July 27, 2008

More than just "Girlfriend Getaways"

I was pleased to find out that Divina Cucina was included in National Geographics
Best Girlfriend Getaways Worldwide by Marybeth Bond!

This summer I have not only had Best Girlfriends for custom trips,

but mom's with kids,


father and daughter

and reunions of friends.

All sharing a passion for food, wine and life.
I adore making it all happen, when I first moved to Italy i 1984,
I wish I had had a best friend in Florence.

That is what part of my services include,
making dreams come true,
hanging out with locals

Chianti has been on it's best this summer,
with incredible light
and not too much heat.

Last week they said, " It is like Napa on steroids!"

When people leave me, they take more away than a few recipes,
hopefully a real insight into the Tuscan way of life
and the natural beauty.

I get so many letters from past clients that when they go home
feel the RENAISSANCE- rebirth from having experienced the Tuscan Way!

Not only food and wine, but new friendships made along the way.

A new way to look at time spent shopping for food, or preparing it
and more than that sharing time at the table.

Dig in to Life!
Take huge portions.

Easy summer recipe.

Gelato Affogato
Put a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream in a large tumbler. Pour a shot of hot expresso on top.


I first had this at Prego in San Francisco, they used white chocolate ice cream
and topped it with whipped cream!

Other favorite combo's are:
Lemon sorbet with Vodka
Chocolate with Whiskey

At a small place near my house in Florence I had green apple sorbet with Calvados.

What sets your taste buds dancing?

I make my limoncello milkshake with my homemade limoncello
after a summer meal it is perfetto!

Don't forget about my watermelon Granita
or David Lebovitz's version of my recipe as popsicles
with a kick!

I am dreaming about October in Sicily and the NY Times is too!

July 12, 2008

MacDario's is opened!


Summer is here and MacDario's has opened!

Dario Cecchini is now offering a 10 euro meal
on the back terrace in Panzano in Chianti.

A huge plate with a huge burger, served with potatoes, tomatoes and sweet red onions.

Chef Ricardo!

Served with water, you can bring your own wine with no corkage,
or get a glass of the house wine for 2 euro.

If you want to eat on the back patio, but prefer a tasting menu from the shop,
that is 20 euro
and includes, sushi del chianti, tonno del chianti, porchetta, a raw vegetable pinzimonio,
and wine.

You can add-on for a larger meal and include fruit juice,
cake, coffee and after-dinner digestives.

Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Panzano in Chianti
Entrance at parking lot.

Look for the red and white umbrella's on the deck!
He even has ICE!
What more could you ask for?

Maybe beer?

July 11, 2008

Market Treats

When I have time off, there is nothing I love more than
going to the weekly market in my village.
Although I really don't know that many people, by the time I leave,
I know something more about almost everyone there!

My favorite past time is eavesdropping
and even better yet, just catching part of conversation.

I live outside of town, so am not there everyday to hear the news.
But come Wednesday, everyone is at the market.
It is where one can buy directly from the producers and farmers,
pick up some new pots and pans or curtains.
What about a new rug?

Time to put up tomatoes?
the hardware store guy has everything!

It is fun to see the corner where the husbands are dropped off
while the women shop and talk.

But most off all, I love the food shopping.

Found some Saturnia peaches, they are a vanishing fruit.
Farmers used to grown them between the grapevines.

They are white on the inside and would be fabulous for a Bellini.
After reading David's posting on Peach Leaf wine,
and seeing peach leaves at my vendor's I followed suit!

I don't have a big freezer either for lot's of ice,
but can immagine a nice glass as the sun goes down.

Next inspiration where these blossoms

which became stuffed with fresh sheeps milk ricotta,
and instead of my delicate egg batter, I used the Sicilian wao of bread crumbing them.

Loved the crunch.

Zucchini's are all over the market now,
here in Tuscany we get several varieties
most are the long ridged zucchini, but also round.

Last week I did beef stuffed round zucchini in tomato sauce

Today I did zucchini carpaccio, perfect in this heat.
Used my mandoline and sliced them lengthwise.

Just drizzle with olive oil, some lemon juice and salt.
Shave parmesan cheese on top.

Next time I think I will add some toasted pinenuts.

