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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eggplant (Aubergines), #Parmigiana di Melanzane on the top of a hill in #Tuscany

Parmigiana Aubergines
Here's one day Cooking Class by CuocheinVacanza spent between Tuscan hills in a faboulous Bed&Breakfast hold by English People. Breathtaking view over green and sunny fields, olive trees and all you need to live in peace with world and Nature.
By popular demand I'm posting an old recipe about "Aubergine Parmigiana" or Parmigiana di Melanzane, as you say here in Italy. The most suitable month to make this dish is August, but so many people ask me to show this recipe...and so it's done this incredible and tasty, evergreen delight.

tuscan landscape



parmigiana
Aubergine Parmigiana

Recipe by Erika Elia (CuocheinVacanza.it)
Prep time: 40 minutes + (30 minutes to rest optional)
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1,30 hour about

Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 300 gr caciocavallo cheese (or mozzarella)
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 3 large aubergines
  • 40 cl (1/2 a bottle) peanut oil or extra virgin oil
  • 100 gr grated parmesan cheese
  • 100 gr rock salt
  • to taste salt
  • 5 basil leaves

Cooking Directions
To prepare tomato sauce for Aubergine Parmigiana:
  1. Put in a saucepan the onion and garlic, with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Fry for a few minutes, then add tomato sauce and simmer to the thickening of the sauce and, lastly, add the salt and the basil leaves cut with your fingers; then turn off the heat and it's done!
  2. Wash and cut the eggplants into slices about 0,5 cm.
The following step can be optional if you're sure having very fresh and firm Aubergines:
Put them in a bowl (or colander), big enough to hold them all, arrange them in layers and sprinkle each with salt. Let to rest for about 1/2 an hour. After this time, remove from the bowl, rinse under running water and dry well.
  1. Prepare a pan with the oil (about 1/2 a bottle), fry the eggplants until they are golden on both sides and let them dry on a paper.
  2. Anoint a baking tray, sprinkle the bottom with a little of sauce and start to have a first layer of eggplant to be placed side by side without overlapping.
  3. Pour a little sauce on the eggplant, spreading it uniformly, and sprinkle with a little of Parmigiano Reggiano.
  4. Slice the caciocavallo (or mozzarella) cheese and deal a few slices of it on the sauce leaving a little space from one another. Now prepare the second layer, placing the aubergines in the opposite direction to the previous one (if at first you have arranged vertically, now arrange them horizontally) and continue covering them with sauce, Parmesan cheese and finally with slices of cheese, until all the ingredients.
  5. Remember that the last layer must be of only tomato and grated Parmesan cheese. 
  6. Place the aubergines in the oven at 200 °C (400 °F) for 30 minutes until they present the characteristic golden "crust".
  7. You can serve your eggplant parmigiana hot, just pulled out of the oven, or at room temperature ... it's good anyway, even cold!
  8. Suggestion: you can grill the eggplants (instead frying). This Aubergine Parmigiana'll be very tasty but certainly "lighter".
Print Recipe


aubergine

Saturday, April 11, 2015

#Florence: Private Dinners and Cookery Courses by CuocheinVacanza...a new season's started!

pasquapub

And 'now started a new season of work and Rossy and I are always departing to new places in Tuscany..."We come to wherever you are in Tuscany to prepare the tastiest dishes with you".
The cookery courses and private dinners are our specialty and this year we started in a big way, discovering places truly unique, with breathtaking views, where you make your vacation, and we come to cheer up your evenings with the most exquisite delicacies.

You have just spoiled for choice with our  really different menus.

kikapasta

The week began with a really chic Passover meal, in a beautiful house in the historic center of Pisa, we then moved to Terricciola, to celebrate the birthday of a Norwegian lady with her family.  

dinnerbadia

The week ends in Florence, in a beautiful building in the historic center. Our guests are this time Americans who, after returning from shopping and museum visits, decided to relax in this beautiful apartment with our dishes, all strictly homemade.

florence

What have we prepared? Where we were?
Find it in the photos, and if you also want to live these fine dining experiences, you've just to call us:
"...We come directly to wherever you're staying in Tuscany to prepare the tasteful dishes with you" 

gnocchi2

gnocchicollage

Our recipes all for you!! 

For homemade Gnocchi recipe: click here  
For Bruschetta: click here
For homemade Pasta: click here

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Acqua-Cotta": the ultimate Cookery lesson about Tuscan Soups and my childhood memories

acquacotta

How many memories bind me to this delicious soup. 
I left my native land, Maremma, at age 18 to attend the University in Pisa; since then (apart from a break of four years in Milan), I moved permanently in the province of the "leaning tower".  
I return rarely in Grosseto, perhaps to greet my mother who still lives there, or to find a friend who, thanks to Facebook too, I could not lose.

