July 31, 2012

Summer treats - Granita di Cocomero

I can't get enough of watermelon while it is in season. Mostly I just eat slices-- it is the perfect fruit, even with the seeds. No seedless watermelon here.

Watermelon has two Italian names, cocomero or anguria.

When I have time, I like to make a watermelon granita. Simple and fun.

I learned how to make watermelon granita in Sicily, the "seeds" are mini-chocolate chips.

My friend David Lebovitz turned it into a popsicle.

Next up, I want to make a watermelon salad with habanero and red onion, the feta watermelon salad also sounds perfect for summer supper.

Do you have some special watermelon recipe?
I can't wait to try some new recipes.

There are still a few days to leave a comment on my Party post to win.

July 27, 2012

Edible Florence- Obika'

Living outside of Florence now, I don't get back into town as much as I would like to explore and relax on my own. Often I am down to do a market tour or meet up with someone for an event.

My husband and I had some things to do and managed to be free for lunch in town.
Often downtown for a Florentine ( like my husband) means tourist food and most Florentine's prefer to eat in their own neighborhoods.

I had an idea. Where my old bank was on Via Tornabuoni, in the heart of expensive shopping, Gucci, Tods, Tiffany's etc is a fabulous hidden treasure. I had been there on my own and with clients and had always eaten well.

OBIKA' is a mozzarella bar. Recently they also added pizza  and pasta to their menu.

Inner courtyard dining

The menu is based around the BEST freshest mozzarella and things to accompany the cheese.
Here is their tasting menu.

When they originally opened, next door was an elegant restaurant which they switched to a more normal menu including pizza and pasta, but what pizza and pasta!

The pizza here is made with flour from stone ground flour from the Molino Quaglia and left to rise 48 hours, which develops flavor and makes it easier to digest.

My pizza was the 4 soft cheeses, Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Ricotta and Stracchino. It was perfect!

Thin crusted and not overloaded with cheese, I ate the whole thing!

Andrea had a salad with bresaola, an air-dried beef.

As you can see, the portions are large.

This is the perfect place for a light one plate lunch and a break from the classic Tuscan menu while staying in Florence. ( Obika' has locations all over Italy and the world now).

Our bill was 31 euro for our two dishes, water and a coffee which is served with a Tuscan specialty, a tiny ice cream cube, bocconcino,covered in chocolate. Dai Dai is an artisan gelato maker from the coast.

They have a inner court, a small modern dining area at the entrance and then an inner dining room and even a tiny back room. Each has a different feel.

There is something for everyone.

The mozzarella is HUGE so when you order, you will probably only need one dish if it includes the mozzarella, but you can also order plates of pasta.

The next time I go I am going to save room for one of the desserts made with the ricotta from buffalo milk. It is so special! They have a cheesecake or a mousse.


Palazzo Tornabuoni
Via de' Tornabuoni 16 

Tel.: +39 055 2773526
Email: firenze@obika.it

open from 10am to 11pm

Don't forget to leave me a post on my PARTY page, celebrating my blog anniversary!
you can win a gift from Gustiamo or my cookbook or Divina Cucina apron!

July 23, 2012

I'm BACK!!!

So thrilled---
FB restored my old page.

even more of  a reason to celebrate--

Thanks so much for all your support.

here is a little preview of something i am working on....

a calendar for 2013- My market boys!!!

Not just another pretty face, Stiven has opened a fish and chips stand in the market with Andrea.
Stop by and say hi from me!!!

Don't forget to leave a comment on the party page to participate in the drawing.

Now I REALLY have even more of a reason to celebrate!


July 22, 2012

Facebook Fiasco!

I was so thrilled to have arrived at 5.000 friends.

I read on FB that to continue, it was possible to switch over to a personal page and not lose friends.
You would lose the archives, foto's etc that you had accumulated over the years, but not friends.


So I am trying to contact FB to reinstate my FB page Judy Witts Francini

so far no one has answered me

and since i was going through withdrawl, the personal page has no interaction since there are no friends, I reopened another FB page to start over.

update--- my FB is restored!!!! 


so leave a message for me on the previous post to participate in the party!!!

July 15, 2012


How the world has changed....

I can still remember when I first opened my Divina Cucina website in 1997 (it was mangiafirenze then).
Then I changed the name to Divina Cucina--- and the rest is history. 
I joined FB August 8th 2007 and now have almost 5,000 FB friends.

So it is PARTY TIME!!! 

I am going to celebrate by having a little online party with party favors!

My friend Beatrice at Gustiamo is going to offer a gift package worth $100 of their fabulous Italian artisan food products.

Those of you that have been to my classes or have bought my book, know that for me the secret to great food is starting with great food!

It really is a no-brainer. 

Cook with the best the season has to offer and you don't need to do much to it.

Use the BEST ingredients you can afford- often spending more means using less and in a cost per portion ratio,  good ingredients cost less than cheap ones.

I will also be giving away

5  Divina Cucina Aprons

5 copies of Secrets of My Tuscan Kitchen cookbooks

To enter- leave me a message below and on the anniversary of me starting FB, August 8th,  I will use the Random Number generator to pick 11 winners.  I will then contact the winners in order of when the numbers came up and prizes can be chosen. 

