January 23, 2013

San Francisco- Dim Sum

I spent about 7 years living in downtown San Francisco and probably one of the things I miss most, living in Italy, is being near the sea and the variety of food available.

We had all been at the 10th anniversary celebration of Pam Williams' fabulous online chocolate school. So when I had a chance to arrange a meal for visiting chocolate masters I met through Ecole Chocolate,
Dim Sum brunch on a Sunday was the first thing that came to my mind. I was with one of Italy's best chocolatiers, Paul deBondt and his wife Cecilia Iacobelli and Bart Van Cauwenberghe and Julie Vanborm from Belgium.

The next day we joined my old boss, Jim Dodge and had a fabulous crazy SF experience. We were the only caucasians there for almost the whole meal.  The action was fabulous and was fun to expose people to something I grew up with.

For Dim Sum we went to SF New Asia, which was a HUGE restaurant and totally thrilled the guests. We had a choice of dumplings, shiu mai, steamed buns, ribs, duck, broccoli and assortment of sweets. A nice start for the morning. We had a blast and after our brunch headed down through Chinatown into North Beach.

Jim thought we should visit the new Chocolate Lab, no, not a dog, but Michael Recchiuti's new restaurant in DogPatch.

In the neighborhood, walking from the Chocolate Lab, to tour the workshop, we passed a surprise.
Wineries in San Francisco?  Of course.

What a fun surprise-- Sutton Cellar, winery in Dogpatch. Carl Sutton makes the wine in this space in SF. Also great Vermouth, Vin di Noix and Cider.

We were also lucky to find Carl gave space to a local chef, Joshua Wolder Oakley, Tango and Stache. The daily special was cider pork carnitas in a duck fat tortilla!!!

Then back to Chocolate Lab for a "Snack".

Some of the lovely desserts, but there are also savory foods.  We adored everything. The smore's are not on the menu yet!

Next door  you can shop!

What a morning!!!

January 15, 2013

Divina Cucina - on the road Jan-Feb 2013

Here  I come!
Heading to California tomorrow.
I will be on the radio Saturday around 12:30 -1pm on the Dining Around show with Joel Riddel on Newstalk 910- tune in!

After the show I am attending a luncheon meeting with Ecole Chocolate, celebrating her 10 years. I have been helping run the Tuscan Masters Chocolate program for the past 8 years, so am thrilled to be there for the party! Sunday is the Fancy Food show in San Francisco and my first time being able to attend.
I will also be in SF for Chinese New Year's so I see a banquet in my future!
My cooking class schedule is:
Feb 2 - Terry's Kitchen in Lafayette- info will be online soon.
Feb 7 - Cavallo Point in Sausalito-  Sicilian menu
Feb 14- Seattle- Sizzleworks in Bellevue
Feb 20/21 - Bend, Oregon - Gingers Kitchenware-sold out
I will be back in Tuscany all of March and leaving again for IACP convention in San Francisco and then heading down south to LA to teach before coming back to start the season here.
I hope to see those of you that live nearby where I am having classes.

I have some new programs this year as I am celebrating 25 years of teaching.

I am teaming up with friends to do some special classes and workshops, both in Italy and in France.
Stop by my site for more information- their are notes on the special weeks, but when those are not happening I will offer one day to one week programs as usual in Tuscany!

I also have created a new site to share some images of Italy- called Edible Tuscany, you can sign up on the about page to receive the foto's as email.

January 10, 2013

Simple Pasta Pleasures- Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

I can get a fix on certain foods. When I waitressed in Fiesole, the first year I was living here, I fell in love with the pasta which we would often have for lunch.

We worked hard. The Italian restaurant system is different. You are paid wages and benefits by the owners, which is very, very expensive for them. Part of the deal was that I also ate there.

The restaurants are understaffed compared to their American counterparts. I WAS the staff! Schlepping cases of glass bottles of water from the downstairs cantina daily and filling the fridge. Washing the floors and putting the chairs up and down off the tables to do so. Then setting the tables to prepare for lunch service. Work was 9-4 and 6-11 six days a week. Hmmm EXHAUSTING!

When the restaurant was ready for lunch, one table was left unset. We sat down for a simple staff meal. Sometimes it was just a plate of pasta. My favorite was spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers, one of the classics of Italian cuisine.

At the restaurant they would use the tiny birds-eye chili's and not chili pepper flakes.

The tiny chili's pack a punch with the heat, but also provide a wonderful flavor component as well.

Recently after my trip to Gragnano, home to some of Italy's BEST pasta, I discovered the secrets to using the Colatura sauce made from anchovies.

This is the more common recipe that Italians make, when the colatura is not available. I think most Italian- Americans I know do this version.

Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino with Anchovies

While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce:
Slice one or two cloves of garlic and place in saucepan with cold extra virgin olive oil.
Cook over medium heat, letting the garlic just get golden. 
Add 2 or 3 cleaned anchovy filets and mash with the back of a spoon, so they dissolve in the sauce.
Add chili to taste.

