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 !!!

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!

Polenta&Brasato … A special dinner

I love Tuscany and i adore MY life here… but MY roots …
I was born in Como and i lived over there for 25 years. I’m definetively a northern Italy person: sociabile but not too much, expansive but not too much, reserved too much. For the rest of Italy we are too unsociable to deal with !!! I do not care about what people think but at the same time, it bothers me because i’m tired to listen to people complaining about how awfull is going to live in a northern Italy: the weather is horrible ( most of them think there is only fog and rain all the time), the cities are too big and crazy ( Milan is a little bit crazy but it offers a lot of things), people are unpleasant (it’s not true and also it’s possible to find unpleasant persons everywhere!!!) and too reserved (we just think about our friends and family life), the food is always good but not in northern Italy ( we have delicious recipes but simply not known!!!) … Northern Italy has a lot of beautiful qualities and things to show off.
I’m telling all this because last night i’ve invited some tuscan friends for dinner and i’ve prepared some typical dishes from Lombardia (my “birth region”) to show them it was possibile to find something good in Northern Italy!

For dinner i’ve prepared polenta&brasato. This dish really remind me MY chilhood, when we used to spend sunday meals with parents&relatives…  Beautiful memories in a beautiful place!!!

Polenta&Brasato

Brasato (Braised Meat) is an easy recipe but very tasty, it’s perferct for wintertime!!! You just need a lot of time (preparation + 4 hours cooking) because the meat has to cook slowly in the sauce made with tomatoes sauce or red wine. A good cut of meat for braising is the shoulder of the animal (we call it “cappello da prete“).
The “Brasato meat” is perfect served with polenta or mashed potatoes.

Here the recipe from My grandmother cookboook!!!

Brasato al Vino Rosso … recipe for 6 persons

2kg  Beef Meat … the entire piece
1lt  good Red Wine ( i used Chianti but also Barolo … i love mixing italian products and recipes)
a big Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, chopped
2 Celery ribs, chopped
a Garlic clove
a can of Diced Tomatoes
a tsp of Clove
a tsp of Nutmeg
extravergine olive oil
a tbs of rocky salt

cappello da prete  soffritto

In a heavy-bottomed pan, add olive oil, carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Using a mixer, mince all the vegetables together. Saute the vegetable mixture, then add the piece of meat. Brown the meat on both side for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the red wine, the diced tomatoes, nutmeg, clove and rocky salt; cover the pan and simmer. Every 45minutes turn the piece of meat and check the level of the braising liquid. The liquid should just barely cover the meat. If you need more liquid (usually a liter of wine is enough) add half of a glass of red wine a time. When ready (the meat has to be tender), cut into slices the meat and serve it with the sauce on.

Buon Appetito!!!

PS. My friends all enjoyed the dinner !!!!!!!!!!!!

Tina&Herman

I like so much my cooking classes!!! It’s always a beatiful occasion to meet special persons.

Last Wednesday i organized a cooking lesson for Tina and Herman, a lovely couple that live in Singapore. They were travelling around Italy and they spent a week at Casina di Rosa in Civitella Marittima (Gr) where they knew about my “classes” .

I had a wonderful afternoon with them full of recipes, italian kitchen and a lot of talking about everything. And they payed me a lovely and sweet compliment: ” Giovanna, you make every recipes so easy to prepare!” This is exactly what i want from my lessons, i do not know if i’m a good teacher but i put all my passion in them!!!

Thank you Tina and Herman, i hope to see you soon!

My Baking Day (part2) – Coconut Shortbred Cookies and Raisin Shortbread Cookies

After the chocolate cake, I wanted to bake shortbread cookies.

While I was preparing the dought, i’ve decided to add some new ingredient for a little “special touch”. My mind started thinking, i could hear its noise, a kind of “…. Mumble mumble … “. I opened the closet and I found a dry coconut jar and a raisin jar, “why not to try with one of these?” I thought … “Which one?” … Mumble mumble again … “But it is my baking day so I’ll try both!!!” … et voila’: 2 differents types of shortbread cookies!

