March 15, 2007: Foods of Tuscany I

March 15, 2007

Foods of Tuscany I

Tuscany is justly proud of its indigenous food and drink: olive oil, Chianti classico (red wine from the well-defined Chianti region), Vernaccia di San Gimiano (dry white wine), peccorino (sheep’s milk) cheese, bistecca fiorentina (beefsteak from range-fed cattle).
This note concentrates on a few distinctive dishes, typical of how the food is served.

Ribollita

The most typical of Tuscan foods, sometimes (misleadingly) described as “stale bread soup.” The Tuscan counterpart of cassoulet, a thick hearty soup full of white beans, bread, black kale (cavallo nero), redolent of garlic and onion, enriched with olive oil. At its best, this is a rich, lively, filling dish. “Ribollita” literally translates as “reboiled;” the dish is a pot-au-feu, prepared, reheated, and suitable to be served over several days.

Pasta al zucca

Pasta with “pumpkin.” Any of the many forms of pasta prepared with a sauce of sweet rich fruity squash — pumpkin is close though the squash looks greener on the outside. Surprisingly complex and flavorful.

Carpaccio di pesce affumicato

Smoked (uncooked) fish. Very moist and fresh. Typically swordfish (spada), salmon (salmone), and tuna (tonnato). Distinctive fresh complex mild flavors. If you like novy (Nova Scotia lox), you’ll love carpaccio di pesce affumicato.

Tagliate di manzo

Tuscan beefsteak grilled rare and sliced, served in a green salad including radiccio and thin-sliced peccorino, dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lively and rich.

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