Mangia Pizza Firenze- new street food on the block

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I recently discovered a new street food joint called Mangia Pizza Firenze on a recent route planning trip for a gelato tour I have on the agenda. The reason I say food “joint” is because it’s not quite a restaurant, not quite a hole in the wall but also not quite a pizzeria. As I was passing by on my bike, this Mangia Pizza joint caught my eye- with it’s modern, humble aesthetics and a wood fired oven and an awning with “street food” written on it, I figured I’d let my curiosity lead me inside to at least check out the menù.

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The very sweet owner Melania invited me to sit at the bar. I notice they make thin(ish) ciabatta style pizzas- one with black truffle especially makes me wish I hadn’t (almost) just had lunch. Also, they have very gourmet combinations with local gastronomic identity- a ciabatta pizza with local sheep’s milk pecorino cheese and baccelli di fave  (like fava beans.) It is a super Tuscan snack/appetizer to nosh on baccelli di fave, pecorino with a glass of Chianti. I always say “Oh, that’s like suuuuper Tuscan” on my food tours. And I almost hope they don’t get confused with the wine or that I’m talking about Italian food culture with valley girl slang. Anyways! Meanwhile, a couple tourists came in and she had just sent her English-speaking colleague out for an errand and asked me to translate a quick word. Another couple came in who spoke English, and by that time I was explaining to them the menù, how the word ciabatta means “slippers” and that’s why ciabatta are shaped like so.

Ciabatta: a slipper of pizza :)

Ciabatta: a slipper of pizza :)

 

Also, what it means when a pizzeria advertises dough risen with “pasta madre” and the 48 hour slow-rise, natural fermentation process. To show her appreciation, she offered me a little snack and then we got on more to talking and I was really impressed (not only with the pizza and focaccia) but with the shop  itself. Melania has an extensive background in the restaurant world and started out working in a bakery where her passion for naturally leavened and risen breads as well as exquisite desserts was born.

Naturally, risen breads. After you eat this, you will snub sliced bread forever.

Naturally, risen breads. After you eat this, you will snub sliced bread forever.

 

Obviously not busy enough having just opened a street food pizzeria, she also cooks up a storm at Enosteria Mangia in Prato (looks yummy!).

The little snack I enjoyed (yeah, lunch smunch) was tiny pizza panini (crispy, soft salty and oily bread) with a buffalo milk mozzarella and homemade pesto and another little pizza panino with mortadella ham. And of course some bubbly. My new favorite food and wine pairing: Pizza and bubbles.

 

Not a bad snack.

Not a bad snack.

I was impressed that for a little pizza shack, joint what-have-you, Melania seems to be pretty keen on producing good quality street food with a placed importance on ingredients and locality. For instance, she was telling me she only uses jarred, not tinned, tomatoes which are organic and come from the Maremma (the Tuscan south and the land of fabulous agriculture) which means rich flavorful tomatoes that are bright red, thickish and not super watery which makes the crust all soggy. You can get a half ciabatta pizza for like €3-4 if my memory serves me right. Plus, they have half-bottles of wine (including their own private label Chianti), strictly artisan Italian craft beers and of course delicious, creamy sharp palate cleansing bubbly by the glass.

I am pretty fussy about pizza and I really don’t like how everyone in Florence goes gaga for gustapizza just because they toss some dough in the shape of a heart. (Ahem, Grinch alert). This along with La Divina Pizza are thus far my favs for gourmet street pizza in Florence. If you are fussy about portions, these places are not for you. I am quite into quality over quantity and I’m willing to pay a little bit more for fancy figs, artisan cured meat, finely selected tomatoes or burrata cheese on a naturally risen (aka non stomach ache inducing) pizza bite. After all, eating out should be a treat not solely for stuffing your pie-hole.

When the moon hits the sky like a big pizza pie,

That’s a curious appetite….

pssst: Mangia Pizza Firenze Via Lambertesca 24/26r tel: 055 287595

Italian food and wine found in America that belong in the garbage

I realize I take Italian food for granted living in Italy and all. Recently I was reminded of such when someone actually told me they were wanting to take a cooking class in Venice and wanted to learn how to make…not ciccheti. Not a wondrous Venetian fish risotto. But pepperoni pizza. That obviously Venice is famous for.

