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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The Bar Lume’s Cornetti

I cornetti del Bar Lume in italiano 

Bar Lume is an Italian bar in a small sea resort near Pisa (when I read the novels it sounds like Vecchiano), four old geezers and Massimo the Barman, spend their time chatting, arguing, and theorizing about murders in town. The four old men analyze crimes and suspects and Massimo analyzes them with sarcastic wit. The 51GAmwpI5aL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_author, Malvaldi, uses a colorful proseto describe a way of living that resists despite the hordes of tourists tha came in the summersin the small beach town. Every morning Massimo put in the oven frozen Italian Cornetti, that are not at all like the French croissant, their have a richer smell (due to the presence of of orange and lemon zests and vanilla) a more sugary flavor and a fluffier texture. In my family we all love Cornetti but after I read an article about the harm of theingredients used  in professional pastry, I have tried to prepare them myself. The original recipe is quite complex, I will give it later. But this one is easy to prepare, if you double the doses, you can freezea batch of them and have your fresh Cornetto every morning.IMG_0516.JPG

 

Ingredients:

550 gr strong flour (like Manitoba)

180 gr milk

70 g water

70 gr sugar (+ more for the layers)

10 gr of dry yeast

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 orange grated peel

1 lemon grated peel

70 gr of butter (+ about 100 gr of room temperature butter for the layers)

A pinch of salt

1 egg for the glaze

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Directions

The sponge:

  1. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100 gr of warm milkin the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve
  2. Set it  to rise in a warm place for about one hour.

 

The dough:

  1. Mix the flour with saltand add it to the sponge, pour in the batter the remaining milk and the water.
  2. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (about 10 minutes at medium speed) then add all the remaining ingredients and knead it for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Work it a bit on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise another hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  4. Knock back and divide the dough in eight small ball. Let it rise for another hour.
  5. Knock back the first ball and roll with a pin until 2-3 mm high, spread the with butter uniformly, sprinkle with sugar and cover with another rolled dough When you have 8 layer, cut the dough in 16 triangles and roll it Let it rise for another half an hour.
  6. Make an egg glaze by lightly beating the egg
  7. Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then start with the low humidy program for about 10 minutes and then turn to the convection bake for the rest of the time.

 

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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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