I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Little Bowl of Tuscany!

On a cold wet, winter night is there anything better than having dinner in front of a log fire?  I think not!!!

I was feeling a little homesick for Italy the other day, so I took myself off for a shopping trip to Haberfield.  Now, it's not quite like shopping at the market place in Italy, but it was the best I was going to get here in Australia!

I wandered up one side of Ramsay Street, and back down the other, peering into all the shops, and making a mental shopping list as I travelled form shop to shop - menu plans were formulating!

One thing that I have been craving since getting back, is Mozzarella di Bufala (Buffalo Mozzarella), so a trip to Paesanella Cheese Shop was a prerequisite on this trip!  There they were - my beautiful little lovelies, sitting in their milky looking brine!!  There were two varieties on offer - the true Italian one, and the ones that they make themselves.  After being told in Italy, that they should never be refrigerated, I decided to go for the local ones, who knows how long the imported ones have been refrigerated on their trip here!

There were so many lovely looking things on display in the cabinet, it was very hard to choose.  I limited myself with what I though we would consume in the next few days.  Some speck, provolone, and pecorino, but the carciofi (artichokes) looked tempting too, and also the caramelised tomatoes.  A tasting plate was forming in my mind.

Onwards I travelled, some beautiful proscuitto was procured, along with a lot of beautiful looking meats (osso bucco, lamb shanks, Italian sausage, lamb kebabs).  Next some pasta, and then various other vegetables, including some tuscan cabbage were added to the growing mountain of food in my boot!!!

It was very tiring work, all this shopping, so a rest was required - lunch stop was at  Pasticceria Papa for a cappuccino and a panini.

A few more stops, and I had enough food to feed the family for the week!!!

What fun it was, so much better that going to the local iridescently lit shopping mall,  and offending supermarket!!!  Sure it wasn't a market place, but it was different to how I usually shop. The only thing I wasn't able to get were those beautiful Italian tomatoes, but then it is the wrong season!!!  Me thinks a return visit in summer is in order!!!

So what were we going to have for our meal in front of the fire?

Our tasting plate consisted of some rustic bread, which we topped with the Buffalo Mozzarella, Artichokes, Bruscetta, caramelised tomatoes, and dolmades (yes, I know they are not Italian, but we do like them!!).

After being at a night game of rugby we really needed to warm ourselves up - so some soup was in order.  Remember the Tuscan Cabbage?

I just had to make the recipe for Ribollita  from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, that I recently won from the lovely Not Quite Nigella.  Thank you Lorraine!!!  There's a bowl waiting here for you in front of the fire!

From The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes

Serves 15!

500g dried cannellini beans *
1 tsp salt
2 brown onions, diced
6 carrots, diced
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 celery stalks, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp pepper
1 bunch tuscan cabbage, finely chopped
8-10 tomatoes, or 1 x 800g can whole tomatoes, chopped
the heel of a wedge of parmigiano reggiano
2 litres of vegetable, chicken, or meat stock
2 cups cubed, day old bread
generous handful of combined flat leaf parsley,  torn basil and thyme leaves

grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and olive oil to serve

* you can use dried cannellini beans if you have the time, but you will need to soak them for 5 hours though! I used 2 x 400g cans of cannellini beans, drained.

In a large stockpot over low heat, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the celery, garlic and the salt, pepper and the Tuscan Cabbage. Add more olive oil if needed. Cook,
for 10 minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted, then add the tomatoes, and the heel of the Parmesan. Add enough stock to cover. Bring to the boil, and then simmer, covered for 1 hour to blend the flavours.

Make sure you stir now and then.

After about 50 minutes add the drained cannellini beans. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the bread cubes and herbs. Heat through.

Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.


This soup was sooooo good. The best part is that I now have a huge container left for lunches, and easy meals for the rest if the week!

This meal took me back to the night we arrived in Florence. My traveling buddy, Barb, had this as her starters (no we didn't follow protocol that night by having antipasti, primi, secondi and contorni!) We introduced ourselves to Florence that night, by eating at a little trattoria just off the Ponte Vecchio!

I don't know what her's was like that night, but mine last night really hit the spot!

 Ahhh.... Food memories... Don't you love them! So Dear Readers do you make meals to remind you of places you have visited?

Me, I'm on a bit of Italy revisited at the moment.... Osso Bucco tonight!!!!

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