!!!

I wanted to cry. I wanted to laugh and barf all at the same time. But I realized, for the unassuming American tourist or any culture where the disgusting pepperoni pizza exists, that this is what they actually think is an Italian food.

It is not. Pepperoni pizza, the pizza with some garbage dough (with 60 ingredients) and sliced slim jim over-nitrated mechanically separated donkey meat is something the industrial food revolution has fooled us into liking. It does not exist in Italy apart from dinky, smelly tourist traps and the frozen section of the supermarket (which are called American pizza funny enough). Ya ya, I’m sure a tasty pepperoni pizza pie exists- but it’s not like a traditional Italian food to learn how to make in Venice! By the way pepperoni pizza can mean pizza with bell peppers as peperoni means bell peppers.

Delissio Rising Crust - Pepperoni

DONT eat this in Italy.

So when you are in Italy- do not ask for pepperoni pizza. Unless you do want peppers- but that’s just boring.

If you must have spicy salami on your pizza, DO ask for pizza con salami piccante or ‘nduja (a very spicy salami that is soft and paste-like from Calabria)

DO eat this in Italy.

DO eat this in Italy.

The other myth that belongs in the garbage is in the wine department and that is….PINOT GRIGIO!

Yes, of course Pinot Grigio is an Italian wine so that is not the myth part. However, most of the white Italian wine in the American mainstream is Pinot Grigio from some crap mass producer and it’s usually hangover-inducing lemon water. Virtually every time I am in a wine bar in Florence where an American happened to find it (ya know, I escaped America to be very far away from Americans, right?! Just kidding!!! But I know it could sound that way…) I almost expect them to ask for Pinot Grigio. NOOO!!! Just stop. Of course I understand why since that is the most widely available (and known) Italian white wine in the states and they think that is what they should be ordering in Italy because it’s all they really are exposed to (in the mainstream like trader joes, etc). BUT NO! THERE IS ANOTHER WAY! Okay this is where I get even more opinionated…

So Pinot Grigio is boring UNLESS it comes from a really good producer from the Alto Aldige region or maybe from an wine region that is not particularly known for it like recently I came across a Pinot Grigio that came from biodynamic vineyards in Montalcino where Brunello grapes are cultivated. <— THAT is justification for trying an interesting pinot grigio. Or again, a good producer who isn’t mass producing millions of cases for the thirsty unassuming (and unknowing) wine world.

 

So if you are in Italy, don’t let Pinot Grigio be your go-to: branch out! Personally, I like more aromatic white wines like Muller Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtztraminer from Northern Italy. Some mineral rich whites from Etna (Sicily). Perhaps a nutty Vernaccia di San Gimignano. I also love Franciacorta (a sparkling white wine from Lombardy made primarily of Chardonnay) and of course Prosecco. So you may not agree with me at all since my tastes don’t even line up with the dry likes of a Grigio. I repeat, Pinot Grigio is not all bad! Recently I even gave it a chance with a bottle from the Veneto that was slightly aromatic, pretty juicy with a bright yet dry finish. I paired it with some speck cotto crostini (a type of dried and smoked ham)

Pinot Grigio and Speck- what's not to like?

Pinot Grigio and Speck- what’s not to like?

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pretty good pick from my trusty neighborhood wine shop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you really want a pinot grigio- make sure you tell your barman you want a good one. But just know that Pinot Grigio is not the end all, be all of Italian white wines.

In opinionated arrogance,

Curious Appetite

Why Italy is actually your best friend

If I ever had a bad day in Seattle,  the grey skies, weird overly awkward people, cold, splattery rain and stop and go traffic or a parking ticket would make a bad day even more excruciating. Italy, however, is a kinder friend to you on such an occasion. Over the past nearly 2 years, I have I love Lucybroadcasted my love hate relationship with living in Italy. I imagine it like an “I Love Lucy” episode where Italy does something so despicable like make money disappear in a bad gambling bet with Ethel that I want to chase her around, shaking my fists while yelling “why I oughttaaaaaa!!!”

