Tuscan Food: Simplicity, Freshness, Details and Love

Experts will tell you that Tuscan food is exceptional because it is based on “fresh ingredients.” Fantastic! What does that mean?

Imagine holding a fresh egg that is still warm from the hen. Hear the distinct snap as you crack that egg and place it on a flat surface. Take in the fresh smell. See the shiny orange (yes, orange) perfectly round, thick yolk that stands about ¾ inch high. Notice the compact and lustrous white of the egg, so very distinct from the yolk. Observe that the entire circumference of the egg is around 4-5 inches. Perfect.

You combine this egg with freshly ground (Italian) flour to make pasta dough. The color of the dough is a vivid gold, the smell of the pasta is enticing and the texture is smooth and firm in your hands.

Toss that pasta into briskly boiling salted water. It retains its shape and easily cooks to an “al dente” (firm in the middle) phase.

Finally, combine your perfectly cooked pasta with your favorite sauce or ragú (that you made using all the freshest possible ingredients). Heaven!

Compare the egg used in this case with that of an egg bought from your local grocery store. Crack it and the shell might crumble into many pieces. Place it on a flat surface; you will often see a pale yellow yolk that blends into the white of the egg. The egg white is runny and quickly spreads all over the surface.

You may, of course, not be able or willing to reach under a hen’s rear end to retrieve a warm egg. The point is, always be meticulous about using the freshest possible ingredients. Learn to read the signs of freshness and quality.

This is how the Tuscans approach cooking – with simplicity, attention to freshness and details and love. This is how my 99-year-old mother still cooks today.

Try this approach, no matter what you are making. This can apply to cooking, sewing, writing, painting or whatever you enjoy. Your outcome is only as good as the attention and love you put into each detailed step of the process, each moment along the way.

And, when your end result is something totally wonderful? Like the Tuscans, share it joyfully with people you love!

10 Things To Love About Italy

If you are a lover of food and/or Italy, this enthusiastic Vimeo video from the Perennial Plate will make you happy.

Arezzo Salumeria

Choose Your Prosciutto!

Among the top 10 things to love about Italy are, of course, pizza, pasta, espresso, prosciutto, parmigiano, gelato and more.

I am already drooling and homesick!

Click here for the article and video.

Visit to the Carpigiano Gelato University in Italy

As reported in our post from May 1, 2013, “Gelato University in Italy for International Students,” Carpigiani (the world leader in gelato machines) has opened a gelato university at their headquarters near Bologna, Italy

This is the headquarters of Carpigiani, the world’s biggest gelato machine. Next door are the and Museum of Gelato Culture and Technology.

People from around the world are anxious to attend this new university.

Now NPR reports on an actual visit to this delicious and unique university.

Click here for article

Learn to make gelato

Eat your way through school by starting with dessert!

Creative, Passionate Chef Teaches Tuscan Cuisine At Lorenza De Medici’s Cooking School in Tuscany

When Lorenza De Medici,  famous author and cookbook writer, founded  the Badia a Coltibuono cooking school over 20 years ago in the Chianti region, she provided an idyllic setting for visitors to learn the secrets of authentic regional Italian cuisine. Highly-trained Tuscan chef Andrea Gagnesi is carrying on her original idea while adding modern techniques and recipes to his teachings.

I was fortunate enough to visit the school when I visited Italy last September and witness an actual class. Chef Andrea’s English is excellent and the group of tourist/students were captivated and enthusiastic.

The rustic kitchen in this 1000-year-old abbey is amazing.  Add to that ambiance the juxtaposition of the freshest possible display of simple-but-exquisite ingredients (like fresh sheep milk ricotta, beautiful garden vegetables, and the abbey’s own organic e.v.o.o) and you have magic.

On the particular day I visited, Chef Andrea created a number of courses.

Among these were freshly made Paccheri (a rustically cut pasta) with a sauce made from uncooked tomatoes and fresh herbs, individual servings of eggplant parmesan, and an aromatic Panzanella (a Florentine summer salad of bread and tomatoes).  The dessert was individually baked crostate (tortes) with extra virgin olive oil dough instead of the usual butter dough (pasta frolla).

My fellow traveler Ginny and I were lucky enough to sample all the courses among the general ooohs and aaahs of the students.

The cooking courses are held from March to November, and offer a splendid chance to immerse oneself in the unique lifestyle and hospitality of a 1000 year old abbey while savoring the fantastic tastes and sights that this beautiful region offers.

The lessons are taught by Tuscan Chef Andrea Gagnesi who has a perfect command of English , a natural easy going style and a hand’s on approach, Andrea ensures that guests bring home authentic Italian recipes and menus to be used year round for all occasions.

Cooking School: http://www.coltibuono.com/pagebase.asp?s=18&s2=61

Chef Gagnesi’s Blog (With Recipes): http://andreagagnesi.blogspot.com/

Gelato University in Italy for International Students

Whether you are a passionate home-based gelato enthusiast or a professional pastry chef, these courses are designed to maximize your gelato-making talent.

Learn to make gelato

Eat your way through school by starting with dessert!

Learn from gelato masters  in Italy (classes are available in English) at courses that vary from one day to four weeks. You can study at the Gelato University in Italy (near Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region of central Italy), you can attend courses in a variety of countries or even online.

Carpigiani Gelato University is an international center of learning dedicated to training entrepreneurs who want to enter the gelato business or who already work with gelato and want to improve their abilities. Around 12,000 courses every year are donein our gelato school by top chefs.

