April 29, 2012

Tuscan Trattoria Potatoes- Comfort Food

For me, potatoes in almost any form are comfort food. I adore eating out when you eat like you are at someone's mom's house in Tuscany. Many small family trattorias I go to are like that.

For making a lot of roasted potatoes quickly, they don't have time or space to roast all the potatoes at once, so here is the trick.

The potatoes are boiled first and then roasted off to have a crunchy finish at the end before serving.

Boil the potatoes in their skins in salted water.
Let cool.
Peel and spread the cut boiled potatoes on a cookie sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Add chopped sage leaves and rosemary.

Let them cook at 350 degrees until the turn golden. Then using a spatula, flip and cook until golden on the other side too.

Serve hot!
Each bite has the crispy outside and creamy "mashed potato-like" inside.

The traditional tuscan herbs are rosemary and sage. Finely chopped and mixed with salt,it is also like the porchetta blend, which is mixed with garlic black pepper and fennel  to seasons roast pork.

Here is a link to the Tuscan Herb Mixture.

Herbs can be expensive if you keep buying them in those small packages in the grocery store.
Plant some now in your garden.  It snowed here last winter and both the plants survived.

Be sure to plant the herbal rosemary and not one for landscaping, which can be too strong for cooking.

Tuscan sage has large leaves and is often used as an appetizer, batter-fried, but the smaller leaved sage is fine.

On the potatoes I simply cut the herbs with scissors and tossed on top for a more rustic look.

Whole sage leaves are also fried in butter and eaten with raviolis. They are the BEST part of ravioli Burro e Salvia, be sure to eat them.


April 25, 2012

Keeping Kitchen- Artichokes part 2

Once you have let the artichokes sit overnight in vinegar, remove them and let them sit for a day to drain, upside down, on a plate.

When they are dry, place then in a jar and cover with olive oil.

It's important to leave the open to remove any air in the jars. Hit the jars against the table several times and using a knife or fork, press down on the artichokes to remove any air bubbles.

Once the jars have "rested" to remove any air, you can cover them and store then until ready to eat.

They are too acidic to eat right away, so save them for at least 3 months and the vinegar and oil blend.
The crisp artichoke hearts are really a surprise for everyone and worth making!

Wait until they are at the end of the season and cheap and your Keeping Kitchen Pantry will be so happy!

April 19, 2012

Keeping Kitchen- Artichokes

When shopping at the market, as I mentioned, we first enjoy all the the seasons best fresh. As the season goes on, then prices start to drop and we think about buying in quantity and putting up the excess for another season.

I saw the first tiny "baby" artichokes at the market yesterday. Usually I would just clean these and make a nice raw artichoke carpaccio with some shaved parmesan cheese.

I first learned to make my preserved artichoke hearts from several vendors at Florence's San Lorenzo Market.

When I began shopping at the Mercato Centrale, the vegetable vendors were located upstairs. Three years ago, they moved the vendors outside in a large tent while they were restoring the upstairs. Just this year, they have moved all the vendors back into the market, but relocating them downstairs among the other stands, filling the market up again.

Of the original vendors, there are few of the original older ones left. Here are the "Zie", the Aunts.
Gianni's Aunt's
When I began shopping at the market, in 1988, I was collecting recipes everywhere I shopped.
These ladies cracked me up, as they disagreed on everything. I have found with all my recipe research, that if you ask 10 people for a recipe you will get at least 11 different ways to prepare it.

Recipes change not only from region to region but from neighborhood to neighborhood.

baby artichokes from the market, the first of the season

My current winning recipe for preserving these baby artichokes is from Leo Piazzesi. Leo has retired from the market, but his recipe for Carciofi Sott'Olio lives on on my site! 

Here is what I did today.

Take each artichoke and remove the tough outer leaves, until you see the pale yellow "heart"

Trim off the pointy tips, leaving the artichoke "heart".

Trim the stem and you have a perfect artichoke heart, ready to preserve.

As I cleaned the artichokes, one by one, I placed them in water with lemon juice so they wouldn't turn dark.

When the artichokes are all done, drain off the water.

Cover the artichokes with red wine vinegar and salt. Leave overnight. 
This "pickles" the artichoke hearts. 

Tomorrow I will drain them, place in a jar and cover with a light olive oil for the keeping kitchen.
They need to rest to lose some of the vinegar "bite". 
But these are fabulous because they keep their crunch.

