February 13, 2009

Diva in Sonoma-

People often ask me if I ever get homesick for California.

Tuscany is so similar to the California wine country that I don't miss it at all.

This was our first view driving from Napa over to Sonoma where I am teaching for three days at Ramekins.

The hills looked like early spring, lush green hills and the signature mustard greens.

Today, instead hail struck.

But when I arrive on American soil, I have a list of things I need to eat.

My friend Steve of Rancho Gordo, who better to get my Mexican food fix with.

As we drove up to the tortilla factory it was love at first site.

We had the "fried" everything, and then also tasted the wonderful hot flour tortilla!!!

Thanks Steve! Ti Amo!

February 9, 2009

World Nutella Day- for Carnevale!


The blogging world is a wonderful world. These two wild women have put together a fabulous way to bring joy into winter. Chocolate! February always makes one think of chocolate anyway, and this year it backs right up with Carnvale which inspired my recipe.

Stop by Sara's site, Ms Adventures in Milano and Michelle's Bleeding Expresso down in Calabria. Nutella is Europe's Peanut Butter. I dream of them both together and could come up with some truly crazed recipes.

Being born in Memphis, Elvis' favorite recipe for a peanut butter and banana sandwich, with BACON!! and then grilled.... add nutella! With the bacon candy, can chocolate and nutella be far off?

At the local pastry shop, Dolce Follie, makes some variations on traditional recipes. One of my favorites is her chantilly cream, which is a rich custard lightened with whipped cream as "frosting" for cakes. She was also the first person to make the filled "cenci" ravioli's in Tuscany.
She uses a chocolate pastry cream, but for me, nutella was the obvious answer!

One of the festivals I go to, serves fried dough with Nutella and pizza with nutella and mascarpone is a typical dessert course!

Here is my recipe for Cenci. I made small circles and spooned the nutella and like a ravioli,just folded... and fried! I just flew into the states and my sister said Rachel Ray does wonton "ravioli" which are probably a lot easier, but I love the cookie dough crust of this recipes.

Quick to put together, the dough itself is usually just sprinkled with either granulated or powdered sugar and can be found in some version, all through Italy right now.

Carnival cookies- “Rags”

3 cups flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs Vin Santo, or sherry
grated peel of one lemon (zest)
3 tbs olive oil
pinch of salt
oil for frying (sunflower or corn oil)

In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, olive oil, Vin Santo, lemon peel and salt.
Add flour and mix well.
Knead for 10 minutes.

Let rest covered in a towel for 1/2 hour.

Roll out very thin, I use a pasta machine.

If dough seems too tough add a little milk or white wine.
Cut into desired shapes.

For the Nutella Ravioli, I used a water glass to cut small circles and placed a teaspoon of Nutella inside and sealed the edges and fried. They cook quickly.

Traditionally they are cut with zigzag edges and a slit in the middle and one end is passed through to twist the dough.

Fry the cookies in hot oil until golden.

Drain and sprinkle with powdered sugar or granulated sugar.

Serve with Vin Santo, the Tuscan dessert wine.

February 6, 2009

Minute at the Market- Bologna

Walking into a shop with a wall like this is heaven for a foodie!
Todays little film is in the heart of downtown Bologna- a culinary paradise! Emilia Romagna is home to most of Italy's claim to culinary fame, including Parmesan Cheese, Prosciutto di Parma and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena and Reggio Emilia.

In the little film, I show you some of the flatbreads, piadine and also mention the tigelle, but they are not in the film. The Tigelle are more english muffin size! Thanks for your patience with these first attempts at video!

Lynne Rossetto Kasper wrote The Splendid Table documenting the incredible food available in Emilia Romagna. When she wrote the book, she was living here and surrounded daily by the oppulence of the ingredients. There are dishes for the Royal Tables, but today even the everyday table is rich with the quality of ingredients available.
Lynn hosts The Splendid Table radio show, stop by and listen!

As those who have studied with me or toured with me know, it is all about the ingredients and where you get them from. It is not possible for everyone to know the name of the man that raised the pig that became the prosciutto you just bought, but it is possible to know the name of the man that sells you that prosciutto and who knows the man that raised the pig and made the prosciutto.

In eating, six-degrees of seperation may be too many!

What is fabulous about living here in Italy is creating a life which allows you to spend time shopping and cooking. I believe that it is an easier to raise the quality of your life-style.
Learn to cook! Learn to shop!

This year I am happy to join forces with friends from Bologna, Raffaella and Marcello in creating a new program for foodies to enjoy a real Banquet!
Email me for more info on our custom program for both Gourmets and Chefs!

Our lunch, ricotta filled tortelli,made by Francesca, Marcella and Raffaella's daughter.
Expert sfoglina (the name given to women that make the pasta and create the fabulous stuffed and shaped pastas).
Every shape has a story: the tiny tortellini are supposed to represent the bellybutton of the model for the Venus of Botticelli; cappelletti, priests hats.

Shop in film:

la Salumeria di Bruno e Franco
Via Oberdon, 16

Stop by and tell them you saw the shop on Divina Cucina.... and are friends!

February 1, 2009

A Minute at the Market- Castelfiorentino

One of my favorite moments of the living in Italy is shopping at the weekly market. Now that we live full time in the countryside outside of Florence, I miss the Central Market. We do go to the local COOP grocery store for basics and to the village shops for fresh goods. I am lucky as my village of Certaldo has 2 market days, Saturday is the small market in the Piazza and Wednesday is the larger one that takes over several city blocks on the outskirts of town.

As part of my Florence cooking classes, the market tour and shopping took longer and longer as we were having so much fun. Speaking the language and eavesdropping has been a way to learn Italian better and also collecting new recipes. Everyday is a new lesson in Italian life and better than going to the movies.

Besides getting fabulous food, meeting artisans and saving money by buying directly instead of at the supermarkets or smaller mom and pop shops, I adore watching professionals work.

This Saturday we went to the nearby Castelfiorentino market, which is quite large. This video is of one of my favorite stands for cheese. The market is divided into two section, one with food and plants, often even live chickens and rabbits. We live in a truly rural area where people continue the tradition of raising their own food, both my maintaining gardens and barnyard animals.

Paolo Paolini, my cheesemaster at the market.

These stands are actually small trucks and they travel, so where ever you go, it is market day somewhere nearby!

Stand after stand of vendors with everything from roasted chickens to candy and freshly ground coffee. Farms with their tables filled with the fruits and vegetables of the season.

Greenhouses, selling seeds and plants.

Kitchen supply stores: pots, pans, spoons,knives and cutting boards.

The other side of the market is like a travelling department store. Not only stand after stand of clothes, but also yardage for clothing and drapes. Carpets and BBQ grills.

What's not to love?

We went to Castelfiorentino this week as there was also an opening of a new museum with the work of Benozzo Gozzoli

The museum contains two of his chapel pieces which were restored and remounted inside.
It is fascinating to see both the fresco's and the sinopia, which are the sepia colored sketches under the fresco which the artist painted on.

Pairing a market day with museums or sites to see is one of the pleasures living in Tuscany.
I hope you can join me on one of my market day tours in Florence... or Chianti.
Stop by my site for more info on my one day, three day and one week custom programs.