May 30, 2008

American Food Friday- Peanut Butter Cookies

foto by sara

Sara is really going after my soft spot with Peanut Butter cookies!

Even with peanut butter costing a fortune here.
I think a 1 cup size jar is about
5 euro, $7.50

I may just have to run out and buy some.

Now if we can just add some chocolate!!!

Mille Grazie Sara!

Signs of Summer

my village of certaldo, all in red brick a real treasure

This year's weather has been really strange, cool rainy days, followed by steamy heat.
Not a favorite, so we must look at the good news.

Porcini mushrooms only grow on a hot day after it has rained
at a certain altitude
under chestnut and oak trees.

So something good does come of it!

Another sign of summer is the red color palate.

After the strawberries,
we are now being assaulted with tomatoes in all sizes and shapes.

For me this means it is time to make my favorite summer salad
Panzanella, Tuscany's bread salad with
ripe red tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and basil
sort of a Tuscan Taboulleh!

The stale bread is soaked and then the moisture squeezed out to create tiny little crumbs
which are then dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt!

1 pound stale bread
3 tomatoes, cut into 8ths
2 red onions, thinly slices
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
Olive oil
Soak the sliced stale bread in cold water for 10 minutes.
Squeeze out the water and
crumble the bread into a serving bowl.
Add tomatoes, cucumber, onions and basil.
Season with olive oil and salt.
Mix well and let sit in the refridgerator.
Before serving, add vinegar and mix again.
Serve with olive oil, vinegar, and salt on the side.

Another sign of summer are the festivals with their fabulous flea markets.

At the flea market the other day I saw these pots.
I really need a larger home so I can buy these!

And with nice weather we all look for places to sit and have a nice drink.
As I was walking down to the Duomo from the San Lorenzo Market
I saw a new wine bar!

A new wine bar located right on Borgo San Lorenzo
I had a lovely chilled Rose' and am going back when I am hungry
to try the Gorgonzola and pear panino!

wonderful wines by the glass

Borgo San Lorenzo


here are two of the new kids at our house
( 2 of the 9 kittens!)

May 26, 2008

Weekend festivals and Sagra's

tomorrow's bakers

Weekends in Spring mean sagra's or festivals.
We decided to go by train to the nearby village
of Castelfiorentino for inCanti e Banchi

first passing by the our own town square for the
National Bread Day.

The local school was selling freshly baked bread made by the local bakers
and they had also done a project
that was on display in the square.

I thought it was very nice that the Celaic's also had a stand there
Explaining the allergy to flour and giving information.

We learned something new today too.
When you go to buy a train ticket and there is a little sign of the bus on the schedule,
there is NO TRAIN,
it is substituted by a bus.
We saw some kids running around and decided to go look.
OOPS we almost missed the bus!

Learn something new.
The bus was fun, it took 15 minutes instead of the 7 by train.

We arrived as the town band was playing

Then we walked around the artisan show, where they demonstrated their works.
It is always really special to meet the people that are continuing
such great traditions.

I wish I had a bigger house to fill it with these works of daily art.

hand carving pieces for chairs

teaching kids to carve

one of the master's pieces.
he did the fountain in Certaldo's park near the train station

one of my personal favorites,
the Cicciao, candy maker!


This year there was a national trip recipe competition
and a restaurant was set up in the upper village where the antique sale was going on.

There were over 10 different types of tripe.
This classic version was very good!
( I was a vegetarian for 7 years, and now eat all in Italy!)

It was also the weekend for the open wine cantina's so I am sure the roads were full!

If you come next May, be sure to plan the weekends joining in on a celebration somewhere.
You will thank me!

May 24, 2008

Tuscan Treasures- Da Delfina

blue skies- fabulous view from the outdoor dining terrace of Defina

Finding myself with a free day and a rental car... there was no doubt in my mind,
that means one thing.


For my husband, who dove a cab for 17 years,
that is not really his idea of fun, but to eat at Delfina...
even he will suffer through my driving.

