August 27, 2008

Edible Florence- Cipolla Rossa

Osteria Cipolla Rossa

Preparing for the release of my dining guide Divina Cucina's Edible Florence,
I have been going around to see what is happening in the Florentine dining scene.

For most people, the classics alone would take a month to visit, places that are part of the culinary history of Florence that one MUST go to.

Often visitors are here on weekends, when most of the classics are closed,
so I am researching before going to print.

There are several styles of places to eat,
some have great owners that impost their recipes and the chef is not important.

But some places have chef-owners and when the chef leaves,
the restaurant is not the same without them.

Cipolla Rossa is a surprise.

It was opened by a friend of mine last year, but did not thrill me.

It was recently bought by one of my favorite butchers in the Central Market, Massimo
and he had the wise judgement to partner with two of my favorite chef-owners.

Cipolla Rossa is now run by Federico who created Cinque di Vino, San Casciano.
and Nicola, the original chef and creator of Osteria dei Benci in Florence.
Both have left their old places and put all their energy into
this new venture.

What a treat!

The menu is lovely with some classics and some twists.

Federico was our waiter and as in the style of an osteria
where the host-oste tells you what is on the menu for the day,
he listed off so many great things.
We went for the daily special's which were featuring Porcini!

Lucky us!

We began with a carpaccio of porcini, rich thick slices of fresh porcini,
layered with greens and shaved parmesan cheese.

I had their version of a eggless Carbonara, which is similar to an "Alfredo" sauce which actually only exists at Alfredo's in Rome and is not Italian, but rather a signature dish.

Theirs was made with fresh cream from our local dairy and crisp pieces of guanciale, a sort of bacon made from pork cheeks.

We followed up with the Filetto Alpina, a classic, a beef filet topped with a whole grilled porcini mushroom cap, which is my favorite way to eat porcini
and they cooked the stems as a bed for the beef!
Nice touch!

A lovely salad of red tomatoes, raw red onions and mint was refreshing.
We didn't have room for dessert,
but we did for a fresh piece of pineapple bathed in Maraschino liquore.

We drank a lovely white wine called Pecorino, which is hard to find and
a personal favorite for summer.


I can't wait to go back when the weather changes as they do incredible winter food!
I hear they are going to be doing the boiled beef cart which is so popular as a home meal and I have only had it in restaurants in Bologna and Verona!


Osteria Cipolla Rossa
Via dei Conti, 53/r

Closed Tuesday
Located near the Medici Chapel

We did manage to have a granita after at Carabe!!!

August 25, 2008

From the field and the market

As the month-long vacation in Italy comes to an end,
the work begins in the fields and at home to deal with the abundance of treasures.
Quiet mornings have now been replaced by the sounds of tractors working the fields
in preparation of the wine harvest and then the olive harvest.
As soon as one ends the other begins and winter is full or work!
Grapes are harvested, pressed, fermented and aged.
The olives go from the trees to the press and bottled.

I don't have vineyards or an olive grove although I live in the middle of one.
But I do have some of my own harvesting to do!

On a recent walk near my home I did a little "street foraging" and came home with these fabulous blackberries.

Just ate them warm from the sun with unsweetened yogurt.

But now, there is a rush to harvest tomatoes!

sold by the case, it is time to make sauce, pomorola

What is Italy without its tomato sauce?
The weekly markets are filled with tomatoes
and the tools to work with to preserve them
for meals later in the year.
some of the tools in the market
and more tools

need garlic? perfect timing with the tomatoes

Recently,I was inspired by Mark Bittman's Tomato Jam in the NY Times
I have been working on a Harissa, which I tried to "soothe"
with some roasted red pepper.
I tweeked it now with Mark's tips for this tomato jam as I was going to add tomato too.

May have a winner.
One more try!

August 22, 2008

Pesto lasagna- to die for!

