March 30, 2009

Why I love my life!

Often when I am travelling teaching in the states, people ask me if I ever get homesick. I moved here in 1984 and have never looked back.

Life in Europe is not easy- but always exciting and yummy when you life circles around food.

I am in the right place!

You know life is good when your butcher calls in the master pastry maker and is serving hot bomboloni - italian doughnuts on a wet Sunday afternoon-

or driving by the local pool, you see the truffle hunters are throwing a dinner party!

and simple dishes like eggs, can be made for a king!

Italia ti amo!

Watch those ticket prices- they are coming down..... come on over and party like an Italian! There is always some sagra, local festival celebrating some food or wine.

PS April 6th I am guest chef and doing a book signing in Kansas City MO.
At my friend JASPERS.... come on down!

Here is the info on where and when!

March 25, 2009

Florentine New Year's Day- March 25th

Sometimes the sunshines and the planets line-up and all is well with the world.
Today is one of those days.

Florentine New Year celebrates the Incarnation, 9 months before the Navity, December 25th.

The Duomo in Florence is called Santa Maria del Fiore, in honor of Mary and many other holidays celebrate Mary rather than Jesus.

Today, I picked up my copy of my cookbook and feel like I just gave birth!

This project has been a dream since I first started teaching and created a handwritten cookbook to give to my student.

I really wanted to pass on the feel of a handwritten book, passed on from a family member with recipes that were tried and true!

Here it is - Divina Cucina's Recipes

Secrets of My Tuscan Kitchen is ready!

It can be ordered online, right now I have shipping listed at 5 euro, but found out today it will cost me 11 euro to ship, so order now to save!

I will probably raise the shipping price to 8 Euro.

The book for now will not be available on Amazon just from my site and also will be available at the Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano, in the Central Market at San Lorenzo ( Conti's) and probably at Paperback exchange in Florence on Via delle Oche.

I will have a full list when I get back from the states and get the distribution going!

Thanks to all of my fans!

You can order your autographed copy here on my site.

March 22, 2009

Simple Sunday Lunch

Sometimes I am inspired by seasonal foods to cook and create. Other times, life just calls out for simple.

Where I live in Tuscany, an over-sized spinach and ricotta filled ravioli is called Ravioli alla Maremmana, Maremma-style ravioli's.

As spring has just arrived, young spinach is a natural filling with ricotta for ravioli and also for crepes.

This large-size is saved for Sunday lunches or parties and you only need a few per person, so if you are making your own, it is a great idea to make them large and make fewer!

Boiled spinach is drained and then minced and then blended with ricotta and some grated parmesan cheese. Here we add a little grated nutmeg to the mixture.

But the sauce is what I really adore.

This is the dish that made me want to move to Italy.

Simplicity on a plate.

Fresh sage leaves are either left whole or sliced thinly and warmed in butter.

I set the sage and butter in a skillet over the boiling pasta water and let the butter melt and the sage infuse into the butter.

When the water is boiling, I toss in the ravioli and let them cook until they begin to swell, which is the sign they are cooked.

I put the skillet with the butter on a burner over low heat and let the sage fry a little bit now and add the ravioli and a little of the cooking water.

Letting the ravioli finish cooking in the sage infused butter is a great trick I learned working in restaurants here, the sauce cooks into the pasta and gives so much more flavor.

The other trick is to add some grated parmesan to the pan as they are warming and the cheese begins to melt and forms a creamier sauce with the butter and pasta water.

Serve the ravioli with the sauce poured on top and serve more parmesan freshlyt grated on top.

If you can't move here like I did, this will bring a little Tuscany into your kitchen!

My book release updates:

The printers promised me to have the book ready by the end of the week, which means next week to me!

Thank you to those who have pre-ordered, I will get the books out to you as soon as I get them in my hot little hands.

If you will be in Tuscany soon, my friend Dario Cecchini, the wild butcher of Panzano will be throwing me a book- signing party soon!

if you haven't ordered my book, you can do so here on my website. There are also tons of other recipes online and dining guides for Florence and Chianti.


March 18, 2009

Father's day in Italy- March 19th

Everyone was asking me what I was doing for Saint Patrick's day here in Italy.
NOTHING... I could hang out with American college kids drinking green beer I suppose, but never really did when I was in college.

But there is always some celebration going on in Italy and here March 19th is Father's day.

San Giuseppe- Saint Joseph- father of Jesus!!!!
Of course any celebreation means food.

Next year I will go down to Salemi, outside of Palermo to see the San Giusseppe alters, decorated with bread dough sculptures. The detail taken in creating these objects in amazing. At TASTE the other day, they had some samples.

In Tuscany we have fried sweet rice fritters, which I adore.

Here is the recipe on my site.

I just received a note on a recipe from Palermo for Sfinge, which are fried stuffed cream puffs, filling them with ricotta like cannoli. The recipe is in Italian.. but you get the idea from the foto.
Make the cream puff dough, fry them instead of baking them and then stuff with sweetened ricotta.