Thanks so much for supporting Divina Cucina!

Since I don't want to flood people with blog updates, I began using FB for posting more often with foto's of where I have been, market classes and more.

Follow me on FB ! Join the party.

Leave a comment here on the blog to win!

July 14, 2012

Mangia Fagioli

Florentines are know as bean-eater's, mangia fagioli. I am still not sure if it is supposed to be a offensive name or a compliment.

I was vegetarian for about 7 years and still eat mostly vegetables, but now you can find me at a tripe stand or a butcher's restaurant when I want meat.  I am amazed daily at the quality of ingredients here.

Today at the Saturday Market, I saw some fresh cannellini beans and had to have some!

With beans you can create so many different recipes.

I am thinking about summer recipes now like a tuna and bean salad or the twice cooked beans served with sausage.

Try this simple recipe even with dried beans.

Fagioli all'olio
Beans cooked with oil

Cover the beans with cold water.
Add a sage branch and an garlic clove, peeled.
Drizzle with about 4 tbs of extra virgin olive oil.

Slow cook until done.

My fresh beans took a little over an hour.
Normally, you need to soak your beans over night.
Rinse off and procede with the same cooking method.

Older beans will take more water to cook.

I like to cook a lot of beans and then freeze the leftovers.

A simple recipe which is an all-time favorite of mine is to simply serve the beans on Fettunta, Tuscan garlic bread.

Toast or grill a slice of country-style bread.

my tuscan toaster-- stovetop

Rub with raw garlic.

Place on plate and top with the beans.

Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top and a nice grinding of black pepper.

If you serve this in a bowl, with the bean broth poured on top, it is called Zuppa Frantoiana.


yesterday I saw these Borlotti beans at the market-- wish I had picked them up too!

July 12, 2012

Mercantia- Certaldo

Summer means festivals all over Italy. In my village of Certaldo we have a huge arts festival. Street artists, musicians, crafts and more. This year there was a spectacular show on dancer's on the wall of the city. Breath-taking


This is just a really small taste of what goes on here! There are street artists with shows all over town and a street fair open to the public down in the main square of town and in the streets. Food and wine are available for sale. Lovely crafts and a good time.

I always go on Wednesday the first night as it gets insanely crazed on the weekend!

This year is the 25th year of Mercantia.

July 7, 2012

foto love

'A Pasta- Gragnano Pasta Festival 2012

Sometimes I get so overloaded with information I need to let it sink in to think about it.
The pasta festival in Gragnano was one of those events.

Traditionally, the festival is held the first week in September it is three days packed with music and food. I attended a pre-festival in collaboration with the Gazzetta Gastronomica. A full day with lectures, tours and then tasting in the main square in town and a Sunday pasta dinner with some of the best chefs at Bikini, a hot spot on the coast.

It was probably one of the hottest days, but off we went. We visited the Faella factory, right in the main square.

inside the drying rooms

You  can find Faella in the USA thanks to Gustiamo. Check out the fabulous high quality products that you can have shipped to you or find out where you can buy near you. It is ALL about the ingredients when you cook.

I will tell you more  about the different pasta producers we visted in future posts. I am going to cook my way through the pasta's.

One of the "lessons" is that each shape of pasta is suited for a certain sauce.

Probably the biggest mistake in our pairings-- is spaghetti alla bolognese. NO ONE would EVER serve ragu on spaghetti.

the office of the Faella factory, their relatives watching over them

After our visits to several pasta makers, we met at the end of the Valley dei Mulini, where the mills were located for the grinding of the wheat for the pasta, for a small tasting lunch with a famous chef from Cetara, Pasquale Torrente from Il Convente in Cetara.

Pasquale made small cubes of fried Pasta e fagioli ( pasta e fazool) and Pasta e patate, two famous soups from Naples.Left to chill, they become firm and he breaded and fried them as finger food.

Then he made us a Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili pepper finished off with another rare product, Colatura di Alici, the liquid which drains off of the salted anchovies. It was fabulous. Another reason to head down to Cetara next trip to Naples.

At the last dinner, which was on Sunday night at Bikini with all the famous chefs, I had another version of stuffed and fried pasta, which I had had years ago on another trip to Gragnano.

This version was a single mezzo pacchero from Faella Pasta, filled with meat the breaded and fried and on a melted cheese sauce.

mezza pacchero con fonduta di provola di monaco by Chef Mimmo di Simone, BIKINI

Inspired we recreated our own version at class. Mezza pacchero filled with water buffalo ricotta I found here at the local Coop grocery store and a zucchini parmesan sauce.

Fried Pasta

Parboil the pasta.
Let cool.

Use a small pastry bag to fill the pasta with ricotta cheese. If your ricotta doesn't have a lot of flavor, add some parmesan cheese, grated.

Beat an egg and roll the pasta first in the beaten egg, then in plain breadcrumbs.

Let sit before frying.

Heat olive oil in pan, add the pasta and let crisp on one side, then flip.
Remove when golden.


We sauteed zucchini in olive oil with garlic and a pinch of salt until tender.
Puree with parmesan cheese and olive oil.

Place the sauce on the plate- then place the fried pasta on top.

a great start to a meal!

Grazie Gragnano!