April 14, 2012

Welcome to our Keeping Kitchen

Spring is arriving slowly here in Tuscany, the hills are turning a patchwork of velvety green with rolling hills of wheat and dotted with yellow colza plants.

The vines are budding and trees are filling out with leaves. It is my favorite season,but also because our little vegetable gardens are coming to life.

My friend Kate in France, my soul sister in the kitchen and I have decided to celebrate the culinary traditions of our adopted homes by creating a special blog post, Keeping Kitchen, to gather the seasonal ways to celebrate.

Two Kitchens. Two Chefs. Two Countries.

Years ago we did the same with pork on our Whole Hog Blog when we presented a panel for the IACP convention with Fergus Henderson.

This year we have chosen to honor the farmers, gardeners and foragers.
We will be cooking and preserving as the seasons inspire us.  Join us if you feel inspired and leave links in the comments sections to your discoveries.

My own garden is a little slow, we have planted peas, potatoes, artichokes and zucchini. The tiny chili peppers are just sprouting.

we planted more peas this year as they were so incredible last year

Until my own little garden, orto, is ready, I am blessed to be able to buy from local farmers at the weekly markets. I have not gone foraging this season, but it is on my list. The fields are filled with edible greens and wild asparagus now.

fava beans, new garlic, artichokes and two kinds of asparagus

Inspiration comes from the markets. Fresh tender fava beans in their plump pods, young green garlic, the tender purple artichokes and pencil thin asparagus.

When they first appear in the market, they are called primizie. Honoring their freshness, they are usually eaten as is, often raw or lightly cooked.

Raw artichokes are a real treat in Tuscany. After removing the tough outer leaves, we trim off the tops and then shave the artichokes into thin slices and serve as a carpaccio topped with thin slices of parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice. Cutting the artichokes into larger pieces, they can be dipped into olive oil seasoned with salt, pepper and vinegar as a dipping sauce. This is pinzimonio. Other vegetables to serve like this are fennel, young spring onions, carrots and bell peppers. I find it funny that Italians don't eat zucchini raw!

Later in the season as the plants get older, cooking them is necessary. One of the local specialties is a stew called garmugia. A rich stew of asparagus, fava beans, artichokes and peas. The base is sauteed new green garlic and pancetta.

I am also looking in my garden and things that are gifted by nature and what I can do with them.

Borrage leaves and flowers are great in salad

Both the poppy blossom and petals can be used

I have been collecting recipes for years, both in book form and from the voices of my vendors. Priceless wisdom and secrets that I will share with you. These are the treasures we discover daily.

Join us in celebrating the seasons and preserving them for later in the year.
Share you recipes in the comment section.

May our pantries grow!


  1. Another great post. I think that photo of your peas is actually incredibly sensuous and the other photos just "plain" beautiful! Will look forward to more Keeping Kitchen posts.

  2. Think I will just have to follow along on this one and learn and enjoy. Not much foraging in the suburbs of Miami, but lots of farmers markets popping up with an emphasis on sustainability. Will follow with relish.......