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Sunday, 29 August 2010

Warm Goat's Cheese, Black Truffle and Walnut Salad

This is a lovely, easy-peasy starter that carries a whiff of Autumn. I appreciate truffle is quite expensive and not that easy to get hold of, so if you don't have any you can substitute it with truffle-infused oil or leave it out altogether, and use walnut oil for the dressing instead.

Chocolate & Amaretto Torte

The idea for this torte sprung from the need to create a pudding for my boyfriend's birthday dinner. Two of his favourite ingredients are chocolate and amaretto, and he loves chilled desserts. Therefore, I have included amaretto both in the form of liqueur and biscuits, and used an equal amount of dark and milk chocolate mixed with mascarpone to make a smooth filling. The result is an incredibly rich, indulgent pudding. Probably suitable to be a birthday dessert, as you should only be allowed to consume this amount of calories once a year!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Focaccia al Rosmarino (Rosemary Focaccia)

This is the recipe that lends its name to my blog. Why, you will ask (and even if you don't, I will tell you anyways). Because I think it sums up the kind of cooking I like. From scratch, as there are no shortcuts for making a good focaccia. Simple, like the few ingredients it is made from. Passionate, as it is only passion that would have you decide to dedicate a few hours to the kneading, patiently waiting for the dough to rise and the the baking. Soothing and comforting, like the lovely smell of warm bread and rosemary that spreads around the house when I bake my focaccia. And finally, satisfying, like the feeling I get when I see the happy faces of my family and friends tucking in.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Pizza (Grilled Aubergines & Speck; Margherita)

There's no need for introduction, for pizza! What more can I say, except that it is one of the dishes that allows you to be the most creative. You can use pretty much whatever tickles your fancy in terms of toppings, and you can make your base thin, doughy, crunchy or soft. I am not a purist when it comes to pizza; just experiment with flavours and find the recipe that works for your taste buds. Here's mine!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Crostini with Fresh Porcini Mushrooms (Ceps)

We hereby conclude this Tuscan trilogy with a real jewel: fresh Porcini mushrooms, also known in the UK as "ceps". At least once in your lifetime,  you have to try this exquisite, umami-drenched delicacy.  When fresh, they have a woody, rainy smell: close your eyes and you'll think you are in a dark, cool chestnut-tree wood in the Tuscan mountains. Total bliss! One mouthful will suffice for you to realise why they are so expensive. I happen to be lucky enough to have an uncle (my zio Nedo) who has been picking Porcini since he was a little child. He knows the woods surrounding his house like his own pockets, and when it rains, he gets up bright and early in the morning (read 5:00 am), then sweeps the woods and comes back home with something like 30 Kg of porcini. I kid you not! One really cool thing he does is, he never uses plastic bags when picking mushrooms; he always carries them in a wicker basket, so that the spores can fall out as he walks across the wood and new Porcini are soon born, making the supply endless and the foraging sustainable. This recipe is my mum's.

Italian Tomato Soup

For the second recipe of my "Tuscan Culinary Deeds" series, I present you with a soup that is essentially summer in a bowl. In Italy, tomatoes are plentiful, ruby-red, juicy and not last but not least dirt cheap in the Summer; therefore, making this soup as a first course offers a nice alternative from the usual pasta al pomodoro (with tomato sauce). Once again the recipe is my dad's, who learnt it from my nonna (his mum).

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cecina (Chickpea Flatbread)

I am back from a 2 weeks holiday in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, where my family lives and where I was born and grew up. There are so many lovely things to eat there, I won't even attempt to make a list! Therefore, I am going to post a few recipes of what I have been cooking, just to give you an idea :-) This first one is a traditional dish only known within the Pisa/Livorno area, called "cecina". It is a sort of flatbread made with chickpea flour; it sounds peculiar, but it is incredibly flavoursome. The end result should be quite soft and moist inside, with a golden, crunchy crust on top; it can be eaten on its own, with just a sprinkle of ground black pepper, or as a filling for a focaccia bread roll (as shown in the other pictures in the post). Yes, bread within bread! It is really simple to make, so do give it a go if you want to try and Italian dish you won't find at your local Italian restaurant. The recipe is my dad's.