August 8, 2012

Celebrating- Tanti auguri a Me!

Thanks to everyone that participated in my blog party! 
I have 5,000 Fb friends and see that 1300 of you get my blog updates as email!


The winner of the wonderful gift box from Gustiamo, filled with some of Italy's BEST FOOD PRODUCTS in Sue Scott.

The other winners are: Jan, Amber,Silvia,Karen Epstein Rosen, Deb Roundtree,Deb Jacobs,Jerry d Q,Devera,Jess@ lost button studio and Tony Crocetti Kellan.
(i need contact info for Jan,Amber and Jess)
Do stop by their site and check out all the fabulous ingredients that are available shipped from NY!

As you know, I am a maniac about ingredients. My mantra in the kitchen, I got from my mother-in-law, Tina. 

"Spend more time shopping and less time cooking"

This is an example of what I bought yesterday at the Wednesday market in Certaldo.

When you have fresh seasonal ingredients, little is needed to make them taste fabulous.

I will be posting to what I did with all these goodness.

But let me tell you, NOTHING  is as fabulous as a tomato that has never been in the refrigerator.

We started last night with sliced Cuore di Bue tomatoes, which would be a beefsteak???
They do taste like steak!

To me the basil was a distraction. All I needed was the tomato and the water buffalo mozzarella with Tuscan extra virgin olive oil and Sicilian sea salt.

Simple and good.

As for the rest of the goodies, I went to three different stands.

My local farmer, Francesca, I bought the cantaloupe,peppers, mixed greens salad tomatoes and plum tomatoes the peaches, nectarines and the zucchini with blossoms. Although the blossoms are not fresh enough to stuff, i can chop them up with the zucchini and saute with some of the wild mint in the garden now called nepitella. Andrea will probably eat all the peaches and nectarines, but if some are left, I may bake  a little crumble. With the peppers, I am going to roast them, then stuff with a seasoned bread "meatball" and wrap in the roasted peppers. They are then topped with a slice of mozzarella and baked in the oven. This is a recipe I had in Naples at  Mimi' alla Ferrovia

Then I went down to the stand with the ingredients from Naples. There is quite a large community of Napolitani living up here and it is great as we never tend to get other regions ingredients.

I bought the flavorful Pane Cafone, which is a sourdough bread, quite reminiscent of San Francisco Sourdough. I bet it was bakers from Naples that brought it over.

Of course Mozzarella di Bufalo, the water buffalo mozzarella from Naples is the BEST. It is meant to be eaten the day it is made or within just a few days. A trick I learned here was to warm it for a minute or so in hot water, if it is an "old" mozzarella. When I buy it, I eat it right away. Again, cold kills flavor so I prefer to enjoy it right when I buy it! Here you can get many versions of mozzarella, the classic balls or braids, the tiny ciliegine- cherries, but when I was actually down in the Campagna region, where the mozzarella comes from, they also have both a brined and un-brined versions.

He also had some of Andrea's favorites, a salt-cured, oven-roasted black olive. Quite intense. We really just munch on these, perhaps with cheese. A few go a long way. The lovely gift of ricotta was also from his stand.I shop there often as he is also at the Friday market in Colle Val D'Elsa where I teach.

The real exciting ingredient for me were the special Piennolo tomatoes from Naples.
Usually they are left on the plant and hung to dry for winter.


His recipe was to simply slice the tomatoes in half and saute in garlic and olive oil.
Cook the spaghetti- now here is where the food fight started-- WHAT SIZE SPAGHETTI.

That is so Italian. Each person has their rules. Number 6  spaghetti was the choice of one of the vendors, the other number 3 spaghetti. Each said their choice was the correct one.

my naples boys! Guaglio'
Then we went to another local farmer, he actually has his farm at the end of our road, but we have never gone directly to the farm. His sister has a shop in town we can stop by too.

He has a Sicilian wife, and so grows the Sicilian squash Cucuzza.It is so long that he broke it to put in in the bag for me. It must be peeled first then he suggested stewing it with other vegetables or even just with some tomatoes. I was too late to get the young tender leaves which are also edible, tenerumi.

In honor of my friend Jasper, from Kansas city, I will make some Cucuzza jelly, using the pectin-free trick I learned in Sicily.

He also had the Arturo tomato, a firm green and dark green tomato. I think it is just for salads.

My orgy of tomatoes, I think Saturday some of these tomatoes will be in my Panzanella Salad.

I will take fotos as I cook my way through this mountain of food and share the recipes.

Thanks again so much for following my blog. I adore comments as it make me feel like I am not talking to the wind!


  1. I hope someone cooked you a wonderful birthday dinner! Happy Birhtday!

  2. Cindy3:02 AM

    Happy Birthday Judy.

  3. A birthday?
    Anything for a party :-)

  4. Happy Anniversary, Judy. Tanti Auguri a te! Love your blog and the opportunity to feel tuscan for a moment every day.

  5. Auguri, JUDY! Wishing you the happiest of birthdays! Thank you for your inspiration in and out of the kitchen!

  6. Debbie D.1:59 PM

    Have a wonderful birthday and year. No, you are not talking to the wind. I would love to know how to make the Cucuzza jelly, using the pectin-free trick you spoke of. I use citrus in my jams and jellies. I am canning homemade fig jam from my fig trees as I type. In fact I have to go. Water and jars are ready to be filled.

  7. What a way to celebrate your birthday :) Those ingredients look so fresh and good, I can almost taste them! When we go to Italy each year, the first 2 things we crave are mozzarella and fresh ricotta...we just can't get them here in the US as fresh and homemade as you get them there.

  8. Buon Compleanno!
    Absolutely agree about the importance of great ingredients!

  9. Liked the post