February 16, 2008

Market inspired Menu's

For menu inspiration, I used to rummage through my cookbooks and magazines
creating involved menu's and then go shopping.Since moving to Italy I have learned a new way to plan menu's.

It makes so much more sense.

Immagine the scene;you have created a fabulous menu based on grilled salmon steaks, topped with a savory chili-mango salsa. The rest of the menu is based around the main course.Carefully creating your shopping list off to the market.
Everything has been bought for the menu and you head off to the fish counter 
to pick up the salmon last.


Go to the market and talk to your purveyor who adores you,(must have been those brownies you brought him last week!) and ask what is fresh.
He will grab the best, freshest fish and not only clean it for you 
( here in Italy, fresh fish is right off the boat, still whole with innards and all)
but often also give you a recipe how to prepare it.
It is all about FRESH and LOCAL.
Nothing can beat the flavor of fresh, it speaks for itself.

Saturday is market day in Castelfiorentino, 
not far from Certaldo where I live.
We really did't need anything, but as my friend Kate says
Markets are "MEET" Markets, where one meets old and new friends, catching up on newsand for me I love shopping at the different villages too, seeing what different vendors have to offer.

Today we met two brothers from Sardegna, selling their specialties.
Although now living in Tuscany, they only sell cheeses, pasta, grappa and other wonderful products from Sardegna, not easily available here.

I picked up some Malloredus pasta, small dried gnocchi, and their homemade fresh sausage, flavored with Cannanou wine, some chili infused soft, fresh sheeps milk cheese and an older harder cheese for grating.

Inspired by them I will make a sausage sauce for the pasta, with the aged cheese grated on top. Then on our way out, we saw a stand with interesting greens 
tiny brussel sprouts and fennel plants.We bought the brussel sprouts.


I came home inspired!
lunch: baby brussel sprouts, sauteed with pancetta and garlic.

Next week will go back for some of the incredible salad greens.
I picked one bunch up and asked what it was....wild poppy greens! and his farm is right on the road to my house.

These are the people I want to meet!
O km food

Many of my friends in the restaurant business try to buy only local.
Within 30 km of the restaurant.
Respecting the seasons and respecting the atmosphere.
Using our cars less, trucking food in less.
Quality instead of quantity.
How can you miss!

pears roasted in red wine

Yesterday we picked up some Kaiser pears and some fresh prima sale pecorino cheese, a mild fresh but firm sheeps milk cheese.
In Tuscany pears and pecorino are a pairing made in heaven!

Oven baked pear, cooked in red wine and sugar served 
 with  grilled sheep's cheese, brown sugar and 12 year old balsamic glaze.

We also got some great local artichokes and cooked them like we had them in Livorno. The locals cook these tender artichokes, trimmed of the tough outside leaves, pointy tips trimmed off and stewed with garlic, olive oil, oregano and salt.
intense artichoke flavor.

Also picked up some sicilian produce, ( so much for the O km thing) 
eggplants and bell peppers and fresh young red onions from Tropea in Calabria.



I will serve them wrapped in prosciutto and grilled inspired by my visit to the Viucceria market in Palermo.


  1. Wild poppy greens! Wow! I would love to try them. We always cook our menus according to what is fresh at the market. Getting a simple recipe from the shopkeeper is a bonus. Oh, how I miss the days of small shops.
    A wonderful post,Diva :)

  2. What a wonderful entry about your Market! You have such a wealth of ingredients to inspire you. Here in the States our Farmers Markets are trying to get to that point. Here in Santa Barbara it used to be that we could only get vegetables but now more and more we're getting other local ingredients such as eggs, chicken, seafood and even cheeses. -Krista

  3. I love this post (and the one before, and the one before!). Isn't it wonderful that after 25 years in Italy there is still so much to inspire you? I get just as excited when I go to the markets in France.

  4. Love the red onions with Prosciutto. Great idea and wonderful market.