I also imagine us as 2 teenagers picking on each other, putting glue in my hair and me crying, swearing off this godforsaken place forever. But when push comes to shove, all jokes are put aside and she sits by me and takes care to soothe my woes and shows me all her practical jokes of lost in translation mind games, mean petty vandals and bureaucratic hoops are just done in jest and that deep down- she is really there for me to shower me with sunshine, flowers, beautiful art and above all- pizza and gelato.

Jerseyshore

yep. that happened.

Florence is especially a great place for a pizza pick-me-up because there is O’Vesuvio. It is basically a Neapolitan style pizza pie joint in the city center which was also the same pizza hut that The Jersey Shore worked at when they filmed their “Florence” season. It’s an instant reminder that life can’t be that bad- you are not one of the members of the Jersey shore and you aren’t one of the chumps that had to work with them. Life is good again. And the pizza is semi-edible.

Not only that, Italy will snuggle you with coccoli (fried, salty foccacia-like bread balls) spread with stracchino cheese for just a euro. Not to mention cheap, delicious wine. Artistic nooks laden with history and beauty (i.e. the Accademia gallery which hosts the David statue) And the nice, smiley plump jolly cheese monger who throws in some fava beans to go with that farmstead organic fresh, creamy pecorino (sheeps’ milk cheese) that cost less than the 2 euro gelato you had just 6 minutes prior.

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coccoli…means “snuggles” but they are fried bread balls stuffed with more heart attack worthy foods

Italy may test your nerves, try your patience, chew you up and spit you back out. But when you need it- she will be there. For 6 euros or less. Having the kind of bad day where you don’t even have chump change? She’ll take care of that with beautiful sunsets, warm afternoons and fragrant spring flowers to lift your spirits.

Just be aware, just as soon as you’re nursed back to strength after a few pizzas, countless gelatos, romantic walks, sunny bike rides with the wind caressing your hair (or bald head)- she’ll be back tormenting you with some random backdated overpriced gas bill, a law change that requires you to submit 12 thousand new applications that will take 16 years to register, the local crazy will throw a box at your head, the tax rate will increase by another 8 points and the pharmacist will prescribe you cat tranquilizers or butt plugs instead of enteric-coated ibuprofen. Until then, enjoy your rose and white chocolate gelato among the backdrop of the most wonderful, beautiful country that is: Italia.

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Aperitivo in Florence- a round up.

One of the things I beat like a dead horse to all my friends, whether in America or England, is how amazing the culture of aperitivo is in Italy. It is absolutely amazing, and for so many reasons. I personally extremely appreciate the drinking and eating culture in Italy, not because it’s delicious but because it has taste. It has class. And above all- it has boundaries. The American drinking culture is either like a harsh young wine that stabs your tongue and gives you a nasty hangover in the morning and or an overly oaky cabernet- they either overdo it the cheap way or overdo it in an attempt to be sophisticated. In Italy, at least among the civilized, the basic person knows how to enjoy a glass of wine with a plate of good snacks. I am constantly amused that everyone is basically a foodie by nature, not in America where they have to train to be a foodie. I love that an Italian knows when the acidity is good with a wine, when it’s too flat or when it’s extravagant. Here is how I envision a night in the life of Italian food and drink culture:

Start with an aperitivo. Get a prosecco, light red or white wine or a bitter based cocktail with some snacks like cold cuts, nuts, crackers and crostini to open to hole of your stomach and appetite.

Go to dinner. have a pizza with beer. a nice steak with chianti. or a savory shellfish pasta with a bright white wine. Italians know the basic cornerstones of food and drink pairing. Something that I classify as extremely sexy in a culture. Which is why I am so deeply in love with it.

Have dessert. Whether it be cookies and dessert wine (cantuccini e vin santo) or passito and semifreddo.

Order a post meal coffee. Correct it with a grappa. Skip the grappa and have a digestif or limoncello instead. It is afterall, for the sake of digesting the amazing meal you just had.

Go out to the next locale. Order an herby, syrupy amaro (amaro del capo) on the rocks. More digestif. And the night goes on. Maybe a vodka shot or a cocktail and perhaps since aperitivo you will have accumulated 10 alcoholic units by the end of the evening. But you know why you won’t be wasted and puking in the corner (or in the club)? Because you have taken it easy, you have eaten, your main objective is the enjoy the evening and not unleash your alter ego which you suppress and keep under wraps most days of the week.

