December 23, 2007

I wish you a .....




to share it with

I have always heard about the dinner of the seven fishes
for Christmas Eve dinner
But never known anyone who makes it.

My friends coming for lunch on Christmas day
also requested fish
but only select fish
Mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari

so this year's menu for our Christmas lunch is

Homemade Springrolls
( I wanted something non-traditional)

Seafood lasagna
Penne al cartoccio
( seafood ragu then baked in the oven)

Sauteed Clams and Mussels
'Mpepata di Cozze
garlic, olive oil, chili, white wine and black pepper

Fried Calamari and Shrimp

Oven Roasted mixed Vegetables

made by our friend David

Mandarine Sorbet!

Thank God we are going light!

I also have a couple of treasures from Sicily that I am going to use.
I bought some dried fish in Trapani...

an Octopus

and Tuna Tripe!

Pictures will come !!!

A more traditional meal would also have a seafood salad, perhaps a soup

a whole roasted fish and a poached fish
each with it's own vegetable,
often Insalata Russa,
boiled potatoes, carrots and peas held together with Mayonaise

at Eataly in Torino the selection for fish soup

already boned and cleaned anchovies to marinate in lemon juice and oil

octopus calamari, "ciuffi" just the legs!, and whole fish for roasting

hanging up are the spatole, a scary looking fish which I adore!
boned rolled stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest and chili, then grilled
sicilian style.

This is the Christmas sweet I bought for my husband
who loves meringues

Buon Natale

December 20, 2007

Week in Chianti -$10

Hard to believe but true!
All it takes is $10 for a raffle ticket for a chance to win a week in Chianti.

With a mini Camp Cassoulet thrown in.
Kate Hill from Gascony brings Cassoulet to Tuscany.
Perhaps you will win both the Tuscan Week and Kate's Cassoule!

From pig to pork, it will be a fabulous week!

Stop by and bid for our week!

Thanks for giving!

and because we are in the holiday season
here is one of my old posts about my favorite cookie
Riccarelli from Siena

isn't that worth a $10 donation?
Pretend it is a class!

There are some incredible gifts being offered, some will be shipped to your home.
others from America with events, meals, tours
Give yourself a little present under the tree!

or your friends and family!

Even if you don't win the raffle, you have won by feeding kids in Africa
and giving then a future.

Happy Holidays.

December 10, 2007

Menu for Hope IV

Christmas is filled with crazy moments of shopping frenzy, parties, food, wine and gift giving.

Take a minute, a deep breathe and stop by Chez Pim our Princess Blogger and learn about how you can give a little and help a lot.
Her site includes all the information on bidding on your dreams.
There are some real once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

This is the 4th Menu for Hope, organized by Pim with the help of bloggers all over the world.

It is easy to help. The Menu for Hope is a huge raffle,
prizes donated by bloggers and foodies world wide!

The list of prizes is here
Check back often as new prizes are being added.

Bid on our priceless experience

A Five day
Cooking with Fire School

in Chianti, Tuscany
June 30- July 5 2008

each ticket is $10, the more tickets the better your change at winning the raffle!

What happens when two transplanted American cooks meet at a wood-fired oven in Tuscany? Sparks fly and the heat is on!

A week of wood-fired ovens, artisan pork, and the best butchers in Tuscany inspired by two cooks who love meat and the artisans who produce it.

Judy of Divina Cucina join forces with her soul sister Kate of the French Kitchen and grill, roast, stuff and bake in a wood-fired Tuscan oven celebration in Chianti.

Tuscan Cooking Diva, Judy Witts

Barge Captain and Cassoulet Queen, Kate Hill

Join us at the grill and wood-burning oven in creating some fabulous Tuscan & Gascon specialties.

Carnivorous grill girls, butcher babes and BBQ boys are welcome!

Package includes room and board June 30 to July 5th
( Monday to Friday , departure on Saturday July 5th)

The program includes dinner at SoloCiccia, Dario Cecchini's restaurant in Panzano, as well as visits to other artisans, wineries, hands on cooking classes with fabulous food and wine.

Classes held in Panzano in Chianti in the heart of Tuscany.

To bid click here: First Giving
Include the amount and code EU30

Each ticket for the raffle is $10 so if you want 5 tickets it is $50 5xEU30
Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice.
For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02.

Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

It is all explained at the end of the prize list

Fanny at FoodBeam is coordinating the Europeans and listing the European prizes.
If you have something to donate for the auction let her know.

You can also just donate to the cause through First Giving link.

This years recipient is the United Nations World Food Program
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children,
in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries.
WFP -- We Feed People.

Give the gift that keeps on giving!
Here is Pim's foto album of the Lesothos
Who we are supporting with this years Menu for Hope.

Feed the children and provide a future.

