April 29, 2007

Keep on Fava'ing

So with Fava beans being so good for you.. I went in search of more recipes.

Josh and The Food Section is always a great resource and Grilled Fava Beans are a a great idea, perfect timing for the season. The recipe is from another Judy..... at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. a Temple to food.

I am also going to try making the Pugliese recipes using Fava Beans...Capriata
they cook the dried beans with or without potatoes and then puree them into a soup serving with boiled and then sauteed chicory, sweet and bitter together, serve topped with extra virgin olive oil and a loaf of fabulous bread.
Puglia is called the Bread Basket of Italy, it produces tons of wheat and incredible vegetables,

But I really liked the Garbanzo bean soup topped with hand made tagliatelle in the soup, another twist on pasta and fagioli, but then garnishing it with the same pasta fried.
Pure Genius! I am going to try the same thing with the fava puree I have left over, add liquid and make it a soup.

that's on the menu later today!

April 28, 2007

Market lunch

Fresh Fava Beans

The one problem with cooking with the seasons, is that there are only certain foods at certain times of the year, and at some point you may get tired of them. But Italians are very creative, and so I was inspired again today to continue cooking with Fava Beans.
The hills are planted with them to recharge the Earth's batteries, with Azote ( vitamin B),
so I am sure it is good for me too!

When the fava beans are young and tender, primizie, when they first appear at the markets there is no need to cook them. The beans are served in the pods in a basket on the table with forms of fresh creamy white pecorino cheese.

Todays market basket, fresh fava beans and radishes.

also in the market were thin new florentine zucchini, with their blossoms
They are ridged and full of flavor.

Today's lunch, water buffalo mozzarella with fresh fava puree

To make the puree
Parboil the shelled fava beans for 4 minutes in salted boiling water.
Puree with extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
grated pecorino or parmesan cheese.
Think of it as a Tuscan hummus
( now I need to make Pita Bread!)

Fabulous served on toast or with cheese as I did.
Tomorrow the leftovers maybe a pasta sauce!

Artichoke update
It is growing very quickly and at the base of this artichoke are two smaller ones.
this may also be lunch tomorrow.
Someone said it may be the morellino variety, which is often eat raw
as Carpaccio or Pinzimonio

Pinzimonio is an Italian way of eating raw veggies
each person prepares their small bowof extra virgin olive oil
seasoned to taste with salt , pepper is if you like it.

The cleaned and prepared vegetables are then dipped in the seasoned oil.

When you have the best ingredients.. there is nothing to hide in sauces!

What's coming next?

Today I picked up an Eggplant plant ( far left) and two strawberry plants.

Tomorrow flea marketing!

April 26, 2007

Over the Tuscan Grill

Cool breezes and warm days over this Italian holiday weekend call out for the BBQ.
Tuscans love to grill!

The air is just lightly scented with the first Acacia blossoms and smoke from the farmers burning off the cuttings from the olive trees, preparing for summer's heat.

Most homes have small fireplaces in the house to provide heat, but also a space for cooking.
Wood is the favorite source of combustion, and there is lots of it here.

This June my friend Kate and I are heating it up in Chianti with a series of day classes, featuring PIG.. in all forms, and HEAT.

Of course Dario will be involved.. as he is the King of Chianti.

So a slow holiday seemed a great time to light up!

Heating the BBQ, I threw some whole garlic cloves in the ashes to cook.

Chicken... Alla Diavolo.. with chili and black pepper

a couple if sweet peppers, roasted along side then sweated and peeled

It was smelling like Mexico

So what is a grill girl to do..
run into the house and make tortilla's!

There are none in my area of Chianti!

Fajita's Tuscan Style!

All I was missing was the Cerveza!

April 23, 2007

Market Recipes- Polpo- Octopus Salad

Saturday's market also includes the fish truck.
Although Italy is surrounded by water, fish is still considered to be an expensive item.

Dried fish such as Baccala, the salt cod, is often the fish of choice.

Even on the Island of Ischia, the local specialty is rabbit.. not fish.
Fishermen sell the fish to make money and eat what they can produce on the land.

Other fish that are popular are the less expensive squid and octopus, which I adore.

I used to hate the rubbery versions I was served.
What people don't know is that it is either a very quick cook, or long lengthy cooking. If it is rubbery.. you need to cook it longer and it will get tender again.

When I was in Greece I remember the freshly caught octopus being beaten against the rocks and then thrown on the grill, served with bottles of Ouzo or Retsina.
AHH. I wish I was there right now.

So often when I see octopus in the market, it takes me on vacation.

In Italy, we often get frozen octopus, thawed sold in the markets.
Freezing the octopus does the same thing that beating it against the rocks did in Greece, it breaks down the muscle and tenderizes the meat.

the thawed frozen octopus

The recipe I was given, ( I ALWAYS ASK), was to boil the octopus in unsalted water for an hour, with some white wine vinegar.

after boiling, changes color!

