Thursday, March 30, 2006


we went to visit out neighbors down the road but they weren't home...... we snapped this picture through the key hole of their gate!

Read more! post continues.....

Monday, March 27, 2006

MY WALK TO WORK (really, i'm not kidding!)

as pictured above, we live right at the city limits of florence. the red stripe through the sign in the photo means that you have hit the city limits. from our house, it's about a 20 minute walk to the porta romana, the southern gate of the historic center of florence. it's called the porta romana (roman gate) because it is the gate that stands at the beginning of the road that leads to rome.

what i love most about our neighborhood is that it feels like we live in the middle of the tuscan hills, when in fact we are only 5 minutes away by car from the arno river.

last saturday i had a catering gig not far from my house so i decided to walk. i thought i would share some of the views i took in along the way.........

needless to say, this eye candy helped me make it through preping a 10 kilo tuna for tuna tartare, shucking 200 oysters, making 6 kilos of fish risotto, gutting and cleaning squid and cuttlefish, cutting up baskets of fruit, to then feed 60 people who ate like absolute piglets. i swear they hadn't eaten for weeks, poor these situations, as soon as i start to feel a twinge of anxiety coming on, i have to thank the food whore for her help in bringing a smile to my face - she always makes it through her tricks with such grace and humor......

(can you find the two monarch butterflies in the photo?! unfortunately i couldn't get a better close-up with the dinky little camera that i have, but i swear that they are in there!!)

Read more! post continues.....

Friday, March 24, 2006


since spring has officially sprung as of march 21st, i have seen a lot of great photos of budding blooms on my daily blog reads. my contribution (not because i think it's a great photo) is of the gigantic green popsicles down the road from my house. they remind me of a hot summer day as a child, with icey sugar water dripping down my hand because i can't eat the popsicle as fast as the sun is melting it...............for those of you who are shaking your heads and thinking i am nuts, you are correct: these are freshly trimmed cypress trees......

Read more! post continues.....

Thursday, March 16, 2006


have you read the march issue of saveur magazine yet? it is not available in florence, so in november 2005 i finally decided to treat myself to a subscription. no need to tell you how excited i was when it finally showed up on my doorstep last week. the current issue focuses on ireland - looks like a tasty journey to take but not in the winter months - and near the end, what caught my eye was an article on trinidad called “calypso, sequins and spice”. the magazine arrived on a thursday and i read it from front to cover, including the "kitchen"section at the end where they wrote above an "herb" i had never heard of called culantro. the next day, my main man e. went to do some grocery shopping while i stayed home to work on recipe editing for a friend who is writing a cookbook. mr. e. came back with a gorgeous bunch of culantro (pictured above), something i had never seen before but had read about the day before in my shiny new saveur magazine. i had one smell of it and my entire body was immersed in the intense and bitter coriander/parsley scent of this cousin to cilantro. the curious coincidence is that mr. e. hadn’t even seen the saveur magazine in the evening we tried their recipe for chadon beni sauce (culantro sauce) reducing it by two thirds (we didn’t have 2 cups of culantro leaves!):

1 cup chopped culantro
1 1/2 chopped spring onions or scallions
1 stem habanero chili (we used one small indian green chili)
1 small clove garlic
blend all of the above in a food processor
season to taste with salt

we also added:
juice from 1/2 lime

then we grilled two 1/2 inch thick steaks and chomped them down with the chadon beni sauce. the next day, we made tomato salsa for some soft tacos we had for lunch. we added 1 rounded tablespoon of the sauce to the salsa and devoured our tacos. both meals were followed by the consumption of liqourice in the attempt to kill our garlic breath!

Read more! post continues.....

