Spring, Rain, Asparagus and Frittata

The calendar says the spring it’s here, but the weather says something different … rain and always rain !!! What a crazy  season: rain and cold in the morning, sun and warmth in the afternoon and the day after? who knows! We have to go out in the morning with jackets and sweater, and come back home in a sweat …

Are you going to come to Tuscany now? Would you like to know what kind of clothes put in your luggage? Everything! Jackets and tops,  sweater and light t-shirts, boots and flip flop, jeans and shorts … everything! You have to be ready for all kind of weather !!!  Last week in the morning, around 9am,  i was going to the lab crossing Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, i was wearing a jacket because it was raining and for me it was cold, some tourists were wearing shorts and t-shirt.  In the afternoon it was sunny and so hot that i sweated to death … it is hard to give a good advice!!!

asparagi

Rain or not, it’s spring and i love this season and i love the asparagus that grow in this season. Usually in April, every sunday morning, we go around  fields looking for wild asparagus. They are fantastic and very tasty, more than the normal ones. Pasta, Risotto, soups, fried eggs, frittata  ( and more recipes) are fantastic prepared with wild asparagus. Every sunday i was ready for my “asparagus hunt” with basket and knife but, as i said, this crazy season hasn’t given me the possibility to look for them: it was raining for all April and now i cannot find them anymore. Fortunately markets are full of “traditional” asparagus.

For our co-post about spring, Marissa and i have decided to share a recipe with asparagus. She has prepared Polenta Huevos Rancheros with Asparagus (yummi !!!), i have prepared my asparagus&gorgonzola frittata:

frittata asparagi&gorgonzola

Asparagus&Gongorzola Frittata

5 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
a small piece of butter
a big piece of gorgonzola
500gr asparagus, trimmed
olive oil
a clove of garlic
a pinch of salt
a pinch of pepper

asparagi  asparagi in padella  frittata

gorgonzola  frittata con gorgonzola  asparagi saltati in padella

In a saucepan saute the clove of garlic in extravergine olive oil, then add the asparagus. Cover and cook them untill they become tender.
In a bowl, beat eggs, add milk, salt and pepper. In a pan (not the one with asparagus!) melt the butter. Then pour the egg mixture, cover and cook over medium-low heat until eggs are nearly set, about 10 minutes. Cut thin slices of gorgonzola. When the frittata is almost ready ( still liquid on top), put the slices of cheese on the frittata. When the cheese is melted, add the asparagus. Cover and cook for 5 minutes more.

Buon Appetito !!!

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Lacinato Kale Crostini

Cavolo Nero or Lacinato Kale … what a strange vegetable!!!

I discovered this crunchy and tasty vegetables ten years ago when I moved to Tuscany. The first time I saw it I was a little bit disappointed about touching the dark green, curly and rugose leaves. They seemed to be an “alien” veggie … a mix between organic staff and hard gum !!!!!!!!!!

Lacinato Kale  Lacinato Kale Crostini

But when finally I tried them, my idea had to change and I felt in love !!! Now i use a lot the lacinato kale to prepare soups, a nice risotto and some tasty crostini!

Every time I have a dinner with friends or a simple quick lunch with family, I prepare these crostini … sometimes i top them with different ingredients as spicy olive oil, fried bacon or flakes of Pecorino cheese, but always using the basic original recipe !

Thank to Marissa I have learned something new: I was thinking this kind of cabbage was typically from Tuscany and almost unknown in the rest of the world. When she proposed a “lacinato kale post” I had to look in a vocabulary to understand this strange word and, with joy, I’ve discovered it was my adorable “cavolo nero” and it was possible to use it in lots of different recipes as the delicious salad Marissa has prepared for her post!

Thanks to Marissa i’ll try a new delicious salad but also a “new version” of my lacinato kale crostini … with almond and garlic raisin on top!!! An incredible mix of the 2 recipe !!!

Lacinato Kale Crostini

A bunch of Lacinato Kale
2 Cloves Garlic
Extravergine olive oil
Slices of bread ( Tuscan bread if possible!!!)
Rocky salt
Water

Chop the lacinato kale in big pieces. In a pan sauté the garlic in extra verging olive oil until you can smell the garlic ( make attention not to burn it ). Add the lacinato kale, stir and make it fry a little bit. Add water and a pinch of rocky, stir and cover. Let it cook until it became tender, add water if necessary. Drizzle some extravergine olive oil on slices of bread and bake them in the oven for 10 minutes. Top them with cooked lacinato kale. If there is some water left in the pan  put some on the slices of bread before the lacinato kale …  it gives a very good taste!!!

