Recipes from Tuscan Women: Mushroom Soup, Tuscan Crostini, Risotto with Carrots and Mozzarella

Manila – Florence, Tuscany, Italy (more recipes from Manila’s repertoire)

Recap: My friend Manila is a beautiful, doe-eyed woman who lives in Florence. Her husband owns the Ancre jewelry store near Piazza San Marco which is a favorite boutique of the locals.

Manila has raised her three sons in Florence and has taught pre-school and elementary school for many years. Her dream, however, is to own a catering business.

Manila’s passion for Tuscan cuisine is well-known and she is considered one of the best cooks around. My cousins and I were blown away by a meal Manila cooked entirely based on fresh Tuscan mushrooms.  When she smilingly opened her front door and the aromas wafted towards us, it was heavenly. And I will never forget about the bone-in prime rib cooked in the wood-burning oven in her courtyard in downtown Florence.

Following are Manila’s recipe for the Tuscan Mushroom Soup, Chicken Liver Crostini and Chicken Liver Croquettes, all typical Tuscan autumn dishes.  Buon appetito!

Note from Serenella: John and I tested the soup and crostini recipes this week-end.  We had fun and liked them both. 

For the soup, we chose to put it through the blender but it also looked prettty chopped up with the different vegetable colors.  The pictures are from our recipe testing experience.

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Recipes from Tuscany: Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate)

We have been asked to republish and article that originally appeared in 2008 on Italian hot chocolate so her it is.  Enjoy:

Ahh, those reports of storm and winter snows make everyone want to bundle up and get warm outside and in.Recipes from Tuscany: Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate)

So, my mind naturally turns to chocolate.  (My mind always seems to turn to chocolate, no matter what the excuse!)

As the weather gets colder, I dream of the wonderful hot chocolate served in cafes all over Italy. Once you have tasted the Italian version of hot chocolate, it is very difficult to drink the bland versions back home.

In fact, six years ago, a woman on one of my tour groups became so enamored of “cioccolata calda” that she ordered it several times a day everywhere we went – even when the temperature was in the eighties! When we reached one of the pinnacles of hot chocolate, the Caffe Rivoire in Florence’s famous Piazza della Signoria, we were actually sweating.  That did not stop us from ordering the wonderfully thick and delicious concoction.

Italians prefer desserts and drinks that are less sweet-tasting than Americans do and hot chocolate is no exception.  The goal is a bitter-sweet, smooth taste with non-sweetened whipped cream on top.

In Tuscany (the home of “The Valley of Chocolate” that lies between Pisa and Florence), there is no end to the supply of velvety, deeply flavorful chocolate from local suppliers such as Slitti, Amedei, Corsini and many others.  Any of these chocolates make a great start for a hot chocolate drink.  If you cannot find Italian chocolate, any high quality chocolate will work. Remember, the secret is in each detail so use the best possible ingredients!

Italians generally drink their chocolate in a cappuccino cup filled halfway.  Here are two typical recipes below.  Are you up to the chocolate challenge? Read more