Usually at the end of each season, when the artichokes are really inexpensive, I do about 350 of them.

Thanks to Leo and the "Zie" these recipes will live on.

Here is Leo's recipe for the artichokes.
Once you learn to clean the artichokes, there is also a fried artichoke recipe from my mother-in-law.

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!

April 10, 2012

Home again - Tuscany

red tuscan poppies

I left Tuscany with blossoms ready to bloom and came back to full-on spring in my own garden. Now to get back into the kitchen and start creating and preserving.

borage blossoms, you can eat them and also the leaves

flowering thyme
first pea pods are starting to form

We also just removed the saffron bulbs from the ground.We will separate the bulbs and replant in fall when we finish harvesting the tomatoes.

the dry saffron bulbs- waiting for fall

This is my favorite time of year, as winter's drab colors fall away and the hills fill with various shades of green, covering the hill like velvet.

We are expecting some rain, which is much needed, but not so good for fotographs.

I am heading down to the weekly market tomorrow and can't wait to shop and get back in my kitchen and cook up some spring treasures!

Stay tuned!

April 4, 2012

Diva on the Road- New York for IACP

Once a year there is a culinary conference in America with IACP, where it is my opportunity to connect with other culinary professionals and I ADORE IT.

I haven't been in two years and was great to come to New York, where I have never really been, to attend the conference.

Here is the view from my room.

We stayed just down the street from Times Square which was really larger than life and passing through at night, was like being there in the daytime there were so many LIGHTS!

I was in culture shock for most of the week. I really had never been to New York and was overwhelmed. There were so many places I would have love to gone. I would have loved to just stroll down the streets in the smaller neighborhoods and get the feel of what it is like to live here.


Insteaad I was in conference sessions learning new things all day long and evening events. We did manage to sneak in a couple of quick nice lunches, but not leisurely lunches.

I was thrilled to be learning from so many fabulous people. One of my favorite moments was listening to two of my inspirations for entering the food world, Jacque Pepin and Molly Katzen.

Meeting your culinary icons is just one part of IACP, it is also being with a thousand people that have the same passion and frustrations about our food world.

We have panel discussions--- which are thought provoking and when I leave IACP I am always so wound up with ideas. This year I was inspired by Marcus Samuelson at the opening panel and later on in the week attended a panel with Ruth Reichl and Grant Achatz. WOW. I SOOOO want to go and eat at his restaurant now. When you hear someone explain their thought process about creating their menu's, recipes and visions, that is what makes me hungry.

While in NY I took a cab over to visit my friends Justin and Todd over at Speedy Romeo in Brooklyn. Before they opened, we spent a week travelling around Italy to let Justin meet the masters of pizza, mozzarella and meat. He opened a grill and forno restaurant. The place was PACKED and food was fabulous.

I love taking classes "outside" of my box- and took a lot of new media sessions, workshops on MEAT and new cutting techniques, you know my passion for butchers!

Was thrilled to meet Adam Sappington at a demo on lamb.

I will write more about my inspiration from the conference later--- was so overwhelming it needs time to sink in. Didn't really get time to see New York much, but that will be for another trip.

Now I am in Providence, Rhode Island with client/friends and part vacation with one cooking class they organized for me. So I already had a lobster roll and home-made clam chowder. Today we will go around shopping and then prep for class tomorrow. I am leaving out of Boston so we will overnight there and then I am home for Easter dinner!

Now to go get my AMERICAN fixes! We had a wonderful burger yesterday and I had my root beer!
Watched a marathon of Food Network and saw Chopped for the first time!

this is the sterling silver heart i gave to Justin at Speedy Romeo, it is by the pizza oven

The BEST part of the conference was hearing from chefs and people I admire that they read my blog!
I know there are more people reading it than I realize ( another reason for the new media classes is to understand the Google analytics). Some loved the pasta recipes others the foto's of Italy.

I met Michael Ruhlman and he said he read my blog! maybe just being nice, but it was nice!

I ADORE when someone leaves a message-- so please leave comments and suggestions about what you would like to see more of.

I will be writing more this year. As some of you know I am more often posting foto's on FB, to not overload the site with posts!

Get your taste of italy from Divina Cucina! Stop by FB and friend me too!!