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Posted 07/27/2011

Rome: City of Artichokes

One of the things you hear often when Italian food is described is that it’s seasonal. When a particular vegetable comes into season, you’ll see it in every market and on every menu – it’s a bit overwhelming, and yet it’s easy to see why people would get so excited about an ingredient they only see briefly every year.

Visitors to Rome in the spring, for instance, will be hard-pressed to avoid artichokes. Thankfully, there are a couple of varieties in the way they’re most often prepared, so you don’t risk getting artichoked-out quite so easily.

Cultivating and eating artichokes is nothing new – their consumption has been documented for more than 3,000 years and they were well-loved by the Ancient Romans – but it wasn’t until the 15th century that their popularity began to spread throughout Italy and then the rest of the world. Today, artichokes are grown in almost every Italian region, and Italy produces roughly 2/3 of the artichokes the world consumes. No city in Italy is more closely associated with the artichoke, however, than Rome. Continue Reading…

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Posted 07/18/2011

Summer Cooking Camps

Well, I am back again and excited to share some of my stories about cooking with kids. I spent two full weeks in the kitchen of Sur la Table stirring up some fun with kiddos from grades 1st through 5th. The first week, we all got our kitchen passports stamped with a culinary trip around the world. The second week was filled with the heavenly aromas of baked treats, both sweet and savory. After observing my class, my boss crowned me “The Kid Whisperer”. While I was flattered and humbled by the compliment, it lead me to ponder how I could share some tips and activities with the “grown-ups” who want to learn more about having fun in the kitchen with the little chefs in their lives. Continue Reading…

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Posted 07/13/2011

Livorno, A Tuscan Melting Pot

At the hint of summer’s arrival, when the days grow longer but unbearably hotter, city-dwelling Tuscans flee to cooler places. Usually, the plan is an easy, breezy escape to the sea where working on a tan and eating copious amounts of fresh seafood are involved. One of the favourite areas is the Etruscan coast, a beautiful part of Tuscany with pretty beaches, untouched nature and, more importantly, fantastic food.

It begins at Livorno, a port city that is widely overlooked, and runs a good 60 miles to Piombino. While the rest of the coast is dotted with beaches, inviting coves, medieval villages, vineyards and olive groves, Livorno is one of those places with a rough-around-the-edges exterior but a down to earth interior. Continue Reading…

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Posted 07/11/2011

The Ribbed Florentine

In the Tuscan culinary tradition, the Ribbed Tomato of Florence (pomodoro costoluto da sugo), also known as “Florentine”, is a basic ingredient of a sauce nowadays considered quite ordinary. However, it has not always been like this. In fact, one hundred years ago, it was considered a solemn dish which contributed to the success or failure of the lunches held on the occasion of winter feasts, viz. Christmas, New Year’s Day, Epiphany and last Thursday before Lent. Its delicious aroma filled the air, promised abundant pleasures of the table, good humour, a reunited family, in short a festive atmosphere. Continue Reading…

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Posted 07/05/2011

Genuinely Sourced: Summer of Riesling!

Please excuse my honest ignorance, and let me admit that when I heard Paul Giamatti in Sideways scream, “I’m not drinking Merlot!” I thought, me neither.  And the same thing happened when my grandmother was the only person at the family dinner ordering Riesling, I thought, no thanks. I chose red.  Not Merlot, just red.  It was a safe, easy choice, and I knew upon tasting whether or not I liked that particular red or not, but not why.  Then I moved to Italy.

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Posted 07/05/2011

Frenchie and the Corsican Village Food

6:30 am on the dot. Feeling so tired from yesterday’s drive on the Corsican mountain roads. The pale and transparent morning light comes through the shutters and brightens up the bedroom slightly. Surrounded by calmness while laying in bed. The rooster just crowed. The donkey just hee hawed. I open the shutters to discover for the first time a magnificent rugged view of the village rural roofs and discern the wonderful rebellious mountainous landscape in the background. And here’s the sun!—warming land and people. Today will be a slow day. Today will be a lazy day. Yes, today will be a Corsican food day!

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Posted 06/28/2011

Turin: City of Chocolate (and Hazelnuts)

Back in January, in my very first post on Under the Tuscan Gun, I wrote about one of the sweetest topics a food blog can cover – a chocolate festival. Perugia’s EuroChocolate is undoubtedly the most famous chocolate festival in Italy, but chocoholics should take note – it’s not the only chocolate festival in the country. In fact, there’s another city up north with a claim to one of the most popular chocolate flavor combinations ever created.

The city is Turin, and the flavor is chocolate-hazelnut – or, as it’s known in Turin, gianduja. Continue Reading…

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Posted 06/16/2011

Frenchie and the Corsican Secret

If you ever go to Corsica, chances are you will spend most of your time exploring the treasures of the coast, rolling around on the island’s perfect sand beaches and tan until your skin gets to a shade of brown no one will ever be able to properly identify. This is the typical Corsica: what tourists have in mind and want to do. But the Corsican soul and heritage does not limit itself to just the coast and it has many mystical secrets – one of them I am about to reveal. Continue Reading…

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Posted 06/11/2011

Grow Great Grub! Treat you garden to a new book

I’m more of an internet-using kind of gardener, but I will occasionally turn to garden books when I’m looking for ideas or information. I find I’m more discerning in the kinds of garden books I’ll buy or recommend than any other choices I make in my life. Garden books should be beautiful and inspire you to try to grow-not just a garden-but grow as a gardener. One of my favorite gardening books is Grow Great Grub which is now entering its 5th printing. If you haven’t come across this book yet I highly recommend it, especially for beginner gardeners who are just getting into growing some of their own food. Continue Reading…

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