From the Medieval frescos to our table: tagliatelle paglia e fieno with Cinta senese meat sauce

novembre 20, 2014

tagliatelle paglia e fieno with Cinta senese meat sauce

Lately I spend several days a week in Florence. I’d rather have a tomato bread soup made as the Florentines do than how my grandma taught me, which is the Sienese way. Please, don’t tell her! Despite this, I am still deeply attached to my land and my culinary traditions, born and breed in the area around Siena, where you are surrounded by olive trees, vineyards, rolling hills, scattered cottages and gravel roads.

This is a land of reserved people, olive oil mills and wineries, bread and bean soups, wild herbs foraged along the roadside, Ricciarelli, panforte and cavallucci when Christmas comes, St. Joseph fritters made of rice, tripe and Cinta Senese.

In Siena, right in one of the main halls of Palazzo Pubblico, the public building overlooking Piazza del Campo, there is the famous Buon Governo fresco, painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the XIV century. This fresco represents the allegory of the good and bad government in the city and in the country. In the side dedicated to the effects of good governance in the country there is a farmer, dressed in the fashion of the time, pushing a Cinta Senese. The animal is portrayed with accuracy and authenticity, characterized by the white belt (in Italian cinta) encircling the chest and by white front legs.

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Quince paste and a tour to the farmers’ market in Greve in Chianti

novembre 17, 2014

Mercato a Greve in Chianti

I woke up in a sunny Sunday morning of a warm late October. It was the perfect day to have a short trip to Greve in Chianti to visit the monthly farmers’ market. In my plans there was a quick tour and maybe a handful of good chestnuts, anything more. As soon as I arrived to Greve I had a light walk, inspired by that bright sunny day and a family lunch to be enjoyed in a few hours.

An hour later I went back to the car dragging four bags full of fruit, vegetables, bread, ceramics, a wreath with flowers and berries and a few jars of preserves… My car was full, my eyes were bursting with colours and smiles, my heart overflowing with gratitude for what Mother Nature gives us, from season to season, and my mind racing for all the ideas that were born there, among a basket of quinces and a handmade ceramic pot.

Beautiful and firm chestnuts from Casentino and Mugello closed a few family lunches and dinners, roasted in the wood oven just after the pizzas with their sweet, smoky taste. Onions were charming in their brilliant pink and purple skin, they seemed to come directly from a fashion show. Everything was fresh, alive, ready to be turned into something good that could give comfort and love.

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Tiny apple cakes for the weekend. Your house will smell of orange, butter and Cointreau.

novembre 7, 2014

Tiny apple cakes

When I was at high school I was already following a health-conscious diet, if you do not consider all the chocolate I used to have in afternoon while studying. During the morning break a stall would pop up in the school hall, selling a feast of snacks and panini, some of them big as a whole bread loaf, stuffed with layers of cheese and ham. They would even sell hot dogs. Just imagine having a hot dog with mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup in between Latin and Philosophy.

At that time I had two best friends, Simona and Federica. We would walk past the crowd around the panini vendor with an apple in our hands. I used to bring the apple from home, washed and wrapped in a piece of kitchen paper. It wait patiently in my bag on the floor in my class, then as soon as the bell break would ring, we would run out to walk in the athletic field. We had just fifteen minutes in between our classes, enough to get some fresh air, gossip about our crushes and eat an apple bite after bite, as in toothpaste advertising.

It was our hallmark. No chips, no panini, no focaccia nor cigarette and coffee. We were the apple girls. I was so proud. The apple was for me a symbol of everything light, gentle, romantic, poetic. My classical studies were not helping, enriching the symbol of additional meanings.

I was so fond of this conceptual universe enclosed in an apple that I chose it as the logo of my blog. Simple and domestic, romantic enough, juicy, fragrant, accessible, sensual, everyday food. The apple knows how to tell stories that fascinate generations of men since immemorial time.

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