So back to the aperitivo thing. Basically, it is where you have access to like a buffet of SNACKS (not meals, like most treat it as) that you have free access to with a purchase of a drink. I think it’s really gross that some younger people (Italian and international) treat aperitivo as a cheap dinner. Okay, I get the economics of it since the work world and the economy is basically screwing all of us young people in the a**. Want a cheap dinner? Get a pizza and a beer and spend just as much as you would spend at a garbage aperitivo buffet. But seriously, the stuff at aperitivo is what I deem “robaccia meaning nasty loads of crap. Most aperitivo bars, that are the most popular among the mainstream, are to me mountains of cheap, overcooked supermarket pasta with canned olives or canned tomatoes and questionable horse meat sauce or random mystery pieces of pork fat. Or canned tuna and starchy rice. Or microwaved tasteless cheap mozzarella on overcooked frozen precut vegetables. It’s disgusting and pure garbage. I like to call most of the dishes “mystery meat” food. And don’t get me started on the overuse of hot dogs in rice and overcooked cold egg frittata. Gross. It seems like with crappola like this, aperitivo buffets are simply using the general public as their garbage disposals for leftover food from the same day’s lunch service.

So I have only a few aperitivo bars that I like and my criteria is as such:

Aperitivo is not a cheap way to have a garbage dinner. It is a way to have a snack and a appetite stimulating drink like a wine, beer or bitter cocktail (like a spritz or negroni) in a social setting before getting real food for dinner. I prefer to go to a bar that has a nice wine list and a small but thoughtful buffet with high quality ingredients. Like GOOD cold cuts, nice cheeses, a salad (with unwilted lettuces), savory bite size pastries, liver pate (fegatino, a Tuscan delicacy) to be spread on rustic breads, crostini, mini caprese salads and the closest thing I want to see to a pasta at an aperitivo is a farro salad or a cold pasta made from a light pasta like Sardinian fregola. With that being said, these are my favorite places to go for aperitivo in Florence:

(from google images!)

(from google images!)

Tamerò in Santo Spirito- Just a few offerings but very good quality like a pappa al pomodoro, cold cuts, fresh grain salads, fried olive oscolane and a decent wine by the glass list. The one time I had pasta here for aperitivo, I didn’t want to complain. They are after all, a pasta bar restaurant. Plus I like the funky, artsy interior. Good bathrooms, too. http://www.tamero.it/

The name "Cabiria" comes from a famous must-see Fellini film. Totally unrelated to aperitivo.

The name “Cabiria” comes from a famous must-see Fellini film. Totally unrelated to aperitivo.

Cabiria in Santo Spirito- Honestly, their buffet is mostly garbage but usually have some cold cuts and an edible salad. Their main claim to fame is that they make an amazingly mean negroni. Quite possibly my favorite place to get a negroni that is strong, unpretentious and won’t break the bank. http://www.cafecabiria.com/

(google images, y'all!)

(google images, y’all!)

Cafè de Paris in Piazza Dalmazia- So I have been here a couple times and they have an extensive buffet that is not all crap. The pasta sucks like at most aperitivo bars but I recall the little tiny sandwiches here and finger foods to be somewhat descent. Plus, it’s pretty spacious and has an outdoor seating ideal for the beautiful weather months in Florence. http://www.cafedeparis.it/

(foto googlato)

(foto googlato)

Bevo Vino- Okay, this is one of my favorite wine bars in Florence as I mentioned already when I wrote about places to eat in San Niccolò. They don’t really have a traditional aperitivo but they sometimes have a nice spread of crostini and upon request will bring you a snack plate of freshly sliced cold cuts, cheeses and breads. They have a decent selection of wines by the glass.

One of my favorite illustrations ever. Taken from the caffe's self-designed calendar. Basically means we're screwed in Italy.

One of my favorite illustrations ever. Taken from the caffe’s self-designed calendar. Basically means we’re screwed in Italy.

