. quando ogni scherzo vale!



Carneval in Italy is a big deal, not just in Venice where the costumes are really "over the top" but in small villages too.

Florence has started a WORLD CARNEVAL, celebrating the large mixed cultures which now live here, quite a change from when I moved here in 1984, when the foreigners were the people from Naples and Sicily.

A huge Chinatown has been created outside the city, Iranians have been here for years, coming to study and then not going back when the problems with the Shah. Now Columbians, Peruvians,Maroccons, Albanians all mixed together.. sometimes setting each other off when late at night and alcohol is flowing, Florence has lost some of it's small town charm, by having been cut off from real world problems for so long.

This years parade united all in a huge celebration.
I not liking crowds, slipped out to one of my favorite hill towns, Siena.
We went as it was the third Sunday of the month when the flea market is held in the piazza behind the town hall.


Siena holds the feeling of what Tuscany was really like. All red brick, the town is full of small alleyways and picturesque corners to make any fotographer go crazy. The city recently rewired the town to provide cableTV and take away the ugly antenna's, look up when you are there.



view of the city, and the Torre del Mangia, from the San Marco gate




Close up of the fountain of the Contrada " ONDA"



Old street signs with older street signs underneath



The "tartaruga" tortoise, where the flea market is held the third Sunday of the month



old coffee grinders and spice grinders

Lunch of course was at our favorite La Torre...

only fresh pasta

I had my favorite, the fiocchi, spinach and ricotta tortelli with butter, sage and parmesan cheese... light as snowflakes on your tongue ( fiocchi are bows or also fiocchi di neve, snowflakes)



" fiochi" with butter, sage and parmesan
Andrea had mixed Pappardelle with ragu.



He had the roast lamb and I had wild boar.



wild boar


Both is us had the country-style potatoes in a rosemary infused tomato sauce.

And when I saw their tiramisu... I had to.. for the foto.. RIGHT? all in the name of blogging journalism.



tiramisu La Torre style

Then we saw him cut prosciutto by hand for a large table of locals that came in after us..
next time!


In the Piazza del Campo, the celebrations were just starting, but the piazza was already covered with confetti.
In villages Carnevale is mostly young kids running around with funny costumes, throwing confetti in your face.. or spraying you with silly string! Sort of their chance at halloween, but instead of going house to house, the festival takes to the streets.


The Passeggiata, begins after Sunday lunch from 4pm on, when the piazza's and streets fill with the locals, catching up on the weeks news.

We noticed a small wooden cabin set up at the end of the piazza, that means food to me!
I was right, one of the local fundraising groups had set-up their frittelle stand, rice fritters, one of Carnevale's sweets that will also be around for Father's day, March 17 ( Saint Joseph's Day, the dad of all dad's!)



Fritter fryer

I adore Rice fritters and always need to sample.
Their rice fritters were even better cold than hot.
With the sprinkling of granulated sugar,


sparkling like precious sweets that they are.

February 11, 2007

Florida moments






We really didn't see much of Florida... as we had our heads inside kitchens, but a few of the funny and beautiful things we did see.

It was fabulous to wake up and have a real breakfast... I miss that in Italy.

Although Expresso is better than coffee, there is something about gently sitting around a table and starting your day off with an american cup of coffee, toasted english muffin and fruit to put it all right in the world.
Of course it costs more tha a 4 course lunch in Florence.. but...

I adore Kitch and South Beach has some great Deco architecture and some real KITCH leftovers from another era!
Even the beach has a Mexican sort of hue to it.

The light was fantastic and although for the Floridians, it was a cold winter.. 70 degrees was lovely for those of us that came from Europe.












The flora and fauna in the Everglades was worth the trip.
Tropical flowers surrounding our rooms, waking up at the water in both Key Largo and Naples, made me even more determined to life by the water when I am older.

The airboat ride was the BEST!!!
Ever since a kid, watching Flipper, that is what Florida was to me.. zipping around the Everglades!

We had perfect weather and was a great stop on the ride from Key Largo to Naples. On the way back we did Alligator Alley.. much more boring!

I would have stopped for another ride!

February 9, 2007

The " Club Tour" in Florida

I must say, I was scared to take on the task of teaching cooking in Florida when everyone from my classes here told me how hard it was to find good ingredients.
But I am not one to back away from a challenge.

When I was invited by one of my favorite students, Fr Micheal, to come and teach in Naples Florida at the Port Royal Club he had me hooked!

It also then encouraged me to follow up on another lead from another favorite return student and friend Vicki from North Carolina to teach at Ocean Reef Club, in Key Largo where she goes in the winter.

As winter here is really slow season, sounded appealing to head off and be a sort of snowbird myself.


Having hurt my back last summer, I can't carry heavy things so brought my friend Beatrice, the tripe Diva of Florence, as my assistant and sherpa! We made a great team!





We started off by decompressing in South Beach.. which was strangly quiet!
Turned Beatrice on to some chicken wings ( which turned out to be "safe" food for her delicate Tuscan stomach!
American breakfast was ok too.. ( but not my pancakes with sausage and that maple syrup!!!)

So I didn't make her eat my food, but, there are certain foods I crave when I am back in the states.

Off to Ocean Reef...we did a class at the cooking school there, hosted by Carol,










and followed up by doing two dinners for one of Vicki's friends, Denise,that has been in Greve on Vicki's vacations.... and then another dinner for one of Denise's guests, Susan.

