Tuscany is bread without salt, is a good extravirgin olive oil, is a meat grill with friends, roasted chicken with potatoes and wild fennel, is cacciucco (a fish soup) on the seaside, Siena panforte and Florence schiacciata, is rosmary and sage… Tuscany, for me, is Grandma Menna’s Cooking.
Granny Menna is how I called my grandmother Marcella as a child.
Granny picks up wild herbs to make salad; as soon as mushrooms come out she runs into to wood to find them: here it is her biggest passion.
Granny belives to be an Etruscan woman, with her roots firmly planted in her country.
Granny knows how things are supposed to be done, because that is the way they’re written in Pellegrino Artusi cook book. Aunt Pasquina gifted granny with this book when she got married: now it is yellowed with age, with some pages missing and old pictures as bookmarks.
Granny loves cooking and trying new recipes, but don’t tell her she’s good in cooking because she will shield herself saying that nothing comes as it should be when she cooks!
And yet, thanks to her delicious lunches, made for me when I came back home from school, now I am what I am, not skinny and thin, but curious about new flavours and willing to try new things.
Yes, then there is me… keen on oriental cooking, british lover, fond of spices and far away flavours. But it’s time to give a chance to my tuscan cooking, trying to understand better those recipes that made me what I am, with the help of Granny and old uncle Pellegrino Artusi, a lively old man who will speak through the pages of an ancient book. So, let’s start with thew firts recipe.
These are the appetizers that should be done for great occasions and holidays.
When granny was a child, these crostini were made during threshing days, when the farmyard was crowded with people, men were working in the fields and women were cooking for them.
Since I was born, these crostini have always been present for christenings, weddings, birthdays and Christmas days. This is the reason I have chose to start with appetizers – principii, according to old Pellegrino Artusi.
This is the way granny and mum make crostini neri, in a simple way. The smell of butter mingled with livers smell reminds me of early Christmas mornings. It cuddles you and brings you in the middle of Tuscan countryside.
Once you have made it, you should resist the temptation to eat spoonfuls of it! It is delicious spread on a toasted slice of tuscan bread: you can soak the slices of bread with chicken broth (as my Aunt Silvana does), butter them (as granny does) or use them as they are (as my mum does)… the point is to use the patè still hot and steaming.
- chicken livers, 400 gr
- red onion, 1/2
- carrot, 1/2
- celery, 1/2 stalk
- capers, 3 tablespoons
- leek, 1/2, just the white part
- sage, 5 leaves
- rosemary, 1 spring
- bay leaves, 1
- butter, 50 gr
- water, 50 cl
- anchovy paste
Rinse chicken livers and put them in a saucepan with the other ingredients (onion, carrot, celery, cappers, leek, sage, rosmary, bay leave, butter), coarsely chopped.
Don’t forget to use a red onion, not white.
Why granny? Because with dark things you should use a red onion!
Season livers with salt: use a very tiny pinch of salt, because the tastiness is due to anchovy paste, that you are going to add at the very end.
Stir frequently and let cook for about 35 minutes, adding once in a while some tablespoon of water: livers should remain soft and wet. When livers are done, put all the ingredients in a food processor or use a mill to have a patè.
This sauce is good when it remains rough, not too velvety: it should keep its rustic caracter! At the very end, add little by little some anchovy paste and whip with some butter, tasting each time to find the right tastiness.
You can made it the previuos day: when it’s time to serve it, heat the sauce, adding some butter or chicken broth.