And these are my experiments:

Coconut Shortbread Cookies

and Raisin Shortbread Cookies

Not perfect but not bad, especially the one with dry coconut, it gives a sweeter touch!!!

Coconut or Raisin Shortbread Cookies

2 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of butter at room temperature
1/2 cup of superfine white sugar
1 teaspoon of vanillina or vanilla extract
3 tablespoon of dry coconut or 3 tablespoons of raisin

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat the butter until soft and creamy, then add sugar and beat untill the dough becomes very smooth. Add vanillina and mix. Pour the dough in the bowl with flour and salt mixture. Add dry coconut or raisin. Mix really well. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for an hour . Preheat the oven to 180°C ( 356°F). On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 5cm thick circle. Cut the cookies into the shape you prefer with a cookie cutter. Place them on a baking sheet. Put back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, it will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape. Bake them for 10-15minutes, they have to remain lightly brown.

Buon Appetito!!!

My Baking day (part 1) – Chocolate Cake

Sometimes i take a day off from everything, i wear my apron and my kitchen becomes my world: my baking day!

I love it, it is MY time for me and my passion, I can prepare cakes, cookies and biscuits using “already tested” recipes, try new one, taste new ingredients and mix them for MY recipes … I adore my baking day!!!

Yesterday afternoon I dedicated my baking time to prepare a cake following an old recipe, a chocolate cake recipe, and modify another one, shortbread cookies recipe.

I founded the choco cake recipe in a nice old cookbook long time ago, i’ve tasted it so many time but it has never bothered me. It is a fantastic chocolate cake, a little bit chewy, as i like it, with no cocoa powdered but real dark chocolate !!!

Chocolate Cake

200gr dark chocolate
100gr butter
3 eggs
3 tablespoons of flour
200gr castor sugar

Cut the dark chocolate in pieces. Put the pieces of choccolate with the butter in a double saucepan and melt them. In a bowl beat yolks with sugar and then add flour. Beat until stiff the egg whites. Add the chocolate and butter mix with the yolks and sugar mix, add the beaten egg whites. Mix very well all the ingredients. Pour the batter in a pan and bake it in the oven to 180°C ( 356°F) for 25-30 minutes. Serve it with confectioners’ sugar on top.

Buon Appetito!!!

Meet Marissa, an american friend and her Caesar Salad recipe

I’m so excited: with this post Marissa and i start an “American-Italian Post Project”. We want to write every month a post about food, culture, traditions and our life in our own country. Same arguments from two point of view. I love the idea to create this virtual bridge between us and discover what will happen.

Marissa is an american friend of mine. She has a beautiful food blog, called PinchandSwirl. In her blog she talks a little bit about her life but, above all, about delicious recipes she prepares, a mix of american, italian and international dishes, always with a her personal touch. All the posts have something more: her beautiful photos!

I met Marissa a year ago. Marissa and her husband Keith spent 65 days around Italy, visiting Venice, Bologna, Florence and Tuscany, Roma and more, and sharing all their experiences in their blog 65 days in Italy. During this trip they stopped at Podere Vignali where i organized a cooking class for them.

We had a beautiful time cooking and talking about food, traditions and our countries. I was so proud of my job when they talked about me in their blog and their travel guide. After that time we kept in touch via email. We get long well and i feel comfortable talking to her, probably because, like me, she moved a lot in her life living in different cities and learning a lot from those experiences. Marissa writes in her blog ” I live in Bend, Oregon, graduated from college in Idaho, and grew up in California. Before Bend I lived in Seattle, where I worked with my husband to restore a 1921 Craftsman Bungalow – so I’m handy with a hammer and a kitchen knife”.

I like her kindness and her way to observe the world around … and also i like her recipe! To open this series of posts i decided to prepare one of her recipe “Chopped Caesar Salad with Crispy Capers and Giant Croutons“, an american recipe with italian origin and her touch!