I think I am a good driver, but compared to him, NOT.
He gets carsick when I drive.
I think he is just not used to sitting in the passenger seat.

Without too many problems, we arrived at Da Delfina.

It is exactly what Florentines love about a place to dine.
Simple traditional food, prepared perfectly
in a divine location

that is almost impossible to get to.

Signage in Italy is really bad on the roads,
so we did some correct guessing
and ended up coming up the back side of the village
and right into the parking lot.

What is a short distance always take twice the amount of time.
Getting out of Florence is at least 20 minutes, so we arrived after the official 1pm lunch time.
But owner, Oste, Carlo Cioni is always welcoming.

He is the perfect host.
His mother Delfina, is almost 100 years old now
and due to failing sight, she doesn't come to the restaurant anymore.

My first memories of her in her white working labcoat style cooking jacket,
sitting on the wall shelling peas.
Long white hair, tucked into a bun on the back of her head.

She was the chef at the hunting lodge in Artimino,
which them led to her opening her own place.

Carlo has taken it all even a little farther.
He makes his own Balsamic vinegar and is an expert in all the wild edible plants.

But he carries on the culinary tradition passed on by generations.
Here is a taste of what we had

welcome croquettes with spumante

we chose two appetizers instead of pasta, this is the lingua in dolce forte,

tongue in a renaissance sauce

Terrina di coniglio
Rabbit pate with olive paste on toast points

Real Ribollita, Carlo's pride and joy
reheated in an iron skillet without oil , it comes out like a fabulous vegetarian hash.

Capretto, roasted kid- goat with stewed fennel

zucchini blossoms stuffed with cheeses ad baked
Green leaves are fried Malva

fried zucchini blossoms

perfect Creme Brulee

Torta Mantovana with warm pastry cream on top

Carlo is passionate about everything
here he shows me
the writing on the wall

When I asked about the history of the ribollita with the "crust"
he explained that in the countryside where his family has lived for 200 years
Oil was for the rich, so in reheating the leftovers, without oil,
the ribollita forms a crust.

The way it should be done.

Trust him!

I do.

da "Delfina"
Via della Chiesa, 1

If you are coming from Florence allow 45 minutes for the half hour drive!
In nice weather I suggest coming early visit the nearby Villa Medicea
and after you can also walk off your lunch.

May 23, 2008

Made in America- Buffalo Wings

Another recipe for
Judith's Made in America
effort with fellow expat bloggers.
Stop by the link to see where everyone else is and what they are cooking!

I have to confess, the first time I saw Buffalo Wings on a bar menu in San Francisco,
I asked which part of the buffalo was called "wings".

No I am not blonde,
but had no idea that it originated in Buffalo, New York and hence the name.
I call them chicken wings.

Sometimes what I may miss about America is not the food as much as where and how we eat it.

I adore bar food.
tiny plates of food, enjoyed while having a cocktail
or two....

Venetian cicchetti with a spritz is fabulous,
tapas in spain lovely,
but I love my cocktails!

This is the original spicy Buffalo chicken wings recipe from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY.
You can adjust the heat by adding more or less cayenne and Tabasco.
There are many Buffalo chicken wing recipes out there,
but if you want to taste the "real" thing give this a try.
The chicken wings are deep-fried in the original recipe,
but the hot oven works fine for the home version.

Buffalo Chicken Wings

32 chicken wing pieces (one wing makes 2 pieces - the "flat" and the "drum")
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce (Frank's is the brand used in Buffalo)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut whole wings into three pieces/
I also roasted the wing tips, then gave them to my cats!

Toss the wings in the oil and spread out evenly on baking pan(s).
Do not crowd.
Bake for about 25-35 minutes, until the wings are cooked through and browned.

While the wings are baking, mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a pan, and over low heat bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then turn off.

After the wings are cooked, transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Pour the sauce over the hot wings and toss with a spoon or spatula to completely coat.

You can serve them like this, which is called "wet," or put them back in the oven for a few minutes to cook on the sauce and make them crisper.

