April 30, 2011

The Florentine- a city- a steak

When I tell the story of how I came to Florence and fell in love, first with Florence and then with a Florentine-( my now husband, Andrea), I probably should also mention the other Florentine in my life.

The Bistecca alla Fiorentina- the larger than life T-bone steak Florence is famous for.

cutting custom florentine steaks from the rack at butchers
Did I forget to mention in America I had stopped eating meat for 7 years? Was sort of a vegetarian.
I am so over that now. In Italy, I get such incredible quality of meat it is amazing.

So I am rather a butcher hag-- when I find my butcher, I remain faithful. Although I have several, even in the market, having more butchers is better than less.

We had a HUGE 1,600kg steak at Cipolla Rossa the other day-- foto worthy!

Here is my write-up on cooking a Florentine Steak.
with step-by-step instructions

PLEASE DO NOT OVERCOOK! It is a lean cut of meat with little or no marbling and will get tough.

Don't have a kitchen while you are here?

In Florence:
Trattoria Mario, 
Trattoria Pepo
Trattoria da Sergio
Osteria Da Giovanni
Cipolla Rossa

In Chianti
Da Padellina- Strada in Chianti
Officina della Bistecca - Panzano in Chianti- Macelleria Cecchini

from the Officina della Bistecca

They are huge and meant to be shared!!! Order a great bottle of wine and have a relaxing meal!

Everyone should try being Tuscan at least once a year.

April 25, 2011

Pasquetta - thinking small

In Italy there is a saying- Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.

Christmas with your family and Easter with whoever you like.

I guess that means you can spread out the food orgies? As much as I adore Italian food and lifestyle, the one thing I cannot get into are the never-ending meals.

I do try to pace myself and take small portions to arrive at the end of the meal- but ALWAYS need to go into hibernation when I am done to sleep off the food induced stupor which hit me after each huge meal.

Add on the stress and craziness from shopping with the Italians that are prepping for this extravagant meals of course after course and it really pushes me over the edge.

So this year, we decided just to go out to eat. Staying close by and knowing we would eat well we chose I Latini near us on the road from Certaldo to San Gimignano.

OH MY GOD- the place was packed-- good thing we reserved!

Luckily most of the meal, which was a fixed menu, was served so we could take what we wanted, which saved me some---but here is the menu,

Chicken liver crostini, bruschetta with tomatoes, several artisan cured meats.

Then two pasta courses:

Hand-rolled pici with rabbit and artichoke sauce and ravioli with porcini and zucchini blossom sauce.
Pici in foto.

Three main courses:
Pork in prune sauce, beef tagliata and roast lamb

and stewed artichokes as the vegetable-

then a "light" dessert-

a sort of Tuscan Strawberry shortcake-- a Vin Santo Olive Oil Cake with Crema Chantilly

Good thing these holiday food orgies only come a few times a year!

Pasquetta- is Easter Monday and today is a double holiday as it is also April 25th- celebrating the liberation of Italy during WWII.

We will be attending a lunch party in Florence commemorating the partisans who fought to liberate Florence, there are still a few alive and they attend the party.

I made a Naples specialty,Casiatello, to take for our picnic lunch.


1 kg 00 flour
100 gr strutto ( lard)

Make a bread dough first blending the strutto into the flour, then adding the yeast, water and salt.

Let rise until doubled in size.

Roll out into a rectangle.

Salami, provolone cheese, capocollo and pecorino romano

Chop up the first three ingredients into small cubes and spread over the dough.

Grate fresh pepper on top and then grate the pecorino romano cheese.

Roll and form a large doughnut shape and bake until golden.

Best served the next day.

I made mine smaller to have two loaves.

Traditionally they bake raw eggs in the shell on top, which them become hard-boiled eggs.

This is the perfect picnic food in Italy!

We are off to celebrate not Pasquetta, but the Liberazione- when Italy was liberated!
The war in Italy was a strange thing-- they changed sides, leaving Mussolini and creating peace with the Americans. then the Germans turned on them and the soldiers had fled, Italy was mostly protected by the Partisans. Today we are going to a luncheon in their honor, some are still alive?

Last week we went to the American war memorial---  Don't forget!
The first tombstone I looked at here was a young man that died in April 21 1945-- just a few days before the city was liberated

Grazie Carl

April 16, 2011

Home on the Range- Maremma

I had a couple of days off and my husband worked so hard moving me while I was in America, I wanted us to have a little get-away. The weather had finally cleared up and spring was in full bloom, so we decided to head for the beach.

How to choose which beach? We could head up towards the Cinque Terre (stopping on the coast nearby) or Viareggio, off season I adore the art deco boardwalk. Instead we decided to head south from Siena to Maremma, the "wilder" coast where Tuscan cowboys roam.

