May 26, 2012

Fiori Fritti- Fried Zucchini Blossoms

I adore spring and this year it came sort of late but is one of the most beautiful in years.
The hills are all shades of velvety green and red poppies and yellow scotch broom add touches of color.

One of my clients asked me yesterday why we fry flowers and who thought of it. I think it comes from living a simple life in the countryside and foraging. It is still active today. I will often see people on the side of the roads now with plastic bags instead of woven baskets in the fields around my valley. 

Right now we have acacia blossoms, elderberry blossoms and the zucchini are blooming.

All the acacia and elderberry can simply be deep fried after rinsing off, i prefer a tempura style batter, just water and flower as it remains lacy and light.Then it is your choice to sprinkle with salt for savory or with sugar for sweet.

But the treasure of the season are the zucchini blossoms.

I bought these a the local weekly market, my zucchini is just starting to produce blossoms.

When you grow your own, pay attention to the stamen on the inside.

Girl zucchini have fallopian tubes and boys have--- well you know!

this is a boy

here you can see the difference between male and female blossoms

Girls will produce zucchini. The boys do not. Sound familiar?  

The blossoms are wide open in the early morning sun and that is when you should pick them. 

Take off the prickly sepals on the outside and then castrate them on the inside byt removing the stamen.
( it is edible, but my husband doesn't like it so i take it out).

The blossoms can be simply fried as a side dish or to make them richer, fill with ricotta cheese or day-old mozzarella cubes and pieces of anchovy.

Fiori Fritti- Fried Zucchini Blossoms
the Batter

1 cup of flour
1 egg, separate the yolk from the white and save the white.
1/2 cup milk or white wine
pinch of salt
grated nutmeg

Whisk the above ingredients together until smooth. 
Should be a nice smooth batter, not too thick.
If it is too thick, thin with a little more milk or wine. Flour is different everywhere and the size of the eggs as well.

Whisk the egg white until light and fluffy like for a meringue. 
Stir in a small amount to lighten the mixture then fold in the rest.

Heat oil for frying.

Have paper towel ready.

Pan fry the blossoms, rolled in the batter to cover completely.

I turn a couple of times to make sure they are crispy.

Lay on paper towel and lightly salt before serving.

My secret dream is to make these a sweet version, like a cannoli. with chocolate chips inside, maybe candied orange zest and to dust with powdered sugar. I think it could also be a nice Mexican dessert. Flor di Calabasas.

who wants to try?

May 24, 2012

Divina Cucina on the Road- Sicily 2012

Each time I go to Sicily it seems more and more like coming home. 

On my bucket list is to have a home in Sicily and retire there by the sea, so it is with extreme pleasure that I share my Sicily with my fellow lover's of food and travel on our culinary expeditions.

off the beaten track in Palermo
I visit Sicily at least three times a year with small groups and each time it just gets better and better.
For me, food is culture and the people that grow the food and prepare the food are ambassadors for their countries.

We always go to markets, and visit a winery, artisans and friends. This trip was no exception. I hope when one goes home, they feel they not only have new recipes but also new friends!

our class with Angelo hand-rolling our own couscous

Sicily is an island filled with amazing food, wine and culture. We always visit the Selinute site, and this year had a fabulous cooking class near by with my friend Gabriella, who also arranges her friend, Vincenzo to come and do a cheese making demo for us. We then take our cheese back and use it for our recipes. This year we made a cassata with our ricotta.

angelo really does this on his own - the only real "demo" we do, rest is hand's on

goodies at the Capo market in Palermo
Having studied art history in college, Sicily is total gratification! Baroque art, Greek Temples a mind blowing explosion of beauty in one place.

Monreale just outside Palermo

Selinunte, near Castelvetrano
our Primo sale cheese made with Vincenzo

one of the men hand harvesting the sand in Trapani salt flats
A favorite stop is always the salt flats just outside Trapani where the boats to to Mothya. We were lucky to actually see them harvesting the salt. The shop at the Ettore e Infersa has salt and lovely ceramics as well as a collection of jewelery made by Daniela Neri that are lovely.

This year we added a wonderful new event, a wine maker dinner with the lovely Marilena Barbera from Cantina Barbera in Menfi. It was a true pleasure.

Marlena and her Bambina- Rose from Nero D'avola

Another favorite stop on our trip is a visit with Pino Maggiore of the Cantina Siciliana.

Pino-  our Trapani expert!

I have openings for my November program which is when the new oil comes out! Bring an extra suitcase to bring back a 5 liter tin! 

I am going through my recipes of what we learned on this trip and will post soon. I think the favorite was our Pasta Timballo made with Angelo Pumilia at Planeta.

one of our favorite recipes this trip!

SiciliAmo--- I love Sicily

May 13, 2012

Keeping Kitchen- Pickled Onions and Fish

I am leaving for a week in Sicily ( I know, poor me) and leave the pantry full for my husband when I go away for any length of time. I had already made some pulled pork a week or so ago and found some lovely sweet red onions at the market and could'd resist making some pickled Mexican onions for garnish for the pulled pork.

Mexican Pickled Onions

I used something similar to this recipe-  but....
Instead of parboiling the onions, since they are so sweet, I just lightly salt to pull out the water.

Then I cover with vinegar and allspice, bay leaves, oregano and some of the vinegar I have from my pickled beets which give it a great color.

I will let them sit and soften before serving.

