Today’s guest post by Jamie Lin, is about the essentials of Tuscan cuisine.. essential because everyone needs to try it at least once in their lifetime!
Italy is known for its cuisine and wonderful wines. The region of Tuscany itself is particularly recognized for its culinary traditions and fine red wines. You can’t leave without having at least one complete “Florentine Feast.” One of the major characteristics of Tuscan cooking is that it is rustic and simple. The fundamental ingredients of meals are bread with a hearty crust and a fluffy inside, extra-virgin olive oil, beef or pork coming from the region and of course the wine. The last time I visited my friends in Italy, I stayed at these quaint Florence apartments near their home, and they literally cooked me every meal (what a life!) ..and this is what they thought me about their cuisine.
Fettunta -photo credit disney_den
If we are talking about Italian food the antipasti (appetizers) can’t be missing. At the hearty Tuscan cuisine one of the most traditional antipasti that is served is Affettati Misti, a plate with different cold sliced meats accompanied by a basket of bread. Another antipasti dish which might sound rather plain but is bursting with flavour, is Fettunta -toasted bread with olive oil. As olive oil is a fundamental ingredient in cooking, this dish is particularly enjoyable in November when olives have been harvested and the oil is freshly pressed. To add a little twist to it simply add chopped tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina -photo credit Josh Heald
A famous speciality from the region is the Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) for which traditionally the meat of the Chianina beef cattle is used. The Chianina belongs to the largest and oldest beef cattle breeds in the whole world. Traditionally a true Bistecca alla Fiorentina is prepared with salt, black pepper and olive oil and then grilled over wood or charcoal fire. The meat gets served rare; in fact a well-done steak is nearly considered unacceptable. Tuscan beans usually come as side dish, for example as Fagioli all’uccelletto, cooked beans in tomato sauce. In general, beans along with chick-peas are also an essential part in Tuscan cookery. Among Italians, the Tuscans have the nickname mangiafagioli (bean eaters).
Fagioli all’uccelletto -photo credit megabeth
But no great meal would be complete without a good wine. The most famous wine that comes from Tuscany is the Chianti. Although it is now sold and served in regular wine bottles, it is traditionally associated with the Fiasco, a bottle with a very broad bottom which is enclosed in a straw-basket. The shape and the looks of the bottle are to me, the epitome of Tuscany and Tuscan cuisine -rustic and hearty.
Chianti, Castello di Vicchiomaggio photo credit fondelli nadia
Since I saved all my money from not having to eat out (as my mates cooked) I threw a party on the last week of my stay in this land of milk and honey. We had a huge cook up in my apartments in Florence and after a sublime dinner, it was time for dessert. The Florentine sweets, especially cakes should not be overlooked. Whilst gelato is my favourite ice cream, I left Florence with a new favourite – the Schiacciata con l’uva, is a sweet grape bread and it’s absolutely divine!
Schiacciata con l’uva -photo credit christ-o-phile
I was never a fan of grapes but after having sampled this special sugar-sprinkled grapes sandwiched between two layers of dough, drizzled with warm oil that has rosemary leaves in it.. it certainly made me a believer! A magical place with amazing food – I am definitely going back for another holiday!