“A tavola non si invecchia”. - Italian proverb (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old).

Sharing authentic Italian recipes entrusted upon me through the privilege of being invited into many Italian homes and kitchen’s abroad. I travel, cook, eat, share, learn and photograph my experiences, a truly soul enriching journey. There are now over 100 recipes on this blog to search from. I am a Melbourne born girl who now resides in Pietrasanta, Italy. Sharing my love for food and all things Italian with you. I am not a professionally trained chef, just a person that really loves cooking and has made my passion my reality! Through talent and drive I now work as a private chef in some of the most prestigious private villa`s here in Tuscany, Italy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Olio e aglio (oil and garlic)

One of my favourite scents is the fruity flavour of freshly pressed olive oil, accelerated by fresh garlic.  I think there is a saying "if you want to pretend to be busy in the kitchen, just add garlic to a pan".  Not that I ever pretend to be busy in the kitchen!
I always keep a fresh ceramic bowl of freshly smashed garlic mixed in with some olive oil next to my oven.  It is a quick and simple way to add last minute flavour to various dishes. The oil takes on the flavour of the garlic without being potent.  I particularly like to drizzle a little on homemade pizza once removed from the oven. Not limited to just pizza, this oil is also great to finish salads, meats and brush bread with. It just adds a fresh complex flavour.  
On my return to Australia I have noticed 'garlic oil' sold in delicatessens at astronomical prices, but that need not be the case.  It is so much nicer making it yourself, and easy!
The key is to use home-grown, or locally grown organic garlic!!

Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad)

This 'panzanella' salad is as Florentine as they come. Most Tuscan dishes derives from peasants  and there is no exception in this case.  The main ingredient in this ‘salad’ is stale bread, YES stale bread.  Never letting any food go to waste, this is a delicious way to re-invent your un-loved bread. Traditionally this dish was made solely adding onions, however during the 20th century tomatoes were introduced. Some recipes call for olives, anchovies, capers, lemon juice, however these additions are frowned upon amongst traditionalists. Maybe my addition of a cucumber might also be controversial? In any case, this is a perfect summer salad as there is no cooking required. I was salivating whilst making this from the aroma of the ripe tomatoes mixed with garlic and vinegar.  Make this ahead of time to allow flavours to intensify.
what you need (serving for four people):
three thick slices of Tuscan style bread (no salt)
two small red onions (or shallots)
large handful fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
salt and fresh cracked black pepper
one garlic clove
one medium size Lebanese cucumber (optional)
how to make:
1: Roughly dice the red onions and leave to soak in 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar for at least two hours
2: Chop the tomatoes roughly but remove the seeds, place in a bowl.  Remove the skin of the cucumber and chop roughly the same size as the tomatoes, add to the bowl with tomatoes.  Finely chop the garlic and mix through with the tomatoes and cucumber.  Add salt and pepper to taste, mix through.
3:  Cut three thick slices of bread, then tear roughly into the salad bowl, toss through.  Some recipes require the bread to be soaked in water, I prefer a little crunch so I do not do this. It is also important to use a dense un-salted loaf that is completley stale.
4: Finally add the vinegar soaked onions to the bowl, and hand torn basil leaves, stir through.  Mix 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar with 1/4 cup olive oil and drizzle over salad, again stir through.  Taste and add more seasoning if nessasary. Present on a large serving plate

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Affogato (ice-cream drowned in coffee)

The literal translation for 'affogato' is drowned.  Generous scoops of vanilla ice-cream drowned in espresso coffee....hmmmmm.  This is so simple to prepare yet it feels so decadent.  I always hover over my bowl trying to savour every mouthful before the hot coffee melts away my ice-cream. My favourite part is the tiny crystallised pieces of concentrated coffee that form on the outer edges.  I also love the steam that arises as the hot coffee hits the cold ice-cream.  It is also common to add a shot of liquor such as amaretto. 
If you have a espresso machine at home, simply pour a shot over balls of vanilla ice-cream.  If not, use a coffee pot as shown above.  There are three balls of ice-cream with 1/4 cup of coffee in the opening photograph.

Insalata di arance e finocchi (fennel and orange salad)

There is something to say about nature providing seasonal produce that is complimentary.  This salad is a perfect example of that.  Without surprise fennel and orange are both in season at the same time.  The bitter aniseed flavour of the fennel is softened by the sweetness of the orange. Also the textural differences  bounce in the mouth.  This salad is so easy to prepare and is really affordable.  People seem to view fennel as a rather exotic  vegetable, but this recipe is fuss free and sure to impress at your next gathering. This salad is a healthy way of eating as the ingredients are presented in their raw state.  When eating this salad close your eyes and dream of the Mediterranean, it's the closest you'll get! 
What you need (serves 4):
One large fennel
two medium size oranges
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt ad freshly cracked pepper
How to make:
1: Remove stalk of fennel, reserve fine leaves for decorating salad.  Clean under running water.  Remove bottom of fennel, then slice to medium thickness.
2: Remove rind of orange, and cut into segments.  I hold orange in one hand and use a sharp knife to remove segment, disregarding the pith. Using my wrist to rotate as I continue to slice.
3: Place fennel, orange and pine nuts into a bowl.  Dress with combined olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Season accordingly with salt and cracked black pepper.
4: Place salad on a serving place and use fine fennel leaves to decorate

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Festa di ossobuco" (ossobuco party)

Today a dear friend reminded me of this moment, and I just laughed out loud.  I thought it needed to be shared with you, hoping that you too will have a giggle.  This photograph was taken in Viareggio of me riding my bike over to a house filled with expecting hungry Italian mouths (I am using my phone to txt for the address).  In the front basket is a large saucepan filled with ossobuco.  I think originally my bike was also loaded with wine bottles and bread on the back, but I found it hard to keep my balance.  The 'ossobuco party' was hosted by my friend Stefano (ciao Stef), who helped in the preparation of the much anticipated evening.  The deal was I could make the ossobuco if Stefano purchased the meat from his much trusted butcher. We then prepared the accompaniment of 'risotto alla milanese' once I arrived with the ossobuco!
This is a dish I have loved making for many years. It is almost a tradition for me to make it as soon as the winter months hit as it really is a soul warmer. I will soon share with you the recipe!
Ciao x
Stefano serving the risotto!