I had the pleasure last night of presenting foods of Tuscany for a fund raising event for the Assiniboine Park Conservatory held at the Madison Square MLCC. Upcoming events are posted in the Leisure Guide.
Most Tuscan food is of the Slow Food variety such as Osso Bucco and other slowly grilled meats and stews. Here is a sampling of some more quickly prepared items that are specialties of the region. Photos coming later today.
2. Tuscan Squash Salad
1. Bruschetta con pomodoro e basilico
This is bruschetta in its simplest, tastiest form.
The next step in bruschetta assembly is rubbing the toasted bread with garlic, before or after sprinkling on the olive oil, and adding a pinch of salt.
* Italian or French bread, cut in 1/2 inch slices
* fresh, ripe, firm tomato, washed and coarsely chopped
* fresh basil leaves, whole or shredded
* olive oil, extra virgin, the best
* garlic, peeled, whole (optional)
* salt to taste
Grill or toast bread. Charcoal is great!
Place sliced bread under the broiler, in the toaster or best yet over a charcoal grill and toast.
Rub toast with a clove of garlic or not, depending on taste.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Spoon chopped tomato onto bread.
Scatter some basil. Alternatively, place the tomatoes, basil, garlic (chopped fine), olive oil and salt in a bowl and mix.
Set bowl at table alongside the toasted bread and simply spoon on mixture.
Some prefer to use sliced rather than chopped tomato.
2. Tuscan Squash Salad
1 lb squash (butternut, hubbard, or any small firm variety except spaghetti), peeled, seeded and cut in 5-inch slices
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs honey, warm and divided into two parts
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs walnut oil
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
~ 6 cups mixed baby greens, lightly packed
½ cup crumbled feta
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss the squash and olive oil in a large bowl. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly brush with half of the honey. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn and brush with the remaining honey. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the squash is cooked through. Some varieties take longer to cook.
While the squash is baking, toast the walnuts lightly. Whisk together the lemon juice, walnut oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Toss the greens with the vinaigrette in a large bowl and place on serving plates. Top with 3-5 slices of squash. Sprinkle with the walnuts and feta, season and serve while the squash is still warm.
3. Sage Butter pasta (Burro e salvia)
Bunch of fresh sage leaves
80g grated Parmesan
Wash and dry the sage leaves. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the sage. Cook very gently over a low flame taking care not to let the butter burn. Pour over cooked pasta and stir through well together with freshly grated parmesan. This super-quick sauce is ideal with 'naked ravioli' (ravioli filling without the pasta) but is also suitable with any short pasta. In this case, drain the cooked pasta keeping back a little of the water. Return the pasta to the saucepan, add the sage and butter and stir over a low heat for a minute.
Remove from the heat and stir in a good helping of grated Parmesan.
The sauce should look smooth and creamy; if it has dried out too much, add a few drops of milk or fresh cream. Grind a little black pepper over when serving.
4. Tuscan beans (Fagioli all'uccelletto)
This is perhaps Florence's most famous dish. Some include Italian sausage.
1 pound small white cannellini or great northern beans, soaked overnight
2 sprigs of sage
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic
5 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 14 oz can tinned Italian plum tomatoes
DRAIN the beans and simmer in fresh water to cover, with 1 sprig of sage and 1 tablespoon olive oil, for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender, adding salt when the beans begin to soften.
IN a separate pan (large enough to hold the beans) heat the remaining oil on low heat with the garlic and the rest of the sage so that the flavors infuse, but do not brown
ADD the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the drained beans, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 15 minutes or so. There should be a good amount of sauce.
5. Zabaione (Zabaglione)
100ml dry Vin Santo (or sherry).
Beat the egg whites in a bowl until they form stiff peak. In another, larger bowl beat the yolks and sugar together until frothy, creamy and pale yellow. Add the egg whites to the yolks and blend thoroughly until the mixture is smooth and even; add the Vin Santo. Serve in dessert goblets with the biscuits.
This dish is rather rich and filling and is therefore a good snack for children who have lost their appetite or for those whose work is physically demanding. Luckily children also love it, though I would suggest leaving out the Vin Santo or sherry Zabaione (Zabaglione)
Pellegrino Artusi wrote, "I wish all children's food were as harmless as this, for there would certainly be fewer nervy and hysterical people around today if it were".