When we filmed this video recipe, it was winter, it was cold, but I had spring in my heart. We were close to the beginning of a new, intense season of cooking classes. There were a few, interesting projects I could not wait to be working on. My only concern, at that time, was that I did not have enough free time to work on personal projects, to read books, to bake with my sourdough and work on new recipes. In hindsight, such silly worries.
Then the big fear, the spread of Corona Virus in the North of Italy, and after a few days the whole country in lockdown. This left me in a state of haze.
I pondered whether to keep the regular schedule of posts here on Juls’ Kitchen, then I realised this blog will be, once more, the outlet of my creativity, a source of inspiration for us, to find new stories and recipes to share, and for those searching for honest, reliable home food. I don’t want to hide my concerns, or stick my head in the sand, but I intend to work, write, cook and photograph to keep me sane, to recreate a creative routine in the days of lockdown, to be prepared for what will come, once these absurd times will be over.
We are lucky to live in the countryside, with a garden and a chicken coop, a well-stocked pantry and close to our family.
Our business came to an abrupt halt, but this doesn’t mean we can’t find inspiration in the current situation. You can re-evaluate your habits, understand what you really value. I’ve always lamented a lack of time to develop personal projects, so this can be the time, the time to write, cook, research and explore, the time to write the book I’ve kept in a drawer for too long, the time to take a step towards new experiences.
And I am sure, I am sure that when these absurd, hard times will be over, we’ll experience a new Renaissance.
It will be like in the fabulous ‘60s, with Marcello Mastroianni and Sofia Loren, like when we won the Football World Cup and the sky over Berlin was blue. Everyone will be celebrating in the streets. The music, the food, the hugs with family and friends, restaurants full of people toasting to a new beginning, songs on the beach, walks hand in hand. People will open their chairs back in the streets, chatting and sharing a wedge of cold watermelon.
But for the moment, we’ll stay at home.
I’m proud to be Italian, proud of what we are doing in this difficult time, and I am sure we’ll get through this and we will rediscover a new country, which will be waiting with open arms for everyone to come back, to enjoy our food, our art and culture, our cities and countryside, the mountains and the seaside, but mainly, our generous hospitality.
In the meantime, we cook and make fresh pasta…
Home-made tagliatelle with Tuscan kale pesto
Now, on the verge of Spring, I still have a couple of winter recipes to share.
Cavolo nero is the most common, everyday ingredient in a Tuscan winter. You find it at the market, its waxy, dark green leaves hoarded in bunches next to other representatives of the Brassica genus. Cavolo nero is the key ingredient of the world famous ribollita, a bean and stale bread soup, but also a versatile seasonal ingredient.
The combination of cavolo nero and nuts works magnificently in a winter pesto, for example.
Sturdy cavolo nero stands in for summer-y basil leaves, while a handful of almonds is a good replacement for more expensive pine nuts. The result is a dark green, nutty, and slightly bitter pesto that you can toss into a bowl of spaghetti or tagliatelle for a quick weeknight meal. Use it as it is, or top it with toasted almond slivers, crunchy pancetta bits, or crumbled fresh goat cheese.
To make fresh pasta tagliatelle, follow this recipe.
Tuscan kale pesto
- 500 g (1.1 lb) cavolo nero, Tuscan kale
- 1 clove garlic
- 200 ml (3/4 cups) extra virgin olive oil , + 2 tablespoons
- 150 g (1 cup) almonds
- 100 g (1 cup) aged Tuscan pecorino
- Strip the leaves off of the cavolo nero and remove the fibrous stalks. Rinse the leaves under running water and gather them in a large pan with two tablespoons of oil and a whole clove of garlic. It will seem like a lot of cavolo nero, but it tends to shrink. You don’t need to preheat the oil.
- Cook the cavolo nero over medium heat, turning it often with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until it softens. Remove the cavolo nero from the pan and let it cool down.
- Toast the almonds in a pan for about 5 minutes, tossing them often. Let them cool down, too.
- Transfer the cavolo nero to a food processor, along with the almonds. Blend, adding the olive oil in a thin stream, until you get a smooth and thick, dark green pesto.
- Scrape the pesto into a bowl, add the grated pecorino cheese, and season with salt, if necessary. If it is still too thick, add more olive oil.
- Use it immediately or keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, covered with a film of olive oil to prevent it from blackening.
- If you want to use the cavolo nero pesto to dress pasta, put a few tablespoons of pesto in the bottom of a bowl and dilute it with some pasta water, to emulsify it into a sauce, then toss in the pasta.
How can I help you?
Whether you are in Italy, somewhere else in Europe, in the US, in Canada or in Australia, you might be experiencing what we just lived here in our country. The fear, the confusion, the feeling of being helpless and powerless.
I’m not a doctor, a nurse, or a politician. I can’t tell you how you should behave, or when this situation will be over, but I cook. I’ve been cooking and teaching for a living for over a decade now, so if I can help you with recipes, with pantry staples, with fresh pasta or a basic bread loaf, ask me, send me an email, find me on Social Media. This is the time to share, to support each other and to find joy and solace in honest, home cooked food.
How to support our business?
When the lockdown of Italy began, I was worried because I didn’t know what the future would bring to small businesses like ours. You asked us how you could support our business now that all classes have been cancelled for months and that most of our projects are in standby.
Thank you for your words of encouragement and support: they helped us immensely, as you gave us many ideas and tips on how to get through this difficult moment.
So, if you want to help us, you can do one of the following things.
- Share our cooking classes and edible experiences with your friends, as when this absurd time will be over, we’ll be ready to welcome you all back to cook up a storm in our studio. As a plus, in these days of lockdown, I’m working on so many new recipes that I can’t wait to share with you (think about sourdough focaccia!).
- Share our recipes and our podcast, Cooking with an Italian Accent, with your family, your friends and on Social Media. Our recipes are simple, seasonal ideas, often based on all those ingredients that you have already in your pantry. This might be an interesting post right now: A Tuscan pantry – Staple ingredients, recipes and a tuna sauce.
- Buy and review our cookbook, From the Markets of Tuscany. If possible, purchase it from small independent bookstores, as to support their business, too.
- If you think that our Podcast is interesting and relevant for Italian food lovers, you can leave a review. How to do it? At the moment, just Apple users can leave a review, but it is very simple and straightforward. Open the Podcast App, click on our podcast and scroll to the bottom of the podcast main page. There, you can rate and review the show. This will help us enormously to be more visible, so that new people can discover us and share the same passion for Italian food.
- If you are dreaming about a future trip to Italy and you are planning to include Tuscany in your itinerary, you can buy from us a gift certificate to attend a cooking class. Just send us an email and we’ll give you all the info.
- To shorten the distance, in a time of social isolation, and to bring some Tuscany in your kitchen, we also just launched a Patreon project, a community of Tuscan food lovers to get exclusive access to video recipes and tutorials, step by step recipes and foodie guides to different areas of Tuscany. I’ll help you build a Tuscan cooking repertoire, made of reliable family style recipes, to bring Italy into your daily life and kitchen. I’ll share the backstage of the recipes I’m developing for the blog and we will discuss the new episodes of our podcast, Cooking with an Italian Accent. You can learn more about it here.