I did as I was told and then made a simple salad, using the first green tomatoes,
new red onions sold in scallion form and the octopus cut into bite-size pieces.
Dress with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

Summer on a plate!

April 22, 2007

Celebrate Earth Day

Happy Earth Day... do something nice for your earth.. it is the only one you have!

Here are some idea's... and for the kids
and more ideas

I planted.. what are you doing?

April 21, 2007

Inspired by Spring

From my garden.. my first artichoke is coming up!

olives just forming

the green hills of spring around my house

my California poppies, bringing in a little sunshine from home

this lucky ladybug-bearing plant is a vine..
with the newly formed bunches of grapes for fall's wine

warm weather light lunch
paper-thin slices of raw beef, carpaccio, topped with wild arugala, capers, lemon juice and zest from a wonderful lemon from Amalfi, and shave parmigiano reggiano Riserva ( 4 years old)
sprinkled with sea salt from Trapani and extra virgin olive oil from my neighbors!

My mantra is to spend more time shopping and less time cooking.

When you have great ingredients, you really just need to let them sing out!

Celebrate Spring!

April 16, 2007

Let the party begin!

spring is in the air!

Sunday at the Macelleria Cecchini

black olives in orange

herb filled roast pork

our table at Dario's

This week both my friend Beatrice and I celebrate out birthdays... so we went to Dario Cecchini's SoloCiccia Sunday for lunch to start celebrating!

We went early to catch some of the Sunday Market action, see the vintage car rally drive by and just relax!

Our table was not in the new restaurant space but in the lower part of the butcher shop.

Solociccia sits you with other people and service is family style.

We were lucky to have a group of young sicilian's that live and work in Florence

and a group from bologna that is opening a new restaurant....right near the Arena del Sole the theater.

the chef, ( from guatemala but in Bologna since he was three!!!)
can't get more Bolognese than that!

Da Pietro.. dinner only!
via Falegnami, 18
telefono 051.230644

They open today!!!
I will be going up soon to try it.
I adore Bologna!

I always make new friends at Dario's which is why I go anytime I can.
I actaully ended up going from client to staff at a certain point.
From shopping .. to girl Friday, cashier, cook, catering.
My husband and I worked with Dario for 2 years.

If you know Dario, that is like 5 years for anyone normal!

our menu at Solociccia

Pinzimonio ( raw veggies with EVO and Profumo del Chianti)

Fritto do Macellaio
fried breaded pork, friend meatballs, fried sage, fried red onions

Crostini di Sugo all'uso di Natale
Small toasts , dipped in Broth ( xmas style) with ragu

Schiacciata con Burro di Chianti
flatbread made with Dario's herbed lard

Arrosto Fiorentino
Marinated Roast Beef

Tenerumi in Insalata
Cold salad of boiled Tendons ( yummy!)

Brasata al midollo
Braised meat with shallots and Vin Santo

Fagioli all'olio
Tuscan white beans with oil

Torta all'olio
House cake made with oil ( LIGHT!!!!)

After dinner digestives.. from the Army distillery!

30 euro

Reservations a must... no corkage on bringing your own bottles!

April 11, 2007

Market day Certaldo ( wed)

Mr Cipriani

My little village Certaldo has two market days.

Wednesday is the larger day when they close down the main road around town by the pool, and have a huge market, the kind with clothes, food, housewares and plants.
It was fun to be off work and catch up on town action and gossip.
Today we were inspired by the Cipriani Brother's stand, a gastronomia, where one buys cheese, salami's and they also specialize in dried fish, quite popular in Florence area, being so far from the sea, Bacala, salt cod, arringa, herring, and both anchovies and salted sardines acchiughe e sarde, to be soaked and then packed in oil.
Great with a gottino of wine!
( shot glass)

no shopping lists.. let the market speak!
hand-cut prosciutto

Mr Cipriani

salt-cured Sicilian anchovies

fresh and aged pecorino cheese ( sheep's milk) and parmesan

fresh fava beans


Sicilian bread with sesame seeds
marinated herring
two kinds of salad greens
fresh red onions
raw sausage.. to eat raw!
( only when FRESH and in Tuscany!)


Art in Florence

From our table inside Mario's looking out at the never-ending line!

The Art of Dining in Florence can be of the highest levels.

Yesterday at Mario's was one of those days.
I have taken most of April off to work on selfpublishing my cookbook with more notes and recipes for sale to the public and came into Florence yesterday to pay rent ( you have to go in person to the bank, or post office to pay.. no checks in the mail!)

So that takes a morning.. as a reward, we went to Mario's for lunch.

Yesterday was a fabulous menu.. which deserved a fabulous wine.