My friends in Palermo with the tiny B&B AGAVE, also are posting on what's cooking there, I see the Italian version is getting more recipes than the English version of the blog, but you can practice your Italian.

Hope you can enjoy some of these specialties, but even more, come here and Celebrate!

March 15, 2009

I heart Markets-

Finally over jetlag, we hit the Saturday market at nearby Castelfiorentino. We picked up our parmesan from the same guy, who always gives us huge shards to taste as we wait. The price is incredible, only 14 euro per kilo for three year old cheese.

We also could not resist buying a whole guanciale from the stand from Sardegna. For us the market is a chance to buy "foreign foods" such as products from Sardegna, Naples and Sicily.
Smart vendors bring up specialties to sell mostly to the workers who have left their homes, travelling up north for work.

One may leave their homes, but not their traditions or their food palate!

The market in Certaldo on Sunday had a little of everything from arts and crafts to antiques and food stalls. I scored some new wooden spoons and an incredible book on cooking with wild greens and how to identify and find them.
Now you will find me with my little plastic bag on the roadsides along with the other Tuscan ladies!

Sunday there was a special market in Certaldo where we found other specialties. This darling guy was hand-slicing prosciutto from Norcia, another delight that one must usually travel for.

Next up was the table from Puglia, with it's huge loaves of bread and vegetables preserved in oil.

Puglia is considered the breadbasket of Italy.

The hard wheat flower grown there makes a fabulous bread and the rich soil gives the vegetables a special flavor. The pugliese are experts in preserving these flavors.

I am so glad to be home!

Have a huge pot of ragu on the stove.
Just made some grilled pumpkin for Andrea.
Tomorrow am going down to Florence for the last day of the TASTE show.

The book is at the printers and the printing starts Tuesday!

All is well.

March 11, 2009

Finalemente- back online and home

Leaving Tuscany in winter and returning to find spring is one of the greatest joys.
My wild violets are blooming and the first irises are showing their purple glory.

The trip to the West Coast was a huge success and perfect timing as winter in Tuscany is slow to say the least. I enjoyed the travel and new friends I met as well as the time spent with old friends. I taught recipes from my various trips around Italy which have inspired me, Puglia and Sicily as well as Tuscan favorites.

My trip took me from Sonoma to LA and back. I did a class at the lovely new teaching kitchen at Cavallo Point at the old Fort over looking the Golden Gate Bridge. Check out GastronoMichaels write-up on class.

The foto above is my hilltown village of Certaldo, half-way between Florence and Siena on the train. I hope to start a new project here this year. Stay tuned for news. It is a very special place with two market days a week, a mamma restaurant as well as a Michelin starred place and other secrets I would love to share!

During this trip I also taught in Eugene, Oregon and then hung out with my friend, Master Chef Robert Reynolds in Portland. Seattle was great as always. Sold out classes at Diane's Market Kitchen, if you get a chance, she is me..... there! Knows everyone at the market and does tours and classes.

Tomorrow I go to check out the printers to see how my book is coming along. I can't wait to hold it in my hands! With the loss of my laptop in LA ( rental cars don't all have automatic locking of doors!!!) in the Whole Foods parking lot in Pacific Palisades, I felt lost trying to stay on top of things and wasn't able to take the time to get a new computer until a couple of days before I left. So I think the only thing missing for the book, is the inside flap intro and foto for the cover and we will be ready to go.

When I found my external harddrive and plugged it in, it wouldn't open, causing me a few moments of panic. But after a short GOOGLE research, I was saved!
I had to "unlock" the harddrive on another computer and now have access to all that was saved.

Time to light a candle! I am now the proud owner of a new MacBook and am trying to catch up!

For those of you that also follow my writings, here is my last article for The American Magazine.

Instead I am now writing for Food Connect, on a twice weekly basis, please stop by and leave your feedback!

It is great to be home!

March 7, 2009

Good News- Bad News

Well. long story short.

Someone stole my laptop at the Whole Foods parking lot in Pacific Palisades!

Thank god, my external hard drive was in another bag.
Who knows what else was in the computer bag which was in another bag.

I will find out slowly what I lost.

( foto above, Emanuelle at my dinner at Angeli Caffe in LA, cute boys are always good news!)

Documents and recipes.

I can always re-write.

Foto's that had not been downloaded to flickr or picasa or to the harddrive, lost except ones I emailed to friends.

I return home to Florence Monday and will start the tedious job of redoing things.

BUT.. I have a short memory.. so will forget quickly.....what was lost and just get on with it!

So stay tuned for updates.

I had a fabulous tour-
Sonoma, Los Angeles, Sausalito

Eugene, oregon and Portland.... off to Seattle and then to Victoria, BC and Vancouver.

Old friends, new friends.

Now back home.

There's no place like home!