December 26, 2008

Why I make Bollito Misto- simple and satisfying

As I have written before, I always make the Bollito Misto for Andrea for Christmas, mostly for the wonderful soul warming broth which we serve several ways, first with tortellini and a dusting of parmesan cheese. This year I also bought some Passatelli, an extruded "paste" which cooks in the broth, served in Emilia Romagna. But the real reason to make Bollito, is for the left over meat. This year we ate a tiny bit for a light dinner with a drizzle of new oil and some Sicilian Sea salt.

Today after a caffe latte and some panettone, I started my
Lesso Rifatto.

No need to rush, so I used my clay pot for a slow stew. Where I live is famous for the red onions, used in Tuscan cooking. Slow cooking brings out their sweetness and is perfect for this dish.

Thinly sliced and cooked until almost melting, I then added tomato sauce, lightly salted the stew and let it continue to "pippare" , over low heat, the sauce barely "spits" like molten lava.

When the sauce is cooked, I added the cubed left over beef and again let it slowly warm together.

My kind of comfort food. The prefect cure for the holiday overload!

Try it one of these wintery days. A huge pot of Bollito Misto will feed you and your friends for days. I left a little extra meat for tomorrow to make little meat and potato croquettes.
Another excuse for salt, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon.


Lesso Rifatto

1 pound leftover boiled meat, chopped into small cubes
1-1/2 pounds red onions, finely sliced
2 cups stewed tomatoes, or red wine
Olive oil

Sauté the onions in olive oil; when golden, add tomatoes or red wine. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the leftover beef and cook covered for an additional 20 minutes. To make this even richer, add some cubed raw potatoes to the pan with the onions.

December 24, 2008

Wishing us all the best for 2009

May 2009 be better than 2008

Wishing everyone

Piazza Santo Spirito Firenze

Judy and Andrea

Divina Cucina Culinary Adventures

John Lennon's Xmas Song

Tengo Cuore Napolitano- My heart is from Naples

Buon Natale from Ischia, off the coast of Naples

precious artisan creche scene

Each time I go to Naples, my love for the city grows. Perhaps it is the air. Located on the sea, it is a port town like San Francisco. I get teary when I take a deep breathe. Maybe Vesuvius, the live volcano, giving off energy like the San Andreas fault in SF. I left my heart in San Francisco, but everytime I leave Florence to go to the sea, my heart also stays a little there too!
Naples is like that. Could it be the Pizza or the Baba' ? Naples is home to the Pizza, but also some great sweets, I did my share of research and loved them all!

pizza maker for creche scene

One of my favorite area's of town in the San Gregorio Armena area, famous for the christmas creche artisans. Not only is the creche scene made of the holy family, but also the whole village!

a plate of stuffoli, a local sweet for xmas

chopping block with rack of beef


politicians - wise men???

I have some great pieces, and this year added on. It is always fun to see who the "personalities will be, usually taking the places of the "wise men", of course the local politicians are always included, tongue in cheek, as well as soccer players. The star this year of course is OBAMA!

One of my favorite things to eat is called "saltimbocca". Yes, I know, Saltimbocca is a veal dish in classic cuisine, but regional specialties follow their own rules.

In Naples, it is a oval bread, sliced open and filled with various fillings. My favorite is a classic: Friarelli, the local broccoli rabe, a bitter green trimmed and cooked in olive oil with garlic, chili pepper and salt. Layer the "friarelli with slices of cooked sausage and cover with sliced smoked provolone cheese and heat until the cheese starts to melt!

Mamma mia!

Saltimbocca dough

500 grams/ 5 cups Italian flour ( lower in gluten then American all purpose)
1 envelope dry yeast
2 tbs sugar
300 ml/ 1 1/4 cups warm water
3 tbs olive oil
2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together.
Stir until they are all mixed well.

Cover the bowl and let rise until doubles in size.

Flour work table and put dough onto work space.

Lightly knead the dough to form a ball.
Break into 4 pieces.

Roll the dough out into oval shapes and bake at 350 until golden, about 20 minutes.

Let cool.

To serve, slice open the bread.
Place the sauteed greens on the bottom layer, top with sliced cooked sausage. Cover with sliced smoked provolone cheese.

Heat un oven until the cheese starts to melt!

Cover with the top.

Buon Appetito and Buon Natale!

Don't forget to bid on my Menu for Hope items!!!! This year has been tough for us all, but a simple $10 ticket can change someone's life! Stop by and look at the great items up for the raffle, you can also simply give!

Mille Grazie

December 14, 2008

Menu for Hope 5-

My village as a Christmas Creche scene... getting ready for the holiday spirit- of Giving!!!

$10 for the gift of HOPE!
Cheap thrills!

It is that time of year again, as we fill our bellies with great holiday food and spirits, while there are those not so far away that are not celebrating.

I think this year, there are many who are not celebrating.

Yearly our favorite blogger Pim of ChezPim unites the blogger community to reach deep into our pockets and share with others.

