Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

Mom's Wisteria.

Spring Fling.

Piling Up.

Which Way?

Cuppah Joe.

Color Me ___.


In Bloom.

Make a Wish.

A Home Cooked Meal.



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Hello? Is anybody there? Anybody…?

My 1 year anniversary of returning to the States has come and gone, and I fear my blog fans have done the same.

It’s my fault really… I’ve neglected you, and in doing so, I’ve neglected myself. (more…)

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I’ll be home for Chrismukkah

'Tis a sight oh so bright

Look what I got!

Nero the Venetian Doge helping with the lights

Dressing the tree

Tea at The Ritz -- turned up a notch

Ahi Tuna "Poke Style"

A home cooked meal: Steak & Asparagus drizzled with Olio Nuovo from Villa Le Corti where I worked in the fall

There’s no place like home…

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Holy Turkey Hangover

Beautiful produce from the market

Turns out polenta makes a mean cornbread

Golden apple pie and cornbread

Pumpkin soup stewing & sausage sauteing for the cornbread stuffing

Crispy, juicy, perfect turkey

Professional Plate: Cornbread Chestnut & Sausage Stuffing, Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Turkey, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Cipollini Onions in Red Wine Reduction, Orange Glazed Fennel, Carrot Souffle, Cranberry Sauce

Mom's apple pie and gelato

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Back To Buca

Tonight I’m dining at Buca dell’Orafo with some girlfriends. I had one of the best meals of my life there this past fall. Here’s a teaser to wet your palette:
A truly Tuscan meal
A truly Tuscan meal

Antipasto: Misti Toscani — Salami, Prosciutto Crudo, Pancetta, Mortadella, Crostini Toscani  (toasted bread with a smooth liver pate spread)

Primo Piatto: Sedanini al Sugo d’Osso Buco (sedanini are short pasta similar to ziti)

Secondo Piatto: Groppa con Pecorino (thick slices of bloody steak covered with shaved Pecorino cheese, and swimming in olive oil infused with sage and juniper, topped with fried rosemary sprigs)

Contorno: Fried Zucchini Blossoms and Porcini Mushrooms

Dessert: Dai Dai — little bites of chocolate covered gelato

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Week Two, Day One:

Back to class, still exhausted. I feel like Jim Carrey in “Yes Man,” except I’m “Yes Ma’am”. I haven’t heard myself say no to anything in months. I never turn down a single offer for aperitivo in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, or happy hour at Ganzo, or a bottle of wine on Ponte Santa Trinita overlooking the Arno. This means I am always busy, always with friends, and always enjoying myself, but always tired.

My little room

My little room

My alarm goes off Monday morning just before 8 am and I’m convinced it’s still the middle of the night because the windows in my room turn the place into a cave when they’re closed. I emerge with blurry eyes and tousled hair, desperate for a cappuccino. I just make it to class on time, where I sit yawning through conjugations of verbs, thinking to myself, “tonight I’m going to bed early”.

View of the Arno from Ponte S. Trinita

View of the Arno from Ponte S. Trinita

Later that afternoon, after Italian Regional Cooking, Addie and I are ready to share a cheap bottle of Lambrusco on Ponte S. Trinita. When I get a call from Margot about aperitivo in Sant’Ambrogio my better senses kick in and I turn her down saying something about sleep and saving money. Then she mentions that a friend of hers is playing the guitar at Ganzo tonight, and there should be free food and wine, and we’re welcome to join… “wait, did you say free?” So this is how I end up falling into bed around 2 am for something like the sixtieth time in a row.

Week Two, Day Two:

I feel dead, completely dead. My throat is almost swollen shut, it’s practically impossible to swallow the hot tea I make for myself before class. Why do I do this to myself, when will it stop? But last night was so much fun — wine, friends, live music, and I met Gabriella, the director of Apicius, who wants me to send in an application to work here — definitely worth it. Right? I’m seriously questioning this as I fall asleep for 20 minutes during our film viewing of “Divorzio all’Italiana”.

Addie, Margot, Me

Addie, Margot, Me

Somehow after Tuscan Cuisine, I’ve regained some strength and I’m ready to meet up with Addie and Margot in Piazza Santa Croce for a free outdoor concert by Bandabardo. Everyone is gathering to support the ousting of the Mafia from Sicily. There’s a huge walking band of drummers who, when playing in unison, sound more like a train barreling down on top of us. Needless to say, there’s a great energy rumbling through the crowd.

Bandabardo in Piazza S. Croce

Bandabardo in Piazza S. Croce

They welcome the first speakers, and I understand most of what’s being said. The event is in support of a movement against the Mafia, for Democracy, “Contro la Mafia, per la Legalita”. I didn’t realize that such a problem still existed in Italy today; to me the Mafia is something that only exists in Hollywood. But to the Italians standing around me and to the speakers on that stage, the Mafia has affected their lives and their beloved country. Before it gets too serious, Bandabardo begins playing and suddenly the whole crowd is jumping up and down, singing along in Italian. Three girls, two bottles of Prosecco and one bottle of Rosso di Montepulciano. Here we go again…

Week Two, Day Three:

How I get from my bed to the classroom, I don’t know. If it wasn’t for Intro to Italian Wines at 1 pm I’d be heading straight back to bed after grammar class, but I don’t want to miss this. After a quick lunch of home made tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella over penne, I reluctantly look at my bed before heading out the door again. My throat still hurts, but today it’s only the left side, yesterday it was the right — they’ve been taking turns.