Chopped Caesar Salad with Crispy Capers and Giant Croutons

Here Marissa’s recipe for Caesar Salad from her blog:

Crispy capers and giant croutons:
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and patted dry
4 slices (1/2 inch) whole wheat sourdough or whole grain peasant loaf … i used unsalted tuscan Bread
olive oil for tossing/drizzling

For the dressing:
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovies (optional – Worcestershire sauce gives a slight anchovy flavor)
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup lemon juice, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra to shave over salad (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place capers in a small bowl and add about 1 teaspoon of olive oil; toss to coat.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange bread slices on one half of the baking sheet and sprinkle capers in a single layer on the other. Drizzle bread slices with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes or until bread is golden brown and capers are crispy. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Add all dressing ingredients except oil – garlic through Parmesan cheese – to the pitcher of a blender; puree. With blender running, slowly add olive oil and continue to blend until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a large bowl combine chopped romaine and eggs; toss to combine. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to coat.

Divide salad between 4 serving bowls. Top each salad with one giant crouton, a sprinkle of crispy capers, and several shavings of Parmesan cheese. Serve.

I start preparing the dressing, then cutting the salad, toasting the bread and the capers. After combining all , we had delicious salad for lunch … Very good!!! Bravissima Marissa !!!

Buon Appetito !!!

I hope you like this post and all the posts will come after !!! But now read Marissa lovely post Authentic Italian Ragu&Meet Giovanna

SEE YOU SOON … A PRESTO!!

Linguine with Arselle … without Linguine

Last night my dinner was smelling like sea breeze, how poetic i am!!!, but it was true! We had a big plate full of arselle, small edible mollusks, fished long the Tuscan coast close to Livorno. I don’t know the english name of these mollusks,  the name should be Truncate Donax, but i know for sure the latin name is Donax trunculus … maybe it can help!!!

These mollusks are really small but they are delicious and a typical recipe  prepared with these mollusks is Linguine with arselle.

Yesterday night my husband and i came back home late, no dinner was ready and we were tired and hungry. Fortunately he arrived with a big basket full of arselle he bought from a local fisherman. When i saw the arselle i ran in the kitchen thinking to prepare the linguine with arselle, but as soon as we finished to cook the arselle, they looked so good that we decided to eat them without the pasta … also my son Marco appreciated them ! Very good dinner !!!!!

Here the complete recipe … very easy !!!!!!

Linguini con le Arselle

Leave the arselle for a day in clean salt water. Saute 2 cutted garlic cloves in extravergine olive oil. Add Arselle and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Add chopped parsley and stir. Boil some salty water and cook the linguine. When the pasta is ready, drain it and transfer in the pan with the arselle. Toss to coat, heating  just a little bit and serve.

Buon Appetito … with or without linguine !!!

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 !

Stew Escarole

Thursday i went to the farmer’s market close to home. Looking around I found my favorite lettuce, the escarole or endive!!!!!! I was very happy when I saw it on the stall for 2 reasons:  finding the escarole at the market means autumn is arriving  and i adore the autumn, and, in second place, with the escarole i prepare a very tasty dish:  Stew Escarole.

I use Escarole, a salad green of the chicory family, in many winter recipes like soups and stew meats, because it has a  particular taste: a little bit bitter but it is perfect with something sweeter. I’ve tried this recipe the first time i met my mother in law( that time she was just my probable future mother in law!!!) and i liked it very much, ever since she prepares it all the time we go visiting her for Christmas.

Scarola Stufata

2 bunches of Escarole, trimmed and torn
3-4 anchovy fillets in olive oil or a tablespoon of anchovy paste
a garlic clove, minced
a small cup of black olives, called “olive taggiasche”, without stones
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
1/3 cup of raisins
extravergine olive oil
rocky salt

Wash each leaf well and pat dry really well. Turn on the heat, put the escarole in a pan with olive oil, cover and stew it for a couple of minutes,  the escarole has to lose water. Remove the water, take aside the escarole and, in the same pan, sautè olive oil,  garlic and anchovies. Breaking up anchovies, put the escarole, add salt and stir a little bit, cover and stew for 2 minutes. Then add olives, raisins and pine nuts and let it cook for 10 minutes. Ready !

Usually i serve it with meat, but i love it on a vegetarian pizza!!!

Buon Appetito !!!