August 14, 2011

Pie for Mikey

Why is it that bad things come in bunches? Most of the time blogging is about food and fun and friends and enjoying life, but then reality sticks in it's ugly head.

News travels fast and sometimes it is just a couple of words on twitter that set off the antenna that all is not right in the world. I saw a note that Shauna sent to Jennifer and I knew something had gone wrong in the world. Jennifer lost her young husband to a heart attack. She has two young girls. I lost my own dad in thes same way when I was thirteen. Your life changes.

I am now at home, no longer young. closing up my mom's house with my brother and sister.

Internet has changed how we can deal with death.

Awhile back I took a writing class and did a small piece Comfort me with Chocolate.

Jennifer asked that people make Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey.

Food speaks louder than words!

I adore this piece that Jennifers friends Diane and Todd did for Mikey.

Unfortunately, my mom's kitchen is out of use for the estate sale, so I can't cook.  No pie from my kitchen right now, but when I get home I will make one for my husband. May have to bring the peanut butter from USA to get it right. But that is what love is all about.

Enjoy your family and friends- cook and eat something together.. life is short

August 13, 2011

Grazie Mille- Kitchen Blessings

Thanks so much for all your feedback on my last post.

When writing, I often feel like no one is reading, since there are not many comments on the blog.
I do see I have a great list of followers. Mille Grazie to you all for letting me know I am not just talking to myself here.

The winners of my cookbook, Secrets of My Tuscan Kitchen are:

Andrea of From the Bookshelf
Lynda P

Please send me your mailing address  so I can send your copy.

I have another little something for my readers, some of my Patron Saints in the Kitchen for your Kitchen!

I grew up raised as a Catholic. Thirteen years of Catholic school and an overly religious mom sort of turned me off to mass etc but I seem to have a strange fetish for collecting holy cards and religious articles.

Growing up I remember one of my favorite books to read was Lives of the Saints, filled with the blood and gore of martry-dome. As an art major in college, the facination kept on, as most of the great art was in churches and learning to read the symbolism in the facinated me.

This continues today in my life as I have my patron saints in the kitchen too.

San Lorenzo, Patron Saint of Cooks
If you notice, San Lorenzo has a BBQ grill in his hand. The other hand is holding a palm leaf of sorts, sign that he was matryed. How you ask--- GRILLED ALIVE.

August 10th is the feast day of San Lorenzo, also called the night of the falling stars. In Florence, there are many celebrations of course as the Central Market is also known as the San Lorenzo Market, being near the Church of San Lorenzo.

As the tale goes, he was burned alive on the grill and half way through asked to be "turned over" as he was done on one side!

Just to be safe, I picked up another little saint in Mexico my last trip, San Pasqual Baylon, the creator of Zabaglione ( San Baylon).

San Baylon, I added the little wooden pig
My other favorite saint for the kitchen is San Antonio Abate, patron saint of the barnyard animals.
Most butchers that make salumi's have one in their kitchens too.

On San Antonio's day in January, it is time to slaughter your pigs and make prosciutto and salami's, hence the little pig by his feet.

Thanks again for all the feedback, I am in California now, dealing with my mom's estate, and catching up on eating sushi, mexican food and seeing friends!

Food for the soul!

And maybe a couple of pitcher's of Margarita's!

August 3, 2011

PIgging Out Tuscan Style- Porchetta

For my 500th post I decided to dedicate it to pigging out. Pork is so popular in Tuscany and most of my clients adore visiting and tasting at the markets and butcher shops. I thought I would let the rest of you come on my virtual tour.

I am very lucky to be able to buy my meats from artisan butchers, but also that the level or quality and expertise at our local grocery stores is very high.

Where else can you go to a grocery store and order your pork belly to make some pancetta, buy the salts and herbs already blended and get instructions?

As we begin our Market Tour in Florence, one of our first stops is the local Pork Butcher, called a Norcineria.

Norcia is a city in Umbria famous for its Pork Butchers.This shop is a candy store for those that love anything PORK. Prosciutto's from Parma, San Daniele, San Illaria, Umbria and Tuscany and the famous Culatello. Salami from wild boar as well as with truffles and chili infused 'nduja. Mortadella and head cheese, Lardo from Colonnata--- hello cholesterol!

The back of the shop has the fresh meat and the other day when I was walking around, the butcher was preparing a side of pork to be roasted as porchetta, which is also sold in the shop, both fresh and cooked.

They make a "small" porchetta, using just one half of the hog.

The pork is boned out, one rib at a time

from the Central Market in San Lorenzo- another porchetta for sale

each butcher has his own blend for the porchetta

dario cecchini sells porchetta by the slice, cooked

The basic seasoning for your porchetta is a blend of sage, rosemary and salt, finely chopped with sea salt. Some butchers add black pepper and fennel seeds as well.

Often at the weekly food market or on food trucks parked on the side of the road, the whole roasted hog, head and all, is served as a sandwich. The meat is thinly sliced and served with some of the crispy skin and probably a slice of the liver which is roasted on the inside of the whole hog.

at Pork's in the Florence San Lorenzo Food Market

the liver is the dark part in the center

Here is the link to my own home version of the Tuscan Herb mixture  for you to create your own porchetta at home.

If a whole hog it too big for your family, check out this version I found in the Vucceria market in Palermo. I adore it! Rolled pork belly stuffed with spring onions.

Vucceria open air market- Palermo

At my weekly market in Colle Val D'Elsa, the local porchetta man, Leonardo from Impruneta, has gotten creative and also does a "drunken porchetta" for sandwiches.

Leonardo slices some of the roasted pork and then sautes it with a little olive oil and splashes with white wine. It steams on the griddle and then he adds some balsamic vinegar and it is ready to eat. For us to share he gives us a basket with the toppings on the side, sliced tomatoes and his secret sauce.

Here are some of my favorite pork posts:
Naples-style ragu
Tuscan Mixed Grill for San Lorenzo ( August 10th)
Milk-Roasted Pork

As a thank you for following me- I am going to give away 5 copies of my cookbook-

Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen

Just leave me a comment below- and winners will be chosen randomly August 10th for San Lorenzo's feast day. I will be in USA and mail books from there.

Grazie Mille!

Next year I am working on Whole Hog Workshops here in Tuscany for butchers and butcher wanna-be's! A week with the artisan butchers learning side-by-side.

August 1, 2011

Summer's Pleasures- Caffe Shakerato

Shake - shake - shake

Love the sound of cocktail shakers and in summer I give my local barista's a workout.
Italians are not big into ice.... but, one specialty of summer I adore is the Italian iced coffee.

They take a hot shot of expresso and pour it over a shaker full of ice cubes.
You can get it sweetened ( usually with some simple syrup) or not.

They give it  several hard shakes--- and voila'.

Try serving this with some Baileys and perhaps a shot of vodka for a cool summer cocktail.

When I went to my local bar in Certaldo, instead of ice, he used vanilla gelato.