March 31, 2007

I am so THERE!

Besides being cute.... useful!

In my classes one of the hardest things to teach is Trussing,tieing off rolled meats etc.
I can't wait to get my hands on these FOODLOOPS

But has anyone actually seen them or used them, I can't find where to order them.

March 30, 2007

Wild Boys and Boar!

Yesterday when I was passing by Trattoria Mario's on the way to the market with my students for class, as we read the menu, we had to go in and see the special of the day.

Whenever possible, Romeo Colzi, chef and owner, has something special on the menu.

It was Cinghiale, wild boar!

There was Pappardelle with wild boar ragu..and wild boar chops marinated and grilled.
I am going to have to quit my job so I can eat at Mario's!

Francesco, Romeo's son has now joined the cooking staff , so it is really a family affair.

I was asking Romeo if it was wild boar season, as I hadn't heard any hunters near my home in the countryside, he said " It is always wild boar season!" with a little gleam in his eye.

But on my way home, I spotted a sign for a local Sagra ( food festival) so Wild Boar it is!

Certaldo is holding their wild boar sagra starting April 1 through May 1, so if you are in the area, stop by.

The sagra is usually held Friday, Saturday and Sunday near the Piscina(pool) where they have built a sort of tent for the fundraising meals.

Buon Appetito!
we may try to stop by on Sunday.

March 25, 2007

Florence's New Year's Day!

March 25th... 9 months to the day to Christmas..

The Annunciation
by Leonardo da Vinci
which is in Japan at the moment!

My husband says that is why it was celebrated as Florence's New Year's Day celebrating the conception of Jesus... I tend to go more along the pagan rituals.... rites of spring, equinox etc.

That is my reason to celebrate. The arrival of Spring.

But time flies and it was just a little over a year ago that I went "Hog Wild" with my friend Kate getting ready for the IACP presentation we did on pork with Fergus Henderson of St. John's in London.

We had several samples for the group to taste, Adam a the W in Seattle did my Soprassatta recipe, using pigs trotter's and a roasted Pancetta from Fergus Henderson's recipe with lentils.

The best pork item I found though was the Bacon Brittle at The Grateful Palate
thanks to I Heart Bacon.
I was reminded of it my the newsletter
from my favorite Grill Girl, Elizabeth Carmel.

She had sent out the recipe for " Pig Brittle" this month.

Kate and I were going to blog about Pork again this weekend and I was doing the Bacon Brittle.. and she is doing a Bacon and Prune Tart.

I used the Peanut Brittle recipe from Fanny Farmer in an old copy that is falling apart I brought with me when I moved here in 1984,
the sugar-coated pages are the sign of my weakness.. or passion for desserts!
I make what I call " Croccante Piccante" for the holidays, spicying up the peanut brittle with some chili pepper.
So I left out the peanuts, added the bacon.. and chili pepper.

To me this Bacon Brittle give me the same pleasure as when my sausage or bacon hits the maple syrup from the pancakes or waffles on my breakfast plate, a dish that makes my Italian husband cringe!
But he goes for Bacon Brittle in a big way!

lovely crispy bits of smoked bacon in a spicy brittle... hold the peanuts for me!

But man doesn't live by sweets or Pork, alone...and the vegetables in the market call out to celebrate Spring

This still life inspired a dish from Lucca called Garmugia

A Spring Stew from Lucca- Garmugia

Artichokes, trimmed and cut into 6th's
Fava beans, shelled
Asparagus, I use the delicate tips and part of the stem
Tiny shelled peas
New "green" garlic, only the white part, sliced thin
pancetta ( Italian aged pork belly, an unsmoked bacon)
olive oil

Cut the pancetta into thin strips.
Saute in pan with sliced garlic.
Add the prepared vegetables.

Lightly sprinkle with salt.
Stir to mix and add a cup of water.

Let stew until cooked.

Italians love the veggies, really cooked.
I think that the "over-cooking" is really the secret to the meatiness of the flavor of this dish!
Sometimes it is served really soupy on top of toasted bread as a first course.

Celebrate the arrival of Spring...
Celebrate Daylight Savings time...
Celebrate the Equinox.....

Celebrate Florentine New Year.....

or anything

Just Celebrate Life!

and if you want to keep celebrating the HOG!
go back and see our SOME PIG Blogging Event from last year

and if you want to cook with us this summer, stay tuned for more info on our

March 19, 2007

Organic Florence- Sunday Market- Good Kitchen Karma

The third Sunday of the month in Florence is the Fierucola in Piazza Santo Spirito, crossing over the arno... to the oltr'arno.... or as they say here Dilladarno.

