January 31, 2011

Pancetta Progress- Charcutepalooza

You know you are living in the right place when a sign like this is at the exit of the grocery store, to make sure you know about it. At the Meat Counter you can reserve your pork for salting.

The cool air in January is perfect for families to age their own cured pork products. We mostly live in stone homes and have dark cool rooms where salumis can hang next to prosciuttos. My neighbors dedicate a bedroom for their prosciutto to dry. There are laws that allow each family on a farm to raise and slaughter two pigs per family.

Per pig you get:
 two prosciutto's
 two large slabs or pancetta. (Most people here make the "stesa" flat style for cooking with).
 two shoulder pieces can be either preserved for spalla- like prosciutto or the meat is just ground for sausages or salami.
the head is boiled for soprasatta, head cheese.
the blood can be  made into burista, a blood sausage or used fresh for a special crepe.

Then there are the cuts for stew meat  and roast pork.

I don't have a farm, so ordered my pancetta from the local COOP grocery store. That is more than enough for my husband and I. At first, even he was shocked at the amount of pork I bought, but now has embraced the process.

Here is my pork belly, half-way through the curing to become pancetta. Even the raw pork belly is called Pancetta, as it refers to the belly, pancia. I adore sliced fresh pancetta, seasoned and simply grilled.

pancetta - right from the salt cure

I am enjoying the Charcutepalooza assignments and this month have have made a pancetta "stesa".

The flat version is the one we use mostly for cooking with here in Tuscany, the rolled one, arrotolata, is more to be eaten thinly sliced as a part of a salumi tray.

I have Ruhlman's book on Charcuterie, which is our bible for the project. But, since I live in the land of preserving pigs, I am also getting tips from my local farmers and butchers.

I let the pancetta sit for 5 days in its salt cure and removed today and rinsed off the excess rub and cure. I then let it sit and rubbed it down with red wine vinegar. In Italy, vinegar is the disinfectant of choice. I then rubbed the entire pancetta with black pepper and hung to dry.

My husband took the pancetta from the kitchen and brought it upstairs to the dark, cool, place" under the attic to hang.

The local butcher said it should be ready in 5 days. Just before I leave so I will be able to share it with you.

My pantry is never without pancetta, in my final post I will gather together some traditional recipes using pancetta. My guanciale and bacon are waiting for their final treatments.

I treasure my neighbors, butchers and farmers for the Italian life lessons I get daily- Mille Grazie!


January 27, 2011

Diva on Tour- SF Bay Area and Eugene

This year I will be coming back to the San Francisco Bay Area for three weeks.
Here is a list of events and classes-

Feb 11- Cooking Class- Lafayette- In Terry's Kitchen menu will be online soon
Feb 12th - KGO- on the radio with Gene Burns in Am
then cooking demo at Bloomingdales in afternoon.
Feb 13- Private party
Feb 16-Eugene, Oregon- Cooks, Pots and Tabletops class
Feb 18- Cooking Class- Lafayette- In Terry's Kitchen
Feb 19- Cooking Class- Rutherford- St. Helena Olive Oil Company
Feb 20- Book Signing- talk- SF- Italian American Museum
Feb 25-Back to Italy

Check out my new programs in Colle Val D'Elsa and dates for Sicily tours.

Hope to see you!

January 26, 2011

Preserved Duck Breast "sott'olio"

In Italy, many foods are preserved under oil- "sott'olio". That includes pork.
Dario Cecchini makes a fabulous Tonno del Chianti, using a cooked pork, preserved in oil, which tastes like Tonno- tuna!

When I was down in Maremma, where the Tuscan cowboys roam, I was served an appetizer at a local trattoria which was cubes of wild boar salami and black olives in a jar with oil and herbs.
Having a left-over duck breast, I decided to preserve it using this technique.

my cured duck breast, olives and rosemary and bay leaves

place the cubed duck, layered with olives and herbs

cover in oil- I used olive oil, but lighter oils are fine

In my local food shops, alimentari, in the countryside, I often find small pork tenderloins which have been roasted, seasoned and then kept in oil. The oil keeps them from becoming dry. Older salami can also be sliced and kept this way.

Remove from oil and serve as part of a nice snack, merenda, with some sheep's milk cheese, bread and wine.

Preserved Duck Breast

Rome- Saturday Mercato Amica- BYOB

There is no way if I am in a town I cannot go to a market. I have visited Rome many times and the last trip I did the new Trionfale market with my friend David Lebovitz when he was down doing a Gelato tour.

This trip, I asked friends, and found a Saturday only market near the Circo Massimo. A farmer's market called Mercato Amico, local farmers bring their fresh and preserved products and sell directly. It is located on Via San Teordoro, right by the Circo Massimo.

