Monday, June 28, 2010

Tuscan dreams

The radio bores me to distraction these days. It seems that the only artists that get any air time are Lady Gaga and that Beiber kid. No thanks.

So, the other day when I was at the lovely main branch of the library, I perused the books on CD section. I settled on Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. I enjoyed the movie based on the book, so I figured it was a good choice.

Thanks to this book, I am completely enjoying my drives to and from work. Sometimes I take a longer route just to listen about her farmhouse renovation, the lovely markets she describes, and the fantastic dishes she creates in her humble kitchen, using the simplest, freshest ingredients that I absolutely covet.

When she goes into the formaggeria, the cheese monger knows (before the even orders) that she prefers the buffalo mozzarella over the cow version. Oh to have that sort of relationship, and the products that she has just over the hill in Cortona makes me positively jealous.

Her imagery takes me back to when I went to school in Italy, in Perugia, which is not far at all from Cortona. I remember walking down the block to the pizzeria and ordering my favorite pizza with funghi and prosciutto. It was cracker thin with lovely flavorful ingredients, and I washed it down with my favorite orange Fanta. Perfection.

I am so glad I am reading this in the summer, because if I read this in the winter, when good, local fresh vegetables are non-existent, I would be positively depressed. I have decided that, since it is summer, I will go to the Farmers Market for the bulk of my shopping, and only visit the big box grocery when absolutely necessary. And, since I'll be so close to Germantown, I'll hop on over to Lazzaroli pasta for some lovely fresh mozzarella, and whatever else tickles my culinary fancies.

I can't wait for the clock to read 5:00, so I can get back to my audio book. I'm at the halfway point!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer time...and the livin' is easy

Oh hi hello dearest blog. I have missed you, and I will try to feed you with more words. Let's see...where to start. My cooking classes are on summer recess. It is just too hot outside to be in a kitchen. And there are far to many lovely country roads that me and my husband want to find in his convertible. I will be starting up my classes once again when the weather is more temperate - in the Fall.

I have been thoroughly enjoying the bounty of produce at the Nashville Farmers Market. Seriously I do not know how I will bring myself to buy my fruits and veg in a big box grocery store again. I bought the most pristine eggplant at the Market the other Saturday, and I made (what I called) a deconstructed ratatouille with it, served over brown rice. But don't worry, I had ice cream for dessert, to balance out the healthiness of my meal.

When I go to the Farmers Market, I also go to Lazzaroli Pasta, just a hop and a skip away from the Market in Germantown. The proprietor has the loveliest home made pasta, pizza dough, salami and cheeses. It makes my soul smile. I picked up some doppio zero flour for future pasta creations, and a bag of Italian pretzels, known as taralli. But, my main reason for visiting them on a Saturday is very important.

She makes mozzarella on Saturdays.

Have you ever had freshly made, warm mozzarella? It is a gorgeous thing. All I do is slice it and dress it with freshly cracked black pepper, and perhaps a drizzle of a good balsamic olive oil.

There is also a fantastic appetizer that I make with fresh mozzarella, that I call an Italian quesadilla. It is so simple. You heat up a large skillet with two tablespoons of canola oil. Place a flour tortilla in the oil once it is hot, and then add slices of fresh mozzarella to cover, but try not to get too close to the edges of the tortilla. Add a dash of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Continue cooking until the mozzarella begins to melt, and then add a second tortilla, and flip it over in the pan, so that the tortilla you just added to the pan is now on the bottom. This is why it is important to let your mozzarella melt before you flip. Once the bottom tortilla gets golden on the edges, remove the Italian quesadilla to a cutting board, and cut it into wedges, and serve. It is so crispy, creamy and perfect, that you may be tempted to smack your guests hands away if they dare to take a wedge, but don't. Sharing is a Kindergarten principle y'all.