Castello di Ama 2001
Mario's although a trattoria has an incredible wine cellar

Although by all appearances, Trattoria Mario's ( actually outside it says Fiaschetteria, which means they started off selling wine " fiaschi" are the old wine flashes, covered in straw)

The food was so good, I forgot to fotograph it!

but we had pasta with ragu, Romeo's version is one of the BEST!

Followed by roast kid, young goat... WOW.

There is something about a restaurant stove, the timing, the heat that turned the meat into a miracle!

If I were to cook it at home, it would never turn out as well as it does here.
I think that they cook many meats together and add some broth to create moisture and steam while cooking.

Also a long slow cooking is so much better, releasing all the fats, crisping up the skin!

Mario's was packed yesterday, ok, it is always packed!

As those who know me know... one of my favorite pasttimes in Italy is eavesdropping, the guy sitting behind me was on his cell phone betwee courses, telling his friends where he was, what he was eating, how many people were there, sort of a play-by -play of dining at Mario's.
He was so moved by it..and wanted everyone to know about his discovery!

Then he started with those at his table, also from out of town, finding out how they heard about Mario's.

Hard to believe that a place that has been open over 50 years in the same family.. is still being Discovered!

It is great to see it adding on to the family, now that Francesco is also there, the family is going on to another generation!

After lunch I met with my nephew Ben, who is studying here in Florence this semester, to help him arrange for a tattoo ( isn't that want aunts are for?).
We ran into a friend of mine Paolo Favi.

If you saw Paolo at his old shop selling jeans, you would never know he was a famous artist.
I am lucky enough to know..and be his friend.

Paolo is part of an important art moviment in Florence, that was with Vinicio Berti and others.

this is a part of one of his projects, documenting history, he is holding a copy of a book dedicated to Charles Schultz.

He has now shut down the shop and invited us to his studio, where we views some of his projects and heard tales from the past.

more of the collection of his "books"

His book of Pinocchio, illustrated by 5 artists of his " movement" is in the MOMA in New York.
the made the book pointed, representing Pinocchio's nose..and hat!

On days like yesterday... I am a very lucky person!
and so is Ben.. Paolo gave us each a painting.
Mine is the Pinocchio wearing Fiorucci jeans ( Paolo is a friend of Mr Fiorucci) and Ben got a piece inspired by the 9/11.

April 4, 2007

The Big Scoop!

The Big Scoop is out.... David L's new book The Perfect Scoop has been released!

Filled with incredible recipes for not only ice cream, gelato, sorbet and granita but also toppings, what David calls "vessels" to serve your ice cream in such as crepes profiterols etc and a wild selection of things to stir in when the ice cream is done!

Although in Italy I have no reason to make my own ice cream, I am seriously considering buying a machine to try some of his fabulous recipes.

If David's dream is to be a glacier... I am there in a heartbeat!
I can immagine him behind the counter, like in the film Chocolat, telling you which gelato you are!

I was also very honored to have been a muse for 2 of the recipes...
My Sicilian Watermelon Granita became an incredibly beautiful popsicle foto in the book, serving it as a sorbet not a granita.
( David I want the molds!) and he recreated a recipe for one of my favorites from Chianti, the Pecorino cheese and Pear Ice Cream.

You can buy directly from David's site or better yet buy the book at one of his classes in the states in June or a book signing!
Here is his calendar

I read through the whole book twice as soon as it arrived and you will too!
The beautiful foto's will have you drooling.
I can immagine how sticky the pages are going to get with the egg yolks and sugar on them like my best pastry books.
I think I will fotocopy the pages to cook from instead.

Thank you David... you have made out lives all a bit sweeter!

April 3, 2007


I was just interviewed last night by Leslie of Girl About Town.
She was just recently in Florence and I took her to some of my favorite places.
Listen to the show!

April 1, 2007

Pesce di Aprile and Palm Sunday

Often in Italy holidays collide.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday and the locals all went to church... to get not palms, but olive branches. So is it Olive Sunday?

It happens to coincide with the trimming of the olive trees for the season, topping them off to be easier to harvest in winter.

It is also April 1.. in Italy pesce di Aprile...

april fools, so it is rather appropriate I found this lovely fish mold at the newly established Festa di Boccaccio, a market for Boccaccio, author of the Decameron who was born in Certaldo.

At the market I found other treasures too, like this woven heart, unfinished from this artisan from Scandicci. The reeds used for weaving the heart are from the Salice plant, weeping willows, the white ones have been cleaned of the dark outside bark.

The reeds are also used to tie up the vines , preparing then for the season.
Nothing goes to waste in the countryside.

Spring has been saved, no snow hit us in the Val d'elsa Valley,
my neighbor's cherry is blossoming

I saw my first red poppies in the fields below olive trees down the hill from me.
Usually these appear in June!

a quick light lunch on a sunny spring day...

aglio olio e peperoncino.. with a touch of tomato