Winter Warmers from Tuscany
January 23, 2015
We have such FABULOUS local guides in Italy! On my Traversing Tuscany trip last fall, I had to take a day off to accompany a client to the hospital for a minor injury. I left the rest of the group in the capable hands of the staff at Pratello Country Resort and tour guide extraordinaire, Tiziano. It’s a great feeling to know I can count on my local partners to help my small groups experience the “REAL” Italy! They tasted oil made on our villa’s estate, hiked the gorgeous countryside, and ended up at a local agriturismo La Ca Solare for an unforgettable cooking experience. The menu: Crostini Tricolore; Minestra di Farro; Spezzatino Manzo al Vino Rosso; and Schiacciatta con l’Uva. Just the sounds of these dishes make my mouth water as I sit in dreary Virginia awaiting “weather” this weekend! Here are three of these hearty recipes (pretty much unedited — the translations are too funny to mess with!) to help get you through the coldest months. Buon appetito!
CROSTINI TRICOLORE – Italian flag bruschettas (red, white and green)
RED: Ingredients for 4-6 people: 3 very ripe tomatoes ½ red onion, Basil, Salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil
Dice the tomatoes and put them in a bowl. Finely mince the red onion and join it to the tomatoes. Add extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Take some leaves of basil and tear them with your fingers. Leave it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grill some bread and spread the mixture on top.
WHITE: Ingredients for 4-6 people: 125 gr of Stracchino fresh cheese (ricotta can be an alternative), 1 Tuscan pork fresh sausage, Salt & pepper
In a bowl pour the Stracchino cheese. Cut the peel off the sausage and add it to the cheese with a fork. Add salt and pepper and spread the mixture on some slices of Tuscan (unsalted) bread. Grill the slices for 10 minutes and serve warm.
GREEN: Ingredients for 4-6 people: 100 gr of fresh arugula, ½ lemon, Parmesan cheese, pepper and extra virgin olive oil
Finely chop the arugula and put it in a bowl. Squeeze half lemon over the top. Thinly slice some parmesan cheese on top and grind some black pepper. Add a couple of spoons of extra virgin olive oil and leave it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grill some bread and spread the mixture on top.
SPEZZATINO MANZO AL VINO ROSSO Beef stew in red wine sauce
Ingredients for 4- 6 people:
600 gr of beef (ask butcher for a piece that’s good for a stew – should have adequate fat – not too lean)
1 red onion
1 stem of celery
1 clove of garlic
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 glasses of red wine (or go for it and use a whole bottle — can’t hurt!)
Cut the beef into pieces. Rinse and drain the meat.
Separately chop the onion, the carrot, the garlic and the celery very fine with a knife or a mezzaluna.
Put the vegetables in a large aluminum pan with 1 cup of olive oil, without heating the oil first. Heat the pan at medium fire, and let the vegetables sauté for about 5 minutes.
Add the beef and let it cook on all sides for 5 minutes until it is sealed. Add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper.
After 5 minutes turn the heat very high and pour 2 glasses of red wine and let evaporate the alcohol for 3-4 minutes.
Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down. Let it stew for about 45 minutes.
MINESTRA DI FARRO Spelt soup
Ingredients for 4-6 people
300 g. Farro (or spelt)
200 g. dry cannellini beans
3 peeled tomatoes
60 g. geräuchter Bauchspeck (“speck”)
Salt and pepper
Put the cannellini beans under fresh water overnight to soften then. Cook the cannellini beans in abundant fresh water, olive oil and pepper adding 1 clove of garlic and a bunch of sage for 45 minutes. Add salt just 5 minutes before finishing the cooking.
Pour a cup of olive oil into a pan and add 2 cloves of garlic, some leaves of sage and sauté for 2 minutes. Dice the peeled tomatoes and add them to the oil. Cook for 5 minutes. Pass the cooked beans into the pan and add 1 glass of the water used for cooking them.
Stir well and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add the farro and cook at low heat for 20-25 minutes. In the end add some grated parmesan cheese and some fresh olive oil before serving.