February 29, 2008

Market day- Colle Val D'Elsa- Friday

Colle Val D'Elsa, with old Colle on top of the Hill.

Going to Colle Val d'Elsa on Friday, market day, is one of my husband favorite things to do.
It is really one of the largets and most social of the weekly markets.

I found my mozzarella girl from Certaldo, now working at the Sicilian stand,
but still with her incredibly fresh mozzarella and Naples style bread.

Speaking with my friend Angela, a very creative jeweler in Colle,
she explained the history of all the "older guys"
hanging out in front of the Bar Centrale.

If you are looking at the bar, turn around and you will see Angela's incredible shop. Her rings are art pieces! This is me looking at the bar from Angela's.

What may appear to be a lot of guys with nothing to do,
this is the office and public meeting place
for the local farmers.
It is where all the deal go down!

They raise cows, pigs, horses and are
buying, selling and making deals;
all with a handshake.

This market stretches out from one end of the lower city to the other
and while the piazza is being redone, with fabulous black and white bricks
( we are in Siena province)

Also the upper parking lot is filled with vendors.

We usually just do the fresh fruit and vegetables and plants.

tiny onions plants, Vernina, the red onion from Certaldo, very sweet.
Vernina will be the winter harvested onion, Statina, the summer onion.
Inverno is winter, Estate is summer.

The market is the university of life!

But this market has it all!
Curtains, clothing , candy and live chickens.

Huge vans with roast meats, and fried foods.
Fresh fish, dried fish and food from Sicily.

Seeds and fresh plants for farmers and gardners alike

Colle Val d'Elsa is famous for it's crystal.
There is a interesting museum in town and shops everywhere.

Today's market lunch was inspired by the warm weather,
and these!
dislayed like long stemmed roses, the stems are an extension of the heart
and these violet artichokes are very tender.

stewed fresh artichokes, with garlic and olive oil, of course.

Tuscan tiny oval meatballs, called Croquette, made with lean ground meat,
left-over boiled fingerling potatoes, mashed
Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic, lemon zest and eggs.

Form small meatballs, roll in breadcrumbs and fry.
Sprinkle with salt , a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.


February 24, 2008

Winter or Spring?

Usually winter means less sunlight, dark cold days, warm soups, stews and risotto. This year has only had a couple of really cold spells which have passed quicky. Not enough to get into winter foods. Except two of my favorite winter foods, salads and blood oranges.

Here we are in the heart of what is usually freezing weather, with all the trees starting to bloom, irises coming up and no rain. Although I love walking around not bundled up like the Michelin man, with layers and layers of clothes, winters like this mean hot dreadful summers.
Hot or cold, I am a salad junkie and adore the variety I get at the Saturday market from Francesca, along with her recipes for vegetables from her farm.

This week I was craving pumpkin, and her Sicilian recipes are always worth trying.

Following her instructions, I layered thick layers of peeled pumpkin, with sliced red onions, and topped with crumbled sausage sprinkled with breadcrumbs and baked.
 The pumpkin is very sweet almost like a sweet potato and the sausage was wonderful.


the best 

is just plain salad with extra virgin olive oil , 
salt and my homemade red wine vinegar. 
Look at these greens that made up my salad!

With the salad I had boiled up some tiny new yukon gold potatoes last night, 
and made my Tuscan Smashed Potatoes.

I love home fries, so I take the cold boiled potatoes and smash them with a fork.
I saute in hot olive oil, a pinch or rosemary, black pepper and sea salt!

Served on the side with a Tuscan cheese steak with Hatch green chili's 

My brunch!

February 21, 2008

Winter dishes

A small wooden cabin looks oddly placed in Siena's Piazza del Campo,
but for those in the know
it is a tradition to be missed

In Italy, Saint Joseph's day in March is celebrated as Father's day
( get it, God's father)

To celebrate we eat fried rice fritters.

Usually this coincides with carnival ( mardi gras) which is also fried foods.

Tuscan Rice fritters are the BEST.
here is my recipe.

Frittelle di Riso
(Rice Fritters)

400 gr- 2 cups short grain rice, Arborio
1 liter- 4 cups milk
4 tablespoons sugar
Peel of one lemon ,grated (zest, only the yellow part)
1 ounce liqueur (sherry, brandy,rum or amaretto)
80 gr - 3/4cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder ( lievito in polvere)
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated

Bring the rice to a slow boil in the milk with sugar and lemon zest.
Stir occasionally to avoid the rice sticking.
When the rice is cooked, it will have absorbed all the milk.

Place the rice in large bowl, add the liqueur, egg yolks, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Mix well and let cool. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Whip the egg whites still stiff. Fold whites into the rice mixture.

In a heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil for frying.
I prefer olive oil, but corn oil is fine.
Drop the fritters by teaspoons into the hot oil.
Fry quickly and remove when they are golden.
Do not brown.

Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with granulated sugar.
They are best hot, but can also be served cold or reheated.
I like to add raisins soaked in brandy to the mixture, or tiny pieces of candied orange peel.

These guys have it down, they hold a small metal plate for portioning
and slide the dough right into the oil.
They go so fast that the fritters cook together like small biscuits
( see the fritters in the front?)

They are the size of my old favorites, doughnut holes.

They are sprinkled with sugar and sold by number, 4 for 1 euro.

When I got home, we grilled up the new red onions from the market and served them on a orange salad, inspired from a dinner in Ortygia.