Caffe Sant’Ambrogio- This is a pretty buzzing caffe at most hours of the day and they start a buffet aperitivo starting at lunch with good finger foods and savory bite sized pastries. They have a stellar wine list. The wine prices are impressively fair with carefully hand picked selection. I have even come over to buy a bottle for a dinner to take away in lieu of going to a wine shop or the supermarket. The bar staff are really nice and know the wines well. My advice is to get a bottle of wine and split it during aperitivo. They usually have a dependable small buffet of fatty sliced meats, nuts, breads, edible salads and a random almost inedible pasta. Sometimes they have a rice dish I can fathom but I stick to the finger foods and the good wine. http://www.caffesantambrogio.it/

This are the top 5 I can think of off the top of my head. I’ll make some future posts adding on to my opinionated list of “approved” aperitivo selection.

In my curious opinion,

Curious Appetite

 

 

 

Things my palate (and iphone) discovered in Florence

My life, my love and my work is revolved around food and wine. And Italy, too. I knew one day I would move to Italy but I didn’t want to make the move without some intent or direction. I didn’t want to just show up and end up an au-pair or something. So after some time finally I made the leap to try to enter in the food and wine world- in Italy. I have been very lucky that in a country as screwed up as Italy, not just in terms of economy but in terms of the mentality of nepotism, I managed to make a way for myself without knowing anyone. In exactly what I wanted to be doing. Believe me, I took odd jobs, had my patience tested and I did whatever I needed to do even if today I still have to give some English lessons. And (no offense) but I didn’t do it for some guy, from my parent’s trust fund or from help from anyone except my own determination and competitive drive to make anything work . So now that I’ve bored you all to tears with my Dr. Phil Opera book club ego stroke fest, I will tell you that I do plan on writing a book about this experience, it will include of course the token romantic scandal. Stay tuned ;)

I will also tell you what my iphone has eaten in the last few weeks deemed for writing home about. These were mostly enjoyed and discovered thanks to the food work I do…but also to some personal exploring…

1. Lampredotto!

photo1There is a son and father duo on the corner of Via de’ Macci in the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood that dishes up delicious cow guts (lampredotto) and this was in a sort of spicy tomato sauce which I enjoyed on Valentine’s Day as a treat to myself. I am really fascinated by the lampredotto culture in Florence. Actually back in the day carts used to roll around the city selling the gut stuff like real street food purveyors should but now that young people are not carrying on the tradition in combination with it loosing popularity, there are just a few stabilized food stands that sling the goop into panini or plastic bowls around lunchtime. With one euro wine, of course.

2. Big sheets of pasta with a wild boar and walnut sauce!

photo2This was completely fresh and a true farm-to-table dish from Agriturismo San Leo who produces their own wild boar, tomato sauce and various other veggies and artisan foods. I still remember this- pasta so silky, fine and just the right amount of tooth (al dente) and a sauce so savory and incredible textures with the bits of meat and crunchy walnuts that the olive oil has seeped into.

3. Pasta e Ceci with rosemary flowers

photo8This was taken during one of the cooking events promoted by Pitti Taste Festival this last weekend in Florence. This pasta is special because it was made with Pasta di Gragnano which is from a small province of Naples (Gragnano). The pasta is made with hard durum wheat semola and water from the town’s aquifer. It is said the best pasta (noodles) come from Naples. It has a firmer texture, has no eggs and is ideal for soupy pasta dishes or inventive, layered pasta dishes as the noodles are light enough to be a sort of palate for any color instead of stealing the taste spotlight like egg pasta.

Pasta e Ceci is made with a cream of (skinned) chickpeas and it is very indicative of Tuscan cuisine as it is sort of a “poor” dish that packs a hearty punch. Eat this and you’ll be full for hours and dare not ask for seconds. Well, unless it was like this one. Speckled with a final touch of rosemary flowers, this humble poor dish becomes a rich dance of flavors on your palate.

4. Pasta di Gragnano with caviar? Need I say more…

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5. Ribollita (which is a twice cooked Tuscan peasant bread, bean, veg and tomato soup. Very thick!) and Orecchiete (little ear pasta from Puglia!) with yellow squash sauce. Where? The little cheap and gut-busting greasy spoon Trattoria Rocco in the Sant’Ambrogio Market. photo3

6. Wine and cheese flight from a little wine bar tucked behind Ponte Vecchio! On a recent tasting excursion, I gave a wine tasting of white wines from Tuscany and Alto Aldige with a selection of aged sheep’s milk cheeses and fennel salami. I love to showcase whites from two different regions especially like Alto Aldige since they produce white wines from  varieties that happen to be more aromatic (think a can of del monte fruit cocktail on the nose) and juicier on the palate (but round, not like juicy fruit juicy) since the climate and elevation in Tuscany produces more briny, watery bright whites like Vernaccia that aren’t as interesting to me as say a white from Alto Aldige. My (personal) preference is to match aromatic whites with aged cheeses. There is no right or wrong answer! Food and wine is all about personal preference.  Vernaccia is good for when you want to enjoy light, dry yet structured white wines. To me it is more nutty and dry and possibly better with savory finger food appetizers, like salami. BORING wine talk for those who are like yeaaaah I just want wine- aka 90% of the wine drinking population.

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7. Oh man! The best charcuterie board from the best gastronomia (foodie small plate wine bar bistro-like) in town! Vivanda!photo7Basically, a friend of mine is the chef here and she whipped me up a board of Spanish cured ham and Tuscan cold cuts with a variety of cheeses that included a slightly spicy crumbly hard aged umami packed blue cheese, a savory nutty aged sheeps milk cheese and a fresh creamy brie-like cheese from Piedmont. Of course with a glass of their own produced organic Chianti Classico wine. I especially love Vivanda, not just because a special fellow Seattleite runs the show, but because they produce their own organic wine and showcase cold cuts, compotes, and cheeses from local, sustainable slow food approved producers.

8. FRIED SUGARY RICE BALLS. Aka Frittelle 

photo6So apparently in Venice, these small popper desserts are NOT made with rice and supposedly in Tuscany they screwed it up by making an already heavy thing even heaver by adding rice to the fried pastry mixture. These are brimming the Italian streets along with coriandoli (confetti) during Carnevale in Italy. Why? Well, since before lent you’re apparently supposed to let everything go and eat, drink and do whatever is indulgent- fried sugary pastry balls make a lot of sense. ESPECIALLY when they are filled with cream or nutella. Diabetes with your Fat Tuesday, madame?

9. I almost forgot- a tiny humble beef and tomato tartare, doused in fresh peppery olive oil paired with a Rosso di Valtellina by ARPEPE.

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Which is— a red wine of Nebbiolo nature (the same grape that goes into Barolo and Barbaresco) produced in the Valtellina (small region in Lombardy which borders the Swiss!). The reason this wine is unique is because Nebbiolo typically belongs in Piedmont but actually ripens quite lightly and nicely in the cooler, higher elevated Valtellina producing a easy drinking earthy red wine that is light yet structured enough to match with simple meat dishes like a tartare.

And there you know what my diet consists of! Diabetes, here I come!

Yours in tasting delight,

Curious Appetite

Organic, sustainable cheese tasting in Tuscany

Historical town center of Montepulciano

Historical town center of Montepulciano

I recently visited a local farm for a cheese and wine tour in the Tuscan town Montepulciano, (just 1.5 hours south of Florence) and I have to say I had my mind blown just a little bit.

The farm I visited has a little over 100 sheep and goat to produce the typical pecorino toscano cheese that is so fundamental to Tuscan cheese culture.  Pecorino is Italian for sheep milk cheese (although some mix in some goat milk), and  Tuscany is not the only region that has its own pecorino cheese. Like you may have heard of pecorino romano (from Lazio) or pecorino sardo (from Sardinia). History of sheep’s milk cheese dates back several centuries as the food was a luxury item for the nobility but also at the same time a form of sustenance for pastoral peasants as the cheese packs a lot of flavor when aged (perfect for enhancing a peasant vegetable soup) or a lot of nutrition when fresh (like fresh pecorino).

curious farmimals

curious farmimals

What was interesting to me is that the farm was completely organic and produced also grains (which they use for pasta and bread making), olive oil (like everyone in Tuscany- olive trees are everywhere here), wine and apiculture (honey!). I was happy to see some young people working the farm because this today is sort of trendy but realistically, a self-sustaining farm is how Italians have survived in historically poor eras and how many rural societies operate today.Rural communities produce and exchange (or sell) with their neighbors and on a small (organic) scale, it can work.

