March 29, 2010

Florentine New Year


March 25th was celebrated as Florence's New Year's day-
9 months before Christmas- the Annunciation.

For me, spring has always been new beginnings
and this year is no different.

I have started my Market to Table classes again, but here in Certaldo.

I have a great tour set up for April- May in Bay Area (CA), Seattle (WA) and Eugene(OR).
Many of the classes and events are sold out already- but you can check by clicking
on the links on the sidebar and emailing.

Looking forward to meeting cooks, bloggers and all my FB and twitter friends.

Ci vediamo presto.

Happy New Year's from Florence.

For Easter I will be posting on a few of my favorite recipes for an Italian Easter!

March 25, 2010

Am I one of THOSE???

distorted visions of life in Italy?? even artichokes have a prickly heart!



I have been living in Italy since 1984 and started my website in 1997. Living with slow internet connections it was hard to post often, but I put my dining guide online for Florence and Chianti, introduced you all to some of my friends and their recipes. Since 2003, I was able to start blogging, slowly, but surely and since then internet connections have gotten better, even on the hill where I live.

I try to share what's going on in my simple life- my job is food related and teaching. There is only work 6 months out of the year- so money is not flowing all over the place, but I chose a simple life style and am happy with my life here.

Then I get this:


in regard to this blog post- referring to the simple things here in Tuscany- like bread and chocolate- then drifting off to what is available here.

Whoever "me" is ( unavailable profile on blogger) perhaps has not been to Italy and does not know the cost of living here or the history of the country.

I do not write about that- but perhaps should so people do not think I am "yet another expat American gushing over the Mediterranean"

Italy is a country where the war was held for many years- and the people living here treat life with a great respect and do not waste. The reader commented on how much the "rustic" bread must have cost or the saffron chocolates".

Food is one of the most important things in the Italian life and hence also for the budget-
In America I paid $5 for a "Rustic" loaf of bread- here in Italy it is 1 euro.

Saffron grows on the hills near where I live and although is expensive, a tiny bit goes a long way and has always been used in regional dishes and is available in a less expensive powdered form for everyday use in the home.

Yes- the subtitle of my blog is " try being Tuscan once a day" and I still believe it.
When one truly lives here, like a local and not like a tourist, there are so many things to learn on living a simple but full life.

I am sorry for the person who wrote this note to me- and hope they can find a way to make the most of the simple things in life to be happier!

I have!

I have always wanted a T-shirt which says NOT FRANCES MAYES- for the problems I had restoring the tiny little piece of old farmhouse I have in Tuscany. No not a villa, a one bedroom house, which is a 1/3 piece of a old one family home, divided.

The work was started and then stopped for 8 years--- of red tape!!!

I am the last person to GUSH- since I have paid with blood, sweat and real tears for what I have here in Tuscany.

I am sure most expats that actually live here fulltime and not just in holiday homes feel the same as I do. Perhaps it is because we don't complain online about the hardships of the life we have chosen to live, which for most Americans would be unheard of such as:

Washing machines but no driers-
paying bills standing in line at the post office ( no writing a check and sending it in)
Gasoline at almost $6 a gallon

Thanks for listening to my rant!!!

Here is another reason I love Italy---- ARTICHOKE SEASON!!!

Spring is here and the markets are full with mountains of artichokes.
I just did a simple version of the Roman Carciofi alla Giudea- from the Jewish Ghetto-

Try them!!! and remember I write twice a week for Food Connect where you can get more recipes!




March 18, 2010

What's Cooking?


Let the cooking begin!!!

Yesterday was my first new "Kitchen in Chianti" cooking class at Villa il Poggiolaia, near my home in Certaldo. We had a blast.

Certaldo will never be the same now.



The vendors at the weekly market where thrilled with our joy and enthusiasm with the ingredients we found and the treasures, from some fun slip-on shoes to garden gloves and stovetop Tuscan "tostapane" my favorite tool in the kitchen.




After a nice porchetta sandwich in the market and owner's wine- off to the local grocery store to fill in the menu with meat the other pantry items for our impromptu menu.


This is what we bought at the Market to create our meal



We began with some Burrata cheese from the stand from Naples and some wonderful salty Tuscan Schiacciata as appetizers while cooking.

Grilled marininated Squash with white wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil marinade


Hand-rolled Pici pasta with an arrabbiata sauce, (tomato sauce with garlic and chili)


They perfected the Pici technique!

Pork tenderloin in baguette with Tuscan herb mixture which we also made with the mezzaluna

Sauteed artichokes


Sicilian Orange salad


Rice Fritters with raisins and orange zest!


I am looking forward to these fun classes again. Being inspired by what is in season and fresh, you can't go wrong!

Buon Appetito and Buon Shopping!

This week-end is the Truffle dinner parties sponsored by the local truffle hunters. We went last year and it was a blast!






March 10, 2010

Why I love My Job


When I first started teaching my market to table cooking classes in Florence, I had already spent 4 years shopping the markets, cooking to perfect recipes and eating.

What's not to love?

Every trip to the market is a new experience for me. Season fruits and vegetables, strange "offal", eavesdropping on conversations and picking up new recipes. The markets are my school.

Now over 20 years later, I adore sharing the market in my Monday at the Market sessions.
I get a chance to share what I have learned over the years and introduce my market vendors to people that are curious and love food. Without the stress of running back to cook- we meander the isles, stopping and tasting as we go.

More time to enjoy conversations and really get a full immersion into what life is like here.

Of course, we also include some shopping in the outdoor market where my friend/vendors pass on the same prices I would get to my clients. That is getting a great deal!

See, Shop and Savor- soon I will have a down-loadable file online for sale, with my secrets on eating, drinking, shopping and also museums!

meanwhile don't forget I also have recipes on Food Connect , I linked to the parmesan chips I adore making and having with a lovely prosecco- try them at your next party.

Do you twitter??? I do to @divinacucina

See you here.... or there!

Here is where I will be teaching in April on the West Coast.

March 5, 2010

Why I Shop Local Markets

Monday Market in San Casciano- Chianti
My market mantra came from my Mother-in-law, Tina,
"Spend more time shopping and less time cooking."

I have learned that it is not the recipe that you cook nor the time you spend preparing food which makes it taste good. It is the quality of the ingredients which you work with.
In Italy, they say la materia prima. It is what the Slow Food movement is all about, really.

Getting food from as nearby as possible and from quality producers. Eating foods in season.

For years, people have been talking about the eating local- trying to buy foods produced within 30 km of where you live. Yes, that does limit your diet. I do not stick to that exclusivly, but by changing how we shop, we can also effect the planet and the quality of the air we breathe.

It is not easy in the hectic world we have created- but taking the time for ourselves is probably the best gift you can pass on to future generations.

Read Michael Pollan and Michael Ruhlman

Learn to cook- but also learn to shop!
Really put your money where your mouth is.

For so long people have reached out for cheap food- and we get what we pay for and I believe spend the difference in medicine to treat illnesses brought on by eating inferior foods.

Invest in yourself, you deserve the best!

I also find that when I buy better more flavorful foods, including simple pantry basics like good first pressed olive oil and natural sea salts, I use less as they have tons for flavor!

I am constantly inspired by the market and always collecting new recipe shared with my by the people that produce the food I am buying. They want me to be happy so always are generous with their ideas and how to showcase what they make. Often I share my versions with them.

This is how my Italian got to be so good.

One of my favorite tricks at the market, is to return to a vendor I like and when there are some other clients around, to mention loudly about how I adored the recipe they gave me or how good the last product I bought was. It created curiousity and usually I get more recipes from how someone else would prepare it.

It is material for another book!!!

I will soon share it with you too!