July 6, 2008

Under the Tuscan Sky

Under the Tuscan Sun takes on new meaning when it is hitting over 100 degrees
and you live in a country where air conditioning is considered a danger to your health!

But somehow we manage to survive, even those of us with ice in our drinks,
A/C or fans on
taking a shower after eating or going for a swim
or walking around with wet hair and barefoot.

I find Italians have different wife's tales than Americans do,
but they are true for them.

So what does a cooking teacher do on her days off?

Come on in and see!

welcome to my house.
( I just realized that my "knocker" makes a "J")

Here a few days off from work, and a break in the heat had me back in the kitchen.

At Saturday's market the fish truck called my name
and I was inspired by the fat fresh anchovies to make a version
of Sarde in Soar, a Venetian dish, inspired by the Spanish,
it is similar to Escabeche.

A classic recipe to preserve fish in hot weather.
The fish is lightly floured and fried and then "pickled" in vinegar which preserves it.

I took the heads off the fish.
Then cleaned out the guts
( I will save you from those foto's).

I sauteed some sweet red onions in olive oil,
then splashed them with tart homemade red wine vinegar
and added a few tablespoons of sugar and salt to taste.

The fish are placed in a serving dish and then
layerd with the onion, sweet and sour mixture.

The sweet and sour often is served with raisins and pinenuts.
in the vinegar.
I found a different version in a Sicilian cookbook,
which had some bay leaves and mint added.

I made them yesterday and let them chill in the refrigerator.

A perfect summer lunch!

Another favorite is a simple Caprese.

Slices of ripe tomatoes
topped with tiny halves of buffalo mozzarella bocconcini, the tiny bite-size balls,
served only with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.

( another Italian food rule)

Fruit bought from the farmer's market ripes too quickly
and calls out for a cobbler!

peaches, apricots and cherries

Have a nice summer!

July 3, 2008

Can't stand the heat?

My Tuscan-Russian Salad

It is sooooooo hot here right now that it is almost impossible to even think about cooking,
but one must eat,
so I was inspired to create a cold New Tuscan Style- Russian salad.

Insalata Russa was a classic when I first moved here, a vegetable salad bound together with at least a jar of mayo and served cold.

To lighten this up, I just dress the boiled veggies with a light olive oil and vinegar dressing.
Today I used:
pre-boiled beets, I can buy vacuum-packed at the local store ( not pickled)
new yukon gold potatoes, boiled in salted water and then peeled and cut into cubes
string beans, boiled in salted water and cut into small pieces
chopped tomatoes.
I added some capers for a little "bite".

Traditionally the salad has boiled carrots cubed and peas as well.

I adore capers and add them to almost anything I can.
I am really lucky as out where I live, a tiny grouping of homes near a small church,
San Gaudenzio, has capers growing on the wall.

caper bush on wall outside San Gaudenzio church in my 'hood.

To preserve capers, you can either pack them in salt or boil in vinegar.
The tiny flower bud is used for the cooking caper,
and the larger seed pod is also pickled for an appetizer.

Sometimes I dress my Tuscan potato salad with a salsa verde, made with parsley and capers, adding string beans to the potato salad.

Try it!

Salsa Verde

1 cup Italian parsley, leaves only
2 tablespoons capers
1 garlic clove
1 anchovy filet
Red wine vinegar, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 slice white bread

Finely chop the parsley, capers, garlic, and anchovy, using a sharp knife.
Put the mixture into a serving bowl and add olive oil and red wine vinegar. Adjust seasonings. Remove the crust from the slice of bread, and soak the bread in red wine vinegar.
Then crumble the bread into sauce. (This is the poor man's technique; the bread looks like pine nuts in the sauce! Instead you can add some chopped pine nuts!)

I love salsa verde on hot green beans and boiled potatoes.

I also make an appetizer by removing the yolks from hardboiled eggs and blending them with the sauce. Refill the eggs and refrigerate before serving.

It is one of my husband's favorites in the summer.

Here are foto's of this year's Nocino making.
The green walnuts, lemon zest and ALCOOL, 95 %

macerating in the sun for 40 days

From my house to yours-
con amore.

My summer article on Tomatoes for the American Magazine.