This is a wonderful place to shop, picking up home-grown items such as honey, plants, herbs, pasta, cheese, wool items, soaps and whatever these creative people can produce on their farms. Most come from near Florence, having escaped the city rush for the peace of the countryside.

I see many of my Chianti friends here which saves me the drive out and is a one stop shopping for me:
herbs from Pierre

and from Duccio

What about products with hemp???

My friend Genny ( Gennaro) carries, pasta, chocolate, oil and nice purses. Feels like I am back in San Francisco!

Some frivolous stands such as vintage hats

I use these markets to source out new places to visit on my tours, products to suggest to my market boys to carry and all around good karma in the kitchen.

There is such a important link in connecting what we eat to how it is produced
and who produces it.

In America there are many small farm's now working together to preserve this tradition.
I recently found a fabulous source for beans in California Rancho Gordo
and when I wrote to him to complement him on his line of products, up coming book etc, we found out we had already met in Florence in the late 80's!

Support you local growers...

Kitchen Karma!

still life in Florence

March 16, 2007

Is it Spring??? Spring it is....

We are all still in shock over the lack of winter and spring popping up everywhere.

There are warnings for snow this weekend!

My garden is amazing me daily...

wild borage with is prickly leaves great in salads tasting like cucumber
and the electric blue flowers as a garnish or served floating in a soup.

Last year's bulbs which never showed up, this year the first fresia has popped out.

A simple salad of tiny fava beans with day old Marzolino
March's gift to us through the young spring greens the sheep eat
turned into a fresh cheese with a fabulous tang.

Red sky at night, sailors delight

March 10, 2007

Winter Greens to Spring Salads

Winter tiptoed through Tuscany, barely chilling us and Spring has snuck in.

My tiny yards, front and back, are covered with wild violets, filling the air with a profume like a grandmother's hankie!

Iris have started to stick their heads up, yellow mimosa trees also are full early this year.

The hills are a velvet green and the wheat has just gotten long enough to bow in the wind, creating an ocean effect here in the countryside. Today, the wind was so strong that it sounded like the Pacific Ocean crashing along the shores, as it bent the secular cypress trees surrounding my house.

Our electricity is also bouncing off and on, but the wind clears out the clouds and the light is so incredible now, a few minutes without electricity are a small price to pay.
Hopefully those minutes will not turn to hours!

One of winter's gifts to us are the greens for salads and blood oranges.
Put them together on a plate and you have one of my favorite dishes.

At today's market, rather barren due to huge winds, we bought some beautiful salad greens with three kinds of baby radicchio, tiny kale and some other delicate plants

Blood oranges and fennel are a traditional salad served on their own with some thinly sliced sweet red onions and drizzled with peppery extra virgin olive oil.

I like to serve it on my salad, enriching an already wonderful mouthfull of flavors!


From the Central Market this week for class, we had the first peas, slowly stewed with new green garlic and olive oil. One of my clients calls this peas boiled in oil, but gobbles them up with a spoon!

The other fabulous veggie which has just arrived is the round zucchini for stuffing!
I think that my be next on my list of dishes to cook.

What do you think?

March 7, 2007

Market leftovers- turnip greens

Saturday's Turnips from the market, had such beautiful greens, I followed Roberto's advice and cooked them twice.
This is quite common for any leafy green in Tuscany.

Overcooking by boiling in salted water, tenderizes even the toughest stems.

Draining the greens and squeezing out all of the water and creating little balls is the base that often you can find in the market, ready for the second cooking, which then gives the greens their fabulous flavor that makes even kids eat them!

Twice cooked greens - Tuscan style

Finely chop the boiled greens.

Cover the bottom of a saute' pan with extra virgin olive oil
Add sliced garlic. I don't mince the garlic as it burns quickly, the trick of putting the garlic in cold oil also helps prevent burning.

Once the garlic is golden, slide the chopped greens into the pan and stir to flavor.

Salt to taste.

In restaurants and trattorias in town you often see Spinaci all piacere.. as you like.. which means you can chose from
all'olio, with oil, aglio olio e peperincino- garlic, olive oil and chili pepper or all'agro- which is with oil and lemon.
All done in the second cooking.

Often I also add chili pepper flakes to this, especially when I can then use it as as a pasta sauce , Puglia style!

Orecchiette con greens

Broccoli rabe, turnip greens or kale are all great for this sauce.

Traditionally anchovies are also heated in the oil to give even another layer of flavor!

March 3, 2007

Market to Table- Certaldo- Concetta's Pasta

During the week, I teach cooking downtown Florence using the Central Market, San Lorenzo, as my base. Inspired by the seasonal ingredients, I lead my students into the secrets of Tuscan recipes and lifestyle.

I call myself an Italian life coach.