These are always served with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing on the side.


1/4 lb. bleu cheese, Roquefort, or Gorgonzola
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. wine vinegar
Several dashes of hot pepper sauce, to taste

In small bowl, mash the bleu cheese, leaving some small lumps.
Whisk in the mayonnaise until blended.
Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to blend well.
Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Here in Italy, I mix some red wine vinegar into panna da cucina, the cooking cream
and use that as the sour cream, learned that when I worked at a Mexican Restaurant
here in Florence.

Other notes:

the above recipe is for the original "Wings"
but I love to make a spicy-sweet BBQ sauce as well or Chinese style with soya sauce.

If I don't want the bleu cheese, I make Ranch style dressing, leaving out the bleu Cheese and adding some lemon and garlic and herbs instead.

In the airport bar in New Orleans last trip home, I had BONELESS wings.
They cut small pieces of chicken breast,
lightly flour and fry ( which is the traditional way to cook the wings)
then soak in the sauce and serve "wet".

Ali di pollo "Buffalo Wings"
un piatto dalla Citta di Buffalo, New York

ali di 8 polli, fanno 16 divisi in due pezzi ogni uno, 32
1 cucchiao di olio di semi

6 cucchiai di salsa piccante, da Lousiana ( potete usare tutto tabasco)
6 cucchiai burro sciolto
1 1/2 cucchiai aceto di vino bianco
1 pizzico di peperoncino ( cayenne)
pizzico di aglio in polvere
1 spruzzo di salsa Worcestershire
1 cucchiaino Tabasco
pizzico di sale.

Preparare gli ali come le foto, in pezzi.
Ungere gli ali con l'olio
Cuocere in forno per 25-30 minuti o finche non sono dorati.

Fare la salsa con gli altri ingredienti in una piccolo pentolino.

Quando gli ali sono cotti, mettere insieme con la salsa preperato.
Potete servirli cosi o ripassare in forno,
Io preferisco cotti bene.

Servire con pezzettini d sedano e la salsa di gorgonzola piccante.
E la tradizione!

Salsa di gorgonzola piccante

250 gr Gorgonzola piccante
100 ml Mayonaise
100 ml Panna acido
( potete mettere 2 cucchiai di aceto di vino rosso in
100 ml di panna da cucina e mescolare bene)
1 cucchiaio succo di limone
1 cucchiai di aceto
tabasco q.b.

Schiacchiare il formaggio con una forchetta.
Aggiungere il mayonaise.
Aggiungere gli altri ingredient.
Coprire e lasciare in frigo prima di servire.

May 17, 2008

Sweet life

even the graffiti artists love sweets!

My friend Judith in Umbria is on a quest.
To have Italians appreciate American food.

What is not to love about her post this week on Doughnuts!

foto from Judith's site.

I am so there, that I am going shopping and will have them for a snack this afternoon
with some tea or a caffelatte.

Why is fried anything fabulous?
Recently I had fried okra in New Orleans, which changed my mind about okra.

Here in my village of Certaldo, in Tuscany, they do fried breadsticks called Donzelle
Usually salted, my friend Giuseppina
serves them with Nutella.

I adore salt and chocolate so will also put that on my list today of these to document!

Off to shop, it is Saturday, market day in the main square.
Raining here.
Great weather for cooking.

So I made a half of Judith's recipe,
it is just me and the hubby.

Last Sunday was first communion here
and I was telling my husband about going to get donuts
after mass, and that my favorites were the donut holes.

so using a tequila shot glass from Mexico

I formed small "holes"

and fried and glazed them with a powdered sugar and milk glaze.

I didn't even have to go to Mass!

May 11, 2008

What a Week!

When Spring is in full swing,
Tuscany start partying!

Tourists start arriving as if to celebrate the rites of Spring
weekends are filled with festivals.
Near Piazzale Michelangelo, the iris show is on, it is free to enter and a special view of the city
from the olive groves with the iris garden planted at the feet of the trees.

We were lucky enough to walk by the Florentine costumed soldiers
getting ready for a parade on Saturday.