Drain the pasta into the sauce, and finish cooking. 

Add chopped parsley.

Add breadcrumbs and toss with the pasta.
If the sauce is dry, you can add some of the pasta cooking water.
NEVER THROW AWAY THE PASTA WATER!  It is the secret ingredient in the kitchen.

Serve with a drizzle of fresh extra virgin olive oil on top.

I always would ask for extra chili. They thought I was crazy, but I still love a good spicy pasta.

If you don't like anchovy, no problem, the garlic, olive oil, chili sauce is wonderful on it's own.
It is really one of the holy trinities in the kitchen, used as a base for many dishes.

Simply adding tomato sauce and it is called arrabbiata or carrettiera sauce. Usually served with penne pasta or spaghetti.

January 3, 2013

Edible Florence- Sabatino's {san frediano}

When I first arrived in Florence, in October of 1984, there was no internet.  No way of instantly sharing  information on my new life here.

One kept a diary.

When I finally had access to internet, I opened my website and put together a dining guide for Florence by neighborhoods and also one for Chianti.

Updating the site costs money and now with blogging I can write about things as I think about them.
Now there is a whole new generation of 30 somethings, that like me, came here and may or may not leave, but they are sharing online their discoveries.

I know it is hard to know where to go of all the places there are to choose from, so I thought as i revisit these places, I will post.

Today we went to a Florentine classic, practically where my husband grew up.

San Frediano is in the area referred to as Oltr'Arno  or di la d'arno.

I remember when we first went, it was tiny hole-in-the-wall place. The menu was typed daily and prices were ridiculously low. Things like 3,300 lira for a plate of pasta.

Walking into their "new" location, is like time stopped. Some things have changed.
It is much larger. Dad recently passed away. Prices are now in euro.

Today I ordered the tortellini, but asked for them simply done with butter and parmesan.

This is the kind of trattoria that asks if you want cheese on your pasta and puts it on in the kitchen!

My husband and friend had the tagliatelle with tomato sauce and one with ragu, both large portion sizes.

My husband had Peposo stew, served on a slice of toasted garlic bread, as is traditional.

Our friend and I both had the classic Rost-bif, roast beef, with potatoes.

Desserts vary and always are classics! Today they had marinated cherries, something typical for the holidays. I had the Semolino and Ganache Crostata and my husband had his personal favorite, which is almost always on the menu, Mille foglie.

Another friend had three plates of vegetables, including a raw cabbage salad, like a tuscan coleslaw.

Wine, water, coffee- we paid 14 euro a piece.

This is the kind of place people go to daily if they cannot go home to have lunch.

Hope you can stop by your next trip.

Trattoria Sabatino
Via Pisana, 2R
Closed Monday

January 2, 2013

2013- Bring It On!

Ok- I am so ready to be done with 2012----- and move on. It has been a really tough couple of years since my mom died, family problems and being so far away.

This year is 25 years I have been teaching cooking in Italy and I am ready to celebrate.

We had a calm and quiet New Year's here in the countryside.

They say what you do on New Year's sets the pace for the whole year. We were comfy and peaceful and quiet. We set our own pace, did not overdo and relaxed.


I spent time cooking for us, which is a treat. I made English Muffins and Bagels, trying once again for the perfect recipe using Italian ingredients. Not there yet, but good enough for us!

I made Gravlax, using dried chives as we don't have dill. I will try to plant some dill next year.

My bagels were good, but not perfect. I think I need to buy flour from my baker as the grocery store brands don't have enough gluten. I don't bake bread that often, so don't want to store a huge sack of flour here at home.

Same problem with my English muffins, not quite as I would like them. Need to save up old tuna cans and try the wetter dough to get more airholes inside. Love those nooks and crannies!

I am heading home for a month and will be teaching some classes as well. Next post will have my calendar and hope to see you at one of the events.

I am also dreaming about the wonderful tortellini we made in class, pre-xmas with my students.

I love cooking as much as I love teaching people to cook.
I adore exploring and learning new recipes to share.
For me, cooking is therapy.
Time in the kitchen spent preparing nourishing food, fun food, simple plates is spaghetti for a quick meal. What is important is taking the time. As my mother-in-law taught me, spend more time shopping and less time cooking.  It is work to find the perfect canned tomato, pasta you love and your favorite butcher. But once you have, you food will be fabulous!

I am looking forward to my time in the Bay Area, discovering the weekly markets again and being inspired by the new artisans.

Let me know if there is someone I should not miss!
I will be in San Francisco Bay Area from Jan 16-Feb 12 and then in Seattle from Feb 12-16 and then heading to Oregon, Eugene and Bend, flying back to Tuscany on the 23.


Wishing everyone a wonderful, stressfree, peaceful and healthy 2013