Late spring, outdoor scene. Let’s go for a drink?
Six words that are usually uttered with cheerful light-heartedness by your girlfriends who want to share a chirpy and relaxing moment with you, by that cute guy who secretly hopes to be the centre of your universe for at least an hour within a cocktail and a plate of appetizers, by your colleagues who want to call it a day sipping a sparkling drink.
The social behaviour code requires a positive answer, pronounced with great enthusiasm, longing for that hour which is no more afternoon and not yet night and, for this reason, it is even more enjoyable for its indefinite nature.
If you move the frame from the faces of those who launched the idea for the happy hour to my face, though, you’ll see a look that doesn’t suit the moment at all: a growing anxiety, doubt, fear. Or at least, this was my reaction before leaving my 100% nonalcoholic asceticism.
I’ve always drunk natural water (not sparkling please), tea (in every shade, blend and flavor), fruit juice (not cold, please), milk and recently coffee. You easily understand how the happy hour and me were two separate worlds. Try to sit at a table in a café or lean casually on the chrome bar and ask for a tea during the happy hour. Half of the people out there would turn themselves staring at you, and this because the other half is busy flirting with someone else!
I reckon that ordering a sparkling wine, a cosmopolitan or a mojito would be terribly more fashionable, but I can not stand alcohol. It is not just a matter of taste, it is my body that can’t metabolize it.
I remember the first time I ate the fruit of a sangria (ate the fruit of a sangria, not drank a bottle of vodka): it was during a party in a small apartment in Siena… catatonic state on a couch, monosyllabic answers, pressing sleep and zero chance to be smart with that guy I had a crush on. If instead of the sangria fruit he had offered me a tea, maybe things would have been different (and this, in case you are reading just now, explain once and for all my behaviour of that night).
Since then, I’m learning: I try to drink something, in moderation, when I do not drive or when I am not supposed to be smart. I’ve realized I have a pronounced disposition to dark rum, Pimm’s and fruit cocktail. But undeniably what I prefer, during the happy hour, are the appetizers.
Yesterday I told you about the most classic and traditional Tuscan antipasti: salami, cheese, fresh fava beans to be eaten with just a pinch of salt, nothing more to match a glass of red wine.
You can make savoury mini muffins with the same ingredients, playing with an innovative shape but walking on the footsteps of the Tuscan culinary tradition. Take the usual colourful basic ingredients, mix them with some corn flour to give a crunchy texture and a hint of lemon peel to add more freshness and bake them in small portions: the happy hour has never been so happy!
Recipe adapted from Pumpkin and feta muffins by 101 Cookbooks.
- 1 cup 100 g shelled fava beans (about 900 g with the pods)
- 1 cup 150 g salami, diced
- 1 cup 130 g fresh pecorino cheese, diced
- 1 cup 150 g plain flour
- 1 cup 150 g corn flour
- 1 teaspoon 5 g salt
- 4 teaspoons about 15 g baking powder
- freshly ground black pepper
- grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup 200 ml whole milk
Preheat oven to 190°C and grease 20 mini muffin moulds (about 3 tablespoons / 75 ml capacity).
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: plain flour, corn flour, salt, baking powder, a generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper and some grated lemon zest.
In a smaller bowl whisk the eggs and milk together and fold them into the dry ingredients just until the batter comes together. Do not over mix.
Spoon the batter into the greased mini muffin moulds and bake for about 18 minutes until lightly golden, puffed and dry inside. Serve them warm.
Before letting you do and dig into your life and kitchen (today I’m really too chatty, maybe it’s the alcohol, he-he, I’m excited) here is my new article on Jamie Oliver’s website: discover with me how I found my place in the universe in a tiny and crowded kitchen in the heart of Tuscany!