They had served us grille prawns on sliced blood oranges, peel and all.
the blood oranges are used for juice and have very thin skin.

Another great day!

Stop by my other blog for updates on my pork aging project,
I am trying to make Capocollo!

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.

February 14, 2008

Making Good Memories

Good Memories sounds much better in Italian, Buon Ricordi.

My name is Judy and I have an addiction.

There are not a lot of things I can't live without.
After being in Italy for almost 25 years, I can get along without most of the little things in life that I thought I needed. I have learned to make do, substitute or live without many of lifes little niceties.

BUT I absolutely adore my Buon Ricordo plates!

inside Da Gennarino in Livorno, with his collection or plates

So when we found a sign on the gate in front of our house, that the electricity
would be off from 8am to 3pm today, seemed like a great time to split!

Living in Florence, one of the biggest "treats" in life is going to eat fish.
Inland over an hour from the sea ( which can take 7 hours in the summer traffic!)
driving to the coast can be a major event.

When asked where we should eat, I had no doubt in my mind,
anywhere with a Piatto di Buon Ricordo!

I decided to head for the closest place at the sea.


I had always heard they had a lovely central market so that was an easy choice.

the lovely mercato in Livorno, often called the Tuscan Venice.

The Vettovaglie market celebrated it's 100 year anniversary in 1994.

This fabulous affresco was commissioned by the owner
( below)
he is on the right in the affresco!

When he saw I recognized him, he graciously posed.

Telling me he had worked in the market for over 50 years.

The inside of the market.

Lunch was lovely!

To get the Piatto, you have to eat the specialty of the house.
This is the specialty

Pasta with cacciucco sauce.

Cacciucco is the famous fish soup from Livorno.
It is supposed to have as many kinds of fish as it does "c's" so five.

This sauce was a mildly spicy light tomato with octopus and mussels.
The portion awas so large I only ate half.

We had started with

the tasting
Marinated fresh anchovies with red onions and vinegar
Octopus salad
shrimp toasts
mussels, shrimp and squid salad

Main course of lightly breaded baked prawns and squid, with lovely sauce

oven-roasted artichokes.

Buon Ricordi!

Ristorante Gennarino
via Santa Fortunata, 11

February 9, 2008

The Perfect Day!

Today was perfect!

A little chilly from the brisk tramontana winds
coming down from the north,
wind blows away the clouds
and Florence was shiny bright today!

As I left my house in the countryside, I spotted these violets
already standing up tall, in my front yard.
Spring is really early this year.
It scares me!

I am excited about my new walking tours with lunch,
as it gives me more time to share my Florence,
little hidden away places, wine bars, gelato, bakeries,
not to mention my favorite kitchen shops,
ceramics and leather.
Seeing a city with a friend
is the way
to really get to know a town.

My dream out of high school was to have a best friend in
all of the capitals of the world
so I could stay with friends everywhere.
No such luck.
But here I am,
living in Florence,
one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Capital of art, food and wine.

I believe that you learn the most about the culture through food, the markets, street food,
and how much time and money people spend on eating.
So touring the markets and shops of the city give you a great insight.

Each time I meet someone, I try to add something special to my tours.
For the brave that may be a tripe sandwich
for someone else finding a special wine as a gift.

Today we began by stopping by Trattoria Mario's
to check in on Chef Jonathan,
who has spent the week observing.
Today he cooked for the boys!

Jonathan and Romeo

Then began the day with the perfect cappuccino and pastry at Sieni's.

Never tour on an empty stomach!

In the San Lorenzo market, my friends do an all-out balsamic vinegar tasting,
taking us from 12 year old traditional
followed by a 15 year old,
then a 20 year old, only aged in cherry wood,
ending with a 30 year old!
(which would be given as part of a dowery to a young bride, appropriate for the occassion.)

On to extra virgin olive oils.... smooth and grassy or peppery?
We were threatening to kill our appetite for lunch so off to walk more.

Touring the historic market is like being in a still life painting

My honey-mooner's today went wild over the assortment available of salad greens
and vegetables.

It is no wonder all the food here tastes better.
The ingredients are better.

As we neared the fish market,
I spotted my new best friend

my friend Massimiliano has invited his friend , Ex owner of Domani restaurant
to make and sell sushi in the market
Wednesday and Saturday

Look for these guys!

10 euro for a box of the FRESHEST sushi you have ever had!
We ate it standing at the counter.

All that touring built up our appetites,
check out lunch!

We had Chef Jonathan join us to eat at Sergio's,
as we wanted to eat Florentine steak,
about 2,2 pounds of beef, a kilo.

While the steak was cooking, we ordered cannelloni,
a ragu-filled pasta roll,
topped with a creamy bechamel sauce and baked.
Like what grandma would make for Sunday lunch,
rigatoni with ragu,
almost all meat with hardly any tomato sauce.

When we ordered our steak,
I asked for a 1,200 kilo steak, a little larger than the 2 pounder.
The waitress looked at me stupified, " That is the size for two people!"
You tell me!
Antonio serving the steak for two... for four!

We almost couldn't eat it all,

but we did.

There is always room for dessert!

Off to Grom, one of my favorite gelato shops

I talked the bride into hot chocolate with whipped cream, a seasonal specialty.

The groom had expresso ice cream, the coffee was from Guatemala
paired with almond ice cream, almonds from Provence.
( if you are in NY run, don't walk to their NY branch)

A marriage made in heaven.
Like a Sicilian breakfast, coffee granita with almond granita.