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


you can’t make jewelry out of this gold, but you can make an excellent pasta dish! my favorite fishmonger sells a mullet roe (bottarga di muggine in italian) from cabras also refered to as “oro di cabras” or, “cabras gold” = what many claim to be the best roe around. also refered to as sardinian caviar, i have been eyeing the stuff for months now and i finally bought some today. in doing so, i realized that they call it gold for several reasons: 1. there is a limited quantity produced, 2. it tastes heavenly and 3. it’s as expensive as gold!
the mullet swim and grow in the ponds of cabras, on the west coast of sardinia. according to my fishmonger and to some research, these ponds are considered the best environment in italy for mullet. they live and dine in a luxurious oasis resulting in a smooth and exclusive flavor.
in september the biggest bellied mullet are chosen and the eggs are carefully drawn out of the abdomens and are kept whole. they are then cleaned, salted, pressed and dried. the roe is sold whole (refered to as a baffa in italian, or moustache) or grated. if you want the freshest flavor buy a baffa and slice it or grate it yourself. it’s just like parmesan cheese - for the freshest and most intense flavor, you would never want to buy it pre-grated. it’s much tastier if you grate it yourself right before you are ready to use it in a dish. the baffa wears a little “hat” or ”hood” called ”su bibbiu” (the navel) in sardinian, which is attached to one end of the baffa. this hood is actually a little bit of the outer part of the belly that the fisherman keep intact while they cut into the mullet, allowing them to extract the roe without damaging it. i haven’t actually seen this done, but the final result is proof enough. i used cabras bottarga produced by antonello satta, but several brands exist and are for sale on-line as well. try oro di cabras.

an easy recipe for two people:
1 head garlic chopped fine or sliced
1 fresh chili pepper, chopped fine (you can use more or less depending on your preference and depending on how sizzling hot your chilis are!)
1 inch x 1 inch piece of oro di cabras freshly grated
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
4 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil, preferibly fresh pressed new oil
200 grams of spaghetti, preferibly no.3 (the skinny ones)

in 2 tablespoons of oil saute’ the garlic and chili pepper until golden brown. turn flame off. when pastra is cooked al dente in plenty of salty water, drain and add it to the saute. at this point turn the flame back on to low. add the parsley, the remaining extra virgin olive (you can always add a bit more if you like) and the grated “oro di cabras”. mix well and quickly. serve steaming hot. top off each plate with a few slices of oro di cabras for decoration.

p.s.: the little chunk missing on the bottom left corner of the photo is the bit we used for our pasta at lunch today..............

Read more! post continues.....

Saturday, March 11, 2006


following a shop up of tasty cheeses at the sant'ambrogio market this morning, we headed over to the teatro del sale for lunch (door handles of entrance pictured above). teatro del sale is the creative invention of fabio pecchi, owner of the famous cibreo restaurant which is an institution in florence that has been around for 20 years. you can find a great bio with information on fabio pecchi and the cibreo restaurant from "the diva" judy witts .
the teatro del sale is the newest venture of the cibreo institution and is situated in the "cibreo corner" of florence, directly off of the sant'ambrogio market, where the cibreo logo also runs a bar/caffe’, a restaurant and a trattoria. the teatro is an open space for members only offering pure food and interesting cultural events that range from theatrical and musical entertainment, to workshops in singing and cooking. when you enter you are immediatley drawn in by the warmth of the lighting, the colors and the store where they sell all sorts of yummy delights including everything from their homemade "sotto aceti" and jams, to candles. or, the famous cibreo glasses made from cut off wine bottles, honey, oil, wine, books and more. beyond the store is the reading area (packed with books and magazines) which connects you to the massive two storey space where the open kitchen and theater stage host you as you dine and, in the evenings, enjoy the post dinner entertainment. the meals are served buffet style. this might initially sound like a nightmare but it is actually a great way to enjoy the dishes that are made fresh everday with quality seasonal ingredients. they come out of the kitchen steaming hot off the “grill”. you can watch the chefs through the tall glass windows of the kitchen as they prepare the dishes which eventually arrive to the buffet table accompanied by introductions made by mr. pecchi in pure theatrical style. the meals include some staples like their homemade bread in the shape of oversized dog bones, polenta spiced with cinnamon, the best crunchy roast potato squares i’ve ever had, and super thin schiacciata dressed with lard or olive oil just to name a few. and then, depending on the season, they serve everything from tripe florentine style to pasta with fresh mussels. the next time you are in florence, you definitely want to spend an evening here. or, spend a morning doing your shopping at the sant’ambrogio market and then finish off with a lunch at the teatro del sale and a coffee at the cibreo caffe’.

teatro del sale is a private club with affordable annual membership of 10 euro per person (5 euro for foreigners)
it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner
from tuesday to saturday
from 09.00 to 15.00 and 18.00 to midnight

Read more! post continues.....