BYOB- bring your own bag to fill with fabulous products made by those that grow your food and bring your own bottle if you want fresh milk.

the "happy pastorella"- cheese lady

quite the choice of artisan beers

sausage, salami, guanciale-- a pork-lover's paradise

BYOB- fresh milk, 1 euro a liter

herbs for the kitchen, essences and tisane

beans, beans and beans- as well as other products from her farm- got viscole jam!

winter greens

pasta made with ostrich eggs
jams and jellies
lovely bulbs

I only spent an hour or so here and wish I had an apartment and a week more to enjoy the great fresh products too. I understand there was a small lunch stand in the back corner behind the beer, but I didn't see it.

My friend Rossella, another blogger, met me at the market and then shared a secret! Around the corner is a great place to stop for chocolate, coffee, pastries and even a bagel! Cristalli di Zucchero was small but really lovely. They have a larger space across town with tables.

treasures from Cristalli di Zucchero

Mercato Amico
Via San Teodoro
Circo Massimo
All  Saturday

January 23, 2011

Charcutepalooza- First project- Duck Prosciutto- DONE

I came home from my pizza workshop in Rome with Gabriele Bonci and the first thing I did was to check my breasts!!! They have been hanging under the attic and were not ready when I left.

They were PERFECT. I adore learning new tricks and the challenges from the Charcutepalozza will be a  lot of fun. The original weight of the duck breasts were 165 grams a piece, I cut them off a whole duck. After a night under salt, they went down to 130 grams.  To be ready, Ruhlman says they should lose 25-30% of their weight once they have been left to dry.

When I came back today, they were 95 grams each and became lunch! I simply sliced half of the breast and cubed some. I served with my own salt-cured olives and Tuscan bread, pecorino cheese and some red wine. A lunch made in heaven!

On the tray is one of the breasts, the other I am going to preserve as they would wild boar or other dry salumi. I will put small cubes of the duck breast in a jar with black olives, rosemary and chili pepper flakes and cover with olive oil.

Preserving is becoming a lost art and I am trying to learn as much as I can to pass on so we can recreate these treasures at home.

If you want to be inspired by the other bloggers stop by their sites- leave us notes too!!! We love  feedback. It is fun to see how people using basically the same recipe get their results.

Historically, salt-cured duck and goose meat where made in northern Italy by the Italian Jewish Commnity, so there are traditions here too with this, but although Italy has been united now for 150 years, the regional recipes do not travel.

Here is part one of the Duck "prosciutto" post for the January Challenge.

Basic recipe for Duck Prosciutto:

Place under salt for 12 hours.
Wipe off salt, season and hang in a cool place to dry.
Should take a week to 10 days.
I did a typical dry rub of Spezie della Regina, a local blend of spices and some black pepper.

For the more technical recipe, check out Ruhlman's Charcuterie book.

Charcutepalooza- First project- Duck Prosciut on Punk Domestics

January 22, 2011

I'm a Bonci Girl- Lezione part 2

I feel a little crazed after the second class with pizza maestro Gabrielle Bonci. I couldn't get to sleep until around 2am, thinking and re-thinking about everything that he has said.

I came to the class not really knowing anything about him, except his was the God of Pizza al Taglio in Rome. The pizza made in trays and sold by the slice and paid for by weight.

I did better my second try working with the dough, still a little too rough with such a delicate dough, but I was happy with the results.

the man is possesed about pizza

The class was a sort of organized mayhem--- as the school has just opened, these are sort of trial by error. An amazing amount of money was spent on setting up 15 set-ups to cook- 15 sinks, 15 burners that move up and out of the way when not needed, 15 spaces to work, 15 stools. WOW.

It was a little too crowded for all of us to gather around the bench space where Gabrielle was working. He is of course larger than life so I could see him while he was talking and moving around some get to see what he hands were doing. But as a teacher- I moved to the back of the space letting the others stand in front.

I learned a lot. I know a lot- but now I know more. I will be dangerous!

Day two, we worked the dough we had made the day before, our own, which were marked with our names on them. The set-up and prep at the school is fabulous.

riccardo- was a great help!

The lessons were really about the dough. Flour and water, lots of water.

What impressed me was Gabriele's enthusiam for what he does. You can see in creating his "flavors" he uses the dough like a blank canvas, and then builds layers of flavors-- and color.

If you can speak Italian, he is on a TV show where he shares his secrets- all of them.

Day two was a little more roomy as a couple of the students called in sick. We each had our dough, and Garbriele also has quite a bit where he made the larger sheet pans as he would for work. We also tasted a foccaccia dough "foggiana" from Puglia. So much information and food.