Buon Appetito!

Cantucci for Christmas

I think a little package of homemade biscuits, well decorated and with a fancy tag, it’s the perfect Christmas gift! If you receive it, it tells you a lot about the person who made the gift!

I adore Christmas time and the feelings it creates in me … I enjoy thinking about the right gift for everyone, the decorations and a way to keep this atmosphere alive!
In this lovely mood I can spend all my days baking tons of biscuits and preparing little packages for family and friends … it is my way to tell I care and think about them!!!!!!

Christmas Gift 2012

This year for Christmas i’ve prepared a green and gold gift box, with a small tin of Olive oil, a jar of golden Honey, a cute bottle of Limoncello and a package of Cantucci.

Cantucci

Cantucci are my favorite biscuits and I love to use them as a gift. They are typical Tuscan “biscotti”, prepared with almond … usually they have to be baked crunchy because  the best way to taste these biscuits, it’s dip them in Vin Santo, a sweet, dessert wine … Delicious!!!

When Marissa proposed me to make a “biscuit post”, i could only think about Cantucci, my Christmas biscuits! Here it’s my recipe … but after Marissa’s post i have to confess i have 2 favorite Christmas Biscuits&Cookies : Cantucci and Soft Sugar Cookies!!! I adore our posts Marissa!!!!

Cantucci

50gr Butter
2 Eggs and 3 Yolks
400gr Flour
280gr Sugar
5ml Vanilla Extract
190gr Toasted Almonds (not peeled)
4gr Baking Powder
… a pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven at 180°C (350F). Melt the butter. In a bowl mix  flour, salt and baking powder. In a second large bowl whisk eggs, yolks and sugar with a mixer until the dough is soft and creamy. Add the butter and whisk. Add the vanilla extract and whisk. Add the dry ingredients and whisk. Finally add the almonds and mix using a wooden spoon.

Divide the dough in 3 parts ( 2 parts if you want bigger biscuits) and, on a lightly floured surface, roll each part into a 20cm (8inch) log and about 8-10cm (3-4inch) wide.

My Homemade Cantucci  Baking Cantucci

Put the logs on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. When ready, remove from oven and let cool them down for 10 minutes . When they are warm, but not cold, on a cutting board, cut logs into slices 1 cm thick using a sharp knife. Place the slices again on the baking sheets and back in the oven for 15minutes at 150°C ( 300°F). The longer you bake them, more crisp and crunchy they will become … I prefer to keep them a little bit soft inside, not too crunchy, and i bake for 15 minutes (as i’ve indicated above), If you like them crunchy let them bake  10 minutes more!

Buon Appetito and Buon Natale !!!!!!!!!

Autumn in Tuscany and Castagnaccio Recipe

The Fall Season is the subject of our second “America-Italy” Post. Marissa and I both love autumn, and our idea is to describe all the feelings that this season brings to us. One of my dreams is spending an entire autumn travelling around USA, watching the nature changing colors, living all the traditions, first of all Halloween and Thanksgiving, and trying all the delicious fall recipes. One day I’ll do for sure, for now i love reading Marissa’s post and try her tasty recipe, and I enjoy the Italian autumn!

I like all the seasons but autumn has a special appeal to me! Autumn carries something new everyday: the change of the landscape colors, the sky shades, the scents of the air, with the fall season, markets show new fruits and vegetables on stall and new flowers in vases.

In Autumn there are no important holidays or celebrations in Italy. But there is something special in the Tuscan Autumn, a particular atmosphere , a “back to the country life” atmosphere . Most the activities of this season involve products of the land and what they are transformed in. All the activities offer the possibility to go back to what it’s simple and enjoy “country life”. This is the time for walking in woods looking for mushrooms or chestnuts, spending days outside picking up olives, collecting firewood in the forest and for kids running around collecting dry leaves and pinecones. In tuscany and all Italy Fall season means also hunting season, i do not like it but it’s another part of our country life. All these activities remember to us the significance of the farmland in our life, remind us that the countryside is part of us. My last consideration: the autumn remind us also how warmful and joyful is spending time together doing all these activities.

