10 February 2012
04 February 2012
The beauty of the snow belies the gravity of the weather report, likening this storm to the devastating freeze of 1985. That was the year that temperatures stayed below freezing for an extended period, resulting in the loss of 80% of Tuscany's olive trees. The crisis actually brought about a lot of changes in the way we now produce olive oil, especially in the identification of the origin of the olives (some large producers were trying to get away with buying foreign olives and calling the oil Tuscan; some Tuscan olive oil had a percentage of other kinds of oil it).
I am worried about my olive trees.
The weight of the first wet snow is breaking limbs. The freeze the night after turned the weight to ice and even the wind didn't shake it down. Now, more beautiful fluffy flakes adding volume to the already 50+ centimeters.
As for the family, we are well-supplied: firewood, flour to make pici, canned tomatoes from last summer's harvest, a good-sized piece of pecorino, an egg a day from the chicken (who has been sleeping in the bathroom these subzero nights), plenty of coffee, and the internet. Oh, and wine. The animals love the snow, even the horses, and there is no denying the absolute loveliness of it.
If it weren't for the tremors of the teenquakes, it would be pretty darned peaceful here. But, I'd like for this severe weather to end soon. Before the trees are harmed.
Sorry, everyone, for wishing for this. I also wished for a million euros right after, but based on my snow wish, now I'm worried that will come with all kinds of taxes and other burdens...
02 July 2011
Everyone is surprised at how quickly they have acclimated to their new home. One of them gifted us with a perfect little brown egg the first day, and someone contributed again the second day. Today, Day Three, is no different... a little present awaited me this morning when we let them out of the coop. I am starting to amortize the costs of the coop, and right now the value of each egg is roughly Euro 100...Golden Eggs...keep working, girls.
Sublime with toasted country bread, drizzled with my organic extra-virgin, and sprinkled with my Tuscan Herb Salt, a blend of parsley/rosemary/thyme from the organic kitchen garden.
It really doesn't get better than this.
'the dog who stares at chickens,'
it's just hilarious how fixated he is on them!
29 June 2011
26 June 2011
The best nocino I have ever tasted comes from my friend Maura in Modena. Her secret is aging it in small oak barrels that are handmade by her barrel-maker husband, Francesco Renzi. The walnuts are picked on June 25, the holy day of San Giovanni. It is the moment when the pulp is still green and the walnut forming inside has not hardened. Once cut and exposed to the air, the green walnut and everything it touches turns dark brown, including your hands. Work on a surface that won’t stain, and consider wearing gloves. Your nocino should be ready to drink by Christmas.
3 litres grain alcohol (190 proof or 95%)
6 cups sugar
5 dozen green walnuts
3 cinnamon sticks
In a large bowl, stir together the alcohol and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. Quarter the nuts with a heavy bladed knife or cleaver. Place in a jar and cover with the alcohol. Add the cinnamon sticks and cover the jar tightly. Place it in a warm, dark place for forty days, stirring it every two or three days.
Strain out the walnuts and discard. Then, using a coffee filter, strain out the sediment and put the nocino into bottles (or a small oak barrel, if you are so inclined), and age for at least six months.
Makes 3 litres
22 June 2011
All of the color you see in the bottle above is natural from the roses themselves; red or pink work the best. This year I used only pink.
Rose Petal Syrup
175 grams (6 oz) of fresh, fragrant rose petals (pink or red)
7 cups granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon , including the seeds and some pulp
Pick the rose petals from an unsprayed rose bush in the morning when they are most fragrant. Grasp the tips of the rose and cut near the center, removing only the colored petals, not the white tip at the base or the base itself.
Place in a non-reactive bowl and toss with 1 ¾ cup of the sugar to macerate. Coat well, squeezing the petals to bruise slightly. Cover with plastic film and let stand in a cool place overnight.
Next day, in a large saucepan, combine 3 ½ cups spring water and the remaining 5 ¼ cups sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice and macerated rose petals with their sugary liquid to the pan and return to a boil.
Reduce to a high simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until a candy thermometer reads 100° C (212°F).
Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Strain, removing the rose petals and lemon seeds.
Place in sterilized bottles.
07 June 2011
For me, the real joy is in my orto (my kitchen garden), as the buds and seedlings start to pop out. I can hardly resist eating the first flowers on the acacia tree, and then the elderberry tree. See my recipe below. a
flowering quince...........................sage..................................garlic chives
Cucina Povera, Tuscan Peasant Cooking
which will be released September 2011
Frittura di Primavera
Battered and fried spring flowers and vegetables ©
We make this appetizer year round. In the fall and winter we use fuzzy sage leaves and sliced potatoes; in the spring we have elderberry flowers and acacia flowers; in the summer zucchini and their flowers. The important thing is to get the oil as hot as possible without letting it smoke (at least 375°). The hotter the oil is the less absorption in the food. We use olive oil because we have it, and it is delicious, but vegetable oils can be used. Fry in small batches so as large quantities will reduce the temperature of the oil.
4 clusters of unsprayed elderberry flowers (or your local edible flower), rinsed and spun dry
12 Sage leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sparkling water (or beer or Prosecco)
Extra-virgin olive oil for frying
Salt to taste
Whisk ingredients together until smooth.
Heat the olive oil. Dip the prepared flowers and leaves in the batter, shaking to remove excess, and place in the hot oil. Cook for 1 minute, until golden brown, turn once, then remove to drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.