September 29, 2012

Counting My Blessings

I really adore having my photography to remind me of where I have been, with whom and how lucky I am. I feel already blessed to be living in Tuscany and be able to travel around Italy for work with my fellow Italophiles.

Fall is always busy in Italy, I think it is one of the best seasons. Right now traffic slows down on the roads as we are always finding trucks filled with grapes from the harvest on their way to the cantina's to be crushed.  Visiting wineries, finds them busy at work.



Although I am back in Tuscany, my mind is still absorbing two weeks in Sicily with my Divina Cucina Culinary Adventures. The mix of cooking and touring is one of my favorites. Sharing my old friends with my new friends and creating memories. Not just another cooking class.



When I taught the American college students in Florence, Culture through Cooking, it brings a reality of a place into focus. Learning how people live makes us all closer. Understanding a life-style and getting an insider's look at daily life. Having recipes to bring home a real souvenir of where you have been and a daily reminder of the new friends you have made.



Sicily fills your heart and soul. I can't wait to go back in November, when the new oil is harvested and the seasons change. Each tour I tend to add something new for myself and some of the old true favorites stay the same.

I am working on the Rianata recipe to get on the next blog post.


In the Tuscan classes, we have just cooked with the first porcini mushrooms. I saw the first white truffles in the market and fall vegetables are exciting me! We made some vegetable flans this week, using Italian pumpkins and also did a spinach and ricotta. Gilding the lily, we served with a truffled fonduta sauce. I adore flans and am seeing them more and more on the menu's here.

Originally called sformati, vegetables are cooked then finely chopped or pureed and often mixed with either bechamel sauce or ricotta, bound with egg and seasoned with parmesan. Baking them in a water bath gives a moister result and they can be made in any size and become an antipasto, a first course, perhaps served with a richer sauce or a side to a main course.

our roasted pumpkin flan with truffled fonduta and walnut sauce








Every class feels like iron chef, the market changes and we jump at the chance to use the seasonal best. I don't repeat lessons week after week or I would be bored to tears. This week I was asked to make fresh pasta and show how to make ravioli, the porcini inspired a simple mushroom filling and while making ravioli, we used the extra pasta to show how to make some spaghetti alla chittara by rolling the dough thicker and using the special cutter which comes with the machines.
( I also have the original "guitar string" pasta cutter from Abruzzo)

roll the pasta thicker for a chewier bite to the dough



we rolled out a very delicate dough to create oversized ravioli

Thanks to my students, every class is special!


Next big trip is to Sorrento for our Slow Food Kansas City tour. Every other year I take this convivium from Kansas City with  Chef Jasper Mirabile to explore the pleasures of the table.
This year we will drink wine, see buffalo mozzarella being made, have a fabulous pasta experience in Gragnano and get a lesson on the REAL San Marzano tomatoes.

The secret to good cooking are good ingredients and we go to the source to learn why.

In American you have great resources such as Gustiamo! tell Beatrice that you are friends of Divina Cucina....




Every class feels like iron chef, the market changes and we jump at the chance to use the seasonal best. I don't repeat lessons week after week or I would be bored to tears. This week I was asked to make fresh pasta and show how to make ravioli, the porcini inspired a simple mushroom filling and while making ravioli, we used the extra pasta to show how to make some spaghetti alla chittara by rolling the dough thicker and using the special cutter which comes with the machines.
( I also have the original "guitar string" pasta cutter from Abruzzo)

roll the pasta thicker for a chewier bite to the dough



we rolled out a very delicate dough to create oversized ravioli

Thanks to my students, every class is special!


Next big trip is to Sorrento for our Slow Food Kansas City tour. Every other year I take this convivium from Kansas City with  Chef Jasper Mirabile to explore the pleasures of the table.
This year we will drink wine, see buffalo mozzarella being made, have a fabulous pasta experience in Gragnano and get a lesson on the REAL San Marzano tomatoes.

