After three months in the United States traveling (that travel post to come) and spending time with family and friends, I am back at casa mia in Toscana. It’s been a busy month so far. E has been away traveling a lot and I have been staying busy at home with things such as tutoring English, traveling solo around Tuscany (or with E) and working on new recipes.
Today a group of clients came to to Aia Vecchia for a wine tasting so I prepared the food and set everything up. Tuscan wines, such as Aia Vecchia wines are bold and go very well with salty Tuscan snacks such as Prosciutto Toscano, Spalla, Tuscan salami and wild boar salami. I usually serve three different pecorino cheeses as well. Pecorino is a cheese made from sheep’s milk and is the most common Tuscan cheese. Some pecorino cheeses are softer than others because it depends on how long they have been aged. Classic Tuscan cuisine is usually very salty and hearty so the bread that is served with it is unsalted. I use the unsalted bread to make bruschetta, (BROOS-KEH-T-TAH) toasted slices of bread served with diced tomatoes, olive oil, salt and dried oregano. An Italian staple.
There are a lot, and I mean A LOT of different kinds of prosciutto and it all depends on which region it is from. For example, prosciutto di Parma is sweeter and has a softer texture than prosciutto Toscana because of how much salt and spices are used when they salt cure the ham. Italians take their cured meats and cheeses very seriously and will shudder when someone says they all taste the same. Not that I know that from experience or anything…
In all honesty, after living here for four years my palate has enhanced and I really can tell the difference. It’s really neat to learn about. Give me cheese, cured meats and wine or give me death!
Ever heard of Focaccia? It’s an Italian yeast bread baked in flat sheet pans with olive oil, salt and sometimes rosemary or other herbs. It is very popular bread here in Italy but I bet you didn’t know there are a dozen different ways to make it, both savory and sweet. In Tuscany we call focaccia, schiaccia (pronounced- SKEE-YAH-CHA) At the bakery down the road from us they make manh different kinds of schiaccia fresh everyday. They could be made with wheat flour, mixed with salted pig fat, topped with onions, tomatoes or melted cheese. Usually I’m always about the salt, but I have to say one of my favorite ways to have schiaccia is sweet with raisins and sugar. Since the bread is cooked in a fairly high temperature the sugar caramelizes around the edges. ‘drooling’ Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that during harvest season (when they harvest grapes to make wine) you can find it with fresh grapes instead of raisins. Yes please.
I really missed my sweet animal friends, especially my little fur babe, Juvee.
Two weeks ago E had to be in Siena for a weekend wine exhibition and I tagged along with him to go solo-exploring. Dear santa, can I finally become a certified Italian and own my own Vespa?
This was not my first time in Siena so I had already visited a lot of the important landmarks but I had never gone inside the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitan. I love history of arts so it was a perfect way to spend my last day in Siena. I must have been there at the right time of day because I was practically alone inside the entire time.
After leisurely walking through into I what I thought was the last room, a man pointed to this tiny wooden door and said “panoramico”. I open the said tiny door, go inside and follow down a narrow hallway made entirely out of rock. Wondering whether I’m supposed to be there or not, I keep going and ended up climbing up what seemed like a never-ending spiral staircase and found myself at the top to this crazy view.
I sat up there for about 10 minutes even though the cold, windy air was burning my ears. I loved to imagine all the Italian people under those red-tiled rooftops drinking their espressos and reading the Sunday newspaper. People still do that here.
Siena is stunning but I have to say my favorite Tuscan city is and will always be Florence. Pictured below are the photos I took on a day trip last week. Even on a gloomy day this city is glorious.
Walking across the bridges and taking in the panoramic views as I passed by tourists asking strangers to take their picture, made me smile and appreciate that I get to make day trips at places people vacation to. Feeling very humbled and blessed. I’ve been trying to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me even when it is something I see all the time. My heart aches right now for America and all that is going on so I’m trying to do my part and without getting too political, hoping that our world will be be able to find peace and harmony with each other and accept diversity.