2020 has been a challenging year. At times it seemed long, slow and sticky. At other times, it went by so fast that it felt like ten years of your life had been condensed into 365 days.
This 2020 has taken a lot from us: freedom, loved ones, travels, cooking classes. On a closer look, though, it has given us things that we will remember, that have forever changed our lives for the better.
In this last post of the year, I tried to write them down, mostly as a personal memory. When I’ll come back here in 10 years time, I want to make sure I won’t forget how I feel now. Despite the hard time, what I feel now is also a huge sense of gratitude, for being here, for being safe, for having my family around.
And these are the four things that this 2020 has given us.
It couldn’t be otherwise. We began the new year toasting with tonic water and going to bed just after midnight. I was constantly falling asleep, collapsing on chairs and sofa. It was that tenacious, ineluctable sleep of the first weeks of pregnancy. First her long wait, that escorted us through winter and spring, then her arrival at the end of summer. We have just celebrated her four-month anniversary, and I don’t remember what life was like before her. It’s not just a way of saying: with the Covid pandemic, the lockdown, minimal social interactions and my puerperium, I now consider extraordinary and remarkable what used to be our daily routine. The first and only time we stopped for pastries at a local café with Livia still stands out like a day to remember.
Since I learnt to let go of the shoulds, the they say, and especially the I read it in a book, everything flows more smoothly, each of her discoveries is also our discovery. We rejoice in small things, we learn to live with simplicity.
A new cookbook.
We signed the contract with Artisan Books at the beginning of the summer, and worked enthusiastically on the index before Livia was born. A few weeks ago we finally started to work on the recipes, having a first draft of the first chapters.
Our aim is to create an awesome book, but, more importantly, we want that every recipe will be easily replicable by all of you with any cooking skill, so that you can add them to your own cooking repertoire. I could define this a dream come true: a significant, heartfelt book made with an international publisher, in English, taking care of every aspect of it. It will be a way to share Italian cuisine at our own terms, with our own words and our philosophy.
But more than a dream, I like to think that it is a project we have been working on for years, since when I started the blog almost 12 years ago, since I left my daily job, since Tommaso and I decided to work together. It is made up of choices, and leaps of faith. Little by little we will tell you more about this book, but if you want to know more about the backstage, or learn more about what it is like to work on a cookbook, you can subscribe to our newsletter.
My relationship with nature.
For me, living in the countryside has always had more upsides than downsides. This unusual and difficult year has further accentuated my gratitude towards these hills, this road with the oak trees, which I am lucky enough to call home. This has been the year during which I have enjoyed my surroundings the most. The swimming pool was shut down, no trips to Siena or Florence were allowed, no holidays by the sea in Salento or in the Alps. There were just lots and lots of walks, almost every day, right outside my house, along that country road lined with oak trees that cool it down with their shade in summer and create a carpet of auburn leaves in autumn.
Along this road, I walked out anxieties and fears, I worked on hopes and projects. This is where I took Noa and Teo to walk, telling them what what would have happened in a few months. This is where I dragged my nine month baby bump to convince Livia that her time was due, and where I took her once she was born, convinced that she would recognize every puddle, every bush, the smell of wild fennel and dried mint.
This corner of nature saved me, kept me grounded in reality and gave me the opportunity to synchronize my internal clock with the passing of the seasons. You can find all my walks collected under the hashtag #dailywalk in my Instagram highlights.
They chose us in a difficult year, they believed in us, in our way of writing about food, in our relationship with the online world, with our feet firmly ground in the off line world, in the kitchen, in the dishes to be washed.
The articles for Epoch Times, our video for Visit Tuscany, Aboca and Sapori 1832, the recipes for Betty Bossi, Centine, Cecchi, Piave DOP: they have all been an opportunity to express ourselves at our best through our work, to learn and grow. Our hope is to keep on doing what we love in 2021, sharing with you our passion for food, be it with written words, podcast episodes, videos or photos.
Broccoli and squash flans
These little broccoli and squash flans are a festive appetizer – scatter a few pomegranates seeds on top of them for a jeweled look –, or a hearty side dish, to be served with a roasted chicken or baked fish.
Made with seasonal vegetables, ricotta, and a genuine cheese like Piave DOP vecchio, the broccoli and squash flans also make for a balanced main course during weekdays.
You can prepare them in advance and preheat them just before dinner. Serve them with baked fennels, or even a simple green salad dressed with an olive oil and lemon juice citronette. As you can see in the video, they are easy to make and versatile. Choose your favourite vegetables to make them: broccoli, squash, green beans, carrots, beetroots, artichokes… layer them to alternate colours and flavours, and tell me your favourite combination!
Broccoli and squash flans
For the squash flan batter
- ½ delica squash, approx. 800 g (1,7 lb)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- 50 g (1/2 cup) Piave DOP cheese, grated – you can substitute it with Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
- 1 egg
- 200 g (3/4 cups) fresh ricotta
For the broccoli flan batter
- 600 g (1 1/3 lb) broccoli, already cleaned
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 50 g (1/2 cup) Piave DOP cheese, grated – you can substitute it with Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino
- 1 egg
- 200 g (3/4 cups) ricotta
To finish the flans
- 100 g (1 cup) breadcrumbs
- 120 g (1 1/4 cups) Piave DOP cheese, grated – you can substitute it with Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino
- 100 ml (1/2 cups) whole milk
- Prepare the squash flan. Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Arrange the halved squash cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle it with two tablespoons of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
- Cook the squash for about an hour, until it is golden and so soft that it can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool.
- With a spoon scoop the pulp out of the squash and collect it in a bowl. Add the ricotta, the grated Piave DOP and an egg and whisk everything together. Season with salt, if needed, and set aside.
- Prepare the broccoli flan. Cook the broccoli in plenty of salted water for about 25 minutes, then drain and sauté in a pan with oil and a clove of garlic for a few minutes.
- Blend the broccoli and scrape them into a bowl. Add the ricotta, the grated Piave DOP and an egg and whisk everything together. Season with salt, if needed, and set aside.
- Grease the moulds with butter, coat them with breadcrumbs and use a spoon to fill them half way with the squash flan. Then add the broccoli flan and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs.
- Bake in a hot oven at 200°C (400°F) for about 25 minutes, or until firm and golden brown.
- Let them cool for a few hours or until the next day to turn them over easily.
- Serve them with a cheese sauce made by melting the grated Piave DOP in a small saucepan with some fresh milk.