BULGUR SALAD (UNDER THE TOSCAN SUN, 1)

under the toscan sunUNDER THE TUSCAN SUN: AT HOME IN ITALY is a memoir by Frances Mayes. In this book the author recounts the purchase of her home, Bramasole, in Tuscany. She tells about all the adventures she and her partner had in renovating the house and working in its gardens while enjoying the sights and food of Tuscany. First published in 1996, this memoir helped in starting the worldwide Tuscan-mania that doesn’t seem to fade. A must read if you are planning a holiday in Tuscany or you want just escape a boring raining weekend in winter. But what a  Turkish recipe, as Kısır (bulgur salad) is, has to do with Tuscany and its sun? The fact is that at the moment I am in my home in Tuscany, enjoying the lovely panorama and the fresh vegetable that my father (healthy 85 years old-thanks to the olive oil) grows in the garden. I had fresh tomato, parsley, onions, salad from the garden, excellent organic olive oil from our trees and some fine grounded bulgur I brought from Turkey… The next thing to do was to prepare kısır a typical Eastern Turkey recipe but with fresh, zero-km ingredients from my Tuscan garden. The freshness of the ingredients and the quality of the olive oil (Tuscan olive oil is less acid than average Turkish olive oils), added extra flavor and texture to this recipe, but I assure you it is tasty also with market-fresh ingredient. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use quinoa  instead of bulgur, it taste beautifully also with quinoa that add a crunchy texture to the recipe.

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The view from my home (typical sweet Toscan hills :-))
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The vegetable garden
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Ripe and green tomatoes

 

Ready to enjoy Kısır
Ready to enjoy Kısır

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 spring onions (chopped) and 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • the juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp mild chilli flakes or Turkish pul biber
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 5 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • 2 handful of chopped green salad leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the water and when it boils, pour it on the bulgur, let it cool
  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat
  3. Add the onion, and sauteé for a few minutes, until soft
  4. add the tomato paste and mix well and let simmer for 5 more minutes
  5. When the bulgur is cool and soft, add all the chopped ingredients
  6. Season your salad with lemon juice, chilli and salt
  7. Let it set for at least two hours in the fridge.

 

 

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Meat Daffodils

Spring is finally here, days are longer, sky is blue, the sun is mild and a nice breeze is coming from the see. I feel like celebrate it with something cute and cheerful.

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

daffodil
Courtesy of http://blog.terminologiaetc.it

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought. (William Wordsworth)

When I was a child, daffodils were the first flowers to blossom in spring, we lived in the Tuscan countryside there were wild daffodils near everywhere. We used to pick them up and bring them to school, our primary school was an old country school with about 20 students, that has been dismissed soon after moved to middle school.

Now I live a very different life, in a metropolis, I speak a different language and I can only travel from time to time to Tuscany. I still believe myself very lucky because my flat’ windows  (I would say my kitchen‘s) overlooks a large garden full of spring flowers and the see, but still I miss the smell of daffodils, and late in June, the smell of lime trees that grow in my parents’ garden.

So, to keep up this spring spirit, today for dinner I prepared those meet daffodils: they are very popular those days in family cooking in Tuscany and you can buy ready to put in the oven in any supermarket. But they are very easy to prepare and there is no need to buy them ready, especially because you can’t choose the meet, the cheese and the sausage you want use.

Meat Daffodils 1

Ingredients

500 gr. of veal medallions sliced in 12 thin slices

150 gr of fontina cheese or cheddar, thinly sliced

3 cottage sausage cut in four piece each

Olive oil, salt and pepper to season

Directions

In a 12 capacity muffin tin line paper cups and line them with the thinly sliced meat, cover with cheese slices as if they were petals and put a piece of sausage in the middle as show in the slides above.

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Gently remove from the tin, wrap the middle of the meet with a cooking twine, so that each of them will resemble a flower and place again in the paper bag in the tin.

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Tied with twine and ready for the oven

Season with salt, pepper (if you like) and a bit of olive oil, put in a 180′ C. pre heated oven for 20 minutes and serve it hot.

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In the plate, ready to be eaten

Enjoy!

Arrotolato (Meatloaf with spinach filling)

I am sure that in some novel the arrotolato fiorentino must be celebrated as it deserves  but, unfortunately, I never encountered it in my readings.  Still I want to celebrate a great Italian writer, the father of the modern novel: Giovanni Boccaccio. Born in Certaldo, a lovely small town close both to Florence and Siena he wrote the Decameron in the years 1348–53.  The plot is about 10 young people (7 women and 3 men) gathered in a country house to escape from plague-stricken Florence in 1348. Their retreat is lovely but boring so in the course of a fortnight, each member of the party has a turn as king or queen over the others, deciding the activities of the day, the walks, the conversations but more than everything their alternate storytelling. This storytelling occupies 10 days of the fortnight (the rest being set aside for personal adornment or for religious devotions); hence the title of the book itself, Decameron, or “Ten Days’ Work.”

Certaldo is not far from where I was born and grow, it is an happy place, the medieval part of the town, with Boccaccio’s home, is on the top a low hill that dominates a classic Tuscan countryside.

certaldoCourtesy of http://www.toomuchtuscany.com/too-much-certaldo/

Is there any special reason why the arrotolato recall me Certaldo and Boccaccio? The fact is that, back (very very back) to the high school I used to have a friend from Certaldo and it is in her home that I first tasted the arrotolato. My family is not originally from Tuscany, but from Umbria, a region a bit southern and at home my mom and my nana were cooking mostly in the Umbrian fashion. My friend’s mom prepares the arrotolato using the Mortadella, but my son doesn’t like it and I use Prosciutto instead. To be honest the Mortadella gives a unique flavour but what wouldn’t you do for your own son?

So let’s begin, let’s have our kitchens full with the aroma of Tuscany and please, share with me, did you like the Prosciutto or the Mortadella better? Did you use other kind of cured meat available in your area? How was it? It is your turn to share with me now…

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INGREDIENTS:

 Meatloaf
500 kg ground beef
1 egg
3 tsp. Parmesan cheese
Salt

Roll 5 thick slices of Prosciutto or 2 slice of big Mortadella

Filling
1 Kg of fresh spinach or a package of frozen

3 tsp. of butter

Salt

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven at 180 C.
    2. In a bowl whisk Parmesan, egg, salt, pepper. Whisk the egg in a large bowl until blended. Whisk in the salt and a generous quantity of black pepper, then whisk in the Parmesan.
    3. Form the meat into meatloaf. Take wax paper and arrange the slices of prosciutto or mortadella in a rectangle shape, then flatten the meat less the 1 cm high.
    4. Sautee fresh or frozen spinach in a pan with the butter. Until well shriveled.
    let cool in a bowl
  2. Spread the filling evenly on flattened meat.
    6. Roll the long ways of rectangle.
    7. Put inside bread pan.
    8. Cook for 40 minutes at 180° C.

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