Monday, March 06, 2006


like most food bloggers, there are very few pre-packaged goods i purchase since i prefer to make as much of what i eat from scratch. a few of my favorite ready made items: ice cream from the local ice cream shop, fish sauce for pad thai, cecchini "mostarda" for cheese tasting, and today i bought butter cookies for my tea. but not just any butter cookies! these are made by “deseo” in prato (a city known for their “cantuccini” or “biscotti di prato”, made famous by the “biscottificio mattei” company which has been making their “biscotti” since 1858 and packing them in the famous blue paper bags) and what inspired me was the packaging: clear, simple and yummy - i am a sucker for good packaging! when i looked closer, i discovered the "all natural" ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, pinenuts, raisins, fresh eggs, sea salt and chili pepper. so i figured it couldn't hurt to try them. plus, lately my oven hasn't been working so i can't even bake myself a batch of cookies. i have to admit that this batch of butter is a great substitute for homemade. the 1inch x 1inch cookies melt in your mouth with none of that after taste you get from illegible ingredients that you often find in packaged items. instead, the added pinenut, raisin and chili pepper of the deseo cookies gave my tastebuds a delightful aftertaste that lingered on my tongue. deseo also makes “cantuccini” with ingredients like walnuts from sorrento, “do mori” chocolate and almonds from puglia. i have seen them sold in most italian airport stores but i don’t know if you can get them outside of italy yet. if not, you’ll have to come and try them or buy some on-line! as you can see from the photo, the box of cookies didn't last long in my house.....

Read more! post continues.....

Sunday, March 05, 2006


going to the market on a saturday morning is one of my favorite things to do. when i was little and living in a midwestern city, we used to always go to the farmers' market because it was the one place you could get fresh produce directly from the farmers. now i am spoiled and have several choices of markets to go to everyday of the week. but there is something about the hustle and energy of a saturday morning market that is unique. if you get there early enough, things are quit calm and both vendors and clients are still waiting for the cappuccino caffeine kick to set in. as it gets later, the vendors start singing out offers: "artichokes, 5 for 2 euro", “juicy lemons from sorrento", "the best radicchio trevisano of the season". yesterday morning we chose to go to the sant'ambrogio market. the main markets in florence are san lorenzo and sant’ambrogio. i usually go to san lorenzo where i have my trusted butcher, fish monger and veggie vendor. but when i need a smaller more personal environment, i prefer sant’ambrogio especially during the warmer months: almost all of the fruit and vegetable stands are open air and the small covered market hosts the butchers, bakers a couple of bars and a restaurant. today’s main purchase: “buccia di rospo” cheese from la fattoria di corzano e paterno . the farm is south of florence, just outside the town of san casciano, and was originally purchased by the swiss architect wendelin gelpke. he died in 2001 but his family still runs the estate. their artisan specialties: wine, olive oil, sheep cheeses and an “agriturismo”. i will be visiting the estate soon (when it stops raining) and will be able to give you a proper recap then! back to the cheese: the name “buccia di rospo” means “frog skin”, which is a pretty obvious name choice since the rind of the cheese does look like a bumpy toad! the “buccia di rospo” was actually originally a production mistake. but it was such a success that it turned into one of their best selling cheeses and is now on the menu of several of the best local restaurants as well. i hate to try to describe it, you really should taste it, but just to give you an idea: it’s similar to a taleggio in consistency and flavor but much more delicate, almost sweeter. does that help?!

la fattoria di corzano e paterno
san pancrazio (about 5 minutes south of san casciano val di pesa)
via paterno 10
tel. 055 8248179.

Read more! post continues.....

Saturday, March 04, 2006


sublime taste with a surprise: can you find the pearl in the eld inlet oyster i had at restaurant alma?............

Read more! post continues.....
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape