Curious Appetite

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Simple Tuscan Kale and Chickpea Winter Soup

Just add grated cheese!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe and have been reluctant to do so amidst all the chef-quality blogs and professional food photographers out there! But I thought hey! why not? There is no end-all, be-all food blog, right? There’s space even for humble soups!

I used to hate soups and hate making them, until I learned some secrets and tips that one of my dear chef friends (Melissa Miranda, who used to cook at Vivanda in Florence and now does fascinating Fillippino/Italian fusion pop-ups via Il Vizietto) and Florentine cooks taught me. Mostly, I learned to bundle aromatic herbs and throw into stock pot and/or Parmesan rinds (Heather of Merry Feast recently wrote a great post about not wasting Parmesan rinds), not tossing kale stalks, using sale grosso (chunkier, kitchen salt) to help make a soffritto sweat out flavor, and if adding dry cannellini beans, to not cook them at a roaring boil otherwise they’ll blister/wrinkle. Also, another trick I love to making a better textured soup is to use an immersion blender to blend a corner of the soup, not all of it but just enough to give a puree’ base.

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Elk Ragu’ Tagliatelle and Wine Pairing

This big ol’ blob of red mush is one of my favorite things to make in the winter: ragu’. When serving ragu’, you “should” toss the sauce with all the pasta before plating. I on the other hand like mixing it all in the serving plate, I guess its that kid in me that enjoys playing with food. Instead of beef and/or pork, I used Elk sausage I found at Uli’s in Pike Place Market in Seattle (since I’m visiting for the winter). Why Elk? Out of curiosity, of course! I’ve been happy with wild boar in the past and wanted to experiment. If you are in Italy, you can try deer or cervo for a similar game-y effect.

Oh! And did you know that there is a deeper meaning to the term: ragu’? According to The Gourmet Wino, “the word ragu is a derivative of the french verb ragouter which means “to stimulate appetite.” In Italy, “Ragu” it is a staple tomato based meat sauce cooked/simmered for hours with celery, onions, carrots, wine and garlic and is traditional to the north of Italy, but also in the central region of Tuscany.”

Regions have variations on ragu’, like in Bologna they are known to add a cinnamon stick to the pot’ o meat and in Tuscany, there are historical variations such as “ragu bianco” which was common during Medieval and Renaissance times, made without tomatoes since tomatoes did not become strongly apart of the Italian food repertoire until later. Continue Reading

Food Souvenir Shopping in Florence

photos: Silvio Palladino

I imagine that the travelers that are in Florence, Italy may fancy some food souvenirs to bring back home especially during the holiday season where stores are practically rolling out the red carpet, taking pride in their products and dignity in the decorations making Florence even a little more magical than usual. Continue Reading

Unique flavors for any palate to discover in Florence

My life revolves around 3 things: Italy, food and hooch. Food being my first love, Italy second and Hooch the last but not least! I knew one day I would move to Italy but I didn’t have any clue I would have been this lucky. In a country as paradoxical as Italy, I somehow managed to make a way for myself without knowing anyone. In exactly what I wanted to be doing. Believe me, I took odd jobs, had my patience tested and I did whatever I needed to do to. So now that I’ve bored you all to tears with my Dr. Phil Opera book club ego stroke fest, I will tell you that I do plan on writing a book about this experience, it will include of course the token romantic scandal. Stay tuned!

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The art of Tuscan soup making

One of the things I absolutely LOVE about Tuscany is seasonality in the local cuisine. It’s not trendy like it is in the states, it’s just the way it’s done because: IT MAKES BLOODY SENSE. I love how the markets change the availability of foods with the season and I love that restaurants change their menù, too. I can’t stress enough how much that I love that eating seasonally isn’t mega trendy like it is back in the states because otherwise it would come at a hefty inflated marketed price. In Florence, we can get a bunch of local, organic kale for less than a euro while in Seattle the same costs $3 a bunch. Continue Reading

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