The idea started off as a fun afternoon in our garden with some warm sun shining down on us, ribs on the grill and us with some friends enjoying the fresh cut lawn and the colorful array of flowers popping up everywhere. But with a mini-cyclone in arrival this weekend, I don’t think that is going to happen. However we are not going to let this unexpected weather situation change our plans, my Sweetie and I are a bit like the mailman – come rain, sleet and cyclones, the meal must go on.
So have I decided take this as a great opportunity to serve up those wonderful winter dishes typical to the Tuscan menu before we are forced to eat fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil for months on end 😀 It will also give me a great opportunity to use my black leather pants one more time before the summer temps settle in.
We are going to start with an antipasto of polenta fritta and crostini with melted mozzarella, anchioves and capers. Polenta is one of those truly under rated foods, made from yellow corn meal it is great served hot and creamy with chunks of pork and potatoes, or cut into hard blocks covered with meat sauce, or heated in the oven with cheese on top – are you getting the idea, that it is delicious in any form. Well we are going to cut it into bite size pieces and fry it till it is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and serve it with a spicy tomato sauce for dipping (now that would be my American touch to the meal – Italians just serve it straight up!) I will also be cutting up a delicious hunk of mozzarella into tiny bits and placing it on bread with chopped anchovies and capers, toast it in the oven till the cheese becomes nice and gooey and serve it up with the fried polenta. YUM! We will be in 8 – one of which is under 6 – but these goodies will probably be gone before they reach the table.
Any Sunday lunch in Tuscany (Italy for that matter) must have a pasta and since I am catering to an all Italian crowd this weekend, I will have to abide by the rule. We are going to take a classic (pasta in meat sauce) and dress it up into the Florentine Pasticcio – a pie crust base filled with pasta, meat sauce, besciamela, grated Parmesan and about a zillion calories (but who cares about that!) Now pasticcio normally means to make a mess out of something (a lot like the Italian government, in fact when I tried to find a good picture of this dish – that’s exactly what came up photos of Italian government officials!) When you put this dish together it kind of has a messy look to it but that has absolutely no influence on the taste, which ranks right up there with lasagna!
We will follow this up with another classic winter dish arista di miale al forno – roast pork with rosemary and garlic. Normally this is served with roast potatoes but I had a wonderful opportunity at the local market to pick up fagioli di Cetica – a small white bean and I will be accompanying the main course with green veggies and beans. One of the fun and interesting things that have come out of the European Community is that many local areas have been protecting recipes and foods that are particular to certain zones. Cetica is a gorgeous little town about an hour southwest of Florence located in the mountains. The mix of cold temps and rich soil have produced several delicacies (red potatoes from Cetica, chestnuts, mushrooms and of course these white beans.) I will be doing a very simple recipe of beans cooked with garlic, sage and black peppercorn, to be served with extra virgin olive oil on top. The simplicity of this recipe is exactly what makes it so delicious.
Needless to say all of this will be served with a healthy portion of classical Tuscan bread, olive oil and red wine. I bet you were all wondering when I was going to mention the wine . . . but we could say that it is a tacit agreement that all Sunday lunches – well any lunch for that matter – in our house is served with a Chianti Classico.
We are being treated to homemade bread with walnuts – which should be nicely complimented with the Gorgonzala DOP that I picked up. In addition to the bread there will be a surprise dessert that one of our friends is bringing over.
Tune in on Monday – and I will have photos of all these goodies . . . if they last long enough for me to take a few.