July 31, 2011

Sharing My Tuscany

What I love about teaching is the surprise element. Since we shop together to plan the recipes for our one day classes- it is always a surprise to me what we will cook. Often it is a clients dream to make fresh pasta or gnocchi or perhaps learning to recreate something they ate  and loved.

the shopping

I give them a copy of my cookbook, Secrets of My Tuscan Kitchen, so we have a great base to start with to create our menu.

Then shopping at the local butchers helps dictate our main course and Erica my assistant brings us what is fresh from her mom, Francesa's, garden.  We sort of do a Tuscan "Iron Chef "daily.

 The recipe- Eggplant " Bruschette"

For my weeklong programs- it is more or less the same. Constantly changing is what keeps it all fresh to me too. When I meet my students, we talk and I learn if they have been here before and what to take them to go see. Mostly I love sharing my friends at the local markets, artists and artisans.

Here are some foto's from this month's sessions.

Just like being here!

Enjoy your summer-

Shop local markets- Eat seasonally

July 23, 2011

Home is Where Your Mouth Is

As I prepare to go back to the states to deal with my mom's estate, somehow flavors I miss while in Italy come to mind.  Everyone asks what do I want to eat when I come "home". ( Since I moved to Italy in 1984, almost half my life has been spent here- I think of Italy as home as well.)

Sushi and Mexican food are always on the top of my list, but also silly things like a good BLT make me happy. Other foods are breakfast items and side dishes like pickles.

My new butcher in Colle Val D'Elsa has taken a liking to me and I have been receiving gifts from his garden when I shop. When he handed me these huge cucumbers I knew what I was going to make.

Summer always has me trying to make my own. This year I am trying to make a version of a Kosher Dill. I was inspired by David Lebovitz's post on his making Arthur Schwartz' recipe.
I have no dill- so will buy some seeds when I get home to be able to recreate them better if they turn out nicely and my Italians like them.

This is my first try- and of course did not have pickling spices or dill.

My Tuscan Dill-less Dill Pickles-
I put in black pepper, garlic, chili, coriander and cilantro and bay leaves.

Can't wait!

Perhaps will take a jar to the butcher and see what he says.

marcello- my new butcher/gardner

The Marzini butcher shop in Colle is more like a museum- here is Marcello showing me a helmet they found at their estate. Love the fleur du lys.

I made three jars of dills, then with the rest made some Japanese style cucumber salad, Sunomomo, which is a lot like bread and butter pickles, with sugar and vinegar.

My husband loved the Japanese salad so much I decided to make more as bread and butter pickles with some sliced onion and thinly sliced bell peppers.

Summer in a jar.

When I come back and looking forward to a fabulous fall season.

There are Wine Festivals all over Italy on the weekends in September for the harvest.

October I am accompanying my Ecole Chocolate students to Lecco for professional workshops and then on to Torino.

November 6-12  I will be hosting another trip to Sicily- do hope you can join me!

This winter I will be spending more time down there to find a new space to start my Divina Cucina- Sicily day classes too and working on my Secrets of my Sicilian Kitchen cookbook.

July 16, 2011

Sharing the Food Love

When you love food and those who produce it- you life is filled with many lovely special moments.

caper blossom with capers at bottom left- they are where the blossoms come from

Such as stopping to smell the flowers or in this case, point out a beautiful caper blossom and explain what it is. The capers we eat at the flower buds, which then bloom into this lovely flower. You can see the tiny green seed pod in the middle of the flower which will then become the appetizer size of the caper berry. WOW nature is just amazing isn't it.

Sharing my food friends with my students is a joy. Each day is a learning experience while shopping and sharing knowledge. We have weekly markets in various villages where the local farmers sell their products, still warm from the ground. There are markets where the town fills up with trucks with fabric, farm tools, clothing and food trucks as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.

leonardo is my porchetta guy at the weekly market-- so I get treats!
This week at the market Leonardo had us try a summer dish, Crostini di Poppa. ( you probably don't want to know, but it was a boiled cow's udder, sliced thinly and served on bread with mayo, salt and fresh lemon juice then topped with sweet red onion from Tropea, Calabria) It was fabulous!

It is like a treasure hunt daily to find the best butcher in town, the best bread or cheese produced nearby.

the most crowded food truck is the roast chicken and fried food truck always packed!

With my job, I can move around a lot, doing research for articles or for trip planning. I meet a lot of people and get to taste some great food and wine but mostly I love simple things which are available to everyone.

Simple foods shine on their own and fresh farm to table food is the perfect example of flavor at its peak.

"Everything tastes better in Italy" is something I always hear.

We are blessed with eating fresh, local, seasonal foods.

That may mean nothing but zucchini for ages, but it inspires one to be creative.

Check out this lovely garden inspired simple "salad" we had at the fabulous La Petraia Farm in Radda.

simple free-form salad- milk mayo with raw vegetables and flowers- Pinzimonio

I am truly blessed to be able to live here and to be able to share it with you all!

At the market today Francesca gave me a new recipe

Eggplant Bruschetta

Simply grill eggplant slices and top with seeded chopped tomatoes, marinated with garlic, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Lightly salt and serve with oregano on top.

My husband adored this.

Grazie Francesca!

July 1, 2011

Summer is HERE-

Sunflowers are a sure sign that summer has arrived in Tuscany. Fields and fields of bright yellow heads brighten up my drive to work daily.

But summer also means eating light, cook dishes which require little time in the kitchen.

Today is Bresaola, a cured beef dish from nothern Italy, which we serve like a carpaccio.
Not everyone likes raw beef, so this air-dried version is perfect for all.

I serve the paper-thin slices of bresaola on a plate and cover with some of my arugula from the garden and shaved parmesan cheese slices. A light squeeze of lemon juice and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is all it needs.

I also serve smoked tuna or swordfish like this, adding some capers.

It you have some leftover meats, slice thinly and present the same way.

Keep your cool!

As an appetizer, I have enjoyed breasaola spread with goat cheese and rolled up or in a cone shape, with a higher ratio of cheese filling.

Simple summer dishes:
Prosciutto and melon
Salami and figs, the green figs are almost ripe near me but I can buy them in the market.
Stracchino cheese and beets- we can buy already boiled beets and eat cold with olive oil and salt
Mozzarella and tomato- the famous Caprese salad, served with fresh basil


Buon Estate-- Happy Summer