The most fun for us of course was the shopping!
We did most of our shopping for Key Largo in Publix and found it to be great.

We then headed off to Naples.. taking the highway 41... which was a blast, easy driving and we stopped to do a tour of the everglades..... something I dreamed of since watching Flipper as a kid!

Great drive into Naples and luckily bumped into our hostess while driving around Naples and followed her home!
Divine Providence! ( being as we were staying with the local Episcopal Priest , perhaps we were being blessed!)

Naples was a series of classes and parties that never ended!
From our all "boys" class to the Naples " Girls fundraiser" it was back to back feasting!

We found fabulous foods at Publix and Wynn's in Naples, but the topping on the cake was EVOO. Here we found lots of products I buy in Florence at the Central Market!

We did some repeat recipes for the dinners, such as:

Artichoke and Green Olive pate for Crostini
as well as a
Tuscan Tapenade, with sundried tomatoes, capers and black olives.

Pear and pecorino ravioli's were made a couple of times.

Dario's Arrosto Fiorentino was a big hit as were the oven roasted veggies with Tuscan herbs.

I will follow up this post with some of the recipes we did.. and foto's from the various dinners!

Till next year!

February 7, 2007

Soothing Soup





There is nothing like a soup... to sooth all!

Winter this year has not brought on the chill's which are relieved by soup until now.
So as soon as the first chill came in, soup's on!

After being in a sort of Summer in Florida, the Tuscan winter called me back to the roots of soup. A simple minestrone.

Whenever I leave Florence for a teaching tour, I leave my freezer full for my hubby who stays home to watch the home fires, feed the cats and just be Florentine.

Being Florentine means eating!

When I arrived back, the freezer was bare except for a bag of Tuscan Zolfini Beans.
Protected by Slow Food, they are grown near Terranuova Bracciolini, outside of Arezzo in a small area called La Penna.



People have tried to take the beans and grow them elsewhere.. but Terroir.. the soil.. is what makes these beans so special.. and costly.

I remember when I was working with Dario Cecchini and the bean growers were complaining they couldn't survive on the small crops they grew and were going to give up on growing them.

Dario raised the price he was paying them, bought all their crops and brought the beans back to the attention of local foodies.

The beans sell for about 23-30 Euro's a kilo, which is expensive for beans.
But not a lot if you are growing them.

We need to rethink what we pay for food, and pay for quality.

In the long-run, you get what you pay for.

I adore Zolfino Beans, they are a softer bean, with a thin skin and hold up well for cooking.

Florentines are called "MangiaFagioli" Bean-eaters, but other Italians, meant to be a insult. When you taste Zolifini, it will become a compliment!

The color is yellow tinged, where they get the name Zolfino.. from Sulfer.
They have a fabulous consistency, almost creaminess to them, making them great for soups as well as on their own.


Having a bag of beans already, it was simple to create a Minestrone for dinner.



Mamma Tina's Minestrone
My mother-in-law's recipe

Recipes for minestrone vary from region to region, restaurant to restaurant, and household to household. Most recipes are based upon regional produce. The most important ingredient is Tuscan minestrone is cavolo nero, or a winter black cabbage. Its leaves range in color from dark green to almost black. Once grown only in Tuscany, enterprising farmers in California's Salinas Valley are now growing it along with Royal Rose radicchio. If you cannot find black cabbage, substitute kale, chard, or use only Savoy cabbage.

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 carrots, sliced into half-inch rounds
4 zucchini, sliced into half-inch rounds
One-quarter whole Savoy cabbage, shredded and chopped
1 bunch cavolo nero or kale
1 small bunch spinach, shredded and chopped
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into one-half inch cubes
1 cup green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups Tuscan white beans, one-half cup pureed and one-half cup whole
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
4 tablespoons tomato paste


Heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onion and leek together over low heat until they begin to burn slightly.
Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
Add all the remaining vegetables.
Season with sea salt and stir to mix in the onions and leeks evenly.
Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables have reduced in volume by half.
Stir again and cover with water to the top of the pot.
The more water you add, the more broth you will have with the soup.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.
Add the tomato paste and stir to dissolve.
Cover and cook the soup for 1 hour.
Add the Tuscan beans.

It is a never ending soup.
Left-overs can be reboiled into Ribollita, adding Tuscan stale bread to thicken it into a rich ribsticking porridge like soup.

My sister-in-law hates the chunks of vegetables and purees her minestrone making it a Passata.

Today we reheated out minestrone with rice, adding more water.
In Liguria, this is served in the summer, chilled, with a dollop of pesto on top!




However you eat it.. Enjoy!

February 6, 2007

How can you miss me if I don't go away?

I am going through blogging withdrawl!

I just returned from my "CLUB TOUR" in Florida.

I taught a class at Ocean Reef Cooking School in Key Largo followed by two dinners for members and then off to Port Royal Club in Naples Florida for a series of dinner classes and fund raisers. All went so well I was invited back next year too.

I will catch up on the fun we had....
food we ate...
and my new toy!!!!

Check out dinner tonight..
















The foto is taken with my new Nikon D50! My dream camera.
Haven't had an SLR since college, so feels like going back to school.
Took me forever to find where the F-stops were.




Usually the weather in winter is so cold, but this year is the warmest winter since 1860.
Although the mimosa trees are already in bloom( usually march) and my wild violets are up already, soup was on the menu for me after being away.

Something to sooth my Tuscan Soul!