“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living…”
― Dione Lucas
As this is a post about food and Italy, here’s a little dinner music to keep you company as you read 😉
I thought for sure that this morning I would be suffering from dysania, but no. The alarm clock went off for François at 6:25 and I was wide-awake. Dammit. I had been planning on sleeping in and being totally lazy today.
For those of you who don’t know, in September 2016, I went to Tuscany all by myself. BEST. TRIP. EVER. My first week of that trip was spent with the fabulous Cook in Tuscany group, created by the wonderful and irrepressible hosts, Linda and George, and 13 other fantabulous participants, learning how to cook Tuscan food and experiencing a lot of what the area had to offer. A dream of mine since forever.
Fast-forward to last night. Okay, maybe not so fast. It has been one and a half years since said trip. It was about bloody time I had my sisters and their hubbies over to show off what I had learnt. (Thank you, Tracy, for nudging me…)
I warned them to come bellies empty because I had a lot to show them!
“I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work.
Let God worry about your modesty; I want to see your enthusiasm.”
― Robert Farrar Capon
To get us started on the right foot, I served Aperol Spritz – did I take a picture? No. So right. With our cocktails we had two kinds of bruschette. Bean and onion and the classic tomato. I only cut and toasted so many slices so that no one over-exaggerated…
Once they had a little food in their bellies, I put them all to work! To truly appreciate Pici, one must roll with the dough 😉
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
― Laurie Colwin
Having worked for their supper, they were then allowed into the dining room for the first course, a Tuscan tomato and bread soup. Now. I may have screwed up a bit. I had toasted my bread ahead of time and was supposed to add it to my soup in bits and pieces till I felt there was enough. In my usual over-zealousness, I dumped the whole bowl into the pot. Um. Can we call it Bread and Tomato soup instead? No one seemed to mind and hey, Tuscan cooking is all about stretching out what one has…. All around, it was declared delicious.
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
― Julia Child
As I had not quite finished preparing my crumbs for the pici, I had them all come back, with their glass of wine, into the kitchen to keep me company (next house, OPEN CONCEPT). This was a very interactive meal, in case you’ve not noticed 😉
When in Sienna, I went to visit one of the Frescobaldi vineyards, Castel Giocondo, in Montalcino. I splurged (BIG time) and bought two bottles of their Brunello. These I kept for this special night. We decided to decant each one and oh wow. They were both fantastic.
Pici now cooked and sautéed, it was back to the dining room! Before Tuscany became the “go-to” vacation spot, even for Italians, they were quite poor. Salt was used sparingly on food, kept mostly for preserving. Not everyone could afford cheese, so they “cheated” by cooking stale bread crumbs in olive oil. It truly gives incredible flavour. Everyone loved their pasta – it was theirs, they rolled it, after all!
“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
― M.F.K. Fisher
While we were enjoying our pasta, the pork tenderloin and grilled veggies were being warmed in the oven so there was no longer a need to dance between rooms.
I did, however, remember that I had a bottle of Grappa. Instead of sipping it as a digestif after the meal, we used it as a “Trou Normand” – a shot which, as they say, serves to make room for the next course.
This was a cheat in the whole Italian evening and I may get a frown from a true Italiano but I’m willing to take my chances. Besides, the deed is done.
We’re still smiling. Certainly not because we are overstuffed. Yet.
You still with me?
The meal is not quite done! Time for dessert. I made panna cotta with two sauces, chocolate and strawberry. Pick one, pick none or pick both!
“A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. ”
― James Beard
Coffee was served and one would think that it ended there, right? Wrong.
A little Vin Santo and Cantucci to cap it all off… hoping no one would be feeling crapulous after such a feast!
“I lurched away from the table after a few hours feeling like Elvis in Vegas – fat, drugged, and completely out of it.”
― Anthony Bourdain