I make it through two glasses of Nero D’Avola from Sicily and head home with lead eyelids. When I get there Giada and a friend are watching MTV. I trudge by, close the windows to my cave, sink into bed and a heavy, long nap. I haven’t set an alarm, but I wake up with just enough time to shower and walk over the to the British Institute of Florence for a book reading by Sarah Dunant, one of my favorite authors. I am feeling so much better, at least 85% human again (it’s amazing what sleep and a shower will do for your body), and my throat doesn’t hurt anymore.

Sarah Dunant is speaking about the last book from her trilogy of Italian Renaissance Art Historical Fiction novels, “Sacred Hearts”. The lecture takes place in an old and ornate Florentine library — I love libraries — and I’m sitting on the floor in this crowded, sweaty little room listening to stories of women and their experiences with art, love, sex,and God throughout the Italian Renaissance.

Ms. Dunant makes a point that I have failed to ever consider, and I’m kind of ashamed to admit this. She says that she began writing this trilogy after taking a trip to Florence with her two young daughters. She had spent the entire day showing them around the city and telling them about a long list of men, great men like Michelangelo, Dante, and Galileo, but only men. Her books explore the experiences that women had during the Renaissance, and how this time of reawakening changed the way they perceived the world while the world was beginning to change in the way women themselves were perceived.

I sneak out a little early to meet up with Margot for aperitivo at Ganzo. After a glass of Prosecco and a sampling of yummies including Pappa al Pomodoro, which I learned to make in class this week, I get home on the early side and fall asleep with a book in my hand.

Week Two, Day Four:

Thursday. Practice Friday. Finally. I haven’t studied for my quiz on indirect and direct pronouns, but I’m not sweating it because it’s Thursday! This is exciting because a) I don’t have class on Fridays, and b) tonight my class has a special language cooking lab with my Italian teacher. I already know I’m making the Pappa al Pomodoro, a very Tuscan dish which literally means tomato baby food. How unfortunate.

The recipe is simple enough to throw together, especially if you have some week old bread and you don’t know what to do with it. Slice it up and soak it in some cold water. Chop up an onion (or two depending on how much bread you have) and saute it in some olive oil. Add fresh chopped tomatoes — in a pinch the plain canned sauce will do. Sprinkle some peperoncini and salt over the simmering mixture. Squeeze the water out of the bread before adding it to the sauce. Combine everything. Throw in some fresh basil. Finito! You have tomato baby food! It’s delicious, regardless of the name.

Street view of Ponte S. Trinita at dusk

Street view of Ponte S. Trinita at dusk

Also on the menu, two pasta dishes: one with a walnut, cream and parmesan cheese sauce, and the other with an eggplant, tomato and red bell pepper sauce. For dessert, creamy coffee soaked tiramisu. Far too many carbs, right?  So naturally Addie and I decide to digest our carb loaded dinner with yet another bottle of wine on Ponte S. Trinita, taking advantage of the comfortable fall weather. S. Trinita at dusk.

Later on we end up in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio where all the students of Florence tend to congregate after dark. From the typically stylish and perfectly put together Italians to the hooligans with dreads, to the Americans trying not to sound/look/seem like Americans — we all mingle here outside of a wine bar. It’s packed, great for people watching, and definitely the place to go to meet some locals and practice speaking Italian. This is the night that I end up with warm chocolate filled pastries in hand, “avoiding potholes” as Addie says, the whole way home.

Week Two, Day Five:

I don’t emerge from bed until late in the afternoon when I absolutely have to; I’m meeting Margot at Ganzo to do some paperwork and get the ball rolling with my kitchen volunteering. She gets me a much needed glass of water and a caffe before introducing me to the Executive Chef (who, by the way, looks like the byproduct of a freaky night between Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, and somehow he’s ended up here in a Florentine kitchen, Thank God).

Hamburgers with an Italian twist

Hamburgers with an Italian twist

I meet up with Addie and hang out for a bit on the steps of Santa Croce as a nice breeze blows through the piazza and the sun starts to set. After a week of cooking and wine classes, we are piena di pasta, full of pasta! So we decide to make Italian hamburgers and roasted vegetables for dinner.

Isabella made this simple hamburger recipe one night while I was in Lido. I was quite curious when she announced we were having hamburgers for dinner, was that ok? Heck yea, I thought, I have to see this!

She made a simple soffritto by sauteing onions, carrots and celery in olive oil, then she added fresh chopped tomato, rosemary and burger patties, and let this cook through. She served her Italian hamburger in a bowl covered with the fresh and flavorful sauce, which we scooped up with some hearty bread.


Antipasto and cold beer

I did the same and it hit the spot. I also roasted some zucchini and red bell peppers in the oven with olive oil and just a pinch of salt. We noshed on some fresh salami, asiago cheese and grapes first, and washed the whole meal down with some good cold beer! The night just got better while we relaxed on the sofa watching the season premier of Grey’s Anatomy on my laptop.

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