Here some autumn activities in Tuscany:
One of the most important activity in Tuscany it’s the olive picking and the production of Extravergine Olive Oil. At the end of October the picking starts. It can be done by hand or using tractors with an compressed air machine and some mechanic rakes. Everyday, at the end of the day, all the picked olives have to be taken to the olive press. The day after you’ll have your new extravergine olive oil. Some farms, like Podere Vignali, organize olive picking days open to guests…It is a nice experience to try!!!

In autumn a lot of people loves searching for mushrooms,

and chestnuts

Chestnuts are delicious, we eat them in a lot of way: roasted, dry and boiled in milk. It is possible to produce flour from chestnuts, it is used principally to prepare pasta (principally tagliatelle), cakes ( see my recipe!!!) and biscuits. We have chestnut recipes for risotto or soups. Also it’s possible to prepare chestnut jam, sweets (my favorite is Marron Glacè … see the photo above) and taste chestnut biere.
In Tuscany there are a lot of areas with woods of chestnut tree but 5 places are very famous for the quality of these fruits, where it’s possible to find the DOP and IGP chestnut and its products. These 5 places are: Garfagnana (Lucca) known for a special chestnut flour “la Farina di Neccio”, Lunigiana (Massa Carrara) for the chestnut and the chestnut flour, Mugello (Firenze), Amiata(Grosseto) and Caprese Michelangelo (Arezzo) known for their special chestnuts.

Another autumn activity is collecting and setting all the firewood, ready for the cold season. I love to lay in front of a fireplace, with friends and family, talking and drinking wine … W Autumn!!!

My favorite activity is dedicated to the autumn fruits (and most of the time prepare jams) and vegetables. In a market it’s normal to find apples, pears, kaki, grapes, escarole, cauliflowers and broccoli in autumn, but, in Tuscany, in this season there are some other particular fruits as queens, loquat, “corbezzoli”, pomegranate

and vegetables as cavolo nero, variety of cabbage and chard, perfect ingredients for delicious soups

for example Ribollita !

As i wrote above i love autumn. For me the autumn means all these activities and more. I love all the situations that fall season inspire me … like the pleasure to walk with the cool breeze on face, to admir the morning mist rise and dissapear with the sun and when it’s too cold to stay at home with family and friends … and to cook seasonal recipe for all !!!

Here a autumn tuscan recipe, Il castagnaccio , the chestnut flour cake, easy and delicious !!!

Castagnaccio

350ml water
250gr chestnut flour
100gr raisins
60gr pinenuts
60gr walnut (coarsely groud)
3 tbs of olive oil
2 pinches of salt
some rosemary needles

Pass the flour throught a sieve and put it on a bowl. Mix the water and the olive oil and add a pinch of salt. Add the water and olive oil mix to the flour slowly, while mixing. The batter has to be soft , not too liquid. Add pinenuts, walnuts and raisins and mix well. Oil a pan large enough so the castagnaccio will be 1cm thick. Pour the batter. Put the rosemary needles on the batter ( i have not done it because i do not like it !). Bake it at 200°C (400 Fahrenheit) for 40 minutes.
Buon Appetito!!!

Paula and Isabel

Monday i had a wonderful cooking class with Isabel and Paula. They’ve learned some tuscan recipes and i’ve learned more about canadian and mexican food, what a interesting mix !!! I love taking cooking classes because it’s a nice way to meet people from all around the world and sharing recipes, ideas, interests and just simple talks, but, above all, mixing my tuscan life with their own life!!!

  

Thank you Isabel and Paula for our beautiful afternoon !

Daniela

Last year i “digitally” met Daniela, she was interested in my recipes so she started following my blog. We wrote each other for months and finally yesterday we met “di persona“. Two weeks ago she asked me to organize for her a cooking class about Tuscan Sweets and precisaly: Brutti ma Buoni, Panforte, Schiacciata Dolce Toscana, and i was really happy to do it!!

What a beautiful day! We passed all the time baking and talking and exchange recipes. She comes from Malta and i asked her some traditional sweet recipes from her country.

I have to thank her also for her advices about how to use Facebook and Twitter. I do not use them a lot, but she make me understand how important they can be for my activity and useful for my desire to be connnected to a lot of people all over the world.

Thank you Daniela and i hope to see you soon !!!