There were about 20 different pizza's and  we all got take-home boxes. I am in a hotel, so just took very little, but you could feed a family!

After lunch on Friday with Semsa and Katie, Katie shared one of her  Rome favorites SAID chocolate Factory. One of the FAVORITE ways I love to eat bread is with chocolate. Remember the movie Pane e Cioccolato? So knowing we were baking again, I bought some of their artisan chocolates to share in class. If you have never tried eating a piece of good chocolate with a nice piece of salted bread- DO IT NOW. Gabriele got all excited  for the chocolate with the bread with the tomatoes too. In Tuscany we do dolce-forte sauce for wild boar and hare, which is a variation of mole. Chocolate with savory.


I hope to  have Gabriele come to Tuscany for a workshop soon- write to me if you are interested!
In Rome, we can arrange to have a translator for custom programs.

I warn you, he is a volcano of ideas! Italy's version of the "dough boy".

I need  a vacation after this!

January 21, 2011

Learning New Tricks- Tricolore, Roma- Pizza with Gabriele Bonci

As a cooking teacher and cook, I know the fewer the ingredients, the easier a recipe is to screw up.
Pizza is like that. Flour+Water. Pinch of yeast, extra virgin olive oil and salt.

But WHAT farina?

How MUCH water?

That is where lessons with a Master come in.

We were lucky to work with both Gabriele Bonci, our dough boy and Fulvio Marino of the Molino Marino in the Langhe region of Italy.

This is part of a two-day workshop at the new Tricolore Monti school. During the day they sell sandwiches from incredible breads, made on site, from the tiny window at the storefront at night the kitchen converts to 15 workspaces for classes.

a passion for pizza

We each had a dough ready for us to work with and we made out own dough for day two's session.
A mixture of 90% 00 flour from Molino Marino and 10% emmer flour ( farro) with about 80% ratio of water to flour, a very, very wet and soft dough.

Often people don't like pizza as it sits in your stomach after eating. Letting the dough rise slowly ( as for breads) allows magic to happen, creating a lighter dough which is easier to digest.

It is hard to make dough and take fotos at the same time, we were all laughing so hard last night.

Gabriele is a mountain of energy and information, both he and Fulvio were patient with all of us, playing with such wet dough and not handling it correctly. But you learn by making mistakes.

Rome is famous for it's pizza al taglio, which is sold by weight. Gabriele showed us his version of the Pizza Bianca, Rome's flatbread which is then cut open and used for sandwiches. GREAT TRICK!

He served with slathered in fresh ricotta with salad greens and a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. HEAVEN.

Huge Success- can't wait to see what tonight's class brings-

Here is my confession- I burned my pizza! With 15 ovens in the school- was hard to judge and manage cooking times for all. Gabrielle said I worked the dough too long on the table and should have left it alone and done the final shaping on the pan.  Lesson learned!

I promise to do better tonight. After class, students are given boxes to take home their pizza, who wants mine tonight?

January 18, 2011

Getting Cheeky for Charcutepalooza

Once there was a pig. A special pig. Now his cheek is in my fridge. I promise to treat it with love.

This passion for pigs goes way back. Now living in Tuscany I am blessed to be able to say I really know where the food I eat comes from. These are Cinta Senese Pigs at the Casamonti Farm in Castellina in Chianti.

My friend Ray was part of the movement to save this pigs from extinction. Their fat is similar to olive oil due to their diet. This thick layer of fat cooks more slowly, so I will be interested in seeing how long it takes to make my guanciale with it.

Of course, I could have just bought a guanciale from Ray, as they turn their pigs into prosciutto, salami and guanciale. But I love to try things at least once. Ray is coaching me on his recipe for making it.

bad foto, but Sandro had my guanciale all ready trimmed and ready for me!

The Guanciale weighs 1,550 kilos which is about around 3 pounds.  

On the left is the salt they sell here in the store to make your own  cured meats at home, it is sea salt from Cervia, which is the least salty of the sea salts in Italy and seasoned with black pepper, rosemary and garlic.

On the right is the normal Sicilian sea salt we get at the grocery store. I am not using any "pink salt" as it is not the tradition here. We will see how it turns out.

this blend is suggested for making pancetta and coppa

This probably won't be done for the February Charcutepalooza post, for that I will try making bacon as it is not easy to find here and I adore a good BLT!

January 17, 2011

International Day of Italian Cuisine

Following friends on Twitter and Facebook keep me up to date with what's happening all over the world.

Today, much to my amazement is the International Day of Italian Cuisine and they are celebrating by making Pesto- all around the world.

Am I the only person thinking that it is an odd choice?
Pesto in Winter?  I know, we can get fresh herbs from green houses all year long and somewhere in the world it is the season for fresh basil.