While I was making things to fill the fridge, I also made a typical Italian marinated fish recipe. Traditionally, they use sardines or anchovies, in Venice and in Sicily. In Liguria, they use other small fish called boghe. I was gifted slices of a fish calles sciabola, popular in Sicily.

Pesce in Saor

Lightly flour and fry the fish.

Saute sliced onions in a tiny bit of oil and lightly salt.

Splash with white wine vingar and a few tablespoons of sugar ( taste to balance flavor). Add raisins and meanwhile toast pinenuts.

Top the fish with the warm vinegar and onion mixture, add the pinenuts.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Follow me on my Facebook page while I am in Sicily----

May 4, 2012

Simply Divina- I Latini - San Gimignano

Where does a cook go when hungry?

We are really lucky to have a great family restaurant near by, I Latini, on the road from Certaldo to San Gimignano.

Chiara Latini runs this small hotel and restaurant, grand daughter of Narcisso Latini, who opened the original I Latini restaurant in Florence. Times change and families get larger and larger. Chiara's parents now own Da Giovanni in Florence, just around the corner from the original restaurant which is now run by her uncle.

What I adore about going back again and again to the same place, is that you don't even look at a menu.
They just tell you what is special that day, as you already know the traditional dishes.

Today she had a carton of fresh fava beans sitting in the front room and was serving baskets of beans in the shell and some pecorino cheese.

She said, " If I'd known you were coming I would have made up some of a new salad I created."

I offered to shell the beans at the table and she brought out the rest of the ingredients from the kitchen to create the salad.

Fresh fave beans with tiny cubes of salami and fresh pecorino cheese.

Lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oikl a sprinkle of salt and she also suggested a tiny drizzle of a light balsamic vineger ( the grocery store kind) which has a light tartness.

A perfect spring salad for a picnic or a party.

I Latini
hotel and restaurant
via dei platani, 1
badia a elmi, San gimignano

My next project is putting together some Divine Days Itineraries. My suggestions for fun food itineraries, with visits to villages, a great place for lunch and an afternoon town too.

Things that I like to do myself.

May 3, 2012

Farro Salad Revisited- Changing Seaons

Often it is hard to know when to change your wardrobe here in Italy. Spring has arrived and the days get longer, more sun and warmth. Next thing a storm blows in and temperatures drop and back to layering with sweaters to keep warm and soup and stews back on the stove.

Sometimes there are recipes that I love that I can adapt to the seasons like I do with how I dress.

Years ago I learned a fabulous Farro Salad when staying down in Umbria at a friends converted Castle B&B ( it has since changed owners). The incredible simple salad paired farro and chickpeas with warm tomatoes and sliced black truffles. Beans and rice are a perfect protein and so this is one of my go to dishes for parties as well as everyday simple meals. Obviously truffles are not for every day.

I have a thing for Italian canned tuna. It is my go-to sandwich when I am on the road at bars. Tuna and a tiny bit of mayonaise, perhaps some capers. It is ALWAYS good.

A Tuscan traditional recipe is Tonno e Fagioli, Tuna and Bean salad. Cannellini beans, slow cooked with sage and olive oil are served cold with tuna and thin slices of red onions.

Today I took the basic recipe I use to make CHICCHI, channeling my inner Nigella and just going to the pantry.

Summer Chickpea Salad

Pre-cooked chickpeas ( garbonzo beans) rinsed
1 cup parboiled farro (also called emmer or splet, boiled in salted water until it gets tender-20 minutes)

Mix with:
sauteed cherry tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and chili pepper to taste.

Let cool. 

Drain a can of tuna, packed in olive oil, and crumble into the salad.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and top with fresh herbs, I had chives from my garden today.

Good food does not take a long time to make.  Empty the fridge and be inspired!!!

May 1, 2012

Foraging from the Car

The weather here has been so odd, that I haven't risked walking in the fields to look for wild asparagus. We have had so much rain ( much needed rain) that it would have been a muddy mess.

That said, I do know that on the road down the hill from our house, heading into town, I always see the female asparagus fronds after the season is over. So sort of remembering where they are, I keep my eyes peeled for asparagus.

Usually the local neighbors beat me to it. I often see them with their baskets or plastic bags going up and down the road and also in the fields. There are so many edible weeds here as well as asparagus.

We were rewarded yesterday but the site of a long asparagus shooting up!

You can see the long asparagus tip, hidden in the grasses and the very fine plant with the tiny balls on it is the female asparagus plant and her seeds.

As we drove along the road we were rewarded with more asparagus sightings!

It is the little things in life that make me happy! I don't need a zillion asparagus, but adore finding "free food" and appreciate it. My husband makes fun of me, saying I should leave the asparagus on the road, as it is not a lot.

Not a huge "harvest" but enough to enjoy. I simply sauteed them in a little olive oil with some fresh garlic and a pinch of salt and then baked then in the oven in a "tortino".

A tortino is like a frittata, but baked in the oven. I made a small one for us to enjoy together, using our local ceramic ramekins.

I know, I should have a bottle of wine here, but the frittata was hot and still puffy from the oven and I wanted to take the foto without fussing with setting up too much.

Tortino di Asparagi for Two

I used one egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of milk.

The wild asparagus was cut into bite-size pieces and sauteed with some green garlic in extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt until tender.

Stir the asparagus into the egg mixture and pour into a small ramekin to bake.

Bake at 350 degrees until the center is cooked and puffed up.

This is great hot but also cold. Italians love an egg sandwich using a frittata or tortino.

A frittata is usually started on top of the stove like an omelet and then finished in the oven, for those that are afraid to flip in the pan!