The secret to good cooking are good ingredients and we go to the source to learn why.

In American you have great resources such as Gustiamo! tell Beatrice that you are friends of Divina Cucina....


September 24, 2012

Tasting Sicily



I could have stayed here all day long.

One of the only regrets I have is I don't live near the beach, to smell the sea!

I hope to fix that soon, to spend a month or so at a time at least, but my Culinary programs to Sicily at least get me here often.

I just got back from two weeks of being Sicilian and sharing it with students. It is such a joy to introduce friends and hopefully create new Sicily fans as we travel.

Everyone is surprised at how large Sicily is and how incredibly beautiful. A mix of many cultures and landscapes.





I am always fascinated by the salt flats outside Trapani, we were lucky to be there during the harvest. Amazing mountains of salt crystals, left to dry.


The magnificent churches reflecting multiple cultures and periods of time.


We visited this bombed out church in Mazara del Valle. Sicily was heavily bombed by the Americans after the war had already ended. Coming to Sicily is like going to school. I am constantly learning.


I will be posting some recipes soon, need to do some recipe testing in my own kitchen, but here is a little teaser.


My FAVORITE pizza is at Calvani's in Trapani, called Rianata, which is oregano in Sicilian dialect. No tomato sauce, no mozzarella!!! PACKED with flavor.


Crunch pecorino cheese melted on top!!! Wish I had some for breakfast.

My next trip is in November for the new oil harvest. Let me know if you would like to join me.

another reason to ADORE Sicily, the sweet red prawns from Mazara. We got our fill this time.



September 14, 2012

Ortygia- Sicily



Just a short blog to let you know about our special evening----- to end our magical stay here.

There are some places that take your breathe away, Ortygia is one of those places

We stayed in the Hotel Algila' on the east coast of the island, away from the crowds.

We used it as a base to tour Modica and Noto and also did a small tour of the historic center with a lovely guide, Lucia.

The best way to see any island is by sea, so we took a boat ride around the island and to see the caves. MAGICAL






For our last evening we had spotted what looked like a very lovely spot right in the main square of Ortygia.



Our view from dinner at the Regina Lucia restaurant. Rumors have been flying around that it was bought and restored by Dolce e Gabbana or by Giorgio Armani... NO.


Our charming waiter is on the left and the owner on the right.

We ADORE beng spoiled!

Lucky us-- we got a tour of the restored borgia palace where they hold special events too!
Click on this link and then click on the foto gallery to see how it looks for events--- a dream come true!








If you want to book an event here--- or just see more foto's of the At Borgia del Casale



Sweet dreams---- of Sicily! 

September 6, 2012

Wednesday Market in Certaldo

There is nothing I love more than  a market day! I live in Certaldo where we have the large market on Wednesday and a small market just a few food trucks, on Saturday. Where I teach, in Colle Val D'Elsa, the huge market day is on Friday. That pretty much covers it for me.

With my students, we do mostly as I do in my life. We shop together and then create our menu for the day based on what is in season. Makes life simple and never boring.

I have my vegetable vendor's daughter Erica as my assistant for my classes with is a double pleasure as she can also bring me things from their farm daily. What a blessing.


A simple classic Italian recipe for broad beans is always a favorite.
In my cookbook I have the recipe for Mangiatutto from Stefano Conti's mamma, Germana.
What's funny is if I return and as for the ingredients to make her recipe, sometimes she gives me carrots too, which are fabulous in the recipe, but not in the original recipe she gave me!
Mamma's are like that.

This is a typical recipe with very few GREAT ingredients.

We sauteed a red onion,which is a specialty of Certaldo, in a little olive oil.Then we add in the cleaned beans cut into smaller pieces and we chopped the heirloom tomatoes into large pieces and tossed in the pan.
Lightly salt and then cover and let steam, stirring occasionally.

You will feel like you are channeling your inner Italian!