On our way to Vestri on Borgo degli Ablizi,
to order chocolates for a
tasting I am doing this week,
we also ran into a Calendimaggio festival near the shop.
Flowers everywhere, bookstands and artisan demonstrations in the street.

Of course, with a selection of wonderful artisan gelato as well as his incredible fabulous chocolates,
we had to try some of Leonardo's new flavors of the season.

I had chocolate granita, as well as a glass on Green ice tea.
My husband tried the almond gelato and coffee gelato,
made their own roasted coffee!

Next weekend is the Artisan show at the Corsini Palace in Florence.

My favorite foods start appearing now.

The small Florentine zucchini are ridged and eaten
when still about the size of your fingers.
They can be fried lightly in a batter and served
as an appetizer, often filled with a light sheep's milk ricotta
I heard that in Siena someone fills them with a meat filling
and then breadcrumbs them and fries them.
I will eat them anyway I can get them.
A true celebration of the season.

The blossoms that are fried are actually the male blossoms,
which do not produce zucchini.

I was instantly inspired when I saw these beautiful beets to make a recipe I learned in Umbria,
Spaghetti di Vino,
which my friend Paulette tweeked and added beets and goat cheese.
Try both versions and let me know which you prefer.

May 6, 2008

Garden Gifts!

While in my garden looking around at the jungle
that has been created,
as my husband started to weed,
I stopped him

A GIFT from the GODS!


There are about 5 of them.
We had one last year and that was simply fabulous to walk out into the garden
and snip off a few leaves to add to a salad.
Nothing like store-bought-
this has a real peppery kick to it.


My artichoke is ready to harvest!

in "Chatting" on skype with my friend Don Genova in Vancouver
as he was on his way to do a spring TV shop on food and seasonal recipes.
I sent him my Garmugia recipe and we began talking "chokes".

They use the word "castraura", like castrating, to talk about the artichokes. By cutting off the smaller chokes and eating them when they
are most tender.

The larger center chokes are left to grow and called "MAMME," the mothers,
usually served stuffed and sold with the stems, which are just extra "heart"
and can be peeled and stewed together with the artichoke.

When you buy them at the markets they look like long stemmed roses!

I usually do about 350 tiny chokes a year, using Leo's recipe.

I haven't decided yet.

I am from California, where we can get almost all the different sizes and kinds.
Even Trader Joe's has the bags of baby chokes.

You can see here how they grow.
There is one LARGE choke on the top stem,
and that then has two babies
which then have two babies.

Last year we has 6 artichokes.

Florentines love them trimmed and eaten raw
with extra virgin oil and salt.

Romans twice fry them.

Venetians stew the huge hearts only, which you can buy already cleaned
at the Rialto Market.

I adore them batter fried like my mother-in-law made
or even stewed with garlic and oil.

This year I see a new artichoke already on the plant too,
so who knows this year how many I will get.

Here are some recipes and a lesson in cleaning an artichoke
on my site.

My artichoke man and neighbor in Florence
retired this year.

Auguri Leo e Mille Grazie!

May 4, 2008

Celebrating Spring- Exploding

spiders hatching!

I arrived home from New Orleans to find an explosion of color in the hills around my home.
Not just green, but red too!

Italian red poppies

What are the poppies already doing out?

While I was gone,
it rained daily and the sunshine in between,
really pumping up the gardens
and the countryside.

Roses, irises, acacia, scotchbroom.

iris. symbol of Florence

Cool mornings bring a waft of floral profume into my home, gotta love it!


antique roses, great for jams, jellies and syrups!

red broom

our strawberries

wild borage, you can eat the leaves ( they taste like cucumbers)
as well as the flowers

But besides all the wonders of the market now, aspargus, artichokes, fresh peas and fava beans try making Garmugia
a fabulous spring stew from Lucca, make it even if you just have some of the ingredients;

My capocollo is ready!

If you have not seen my Whole Hog blog that I do with my friend Kate.
stop by for updates on making your own capocollo.