This year I am offering two prizes:

EU12: Monday at the Market for two
The Diva of all this Tuscan, will take you on a
guided walking tour and tasting at the foodie mecca, the Central Market in Florence, and lunch at the Trattoria Sergio Gozzi, listed in Slow Food's guide to the Osteria's of Italy.
During lunch the Diva will also help you with planning your meals here!
Can be held on other days as well. ( market closed on Sunday
( for two people, value 250€- valid for one year, dates to be confirmed.)
Florence, Italy

EU 13: Dinner at Solociccia for two

Dining at master butcher Dario Cecchini's restaurant is a true feast! Seated family style, course after course accompanied by house wine and ending with a fabulous olive oil cake... and liquors. An experience not to be missed if you are coming to Chianti. ( Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights: 7pm or 9pm or Sunday lunch 1pm) Value 60€ Dates must be confirmed. Panzano in Chianti

If you are looking for the European prizes being offered, Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy is our hostess. Stop by to see what great prizes are available!

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Chez Pim

2. Go to the donation site and make a donation.

3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.
For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU12 and 3 tickets for EU13. Please write 2xEU12, 3xEU13

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

If you are a European blogger, contact Sara if you would like to donate something for the Menu for Hope Raffle.

December 13, 2008

Sicilian Saturday- Caponata

I tried the Caponata at every restaurant and trattoria in Palermo. For years I had been making it wrong. I added bell peppers to the mixture more like Peperonata here in Tuscany. This recipe is much simpler. It is such a popular side dish that it is even sold pre-made in cans. Wonderful as a side dish or slatered on bread as a starter. I adore the combination of sweet and sour and have even had the caponata served warm with a hot bittersweet chocolate sauce served on the side. Try it!

The secret to caponata is to cook the eggplant first. For my recipe I used tomato paste which is also sold in bulk in the market instead of the canned tomatoes. I just wanted a glaze.


Spanish influence blends the sweet and sour of the eggplant stew

1 large eggplant
5 celery stalks
1 large onion, thinly sliced
200 gr green olives, pitted
2 tbs capers,drained
500 gr canned tomatoes
50 gr white sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
50 gr raisins
50 gr pinenuts
salt to taste

Cut the eggplant into large cubes ( about 2 cm) and layer in a colandar with fine sea salt to purge the eggplant of any bitter water.

Place the colander in a sink to let the liquid drain off. Cover with a plate and put a heavy can on top or a pot or water.

Leave for about one hour.

When done, rinse off salt and squeeze out extra liquids and sauté in hot oil.

Cut the celery into 2cm pieces and sauté in hot oil. Remove from pan.
In the same pan, in a little extra virgin olive oil, sauté the onion,

When the onion is cooked, add the green olives, capers and the tomato sauce or paste.
Salt to taste and let cook for 20 minutes.

Add the fried eggplant and celery and cook for 10 more minutes.

Add the vinegar and sugar, a little at a time, correcting as needed to create a balance in sweet and sour.

Stir in the pinenuts and raisins.

I just saw my friends in Palermo wrote up the recipe for "Cuccia", which is made to celebrate Santa Lucia, stop by! Agave's blog I love Palermo

December 10, 2008

Edible Florence- Trattoria Sergio Gozzi

Piero, one of the San Lorenzo regulars

There are few things certain in life; Florence is one of the best cities of art in the world and that Sergio's is a favorite in the San Lorenzo Market.

Often hard to find, both because of location and name, half of us say we are going to Sergio's the other half say Gozzi's! Finding Sergio's is not easy as it is located behind the stands in the market in front of the San Lorenzo church, people often walk right by, but those in the know.... stop! There is a single glass door, with a step up, and a framed hand-written menu placed outside the door daily. Both Gozzi's and Trattoria Mario's are the two oldest trattoria's and the regulars in the area enjoy both! Alternating between these classics.

Since I began going there years ago, Sergio has passed away and his son's Alessandro and Andrea have taken over, respecting the family traditions. The trattoria has been open since 1915, they must be doing something right!

The huge double dining room with the art covered walls and brightly lighted room welcome a vast assortment of people.

My lunch yesterday was great as usual, I had a pureed bean soup with kale and croutons, my husband enjoyed their famous ragu on potato gnocchi.

I skipped the main course opting for their incredible hand-cut fried potatoes.

Andrea had moist roast rabbit with roasted potatoes. House wine is good as is the coffee.
Usually when I am hungry I will have the roast pork filled with Tuscan herbs or the grilled veal chop. This is also the place to have a Florentine steak.

Trattoria Gozzi Sergio
Piazza San Lorenzo, 8/r
open for lunch only
Closed Sundays

December 8, 2008

Kinder Kind of Kristmas

Living in Italy and not having kids, Christmas takes on a different sort of feel.
When I first moved here I fell in love with the toys inside the chocolate Kinder eggs. They were amazing back in the late 80's. I still have quite a collection of the really good toys.
One of the most amazing things I picked up a few years ago was a KINDER CRECHE !
The box came with the whole nativity scene, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as well as the manger scene with the cow and donkey and in the Italian tradition, some of the local villagers.
I now have 2 of the Nativity scenes and have double everyone! One year the scene came with a glow in the dark star, another year with the angel!

