November 21, 2007

Twisting Thanksgiving- Tuscan Style

Salami for dessert??

Living in foreign countries changes your prospective on everything.
When I moved here in 1984, I brought my American traditions with me to share with my new Italian friends.

To show that an American could cook, I took out all the stops and threw Thanksgiving dinner, of course on a more sensible night, like Saturday.

I cooked and cooked for three days straight, having to run scavanger-hunt style shopping techniques to source out ingredients, then, not normally available.

Some foods just did not exist, like cranberries, but red currants did.
American style ham for baking..NO.. boil my own then bake it.
Chicken wings.... for cat's... so having my butcher cut and prepare them for me.
Canned pumpkin for pie.. no..

Over the years, I adapted to a Tuscan thanksgiving.

My pumpkin is the appetizer, not the pie.
Grilled and marinated with garlic, olive oil and chili pepper.
But what about a savory pumpkin flan to start?

Or Pumpkin soup , topped with crushed amaretto cookies, and parmesan
the flavors in the pumpkin filled ravioli's from Mantova.

For dessert instead of pumpkin pie, I do a fun chard pie, Torta alle erbe, from Lucca.

In Lucca they create spikey thick crust, Torta coi Becchi

Substitute boiled swiss chard for cooked pumpkin this year!

For this recipe I chopped 2 cups of cooked chard
and added
2 eggs beaten with 1/2 cup of sugar
add 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice and bake.

There are many versions of this tart, many with pine nuts and raisins added.
Some have rice and chocolate.

Next time I am going to add one more egg and some cream like for pumpkin pie,
making more if a sweet quiche.

The Italian pie crust, Pasta Frolla, is more like a cookie dough and melts in your mouth!

Pasta Frolla

I learned to make the pie crust with these percentages

300 grams of pastry flour/ 3 cups( white lily in America)
200 grams of sweet butter/ 6 ounces
100 grams sugar/ 1/2 cup
1 large whole egg and one yolk

I always think of this as making cookies sideways.

First you cut the butter and sugar into the flour.
I use my hands as I find it relaxing.

Once the dough looks like grated parmesan cheese or a fine crumble topping, add the whole egg and the yolk and squeeze the dough together quickly.

Let rest for 10 minutes and roll out.
It is a very soft and forgiving pie crust that is easy to use and incredible to eat!

Each Italian mamma here has her own version, with grated lemon zest, a 1/2 tsp baking powder, some milk. Each gives it a little twist!

Experiment and have fun.
They also vary the percentages.
Look in your cookbooks for Butter Cookies and Sugar Cookies.
Sugar cookies are crunchier due to the higher ratio of sugar;
butter cookies melt in your mouth!

Twist your thanksgiving up this year!

Salami Dolce- Sweet Salami
Salami dolce is a favorite with kids of all ages!

Love it served with some soft whipped cream and berries on the side.

6 ounces cookie crumbs
(best are small rectangular cookies called Marie in Italy, and Petite Beurre in the U.S.)
1/2 cup sugar
5 ounces melted butter
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the butter and let it cool.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until it resembles cake batter.
Add the melted butter and cocoa powder.
(And more cocoa powder if you want it really dark.)
Crush the cookies in a food processor or with a rolling pin, leaving some pieces a little larger than others so they resemble the fat in a salame.
Form a salame-like shape and roll it in aluminum foil. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm. Unwrap and slice. Serve with soft whipped cream and fresh berries.

November 17, 2007

Food Markets- Feast for your Eyes


I have always been drawn to food markets,
even before my professional foodie days.


Nice to know I am in good company!
Mimi sheratons article is a fabulous list
of where to see great markets.
For me they are always the place to catch a glimpse of the daily life
and to get tastes of real food of the culture.


I recall at the age of 20, being drawn to, and repulsed at the same time, to the market in Athens, the strong smells overwhelming my innocent American nose, heavily brined kalamata olives, strong sheeps cheese and raw meat.
Yet I was unable to resist going to the soup kitchen at the market late at night to join in elbow to elbow with locals at the counters digging in with relish to
hot bowls of soup, coming from the huge steaming pots.
The roasted sheeps heads and tripe were a little too much for my young American palate at the time, but try them I did.

The cinnamon rice pudding and the syrupy galaktobourika
I learned to make by sign language
in the basement of the "milk shop" in the Plaka near the market
are still imbedded in my food memory.

