Monday, March 29, 2010

Crostini di Fegato

One of the most traditional appetizer in Tuscany are Crostini di Fegato, Chiken liver crostini.
This is a very popular starter especially served during holidays, like Christmas and Easter. It is a very simple and delicious way to start a special meal.
Usually Crostini di Fegato are served along with different types of Crostini (artichokes, smoked salmon and butter, tuna etc.), cold cuts like Tuscan prosciutto, soppressata and finocchiona (a traditional Tuscan salame with fennel seeds). All of this make the traditional Tuscan appetizer called Antipasto misto Toscano.

This is another delicious food that bring back lots of memories. Every Easter, my family and I used to spend the day at my mother's aunt house. My grandparents, Remo and Bruna would always join us. I remember a lot of food that would always start with Crostini di Fegato, made by Nonna Bruna, and end with Chocolate Easter eggs. Choice of beverages, beside water (not that much) was always red wine (Sangiovese made from local farmer) and Vinsanto at the end of the meal. My grandpa, Remo, always warned me about drinking too much water. He would say all the time, " be careful, water make you rusty"....ahaha!

Undiscovered Tuscany and I want to wish everyone happy Easter to you and your family. If you would like to make this delicious starter, here is our recipe, enjoy!

Crostini di Fegato (Chicken liver crostini)

Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.
One carrot.
One onion.
One stick of celery.
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil.
1/2lb chicken livers.
White wine or stock.
One dessert spoon capers.
4 anchovy fillets.
Freshly chopped sage.
1.5oz butter.
1lb unsalted bread.

Cut the onion into rings and fry in the oil the chopped carrot and celery. Clean and wash the chicken livers, chop them roughly, add to the fried ingredients and brown well. If they dry out too much, moisten with a little stock or white wine, but allow it to evaporate well. Cook for twenty minutes, then remove from heat. Add the capers, anchovy fillets, chopped sage leaves and butter. Using a large kitchen knife, chop the entire mixture very finely. Lightly toast the slices of bread and spread with the liver paste. If the slices of bread are crisped under a grill, they may be moistened with a spoonful of stock before spreading with the liver mixture. I like my
crostini crispy, however, so prefer not to do so.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Livorno and its Ponce

Livorno is a port city on the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea) located
on the western edge of Tuscany. It is the capital of the province of Livorno and the third-largest port on the western coast of Italy, having a population of approximately 160,000 residents.
Livorno was defined as an "ideal town" during the Italian renaissance. Today, it reveals its history through the structure of its neighborhoods, crossed by canals and surrounded by fortified town walls.
Worldwide famous liqueurs as Tuaca and Galliano are produced in Livorno. Also, speaking about beverages, few things are more representative of this town than the popular drink called Ponce.
If the name sounds familiar to English-speaking readers, it is because it most likely comes from a local adaptation of the word punch, probably introduced in Livorno by the many English sailors who gathered there when the harbour of Leghorn was one of the most important ones in the Mediterranean sea.
Two versions of Ponce are available: ponce a vela (sail) and ponce al mandarino (mandarin). The first is a mixture of coffee and hot liquor (very similar to the Irish coffee, but without cream) with the addition of a small piece of lemon cut in a sail-like shape, the second one is the result of a chemical manipulation of a mysterious orange (the colour of mandarin) rum-like liquid warmed-up to iron-melting temperature.
Because of such a high temperature of serving, ponce is drunk in small thick-bottomed glasses (like shot glasses).
Both drinks are among the best solutions to all problems in life, and are particularly welcome in cold winter nights, when the "purest" Livornesi meet at the legendary Bar Civili. Fueled by a few ponci, debates on the highest topics soon flourish, usually around the issues of money (lack of in particular), soccer, politics, and few others.
Visiting the Bar Civili and having a traditional Ponce alla Livornese is a great experience, strongly recommended to all of those interested to understand these unique city and its characteristic locals.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The White Truffle of San Miniato

San Miniato is a small medieval town sitting atop a hill surrounded by vineyards just 40 kilometers from Florence, located in the province of Pisa. San Miniato is one of the most abundant white truffle area in Europe. The white truffle (which is usually a pale ochre in colour) also called Marzuolo truffle, is the most valuable variety known.

Truffles are a type of mushroom that grows underground. Traditionally, truffles require animals to assist in its pollination because of their location away from the wind. Animals, usually pigs, are also used to help hunt for the truffles as the mushrooms are believed to emit a smell similar to a pig sex hormone. Dogs, however, have recently become more frequently used when hunting as the animals don’t eat the find as much as the pigs.

Because of the challenge in finding truffles and their rich taste, truffles have become an expensive foodstuff and a favorite of haute cuisine chefs. In Tuscany are used in making risotto or simply shaved on homemade pasta with a little bit of butter. White truffles are always consumed raw, because the heat destroys their delicate and unique flavor.

San Miniato, hosts a white truffle festival every November. The festival devoted to the culinary commodity brings together the best of the local cultivators to share their wares. Standard truffle products (fresh truffles, truffle oil, and special equipment like shavers and containers) are available as are more unique delicious products like cheeses and salamis filled with truffle shavings, truffle honey, and chocolate infused with truffles. A few food stands at the festival serve rich Tuscan wine in plastic cups with a range of truffle dishes to fill your stomach including truffles on top of sunny side up fried eggs, truffle pizzas, and of course truffles shaved over homemade pasta in a light oil. All restaurants in the small town offer special truffle menus with your choice of dishes or affordable three-course truffle meals.

Experiencing fresh white truffles from San Miniato, is a truly unique culinary and almost mystical experience. Get to know Tuscany's greatest culinary treasure -The White truffle of San Miniato, Il Tartufo Bianco di San Miniato!


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