Todays food memory- Pesto Lasagna, San Fruttuoso near Camogli , Liguria

The Abbey of San Fruttuoso, FAI

Staying home for summer vacation is a real vacation for me. Time at the computer and watching the Olympics in my pj's. Eating watermelon, plums, cantalope and grapes.
Gorging on fruit; the flavors of the seasons. Thinking of past vacations and memorable meals.

On a trip to Chiaveri a few years ago to see one of our friends, he took us over to a "secret" place to eat he had found.

I adore Chiaveri and when there always go to Osteria Luchin. Here is one of his recipes using pesto with string beans and potatoes, a classic.

From there we headed over to Camogli where my husband's grandmother was from.

For an excursion, our friend took us up a small hill overlooking the bay and the cove where
San Fruttuoso is located to try somewhere new.

There were no menu's, which I adore!
They advised us their specialty was

How could we say no?

We waited, and waited and waited;
and were brought a huge casserole of Lasagna made to order for us!


Summer is basil and with a bowl of pesto
I recreated this for lunch today.

Recipe for a 3 layer lasagna( double for 6 layers)
You will need about 1 cup of pesto

2 cups of bechamel, creamy but not too thick
1/2 box of dry lasagna noodles
2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
3 ounces of gorgonzola " dolce", the creamy one

The secret is layering the pasta with bechamel sauce, pesto and grated parmesan cheese,

for three layers,
start with bechamel on the bottom of the 9x13 pan.

then pasta ( I use dry) bechamel, pesto, parmesan
Pasta, bechamel, pesto, parmesan
Pasta,bechamel , pesto, parmesan
Pasta, bechamel GORGONZOLA, broken up onto the bechamel, parmesan

Pasta, bechamel, pesto parmesan and Pinenuts.

You can keep going until you have 6 layers if you like!

Bake at 350 until a knife slides into the lasagna without resistance.
about 30 minutes.

You will thank me!

since I had the oven on I whipped up a little foccaccia with fresh cherry tomatoes,
oregano, salt and olive oil.

August 17, 2008

You say Tomato- I say Pomodoro

olive oil with tomato bits, sea salt with bread for dipping

Reading Deb's Tomato Fest on Martha Stewart's Blog, Dinner Tonight, how could I not gather my Italian tomato recipes together in one place now that we are having a gut of tomatoes!
So stopping by Margaret's Way to the Garden Blog, I got the info on the Food Fest Party they are having weekly.

It sort of feels like a Woodstock for foodies and this being the anniversary of the festival
it seems appropriate to go all out!

So let your hair down and take off your shoes and join me in my Tuscan Kitchen. Playing Arlo Guthries "Alice's Restaurant" would be appropriate!

Cuore di bue- "beef-heart" tomato

As you have seen, I have been buying some Killer Tomatoes lately, weighing in at over 2 pounds and lasting a week in our house, which inspired several dishes using them raw.

Their meaty flavor needed nothing but extra virgin olive oil and salt.

When was the last time you had a tomato right from the farm, never having been in the fridge?
The intensity of flavor is incredible.

We have gotten so used to supermarket vegetables, often real flavor memories have been replaced by chilled down, non seasonal replacements. Refrigerating food dulls the flavor in raw and cooked foods,
then it requires over seasoning to replace the missing flavor.

Called Fiorentini, Florentine's, these tomatoes are also grow in Sicily where
the volcanic soil and sun create a fabulous growing season and flavor.
When I can get them, these are my favorite pomorola sauce tomatoes.

Keep it fresh and keep it simple, probably one of the hardest things to do in our hectic lives is to keep the food simple.

Caprese, the Italian summer flag on a plate. buffalo mozzarella, sliced tomatoes , basil, 
sea salt and oil.

In my Signs of Summer post you will find the recipe for my favorite summer salad


When I came back from Sicily I was totally inspired by the

Every Italian man will fall in love with you if you can make
Stuffed Tomatoes like his mamma did.
(maybe he has to be a Tuscan, like mine is?)

or make the perfect snack for anytime of the day

Got some fabulous heirloom tomatoes?