It is not easy to learn how to be Italian. I made lots of mistakes at first, as all newbies do.
Quickly corrected by all those around me, I now pass-on what I have learned.
Recipes are only part of it!
But since I teach cooking, that is where I begin.
Never drink cappucino after you have had your first class of wine
Never put cheese on pasta with fish or spicy sauce
Never drink milk if you have a cold
Never walk around with wet hair
Never touch the fruit or vegetables in a market... unless you see everyone doing it!

But when I am off, it is the market that teaches me lessons I pass on to my students.
The weekly market in a town, is not just for buying food, but for catching up

Today we went to the village market in Certaldo. It is rather small, a few fruit and vegetable vendors and one fish vendor.

I have adopted Francesca as one of MY vendors, loving her recipes so much. She also sells what she grows instead of just reselling from the larger wholesale market. I can take notes on what is in season, by just looking at her baskets, laden with what, hours before, was in the ground.

Today her dad was there with her. What a character.

I asked if I could take dad's fotograph after I had shopped and he broke into conversation, letting me know he was from Trapani, Sicily and brought Francesca to Certaldo when she was only 16 months old.
Now I need to get invited to the farm!

Their stand laden with fabulous salad greens, a rare radicchio with tiny thin leaves another light green looking like a rose, tiny baby wild kale and new red onions so thin we eat them raw, dipped in extra virgin oil and sea salt.

My friend Kate in France and I often find ourselves blogging about the same things at the same time. When one is really in-sync with the seasons and our adopted families at the markets, it happens.

In her market blog today, Kate wrote about the economics of the market. I had not begun to blog, as I was already in the kitchen with my huge bunches of what I believe to be turnips which I also could not turn down at the incredible price of 1 Euro!

As I was leaving the market, I spotted a small Ape, the typical three wheeled truck most of the older men drive in the countryside, filled with small baskets of veggies.

The owner of the truck was chit-chatting with his friends and I had to drag him away to ask about the turnips.

He quickly saw a sale, and grabbed a huge bunch, tied together with the thin branches of the young scotch broom plants. The one large bunch I wanted then became three bunches.
Too much, I protested! But for 1 euro…. Let it be!

He gave me recipes how to prepare them, “peel the “ beets,” as he called them, like a potato and boil them.”

“Don’t throw away the greens, boil them too and then sauté in olive oil together.”

And so I did.
Lunch tomorrow will include Roberto’s twice cooked turnip green’s and I will oven roast the turnips I boiled today to give them a crisp outside crust.

As I was shopping I also ran into Metello, the man who sold me the “fixer-upper” we bought here in the hills outside Certaldo. Retired from his own business of producing shoes and belts, a man to not rest, when he is not tending to his vineyards or olive orchards, he cna be found painting in his studio near my house.
I am always surprised to find out about the secret life's of friends!

He always wants to know what I am making for lunch and what I teach. Then he procedes to give me a recipe that he wants me to teach. Recipes have been passed on by word of mouth, never written down for generations. As the newer generations seem to lean towards fast food and frozen food I have taken it upon myself to write down all the recipes people tell me.
This is the school of life!

Today’s lesson is:
Nonna Concetta’s Egg Spaghetti

Concetta Vincanelli lived in the house that I now live in.
I hope she approves of how it turned out

Per person:
1 hard boiled egg (needless to say in the countryside, they have their own free range chickens which eat corn and have a fabulous rich yellow yolk with flavor!)

80 grams of thick spaghetti ( about 2 1/2 ounces) this is a typical portion for a first course, but with this pasta I had a hard time finishing mine.

QB ( quanto basta, or as much as you need) Salt & Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil ( the best you can afford)

Cook the spaghetti in salted water. This gives it more flavor.
Thick spaghetti takes about 10 minutes, and is more filling than the thinner cappellini.

Take the hard boiled egg from the shell, and slice it into a serving bowl.

Break the egg up with a fork and add salt, pepper and olive oil until it forms a cream.

Drain the spaghetti and add to the boil with the egg and toss until the pasta is covered with the egg sauce.
If it seems to dry, add a little more oil.
( Never shake all of the water off your pasta as it acts as part of all sauces).

Do not serve with cheese. ( one of the biggest life lessons in all of Italy is which pasta sauces you use cheese with and which it is forbidden!)

You can add some more black pepper on top.

This is a poor man’s carbonara to me but with cooked eggs instead of raw.

I love egg salad sandwiches, and stuffed hard boiled eggs.
If I wanted to make this richer, I would add some capers as I do to my stuffed hard boiled eggs, or even pancetta like for the carbonara.

When pork products and cheese were precious commodities, they did without. The people who work the land where I live all remember the war and what it was like to not have food, and treat all the food they produce with respect.

Grazie mille, Metello, Francesca and Roberto.
School was never this much fun!