December 8th is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception and when Italians have a three day weekend usually and start the celebrations. My husband tells me that is when we decorate. So today the lights went up, the wreath I made from the cut grapevines from my neighbors vineyard is on the door and the creche scene is assembled.

We have taken some liberty with the scene adding small statues we have collected in our travels along with some silly other objects!

Tis the season to be jolly!!!

This is our tree this year.

details from the village scene: the small man with the red cap is a traditional figure from the creche scenes in Barcellona. The little devil is also from Barcellona.

Here we have a ivory Buddha from my mom, a wooden kitten from Oaxaca and a clay Pinocchio.

This whole project was inspired by the BEST xmas market in Italy. Naples has a whole part of the historic downtown dedicated to the artisan's making handmade creche figures.

Real one's made from clay and dressed. The figures are then placed in incredible village scenes.
Besides the incredible artisan figures, they create funny and sarcastic ones as well including famous soccer players, actors and actresses as well as political figures.

I am going down to Naples this month to pick up some new figures for my creche.

Wanna bet there is an Obama???? If so I am getting it!

will keep you all posted on the new additions.

Have a fabulous holiday season.

December 7, 2008

Simply Divina- Polenta Gnocchi

Sometimes eating fabulous meals can take 10 minutes and give immense pleasure.
I made a Tuscan Ragu, which we call sugo, the other night. I let it pippare, slowly simmer, while I watched TV, worked on the computer and talked with my hubby.

Last night when we got home from a long day in Florence, I put a pot of water on to boil and took the ragu out of the fridge.

When the water boiled I slowly let a box of "instant" polenta rain into the water, whisking the entire time. Then I lowered the flame and stirred with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes.
Covering the pot, to let it finish cooking on it's own, I reheated some ragu.

This is one of my husbands favorite meals his mom used to make.

To make "gnocchi" di polenta:

Place soup-spoon quenelles of polenta on a heated dinner plate.
Place a spoon of ragu on top of the polenta.
Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top.

This would also be wonderful with a mushroom sauce or mushrooms in the ragu.

True Tuscan comfort food- and Divina!

PS- left-overs today for snack

Left-over polenta solidifies into solid block, easy to slice.
I only had a small amount, enough to make some crostini, small toasts.

I pan-fried them in extra virgin olive oil and topped with ragu. I cut what was left over into smaller pieces and made polenta fries.

One of the restaurants I go to makes longer "french fries" from polenta in the same way.

December 6, 2008

Sicilian Saturdays- Biscotti Reginelle

Entrance to the food market "CAPO" one of my favorites in Palermo

When I was there in October they were preparing for several holidays, one of the largest, OgniSanti, where you honor the dead. As in Mexico, sugared figures are made.


Our guide was telling us as a small child, it was your dead relatives that stopped by and left the sugar figures under your bed! Instead of being afraid of ghosts, kids look forward to them as family returning to let you know they were ok.

Having worked for several years in America and Italy as a pastry chef, I always look for new recipes. In the market, I found a small pastry shop where the dad was making marzipan fruits and invited me in to watch. Facinating. On the side I noticed trays of small bite-size cookies which looked fabulous. He let me try one still warm. Love at first bite.
Lovely hard cookies, perfect for an afternoon tea, covered in toasted sesame seeds.

The secret ingredient is lard!
As you can see from the foto's inside the pastry shop, the dough looks like little pillows.

They reminded me a lot of a Chinese cookie I have had in California.

As soon as I got back to Tuscany, I started looking for the recipe.
They came out perfect the first time!

Biscotti Reginelle- Sicilian Sesame Cookies

250 grams 00 flour ( in Italy the flour is lower in gluten, more like White Lily, not all-purpose
100 grams lard ( you can use margarine if you like or Crisco)
100 grams sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Mix all the ingredients in the first part together.
Cover and let rest.

Roll out the dough and cut small pieces.
Brush the dough with the other beaten egg, and roll in the sesame seeds.

Place on a greased rack and cook at 350 degrees until golden.

Keep fresh in a cookie tin.

December 1, 2008

Tuscan Seasons- Winter- Kale

One of the first flavors my husband wants, after the new oil and possible with the new oil
is the Tuscan kale, cavolo nero.

Winter brings us fabulous greens, from spinach, chard and kale. My favorite season for salads. The choice is amazing.

But most of all, Tuscans excel at twice cooking greens, making them loved, even by those with bad childhood memories of over-cooked vegetables.

Simple boil the greens in salted water. The kale takes a long time to cook. With the first frosts, the kale tends to get more tender, but until then, really overcook it!
( Save the cooking liquid for a lovely broth)
Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid.

Cover the botton of a saute pan with olive oil ( only extra virgin please!). Add one sliced garlic clove and a little chili pepper flakes for kick.

Add the drained greens, chopped. Saute' to warm,salt to taste.

Our favorite light supper is a kale bruschetta.

Toast a slice of country-style bread lightly.
While still hot, rub with a garlic clove.
( this is known in Florence as fettunta.)

Place the fettunta in a soup bowl, cover with the hot kale and top with some of the hot broth.

The bread will soak up most of the broth softening the toast.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy a taste of Tuscany.