April gave us a foretaste of the good weather, with clear days, warm temperatures and a fragrant air soaked with the smell of flowers. I walked a lot, on the Francigena and in the woods, with an organized group and just with my family. I needed to shake off the winter drowsiness and fill my eyes with olive groves and vineyards, open skies and ancient oak trees.
On the 19th of April, From the Markets of Tuscany, a cookbook, the English version of our 2017 La cucina dei mercati in Toscana, has been finally published. Even though I’ve been writing this blog in English for 9 years and although this is not my first book translated into another language, I’ve never ever felt so international! The idea that from June 1 this book will be available abroad, in bookstores in the United States, Canada or England, makes me dizzy. And this gave a boost to my desire to write more, and better.
In April we took a weekend off to visit Naples and the Royal Palace of Caserta. Benedetta and Christian took us around to taste the real Napoli, a perfect pizza, a warm flaky sfogliatella, spaghetti with clams and pasta e patate. It was only a shy taste that left us with the desire to discover more about this wonderful city, which is gifted with a thousand contrasting souls, it is generous and welcoming.
The Royal Palace of Caserta, then, left us breathless, metaphorically, in awe in front of so much beauty, and literally, after having explored the immense Italian style garden on a too small bike under a merciless sun.
Ci Piace Cucinare
Every month, once a week you can find my recipes on the Italian cookery magazine Ci Piace Cucinare. Working for this magazine is helping me a lot to grow as a recipe developer and to hone my photographic skills. I had talked about it here, do you remember this pasta?
This month I worked on some recipes for pasta paglia e fieno (you can read here how to make it) making ravioli, farfalle, tagliatelle and lasagne. I worked also with octopus, making three first courses including a thick ragù that I still dream of, with torte rustiche for picnics and with flat beans, that I used with black rice and slow roasted tomatoes for a colourful salad.
I had also the chance to work with loquats, which I had always eaten in purity, as a fruit, not as ingredient. I tasted them more consciously, trying to imagine what I would match with their acidulous and refreshing taste, with their texture, halfway between an apple and a peach.
After several tastings and attempts, I made a pork tenderloin with lardo and loquats, a perch ceviche, bruschette with buffalo mozzarella and basil, a yoghurt cake, a chocolate panna cotta and a trifle with whipped cream and lemon curd. Then I had to invite friends over for dinner, as I had food coming out of the door of my studio.
Casa in Fiore
In April I started working with a new monthly magazine, Casa in Fiore, a magazine dedicated to flowers, gardens and vegetable gardens. Don’t worry, I’m not writing about growing vegetables or flowers, you know I’m still a newbie. Instead, I’m sharing recipes with seasonal fruit and vegetables, something which is definitely my cup of tea.
In the issue now in the newsstands, you can find three recipes with strawberries: a strawberry galette, a cream and meringue strawberry cake and lemon-scented muffins. If you like the idea of these muffins, here you can find a very similar recipe.
Every month we contribute a recipe to Cadoro’s online magazine. They asked me to share a recipe suitable for a picnic and my first thought went to this rice, potato and ricotta cake typical of Garfagnana. You can find the recipe on our From the Markets of Tuscany: A cookbook.
Here you can find the detailed recipe in Italian.
Dispensa is a biannual independent bookazine created in 2013 by Martina Liverani. Dispensa is the first independent Italian bookazine that narrates the world of food through stories of people and stories of food. It is printed on paper made from food waste and contains no advertising: just original texts and professional photographs. It is a magazine to be collected. A biannual that in each issue addresses a different theme, telling the best of Italy and the world. There are no recipes or reviews, just people, products and lands, art and culture. Dispensa looks at the world through the eyes of food, portraying it in a unique and original style.
The 9th issue, published in April, explores morning rituals and breakfast stories. It makes you want to wake up early to enjoy those fresh new hours of the day, the cold silence and the fruitful anticipation of what will come. I gave myself permission to spend a whole afternoon curled up on the bed reading Dispensa, it has been a wonderful journey made of words and images.
This article, written by Felicity Cloake, an author I always read with pleasure, especially for her column How to cook the perfect… on The Guardian, summarizes some of the basic concepts of Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh, one of those books that should be read and re-read, given to family and friends, shared, commented.
As a child, we desperately want to grow up to be free to do what we want, and especially, to deliberately choose what to eat. In our dreams, meals are made of chips and ice cream. Now that we are grown-ups, we have lost the pleasure of eating an ice cream. You think about calories, you think about the diet purposes you just broke, I think about the glycemic index… The pleasure of eating a gelato often must be re-learned.
I read this article, and I notice how on blogs and Social Media references to a perfect beach body are already showing up, as if eating a serving of pasta could relegate you the last row on the beach, covered by a sarong, hidden by a book.
I am the first one to have many insecurities related to my body, but along with the desire to fully enjoy the good season, this year I am dying to feel the sand under my toes and the brackish water caressing my body. I want to walk along the seashore and feel the sun kissing my skin, even in those parts that I would often try to hide, as my soft belly or my big legs.
Why do I have to see it as a competition, with a judge and a jury? Why do I have to associate pasta, or gelato, with the idea of failing the beach body exam? We are talking about our inalienable right to enjoy something that gives us pleasure, to experience a carefree day at the beach eating a gelato, to fully embrace that euphoria that comes from the blissful combination of sun, sand and brackish water.
James Rebanks became a Twitter star by sharing photos and moments of his life as a shepherd in Cumbria, in the northern part of England: forget glossy photos, filters, sets created on purpose: this is the reason of his success. His book, The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, quickly became an international best-seller.
In this article published for The New Yorker, Sam Knight brilliantly describes a day spent with Rebanks, in one of the most difficult moments of the year, when the little lambs arrive. Rebanks’ book ended up straight into my Amazon wish list.
I am routinely called a chef. I point out, politely, that I am not a chef, but a home cook who writes about food (I have no training and have never cooked professionally), and I am always charmingly chided for being modest. But I am not being modest in the slightest: I don’t regard being called a chef as an accolade; I regard it as a case of false attribution.
This is a point that I often insist on when I introduce myself. I’m not a chef, I do not wear a chef’s uniform. I wear a kitchen apron, I prefer the blue one with pigs, as I am a home cook. For my job, I teach cooking classes, I write about food and I take photos of food. Let me say this again, I am not a chef, I did not train as a chef, I learn to cook from my grandmother, and thanks to practice and curiosity.
Nigella talks about cooking in terms of craft, more than art. This reminds me also what I’ve written about the word I chosen for 2018: craft.
Cooking is by its very nature improvisational: a recipe must be utterly reliable, but it is always an invitation, not a command.
I met Sheryl several years ago, in Rome, even though her husband Vincenzo is from San Gusmè, a quaint little village in the Chianti area, not far from Siena. In her book she tells us about how she fell in love with Vincenzo, a chef in a restaurant, and how it all began with a chocolate cake. Now they both live in Minnesota, where they also offer Italian cooking classes.
On the tenth anniversary of her life changing trip to Italy, Sheryl decided to share the story of that first encounter, glimpses of her life as the chef’s wife, fun and moving moments that made her life in Tuscany unforgettable. After a few pages I was already intrigued!
What did you like this past month?
Books, posts, articles you’ve read, recipes you cooked? Share the love in the comments. And if you cooked recipes from Juls’ Kitchen, share them with the hashtags #julskitchen and #myseasonaltable.