A Taste Of Tuscany

When I was a little girl and lived in the mountainous region of western Slovakia near a village called Dobra Voda, my mother told me about her first trip to Italy just before she graduated from college. She talked about the wonderful culture, the many palaces, museums, and art pieces, as well as the liveliness of the piazzas, the friendliness of the people and the superb countryside of the Mediterranean country

The food had also a great impact on her. I remember how vividly she described eating her first oysters in Napoli, the delightful ice creams in Rome and the many dishes she truly enjoyed all along her trip.

In 1968, I went to Italy for the first time and I fell in love with Florence and Tuscany. I first went to see the famous Ponte Vecchio with the many little shops that long ago used to be butcher shops and now are mostly souvenir shops. And then, we travelled around Florence by car stopping here and there as we wished. As far as one could see in the distance, there were hills, beautifully kept vineyards and groves of olive trees and orchards, fields of sunflowers and other flowers. My love for Italian food dates from this first trip where we stopped in many little trattoria that served beautiful pazanella (salad of bread and fresh vegetables), and delightful pasta accompanied with a glass (or two) of Chianti.

Here are a couple of recipes that I like very much:

Chicken Breast with Oven-roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Chicken Breast with Oven-roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Chicken Breast with Oven-roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients for 4 persons:

– 4 tbsp of olive oil

– 4 chicken breasts cut into slices

– garlic (5 cloves)

– 1 cup pitted mixed green and black olives

– 8 tbsp of cut up flat leave parsley

– 4 oven-roasted tomatoes* sliced into half moon pieces

– ¾ of a cup (or more if needed) of red wine

– 1 cup of chicken bouillon

Directions

• Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

• Heat the oil in a saucepan, dredge the pieces of chicken in flour and cook on each side for 4 to 5 minutes.

• Take chicken out of the frying pan, dry them on a paper towel and place them in a baking dish.

• Mix together all remaining ingredients, place it over the chicken and pour the red wine and half of the bouillon.

• Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Take it out and turn the slices of chicken. Check if you need to add the other half of the bouillon. Put it back in the oven for 20 more minutes. Serve with rice.

Remark: This recipe works also beautifully with fillet of pork.

* Oven-roasted tomatoes:

Halve four tomatoes, put in an oven-proof dish. Mince 4 cloves of garlic on the tomatoes and sprinkle one tbsp each of thyme, oregano, rosemary and basil. Add salt and pepper. Pour ¾ cup of olive oil and let it cook slowly in the oven on 160 degrees C for 1 hour. Take it out and pour the oil over the tomatoes and put in back in the oven for another hour. DELICIOUS!

Eggplants Parmegiana

Ingredients for 4 persons:

– 3 medium size eggplants thinly sliced

– flour for dredging eggplants

– 2 cups sunflower seed or grape-seed oil for frying eggplants

– salt/pepper

– 4 cups of tomato sauce (using 8 to 12 fresh tomatoes depending on size or 2 tins of peeled tomatoes)

– 1 cup of fresh basil leaves torn to pieces or half a cup of dried basil

-100 gr. of grated parmesan and 200 gr. grated mozarella mixed together

Directions

• After washing the eggplants, slice them thinly, add salt and let it drain for 30 minutes.

• Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

• Rinse the eggplants and dry them well.

• Lightly dredge the sliced eggplants in the flour, fry in the oil for 4/5 minutes, drain on paper towels and salt them.

• Put some tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and add a layer of eggplant, then another layer of sauce, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, parmesan and mozzarella.

• Repeat the process until all eggplants are used finishing with tomato sauce basil and parmesan/mozzarella.

• Bake in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

• Serve four people generously.

Bon appetit!

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