But there is no better way to celebrate summer
than saving some summer in a jar!
Pure Passion.

Staying simple, but adding some typical ingredients from the mediterranean panty
and you have a couple of great salads featuring ugly but good heirloom tomatoes.

I have never made my pappa al pomodoro from fresh tomatoes as it is a soup which I tend to have in the winter, but it is also great served room temp so will try that too later this week.

When green beans are in season and the cherry tomatoes come out too
I make Germana's green bean recipe all the time, over-cooking is the secret here
it carmelizes the sugars in the tomatoes and really takes the flavor notes up a notch.

Another recipe where the cherry tomatoes shine is
Donatella's Chicchi, a Spelt and chickpea salad from Umbria.
When Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl was with me in Florence
I made this with black rice and it was a hit!

For instant satisfaction try pan frying cherry tomatoes in
the "Trinity"

Garlic,olive oil and chili flakes.

Aglio,olio e peperoncino

I call these my panfried, sun-dried tomatoes.

After I give them a quick panfrying with the trinity and a sprinkle of salt
I splash them with some Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.
Talk about BAM and taking it up a notch!

These are great on their own or as a pasta sauce,
spooned on grilled salmon, a steak or spread on bread!

When you can buy your tomatoes direct, like I do from Benedetto and his daughter Francesca
Anything you make will be incredible if you keep it simple.

who needs to plant when you can be adopted by a farm, sort of my CSA at the weekly market.

But if you are having a late harvest and your tomatoes are still green,
in Italy that is a good thing!

Italians prefer green tomatoes for salads as they have a nice tartness to them -of course fried green tomatoes are also Italian, dusted in a little polenta meal before frying.

My favorite is to make a lovely "green" pasta sauce.

Green Tomato Pasta Sauce

Something I have been making in class with green, turning red, San Marzano tomatoes.
They are picked green to be eaten in salads because they have a cripsy sort of acidic flavor.
They are not meant to be used for pomorola sauce until they are vine ripened in August! 

Green tomatoes
Olive oil
Fresh basil
Parmesan cheese

Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and then into thin slices.
Slice the garlic and heat in olive oil over high heat; when garlic is golden add tomatoes.
Stir fry to get the tomatoes covered in oil and to really start to let them carmelize!
Add torn basil and salt.
Turn down heat to medium and let cook until the tomatoes fall apart.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water and save some of the water to thin the sauce
before you drain the pasta.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, heat together and add Parmesan cheese.
Add the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce.
Serve hot.

The green tomato sauce is like a savory confit of tomatoes. It is also great with chucks of Parmesan cheese as an appetizer or served with roasted meats.

Later this week, I will be making Cibreo's owner-Chef Fabio Picchi's recipe
Tomato "Panna Cotta"

Ok, it is NOT dessert, but gives you a better idea than saying
Tomato aspic!

Buon Appetito and Buon Pomodori!

August 15, 2008

Tuscan summer dishes

As the city empties, locals fleeing to the beaches leaving towns to the tourists,
I enjoy the silence that comes from the lack of traffic.

Walking through villages it is common to see an older person, in the cool of their house,
perhaps too old to go with the family to the beach,
watching the world go by.

A simple buongiorno brings a big smile!

Summer is bursting out at the market, watermelon, the first grapes
and green and purple plums.

Zucchini with their golden blossoms and bell peppers in green, red and yellow.

My market day was very yellow, like the Tuscan sun.
Bell peppers and carrots inspired me to make
my mother-in-laws Buglione, a vegetable stew we love to eat cold in the summer.
It is sort of like a Tuscan ratatouille.
The word buglione is often used for a meat stew from the Maremma area in Tuscany,
but this vegetarian version is from FiglineVal d'Arno, just south of Florence.

Like a plate of sunshine!