Yet the Maremma and Grosseto are in my heart, both solar and strong like my grandmother Amossina; she often narrated me about the long rural vigils during the evenings of sultry weather, about the crusts of toasted bread in the fireplace during the long afternoons in Winter, the raids in the fields to steal "purnelle", the fruit of a tree that I've never understood what it was. My grandmother gave meaning to my life, for 80%, has made me able to listen curiously the "olds" when they tell their stories, she sent me a huge passion for the countryside and a religious respect for Nature; she pushed the tip of my small fingers in a "crater" of white flour for breaking eggs and begin to knead.

acquacotta0

She made me realize that every dish is a synthesis of a long history, a scientific faithful guardian of an archive of memory that is renewed at the table, repeated in each family, even after centuries... 
Each traditional dish is history in a bowl, a story which is passed without books, but through an act of care. Here is another aspect: cooking for someone is to take this person in your heart, from the shopping until you're ready to wash plates. 
As my grandmother was unromantic, however little romantic are those gestures when washing the vegetables, kneading the dough, cutting an onion or cleaning a chicken, I'll never forget the feeling of "being at home" I felt every time I saw my grandmother make those gestures. The certainty of being loved by that petite woman, grew up with few pretensions and caresses, confirmed and proved by her strong desire that "all had to be good, for us"

celery

And also I felt almost blessed by that care, and a bit 'more good and deserving of all the good things that I'd be enjoying... 
The Acquacotta (litterally "cooked-water") which is sometimes written all attacked, sometimes not ... and there is no rule for this, it is a simple dish that, like all simple dishes, requires the "lingering" to be exquisite.  
My granny used to tell me: "Cooking is like giving a caress to someone, even a caress rushed, is always a caress; but if you run your hand slowly, if you stop for a moment, is definitely better. "
And in my opinion, with the hard life she had faced, she
learned the meaning of "caress"  from "cooking", rather than by people.  

spinach

The Acquacotta is the  emblem dish of Maremma, land of "malaria" (completely eradicated only in the mid-50s) and "bitter land" as defined by a popular song. Over the years, this soup has gained ground into trendy restaurants, enriched by many different ingredients ... ah, if my grandmother knew that I found even with truffles!! 
And yet (who comes from Maremma knows) Acquacotta needs just 3 ingredients to be exquisite: onion, celery, bread. 
It belongs to the Tuscan country, just like the Onion Soup and the "Bordatino"

broth Known as the dish of "BUTTERI", or rather the "cowboys" from Maremma crossing fields, forests and swamps to move their herds and "govern" their inaccessible land
And it is telling me about "Butteri" and their adventures that  my granny Amossina took me in her arms and she told me about her childhood spent in contact with nature and, between a nursery rhyme and another on her knees, she often told me the story of "Ultimo" and the origin of Acquacotta. 


"Ultimo (the italian meaning is: the LAST ONE) was such in name and in fact, and one evening in Summer, tired for the job and hungry because of the absence of food (at that time was on the agenda) he sat next to a fire in the farmyard, thinking about what could eat from all that surrounded him. 
In his pocket there was an onion, and you know ...this never missed the table of the poor.
He put a little 'of water on a frying pan and he broke inside the onion, then began to turn around the barnyard and right there, on the edge of a field, he ripped some wild chicory and after a brief rinse poured even this in the pan; then went near the hen house and took a few loaf of dry bread for chickens from the sack... and threw also this one in the pan. While he was watching all that "poverty" that floated and seethed, his brothers called him from afar: "Ultimo! Ultimo, what are you doing?" "Nothing of important" he replied "I'm cooking the water, I'm doing Acquacotta!! ". 

acquacottab

When I got married I went around the Maremma to seek those who would cook better Acquacotta, grandmother Amossina unfortunately was no more with us for a few years, but I still wanted this tasty soup, rich in its history to the lunch of my marriage.
I found an exceptional Acquacotta in Castiglione della Pescaia, in the restaurant of a hotel overlooking the sea. The chef was called Enrica and note the coincidence, she  had won an award for the best "Acquacotta",
over the years. 
My future husband and I, from the first of a long series of tastings, we looked each other at realizing that we had already decided: it was just the cook we wanted for the wedding, she knew for sure what's the "lingering". 
For our party Enrica gave everyone a poem about Acquacotta, written on a sheet of yellow paper rolled up, beribboned with raffia bordeau. I still have this gift and I give it to the "students" who attend the course on "Tuscan soups" ... and recipes that I give after cooking classes in general, are always rolled up and closed with a raffia bow dark red...

ginnyac2
Ginny's eating Acquacotta

Acquacotta Old Tuscan Veggie Soup


Recipe by Erika Elia (CuocheinVacanza.it)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes + 15 minutes (to grill)
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients
  • 11 oz spinach
  • 11 oz swiss chard
  • 3 celery stalks with their leaves
  • 1 large or 2 red onion
  • 6 leaves calamint (optional)
  • 4 tomatoes (Piccadillly or San Marzano) or
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 slices country style bread toasted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (Evo)
  • to taste salt
  • to taste pepper
  • 1 l simmering water
Cooking Directions
  1. Rub the slices of toasted bread (just one side) with half garlic clove
  2. Drizzle a heavy-bottomed large pan with Evo oil
  3. place in it calamint and the remaining garlic and wait until the oil is hot
  4. place the red onion roughtly chopped in the pan and cook over a medium-low heat until it becames translucent (not brown)
  5. add the roughtly chooped veggies: celery (remind to put in the leaves too), Swiss chard and the spinach (you can also use mushrooms and chicory), and stir briefly to wilt.
  6. Add tomatoes and one cup of simmering water
  7. cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes (lid over the pan) until veggies are very soft, adding the remaining simmering water in 2 times.
  8. Season with salt and taste
  9. place the toasted bread in 4 soup bowls
  10. ladle broth and veggies over the bread in each bowl
  11. when they're full, use a teaspoon to slightly dig a hole in the center of veggies
  12. and break the eggs in this hole, one in each bowl
  13. top with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese
  14. put in the oven 400 F° to grill, for about 15 minutes. Until the whites are set, but the yellow is still runny
Print Recipe

le zuppe sator
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