Cooking with Fire in Lesothos

Traditional metal cooking pot outside the house of Thonla Temane in the mountains of Lesotho. The pot is used to cook the staple food, pap (cornmeal porridge). The white maize (corn) that is used was distributed by WFP. He is 38 years old and lives with his wife and 8 children in the village of Thalangbacha close to the town of Qachaís Nek in the mountains of south eastern Lesotho. Until the end of 2006, he was working most of the time in South Africa's gold mines. But he grew too sick to work and lost his job. Still too weak to work and with no fields, no cows and only a few chickens, Thonla and his family now rely on WFP food assistance for their survival.
( from Pim's Flkr album)

The raffle is from December 10-21
and the winner's will be announced
January 9th at Chez Pim.

December 9, 2007

Sunday Lunch- Dario Cecchini's Officina

Dario giving a lesson at the Officina

Dining at Dario's is always an experience.

What began as shopping with snacks,
turned into SoloCiccia restaurant
across the street
and now the
Officina della Bistecca
above the shop.

Can you say PARTY?

Neither cold, nor rain nor sleet
will keep clients from coming to Panzano in Chianti to
worship at this temple of beef!

Sunday morning on a slow, wet, windy, winter "off -season" day

Off season, most of Chianti closes down to reopen around Easter.
Days like today, dark cold rainy winter days,
call out to gourmets to head out for a great meal!

We were finally going to try Dario's new "steak school"
Officina della Bistecca.

"Students" are told to come on time, and hungry.

When you walk in and see the huge pieces of beef they have ready for the "class"
even the heartiest of eaters is amazed.

Solociccia across the street offers a mixed meal from antipasto to dessert
in a more classic fashion.

The "Officina" is all about STEAK.

Florence is famous for the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a 2 lb t-bone steak with filet.
Dario also serves the Costata, rib-eye,
and follow up with his own cut,
called the Panzanese, cut from the Rump.

Today as an appetizer... to tease the appetite, we began with what is called
a rare cut of beef,( only two per cow)
filled with "webs" of fat, grilled to a perfect rare
but as with all of Dario's meat, not bloody!

Sharing the table at Dario's is always a pleasure
and enriches the soul
as much as the food feeds the body!

We met people from Parma, Venice, Florence and America.
A true cultural exchange.

Steak 101- Cecchini's way

Hungry Students

Steak 101 - A+

Officina della Bistecca

December 1, 2007

Let the holidays begin!

Last week I attended one of the events at the
San Lorenzo Market in Florence,
which closed the season on this new initiative,
opening the market for dinner parties at night.

It was a little too cold, inside the market at night
but the warm broth with tortellini was perfect to warm the atmosphere.
We started with a cheese fonduta with truffles
followed by the broth with tortellini

then a boiled beef dinner, of about 6 different cuts of meat,
with sauces and pickled vegetables
ending with Tiramisu!

Needless to say wine flowed and live music kept us in the party mood.
Since this is my husbands favorite Christmas meal, it opened the season for us.

Here's to the next series of dinners in 2008!

Let me know if you want to come.

The best part was a painting I bought

Here it is with a fabulous statue of Botticelli's Venus.
It is the view from my window a perfect gift to myself.

Merry Christmas to me.

Here in Italy December 8th is the opening of the holiday season.
The Immaculate Conception.

It is usually a long weekend as it is a national holiday.
As time goes on, and Italy is now becoming more and more like America,
Walking downtown in most large cities is the same anywhere.

Gucci, Pucci, Louis Vuitton and off the main drag
Footlocker, Disney Store and Blockbuster.

Yes, Mc Donalds is here too, can Starbucks be far behind?

But my favorite shopping is not downtown,
I wait for small fairs in villages celebrating anything!

Today in Colle Val d'Elsa not far from where I live in Certaldo
I read in the paper about a mercatino ( usually small flea market) for the holidays
and a Chocolate Fair!
OK.... Love chocolate, love flea markets, I am there.

Well, thank goodness it wasn't so far away.
The mercatino was a few stands of crafts for the holidays
and never mind the chocolate, again a few stands of small more commercial producers
riding on the shirt tails of those who have given chocolate a good name here in Italy.

The best was the small nativity show under the loggia of the main square
which is being torn up right now.

It was a lovely example of the way a family sets up the creche scenes.
Most include the whole village.

including the pizza maker.

Although not traditional, I loved this as an art piece
and will make one of my own.

There were some cute products, but nothing I needed, until I saw


Now that is my kind of gift!
Since Kate and I did our presentation on Saints Preserve Us
for IACP in Seattle
and we worked on our Pig blog
I have been inspired to keep on researching fabulous farms raising their own pigs.

Here is Tuscany we have the Cinta Senese, like a saddleback, raised outdoors
eating chestnuts acorns and the meat is absolutely the BEST, including the fat.

So now I have another great connection for prosciutto and all the other products.
We especially loved the aged arista she had, which I had not seen before here.
The cut is the same as for roast pork, but aged like prosciutto, it melted in my mouth
and with the peppery finish, was perfect with wine.

This is when you love the unsalted Tuscan bread, to balance of the salami's.

The simple things is life are the best.

I wish you the BEST for 2008.