 Maremmana Cattle out of the range

Maremma has a huge park, Parco dell'Uccellina, which we had not visited in ages. All I really wanted to do was to breathe the clean air at the sea and eat some fish.

I spend a lot of time planning trips for others- for myself we just winged it.
We avoid taking the major highways so it takes us a longer time to get anywhere, but we enjoy the scenery and small towns we discover on the way.

We chose Alberese as a destination and saw there was a Marina di Alberese, the port,which I thought sounded like a great place to stay.

Little did we know that the "Marina" was in a national park! We discovered our mistake as the sun was setting so headed to the village of Alberese, which was practically a ghost town this early in the season and not on a weekend. We were lucky enough to meet a woman there with a agritourismo, working farm with apartments for rent. The apartment had a small kitchen and would be great for a longer stay.

After settling in, she suggested a local fish restaurant near by and off we went.

fresh anchovies, two ways

pici pasta with cuttlefish and wild asparagus

papparedelle with artichokes and prawns

roasted fish "in cartoccio" with juniper, myrtle and shellfish

cooked whole, served boned

coffee bavarese- extremely light

Agritourismo Timavo

Restaurant "Da Remo"

Before we left Alberese, we stopped by the local shop to bring home some of the products from the local farms. We bought meat from the cattle pictured above, cheese and some cookies made with rice flour.

The farmlands of Maremma were created by Mussolini, who drained the swamps and brought in share-croppers to work the land. Alberese was farmed mostly by people from Veneto. To receive a farm, one had to have had 4 men in the family. After share-cropping for years, they were allowed to take possession of the farms, paying rent for 30 years. It was fascinating to speak to the locals, who still have their Venetian accents.  Our landlady's mother showed us old family foto's and told stories of her childhood there.

Every trip is a piece of history.

Right now I have two pots on the stove, one with a pot roast with the flavors of the plants from the Maremma countryside, wild myrtle and bay leaves with some rosemary and juniper berries.

Tuscan Stracotti- Pot Roast, with myrtle, juniper berries and bay leaves

The other stew meat I am preparing as a Peposa, cooked in red wine with black pepper and garlic. That will be dinner. Tomato sauce was not used in cooking until around 1650, after the New World was discovered, so am only using wine.

Here is a little slide show of what we saw:

April 11, 2011

Spring Training in the Tuscan Kitchen- Green is IN

The markets have exploded with Spring!
After what always seems like a long grew winter, color is filling our kitchens.

Artichokes, fava beans, asparagus and now fresh peas. When cooking with the seasons, there are certain recipes which appear only in season and we celebrate by gorging on them.

In my garden all the fresh herbs are coming back to life and inspiring me to use them in the kitchen.

Everywhere I go now there are artichokes and asparagus in hundreds of different ways.
Usually in a trattoria, the owner will come and propose the daily specials, saying that they have asparagus, how would you like it? Risotto, Pasta, with a fried egg?

Simplicity is the key when cooking with fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits.

How can you not be inspired by all this fabulous food?

April 4, 2011

Edible Florence - BarbaGarga

Since I have moved away from downtown Florence, when I return I tend to go back to my same favorites over and over when I come down to run errands or do my market tours.

I have been wanting to try BarbaGarga since it opened and finally got a chance to go to lunch with my ladies the other day for lunch.

I had been a speaker at the Girl Geek Dinner there the other night and had a chance to see the lovely transformation of my old neighbor Ruggiero's trattoria.

Two friends, Alessandro and Francesco-  a Tuscan and a Pugliese, have teamed up to create Barbagarga. Alessandro comes from a restaurant family, GARGA restaurant in Florence. He then spent some time in New York cooking and now has returned to Florence.

alessandro ( garga) and Francesco ( Barba)

We went for lunch after our market tour and were the only clients and took the table in front of the kitchen which was fun.

The restaurant offers a light lunch menu for 10 or 15 euro or you can order from the full dinner menu, which is what we did.

Everyone loved everything we tried- and especially the desserts. It is such a dissappointment to end the meal with bad desserts. Alessandro makes his mom, Sharon's, famous cheesecake, which is one of the best I have ever had!

We had several dishes and shared them all. My favorite way to eat!

 we had artichoke salad, boiled octopus( which EVERYONE ADORED), orecchiette, penne with mushrooms and scallops, fried artichokes, fried veal with gorgonzola, zucchini and truffle cream, peposa, chocolate cake and cheesecake-- of course wine and dessert wine!

Stop by and try it! Tell them Divina Cucina sent you!

Via San Zanobi, 33/r

Location map