Tina's Buglione
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into small bitesize pieces
2 small red onions, cut in half, then thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 zucchini, cut into rounds ( the ones I found were tiny)
olive oil

Cover the pot with olive oil and add all the chopped vegetables.
Sprinkle with salt.
Stir and let cook until the vegetables reduce in volume.

Cover with water and cook until tender.
Serve cold.

The potatoes will just start to break down
and create an almost creamy sauce
holding the other vegetables together in the stew.

The other gret at cold dish I wanted to eat was
Sarde in Soar
a Venetian specialty.

Fresh Sardines are cleaned of heads, scales and innards.

Split open and remove spine.
Lightly flour and fry.

In a clean pan, fry red onions and when tender add 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar.
I found young red onions from Tropea, in Calabria, a very sweet onion.

Add raisins and toasted pinenuts.

Cover fish and let marinade until chilled.

They are best the next day.

If you don't have access to sardines or anchovies,
I have made this with slices of swordfish or other meaty white fish.

Buon Ferragosto!

It is the big holiday of the summer.
Siena celebrates with the famous horserace, the Palio, in the Piazza in front of City Hall/
If you ever get the chance to be in Siena during this time,
the celebrations are probably better than the race.
A true opportunity to see a city celebrate.

August 8, 2008

Killer Tomatoes

When life gives you tomatoes-

Nothing is like eating a tomato fresh from the garden,
but my ortolana, Paola this year has
Killer Tomatoes!

This baby weighs over a kilo, 2 pounds!
The size of a Florentine Steak.

Bigger than a breadknife!

I made my version of an Israeli breakfast , tiny cubed cucumbers, red onion and tomatoes.
I topped it off with some Tzatski for a cool fresh finish.

It was perfect!

Then I made a Beef Bruschetta for lunch.

A thin, breaded and fried slice of beef, topped with tomato, marinated with
minced garlic, basil and salt.
Serve the meat hot with the cold tomato topping.

Going lighter for a salad,
chopped tomatoes, sliced red onion,
capers, black olives and tuna for a summer salad.

I still have some tomato left.
Any ideas?

August 3, 2008

Summertime- Beating the HEAT!

Summer in Tuscany is fields and fields of sunflowers

When the temps in the countryside hit 100 degrees
the last thing one wants to do in this land with it's fear of air conditioning,
is to turn on the oven and cook!

So I am always on the look-out for non-cooking summer favorites.

Mozzarella and tomatoes
Prosciutto and Melon
Panzanella - the Tuscan bread salad
Tuna and bean cold salad
Insalata Russa- boiled vegetables with mayo, a childhood favorite of my hubby
Cold boiled beets with strachino cheese
Pecorino cheese and pears
Salami and figs
Huge beefsteak tomatoes with EVO and salt

As our local post office is closed, we headed out to the nearest village,
to do our business, mailing, banking etc.

So first stop is breakfast!
For me in the summer I go for a
Latte Freddo Macchiato

my latte macchiato

A long cold glass of milk, "spotted" with a shot of expresso.
Love this local pasty shop as they use Illy coffee,
the lovely glass was also designed by Francesco Illy.
For their summer ideas, the top the glass of their
iced coffee with vanilla infused sugar.

Since we were here, there is always another stop to make, our favorite
"alimentari" little family run grocery store.

dad, daughter and father-in-law

They sell a little of everything one needs, so we picked up our daily fresh bread,
some sliced prosciutto and their house specialty
DONZELLE, little fried baguettes!

These little fried damsels " donzelle" are not avialable everywhere

As soon as we got home, this was lunch!


My other favorite summer coffee drink is Cafe Shakerato, a shaken ice coffee.
Everywhere I go, there is some twist.
Last time I was in Arezzo, it was served in a ice cup.

Last but not least GRANITA!
This is from Antica Delizie, Castellina in Chianti
( they are closed on Tuesday)

Strawberry topped off with lemon,
A real taste of summer.

In Florence I head for Carabe, Grom or Vestri.

Buon Estate.
Stay cool!