Christmas cookies for your Advent Calendar

dicembre 2, 2014

Advent Calendar

Christmas is upon us and I’m late with my Advent Calendar. We should have opened the first paper bag yesterday morning, as first thing of the day, still in our pajamas. Yet, I so enjoyed making it this year, spending a few hours in the kitchen to play among flour, butter and chocolate, that I’m going to tell you something about the cookies inside these white and red paper bags.

Today is the second of December, the second day of a long run that will take us to Christmas in the blink of an eye. Yesterday night I saw the first Christmas lights in Florence, I started making a list of gift ideas for friends and family. I’m ready to be happily overwhelmed by the Christmas magic.

My idea of Christmas is classic, ordinary: a red wool sweater with reindeer, Christmas music, a kiss under the mistletoe, wrapping gifts at night to make a surprise in the morning, long tables where you eat elbow to elbow with your family and your friends. I’m a romantic and a dreamer, Christmas is my time of the year.

At Christmas everyone feels that kind of magic. It might be for sugar wafting in the air, for the balsamic smell of resin and wood of the Christmas tree, or even for the hypnotic sparkling lights of a fake tree… every year I find a good reason to surrender to its charm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mum can I ask my friends to come over for lunch? Hazelnut coated pork cutlets

novembre 25, 2014

Hazelnut coated pork cutlets

My mother and my grandmother have hearts of gold. Ever since I was a child they always enthusiastically accepted my proposal to invite one or more friends for lunch, as to be able to do our homework together in the afternoon.

You know, I live in the countryside, so if you wanted to have friends for lunch you had to go through a long bureaucratic process. My friends’ parents had to agree since the previous day with the bus driver so that even my class mates could take the yellow school bus, the one which after school would drive to the countryside. My enthusiasm would begin right there, with the shared bus drive.

I was always so excited to share that journey which would last more than half an hour. For those who were not used to that long journey in the countryside among fields, white roads and villages, it was almost like a school trip. When I was alone, though, that was usually the time to indulge in some daydreaming: games, a little sister, huts in the trees, Christmas… I soon began to build castles in the sky.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »