Occhi di bue, cookies so big you can hold them with two hands

dicembre 15, 2014

Occhi di bue

I would tightly hold an occhio di bue with two hands, wrapped in a light and almost transparent paper towel, as if it was a croissant or a sandwich.

Occhi di bue, literally ox eyes for their gentle shape, are the largest cookies in any pastry shop. They are perfect in their generous round shape, winking from the counter with their heart of jam or chocolate. When we visited my grandfather Remigio in San Gimignano, my mum would stop at our favourite pastry shop for a cappuccino and a few chats with the locals, so I was allowed to choose something sweet from the counter. Whether still warm rice tartlets or occhi di bue, short pastry was always a must.

Occhi di bue are a reassuring constant in any pastry shop, bar or bakery counter in Italy. They’ve always been there, since I can remember. When I went to school, in the morning I would stop at the local bakery to buy a focaccia as a snack and they were there, round and neatly arranged in a paper tray.

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Christmas Tea Tiramisu. Six steps to a memorable dessert.

dicembre 11, 2014

Christmas Tea Tiramisu

I can not resist to tiramisù. During my first months of cooking classes I always offered tiramisu as a dessert choice. At the beginning of the class I would sit in my kitchen, at the now famous marble table, and I would list the menu options that we would create together in the following hours. Fresh pasta, gnocchi, lasagna, pork, turkey, side dishes… then came the desserts. I wold begin with the traditional castagnaccio to move to more appealing treats like cantucci with vinsanto and zuppa inglese, then I would end with the coup de théâtre. Or, we can make tiramisu.

My clients would exchange a few knowing looks, then they would invariably respond in chorus: tiramisu. How to mistake. We put pasta and roast meat aside for a while and we would begin with excitement the step by step preparation of tiramisu. They always have the idea of something very complex, with a long preparation and heavy. Making the tiramisu, though, they are amazed by how simple it is and, dare I say, light.

Unlike the majority of tiramisu that you can try in a restaurant, in fact, in the family version you use raw eggs and whipped egg whites instead of cream, which lighten so much the final result. I feel that a tiramisu made following this recipe is so much light and airy, a delicate dessert which hardly anyone will refuse.

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Potato, porcini and chestnut soup. It’s just home cooking, after all.

dicembre 6, 2014

Potato, porcini and chestnut soup

I have spent many words in the praise of Elizabeth David, a British food writer who helped Britain rediscover good food in the 60′s. She is still one of the finest examples of how to write about food. Her writing is warm, sensual, essential, elegant.

Elizabeth David had an adventurous life, she traveled the world, from Greece to Italy, from the South of France to India, bringing back to England the charm of these generous foreign cuisines. She also had a fiery temper and sometimes she could sound slightly snobbish. Her firm disposition often emerges in her books with an accent of humour or provocation. Reading her food memoirs I’ve frequently dreamt to be like her, to write like her, to have her sensibility, elegance and charm.

Then I stumbled upon this article on the New York Times and read Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. I discovered a woman I now admire, a food writer whose books are now on my bed table. She makes me feel normal, both in the way I live my life and in the way I cook. And believe me, this is quite difficult sometimes.

Laurie Colwin is an American novelist, born in Manhattan, who published many short stories and wrote for Gourmet Magazine. Her passion for food writing was second only to the pleasure of sharing that food with friends. She also published two collections of essays, recipes and memories, Home cooking and More home cooking.

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