Curious Appetite

First Courses

{recipe!} Turmeric & Ginger rich Tuscan-inspired chili soup

 

Tuscan-inspired chili? Whatever could this mean?

There’s is a lot of debate of what makes a chili a chili, but to me a chili is a hearty bean & ground meat soup with spicy chili and some tomato. While this has no tomato and neither chili apart from dried chili flakes, the depth in spice is derived instead from raw turmeric root and ginger root. And instead of ground beef, this recipe calls for ground turkey which I order in advance from Luca Menoni at the Sant’Ambrogio market. Just call Luca up and let them know how much you want- 500grams (half-kilo) is minimum and I suggest getting a kilo, divided in 2 packs, one vacuum packed so you can throw in the freezer for later!

How’d ya get raw turmeric root in Florence? La Raccolta health food store in Sant’Ambrogio!

Ginger root is a thing in Florence so you can find it pretty much everywhere, albeit questionable in quality. However, the best roots can be found in Sant’Ambrogio from the sole Asian food stand, also Naturasi and La Raccolta for organic ginger. Continue Reading

{recipe!} Tuscan (chickpea) ceci & market romanesco soup

I love making soups. Especially after a cooking lesson with one of my chef friends Melissa¬†of Musang Seattle (trained in Florence, now off doing badass things like cooking at the James Beard House, bringing Filipino flavor to Seattle’s pop-up scene and winning cooking battles on TV).

I detailed our little lesson in this post, and they are memories which have always stuck with me. My soup and risotto game haven’t been the same since. I’ve always believed in Melissa’s special touch and skill, a cook with soul and a rare kind of heart in the kitchen. Whenever I make soup, religiously using the tips she taught me in my once kitchen which gazed the Duomo from dusk till dawn, I hope to impart at least a small apart of soul the way she does in her food.

As I have mentioned a few times now on the blog, my intention is to share more healthy, seasonal recipes using what I find at the markets in Florence. I hope you enjoy this Tuscan-sourced vegetable forward soup pulsing with ceci (chickpeas). Pronounced “che-chi.” Continue Reading

{recipe} Pasta with Shrimp & Zucchini Blossoms (fiori di zucca)

love love love sant’ambrogio market

It’s official- my favorite summer vegetable are zucchini and especially their flowers. In Florence they seem to be around most of the year as I see them in the fall and in the spring. I wonder if there are some greenhouses responsible for year-round zucchini (or courgette) but the natural summer ones generously blossomed by blistering heat are the ones I tend to fawn over. Before any Italian puts a bounty on my head, zucchini are “zucchine” in Italian but since I speak American English I’ll still refer to them as “zucchini.”

I lead market food tours in Florence and one of the first things I point out to people is to take note of the zucchini flowers in the markets, and the visible quality of the produce in general. Continue Reading

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

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