 

Started by the manufacturers of the well-known Carpigiano professional gelato machines, university representatives state:

Indeed, our main goals are developing the art and science of gelato production, the comprehensive training of gelato entrepreneurs, and the promotion of Italian gelato as a natural and flavorful food suitable for all cultures.

For more information:
http://www.gelatouniversity.com/en/?langid=en&lng=en

Another Way to Enjoy Wine: As Dessert!

Italian Wine for gelatin dessert

I love Italian wines and always have a glass with my dinners.  I also use Italian wines for cooking and giving dishes more depth.

Here, from L’Italo-Americano,  is yet another way to use Italian wines – gelatin desserts!

Click Here

Zuppa Di Farrro: Farro Soup from Garfagnana, Lucca

Farro soup from Garfagnana, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

Comfort soup from Tuscany

Having just returned from my native Tuscany, I am busy cooking recipes that bring back wonderful memories.  As we head towards colder weather, there is nothing so comforting as good, fresh and very healthy Tuscan soups.  Those from the Lucca area are especially close to my roots. Plus my husband enjoys being used as a food guinea pig!

Buon Appetito!

Ingredients for 4-5 servings:
Farro – best if farro from the Garfagnana area near LuccaBorlotti beansOnion

Canned, peeled tomatoes, chopped

Pancetta, chopped or diced

Carrots, chopped

Celery, chopped

Water

Tuscan kale, chopped
salt, pepper, peperoncino or pepper flakes, garlic (finely minced), sage, extra virgin olive oil.

 200 gr.250 gr.250 gr.

200 gr.

30 gr.

80 gr.

50 gr.

3  quarts

1 small bunch

 

To see all photos, click here Read more

Tuscan Crostini: It’s the Interpretation That Counts!

When you are looking for “true” Tuscan (or Italian) recipes of any kind, you Crostini Toscani (Tuscan Chicken liver crostini)may become very perplexed over numerous versions of the same recipe. Which one is the right one? Which is the “classic?” Let me try to shed some light on this quandary: In Italy, each person or restaurant, puts a personal spin on a recipe. The variations depend on personal taste, family background, specific area of Tuscany (or Italy) and what is easily available and very fresh in that area. Tuscans are notorious for being fiercely independent, even when it comes to recipes.

Again, we can use a musical analogy. Many musicians can play the same piece of music but it is the interpretation that makes one stand apart from another. Each recipe has a personal interpretation.  To make it even more complicated, Tuscans will hardly ever be able to give you a precise recipe: It’s “A handful of this, a pinch of that” as cooking is often learned from watching other family members and done “a occhio” (by eye-balling) quantities.

Cooking is not a chemistry formula, it is an artistic experience; it is a way to express your creativity, enjoy all the steps of the process and render a wonderful result.

When Italians do give you recipe ingredients and measurements, it is always in weight (not cups or teaspoons). A perfect example of this is Tuscan Crostini (appetizers). First of all, when you say “Crostini” to Tuscans, they automatically assume you are referring to chicken liver crostini. If the crostini are any other kind, they are referred to by color or by naming the main ingredients (such as Crostini di Tonno – tuna – or Crostini di Pesce – fish). There are probably as many variations on Tuscan Crostini as there are Tuscans.

Have you tried making Tuscan Crostini? You should try the Tuscan way: Take a basic recipe, and adjust it to your taste by using variables or optional items, such as sage or bay leaves, chopped carrots, lemon juice, wine, etc. Just be careful not to overcook the chicken livers (they should not be too dry). Make certain that whatever you use is “in tune” with the rest of the ingredients. Then you will have your own “authentic recipe.” Please write in and let us know if you come up with something you really love!

Crostini Toscani (Tuscan Chicken liver crostini)
Printable version

Basic recipe (This is one version. There is another listed below in the “Recipes” section)

Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • One onion
  • ¼ carrot (optional)
  • ¼ celery (optional)
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 300g chicken livers
  • Stock (optional)
  • One tablespoon capers
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • Freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley or sage (or preferred herb) roughly chopped 50g butter.
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 500g unsalted bread, preferably country bread
  • Wine (optional)

Preperation:

Chop the onion (carrot, celery) and sauté in the e.v.o.o. Clean and wash the chicken livers, cut them roughly, add to the sautéed ingredients and brown well. If they dry out too much, moisten with a little stock or wine, but allow it to evaporate. Cook until done but not dry or overcooked. Remove from heat. Add the capers, and anchovy fillets, chopped herb leaves and butter. Using a large kitchen knife, chop the entire mixture very finely. Lightly toast the slices of bread and spread with the liver paste. If the slices of bread are crisped under a grill, they may be moistened with a spoonful of stock before spreading with the liver mixture. Some like crostini crisp and some prefer them moistened. The liver paste could also be served in an attractive bowl, surrounded with crisply toasted bread and decorated with herbs.

San Marzano Tomatoes are the Best for Italian Pizza!

These are truly the best tomatoes for a real Neapolitan pizza.  I recently found some at Costco!

Click here for article

2012-10-10-SanMarzanoTomatoes.jpg

http://www.thekitchn.com/the-pizza-lovers-tomato-san-marzano-tomatoes-ingredient-spotlight-178433

Typical Tuscan Dishes for Your Eating Pleasure

 

Here is a list of the Top 10 Foods to eat in Tuscany as published by Tuscanycious.  These are all great and they require some bravery in tasting for those who have not tried them before.

Are these your favorite Tuscan foods?

http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/tuscanycious/files/2010/04/best-tuscan-food.jpg

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