May 30, 2009

Italian way to cool down

caffe shakerato, I asked for milk in mine

When the temps rise here in Italy, the land that frowns on air-conditioning.... there are several ways to beat the heat. One of course is to get thee to a gelato shop NOW! I have some of my favorites in Florence listed on my website. There is one in almost every neighborhood, I sugges ordering the smallest size and eating more often!

There are several different things you can order:
gelato- which is ice cream
semifreddo- a semi-frozen whipped cream
granita- a traditional sicilian treat, icy and more liquidy that you can eat and sip! I adore coffee granita with whipped cream- the sicilian breakfast!

Another way to cool down is switching to a caffe' shakerato- a shot of coffee, shaken over ice.
Usually done with ice, I have also had it with gelato at my local coffee bar in Certaldo.

You can find the recipes on my newsletter on the website.

It is also possible to order your gelato, affogato, which means drowned. Some of my favorite ways to drown my ice cream are:

A vanilla tartufo( and premade ice cream "truffle" sold in most bars and some restaurants.) with a shot of expresso.

A chocolate tartufo with Jack Daniels.

Apple sorbet with Calvado's ( served at Cafaggio's on via Guelfa)

Lemon sorbet with Vodka- if blended, a version of Sgroppino- a Venetian after dinner drink/dessert.

Another favorite which is harder to find is the semifreddo sometimes called a mattonella in Florence. Whipped cream is sweetened and toasted nuts are added. It is frozen in a loaf pan and cut into slices to serve. Tuscan Dai-Dai makes theirs with pinenuts.

I adore the semifreddo di mandorle I get in Chianti at Oltre il Giardino, but the chef Anna won't share her recipe. I just returned from Sicily where I had it in several places and finally found a printed recipe. Worth the price of the book.

Semifreddo di Mandorle

Almond Semifreddo

2 cups fresh whipping cream
4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 oz, chopped toasted almonds

Mix the egg yolks ( save the whites) with the sugar.

Whip cream until stiff.
Add the whipping cream a little at a time to the egg yolk mixture.

Whip the egg whites and fold into the mixture a little at a time.

Fold in the chopped toasted almonds and freeze.
(If you are feeling creative, you can make a brittle from the almonds first, then when cook, crush in the food processor.)

Serve as is or topped with a chocolate or caramel sauce.

I am waiting now for the watermelon to make my watermelon granita!( recipe is in the sidebar) or you may want to try my friend David Lebovitz's take on my recipe, where he made "spiked" popsicles.

With June arriving- I have already had my first Panzanella, the Tuscan bread salad and also tuna and bean salad.

Get ready to enjoy the season. Buon appetito!

May 24, 2009

Trapani and the West Coast Tour

outside one of the Tuna shops in Favignana, Sicily

The old Tonnara plants in Favignana for tuna

Sometimes I have to travel for work, I know, it is tough living in Italy. We all make choices for the life we have. This is mine. I have always spent the small amount of money I have for travel- now I have a little more than when I was younger, but still am frugal. I bought tickets on Ryan Air, which allow me to run away and explore places, which keep my travel juices running!

I spent almost a whole month last year in Sicily with clients, after going twice to check things out on my own. I don't really use guidebooks much but I do read some about the most important things to see and do and then I read the paper when I am there, go to the tourist board, proloco's and then I explore on my own.

This fall I hope to return with a small group to Sicily again and next March I have a private tour I am researching for, of older Italian- American Mamma's coming back to the homeland.

In searching out new things for myself and my guests, I went to Favignana this trip-WOW.
It is one of the three islands off the West Coast, the Egadi Islands. Favignana was the base for the preparation of the tuna once it was caught.

I missed a food festival that was being held on Sunday- for an antique preparation of a "pasta" that they make, but did get the recipe!

It is tuna season and Favignana is the island for Tuna! In the old days, the Mattanza, was the way to catch the tuna, men would put out nets to catch these huge fish and then spear them to kill them. This ancient tradition isn't practiced so much anymore. But speaking with locals, there is still a passion and pride for those that participated. Here are some foto's which show you an example.

this is FRESH!

These giant red prawns are also locally caught and incredible!
We eat them as often as possible when in Sicily.

old anchor graveyard

There is no greater joy than to discover new places and new flavors- more on that later.
The local dish in Trapani is couscous... in a way I have never had it before.

I hope you can join me this fall- it will be a fabulous experience.

May 9, 2009

Celebrating Everyday

Spring brings so many celebrations- starting with Easter. In Italy, it signals celebrations almost every weekend, called sagre. When Spring arrives, Tuscany is at it's loveliest. This spring is no exception, green velvety hills dotted with color from wild flowers, red poppies, yellow blossoms of mustard greens, golden wheat and the lovely alfafa blossoms. Wisteria is covering walls everywhere and irises of all colors fill both gardens and the hillsides. The iris garden in Florence holds is festival in May yearly. It is on the right side of the piazzale and in June the rose gardens are the place to be, located on the left side. Piazzale Michelangelo is my favorite place to stop for the best view and foto ops in Florence before leaving for Chianti.

We had Easter, then April 25th, the libertation of Italy; May 1st, labor day; which tends to create 3 day weekends called ponte, bridges. Rain was present at the strangest times, but the hills are beautiful because of it. My Chianti week was blessed with sunshine and the storms held themselves back and we stayed dry! Time to light a candle.

In my area of Chianti, the Fiori d'acacia fritter festival starts. I was really bummed when I went a few years ago and it was really rice fritters not the fried flower blossoms I was expecting, if there were any acacia blossoms in my fritters, they were cooked away to nothing.

Not all festivals are like that. There is a fabulous medieval dinner in Certaldo at the end of the month, usually sold out months in advance, they hold two, one in May and another in June. If you are nearby you may want to see about coming.

Important to know about attending a sagra, is that usually they are in the afternoon, held after families have eaten at home and come out for the passegiata late in the afternoon. Some go on to evening and dinners are held. Ask the locals!

I hate to miss a good party in Italy! Come hungry.

Slow down and take time to smell the roses
or eat the porchetta!!!

Just got this foto from one of my "fans"!

Start them cooking young and they will thank you later!

Happy Mother's day!!!