Little did I know back in 1973, that I would find myself in Florence 20 years later
still drawn to the markets and eating at the market stands,
now loving tripe sandwiches.

On a recent trip to Palermo, I am embarrased to say, we did not see any
museums, but I am proud to say I did see all three markets!
And I ate the street food set up in the piazza late at night
in the Vucceria. Incredible grilled meats.
If I had had more of an appetite, I would also have had some of the boiled octopus, a copper pot, a portable gas burner and a lovely serving dish.

I don't really think they have permits,
but was some of the best food I had in Palermo.


I will be going back to Sicily again soon to get more foto's and do research
for a foodie trip to Sicily for next October,
Palermo to Catania.
I will arrange to see some musuems this time.

Maialino- suckling pigs


November 11, 2007

Time to think


Being sick has a good side as well as the obvious down side.
Time where you feel so bad you have to just slow down and be sick but
staying inside also allows plenty of time to think.

Not being able to leave the house also gave me time to look back at old foto's on my computer and think about all the great places I have been, fun students I have had, fabulous food I have eaten and cooked, and more than anything,
DREAM about what is next!

More time to spend with friends

New teaching space

New programs

More time to travel

Time to write

Next year is 20 years of me teaching in Florence.
Time for special events,

If you want to receive updates on what is planned for 2008,
stop by my website and sign up for the newsletter.

I am planning the festivities now.
Join me!

November 10, 2007

Live !from Jasper's Kitchen with the Diva!

The show I taped with Jasper Mirabile when I was in Kansas City last July is being aired KCMO 710 Saturday at 11:00 ( Kansas City time)
and will be available on his podcast for listening to later!

I loved the Flat Jasper they have in the Hen House stores , where he does recipes for them, when I saw the Flat Jasper in the Restaurant

had to take a foto!


It is always the people that make a place special and I have met some special people in Kansas!

Looking forward to our Sicily trip with the Slow Food Convivium next October before the Salone del Gusto!

November 7, 2007

Clean the Fridge Cassoulet

summer cassoulet in Chianti with Kate

Following Kate’s lead on her Camp Cassoulet in Gascony, I was craving a Tuscan version.
Nothing says fall like beans and new oil, or sausage and beans.

finshed Tuscan cassoulet

But being bedridden, shopping was limited to the clean the refrigerator and pantry.

Found items:

1 bag cooked zolfini beans
1 can tomatoes
1 package Sardinian pasta Malloredus

Shopping ( sent hubby out!)
3 sausages

Rather like Iron Chef, creating something from nothing, ideas started flowing from my congested head.

  • Traditionally the Malloredus are sauced with a sausage and tomato ragu.
  • Tuscans do sausage and beans
  • Leftovers are often baked in the oven, mixed with b├ęchamel sauce and covered with Parmesan cheese to create a crust.

“Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven…”
the cassoulet concept was baked beans with pork, duck
and other luscious rib sticking ingredients.

I made a simple tomato and sausage ragu,
adding the zolfini beans, which I ate as a meal on it’s own,
saving some ragu for the baked version.

sausage ragu with zolfini beans

The Malloredus, are a dry pasta from Sardegna,considered a gnocchi.
I boiled them, drained them and left them to cool over night.

malloredus pasta with ragu

I made a thick b├ęchamel sauce, added the pasta, and then stirred in the ragu.
In restaurants this is often served as a first course in winter and is called “strascicata.”

Placing the pasta in a baking dish with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese on top, I cooked until the cheese created a golden crust and the sauce was boiling underneath.

Tuscan "cassoulet" inspired version

Not cassoulet,
not macaroni and cheese,
but totally heartwarming on a cool fall night.

Thanks Kate for the inspiration!
( and the cassoulet pot from this summer's class in Tuscany!)

November 6, 2007

Comfort food

I have been down and out with a bad case of bronchitis.

So instead of pleating dumplings in Shanghai with my mom, nephews and friends as planned,
I am bedridden.

Not sleeping.

Not hungry.

But feed a cold, starve a fever?

Here in Italy, I have adapted to what Italians feed a cold.

Instead of hot tea with honey, hot milk.

Instead of chicken soup, beef broth with Pastina!

I actually slept some last night and can almost breathe so today here is my lunch.

stelline in brodo

mele cotte

pavesini cookies, lighter than air.

Hope I feel better soon, fall food is my favorite!