If like me, here in the heart of Tuscany, your basil in your garden is dead, try my friend Federico's Sage Pesto

Here the sage leaves grow large and are fabulous fried in a light batter as an appetizer and lightly salted. The butchers make a fabulous Tuscan Herb Blend, the trinity being; Rosemary, Sage and Garlic with sea salt. 

Federico's Sage Pesto
1 handful of young sage leaves, stems removed
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop the sage leaves by hand. Do not use a blender to chop the sage! 

I first slice them width-wise and then finely chop them with a very sharp knife. 

Mince the garlic and add all the ingredients to a bowl.

You can chop the walnuts in the blender.  

Stir well and taste to adjust salt and cheese. This will be thick mixture.

Before serving, place some of the pesto in the serving bowl and thin with a ladle of the hot pasta water. 

Add drained pasta of your choice and toss. 

I usually serve the dish topped with more grated cheese on fettuccine. 

Grazie Federico!

January 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza -

It is quite appropriate that the Charcutepalooza begins now.
January 17th is Sant'Antonio D'Abate, patron saint of barnyard animals and the day, traditionally, that the pigs are slaughtered to become prosciutto, pancetta, guanciale and salami.

The weather is cold and damp and in stone farmhouses, perfect for aging meats with no special rooms or treatments, for centuries, families have fed themselves using recipes and traditional techniques passed on by previous generations.

Here in Tuscany, I usually attend the blessing of the animals at a local village, some towns have huge bonfires instead. Italians love to celebrate and where there is a celebration, there is food!
 My favorite dish at the blessing of the animals is the pig's blood crepe, Roventino, which can be had savory or sweet, topped with grated parmesan cheese or with sugar and lemon zest. I usually have both!

Charcutepalooza  is a year in meat, with a once a month challenge. It is the brainchild of Mrs Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy.

Get your self a copy of Ruhlman's Charcuterie and join in when you feel like it. They have coined the Ruhls for participating and there are over 100 food-bloggers on the Meat Bandwagon.

Way back in 2006, Kate and I already shared our Pork Love with IACP, bringing Fergus Henderson to talk with us about our love of Nose to Tail,  butchers and traditional preserving techniques in Europe. We began a blog, to share our love of all thing pork- Savoring the Whole Hog.

Although I worked with Master butcher Dario Cecchini for 2 years, I really have no need to make my own charcuterie living in Tuscany, as I am surrounded by artisan butchers everywhere. But this challenge sounded like a lot of fun to join in and present the Italian way, some old world wisdom.

Here is a little progress report on my "duck breast prosciutto". In northern Italy, where they do eat more duck, they make prosciutto from the thighs of both duck or goose.  These recipes were mostly from the Jewish Italian cuisine where pork was not allowed. As in French cooking, especially in Gascony where Kate makes her home, ducks are like pigs, where every part is used.

I would really adore one of these "holders" for duck or goose prosciutto's, am going to look for one at the Valsana website, where this foto is from.

Today was the day to check our  "prosciutto"  but as this has really taken off, there were some people, like myself, that started a little late and the final day to post will be the 30th. I will also do an update there on the final results.

I salted the thighs and breasts, left overnight, rinsed and did dry rub with salt and Tuscan spice mixture. Wrapped and hung in cool place for a week.

I unwrapped my duck breasts today, but found that I had been over zealous in the wrapping and that they had only lost 10% of the weight instead of the 25% which is considered perfect. As you can see in the foto, they are still red in most part.

some dark dried parts, but mostly still damp

I decided to follow my heart and the more traditional Tuscan way of aging meats and repeated the dry rub of pepper and Tuscan spices and threaded the breasts with cotton cord and rehung in the cool space under the attic stairs.

finishing the drying process, like a Tuscan would

I will have better control over them that way.

Meanwhile, the February challenge has been posted. There are several choices, but it is all about salt curing. Bacon, pancetta or guanciale in the pork family, gravlax for fish, Moroccan preserved lemons? I love them all! It is all about the salt- and having been to the ancient salt flats in Trapani Sicily I am in love with my sea salt.

this is where I get my salt, do you know where yours comes from?

Am contacting my friend and local pig farmer Ray at Casamonti in Castellina in Chainti, to see about getting some Cinta Senese Pork cheeks to make my own guanciale. This weekend I am heading to Rome to take part in a Pizza workshop at Tricolori Monti with Gabriele BONCI, Rome's poster boy of all things made with flour, and have already arranged to go guanciale shopping with my Rome Guru, Elizabeth Minchelli.

I think in February I will have a lot curing in my pantry while I am in San Francisco teaching some classes, eating some good food and hanging with family and friends.