Schiacciata Dolce Toscana

After a busy, full of family and food Easter Day, i enjoy my easter monday at home, reading a book, playing with my son, spending time cooking … and baking La Schiacciata Dolce Toscana. It is a Easter sweet bread prepared with Anice Seeds and Mint Rosolio, a sweet light liquor. My friends say the recipe cames from Pisa and Livorno areas, but it is popular in all the Tuscan Region.  Normally it’s easy to find the schiacciata in this Easter period, but i really like it so i bake it often during all the year … i love it with honey for an energetic breakfast or with a nice hot tea for a sweet aftrenoon break  !!!

Schiacciata Dolce Toscana

700gr Flour
3 Eggs, at room temperature
150gr Caster Sugar
70gr of butter, at room temperature
a glass of lukewarm milk
50gr Brewer’s Yeast
a lemon zest
2 tablespoons of anise seed
50ml of Mint Rosolio
a pinch of salt
a egg white

Dissolve the brewer’s yeast into the lukewarm milk. In a glass put the anise seeds with the mint rosolio. Mix the flour and the sugar in a bowl, add the beated eggs, milk plus yeast, lemon zest, butter, anise seed plus rosolio and the pinch of salt. Knead by hands all the ingredients and when the dought is ready, put it in a high cake pan. Leave it in a warm place for a couple of hours, until it rises. Before baking it, brush the surface with the beaten egg white. Then put in the oven 180°C for 40-45 minutes.

Buon Appetito !!!

   

 

 

Pasta Funghi&Salsiccia

It’s Springtime, the weather is sunny and the temperature is absolutely perfect for a picnic … but a strange sense of “wintermissing” grabed me so i’ve decided to prepare this rich and tasty recipe that suits more a snowy day. I really like it !!! This is a typical tuscan recipe but to prepare the real one, you are supposed to use Tagliatelle and Porcini mushrooms. It’s Spring and it is impossible to find fresh porcini mushrooms and,as i told you, i feel strange so i’ve decided to cook this type of pasta (mezze maniche rigate !!!).

  

  

Pasta Funghi&Salsiccia (for 2 persons)

200gr portobello mushrooms, sliced
100gr salsiccia
onion, thinly sliced
extravergine olive oil and a small piece of butter
parsley, chopped
… and a little bit of fresh cream about 60ml ( this is not part of the real tuscan recipe but i love to put some in the sauce!!!)

Heat the oilve oil and butter in a pan, sautè the onion. Peel the salsicce and crumble them in the pan. Add mushrooms  and the fresh cream and cook until the cream become thick. Cook pasta and, when it’s ready, drain and stir it in the pan with mushrooms mixture, heat through. Sprinkle parsley on top.

This dish is rich but also delicate, and it’s perfect if you do not want to taste too much the mushrooms. Definetively the recipe is better using the porcini mushrooms. If you use the porcini do not put fresh cream, you’ll lose their really good taste!!!

Buon Appetito !!!

Castagnole … and my donutmaker!!!

CARNEVALE is the period before Lent, it runs from Twelfth Night to Ash Wednesday. It is celebrated with mad jokes, streamers, typical sweets and fancy dress parties especially during the weekend running from Giovedì Grasso (the last Thursday) to Martedì … Continue reading

Zuppa di Farro&Fagioli Borlotti

Tonight Zuppa di Farro&Fagioli Borlotti for dinner! It’s a typical tuscan soup, rich and tasty; i love it and i like a lot with some chopped smoked bacon inside, the soup becomes smoky and very savoury.  It’s a delicious country winter dish and it’s perfect served hot, drizzled with extravergine olive oil.

       

Zuppa di Farro&Fagioli BorlottiSpelt&Borlotti Bean Soup

200gr Spelt
a carrot, a onion, a celery rib finely chopped
300gr borlotti beans already boiled
500gr tomato sauce
600ml water
extravergine oilve oil
rocky salt
and if you like some cutted smoked bacon

Sautè carrot,onion and celery in extravergine oilve oil. Add borlotti beans and let them cook for few minutes. Add tomato sauce, stir with a wooden spoon and mix well. Add the spelt, stir and mix, then add smoked bacon, rocky salt and at the end water. Let it cook for an hour and a half, low heat. Before serving, add some croutons and drizzle extravergine olive oil.

Buon Appetito !!!