Peacocks are on the organic farm because they are a sort of snake control patrol

Peacocks are on the organic farm because they are a sort of snake control patrol

However, more and more people are becoming less and less interested in working in the fields and migrating to cities for office jobs. Part of this has forced big farms to become the norm and thus increased their thirst (and need) for profit by using non-organic means. There is no way the world can produce natural, organic small scale produced food for what like 7 billion people especially when agronomists and farmers are dwindling and land grabs for urban sprawl are increasing.

As much as I am a huge proponent for sustainable, organic food- I also realize that at this current time it is impossible to expect. However, in a small country like Italy- it could make sense. Except the fact that people are generally poor here and it makes sense for a family to buy a kilo of breakfast cookies for €4 euros by a huge multinational who is probably sourcing flour from several countries (whose quality standards I question) than buy organic whole grain locally baked ones for more than triple the price. There is no way a bag of cookies that weighs a kilo could cost €4 without cutting corners, and in my opinion- safety.

More and more I see the importance of organic food production. Digesting agri-chemicals which leave residue on our food undoubtedly is unhealthy and increases our risk for disease when constantly exposed. It’s not just consuming the food with chemical residue- it’s the production plants that undoubtedly pollute the air and water of nearby towns. It’s a risk to the farm workers breathing in the sprays in the fields.  It’s the petrol chemicals being refined in order to produce them. It’s the fracking for oil which then pollutes our environment (water included) which is then needed to extract energy to produce agrichemicals. But as much as I am lecturing on about this- I don’t see any other realistic alternative at this time. Unless of course, we all go back to nature and learn to be somewhat self-sufficient. Or until green energy becomes profitable. Organic food is definitely profitable but that means only a select few can actually afford it. And that’s not right. Everyone has the right to clean and healthy food that won’t poison them. But something has got to give. We need to learn how to even just grow herbs on our windowsill. I have friends in Italy who are letting their family vineyards be demolished because they have no interest in carrying on the tradition of family wine production. We need to somehow bring back interest in self-sufficiency and pressure our elected officials to invest more in organic agriculture and divest in agribusiness. We decidedly depend too much on the market to provide things we can’t be bothered to produce and demand too much from it to be perfect.

Cheese drying, fresh ricotta and Pecorino Cheese flight- starting from 2 days old to 2 years old. Honey included.

Cheese drying, fresh ricotta and Pecorino Cheese flight- starting from 2 days old to 2 years old. Honey included.

So I didn’t talk so much about the amazing cheese flight, floral thick honey and the lovely homestyle organic wine…because well, these topics impressed me more. That a group of people have chosen to go against the grain and live a rough, rural lifestyle for the sake of clean food. These people have to work hard to maintain an organic production site- it’s not always rosy. They have to decide to live in the inefficiencies of the countryside in total isolation. But it is a sacrifice that creates beautiful foods that nourish not only the people that visit, but keeps the idealism alive that the world can be a healthy, organic and green planet. 

The grass is always greener on the other side

The grass is always greener on the other side

Yours in organic advocacy,

Curious Appetite

Making fresh pasta in Seattle

This was a little instagram video from a very lovely Larissa in Seattle during our last cooking date together when I was in America last year.
(video credits to laradrop on Instagram)

Making fresh pasta is ridiculously easy as long as you have a machine where you can roll out dough and cut the sheets. You just need time and patience. Fresh cut pasta can keep in the freezer for a while (but why would you store it if you could…eat it) or the fridge for like 5 days.

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This is what you do:
Weigh out 200 grams of semolina flour (you can find it at whole foods or pcc, or the organic section of conventional supermarkets strangely enough)
Weigh out another 200 of all purpose or better yet farina “00″

- Mix the flours in a bowl with a pinch of salt.

- Make a mound on the counter top.

- Poke a volcano hole in the top that would fit 4 small-medium eggs.

- Fork over flour little by little until you’ve covered the entire egg blob.

Then have at it! Maul that sucker into a ball, making sure every grain of flour is absorbed by the egg liquid. Put your palm into it, treat it as if your forming a dough ball. Bread bakers, you should be pros at making a pasta ball. You should knead your pasta ball into submission aka a very clean, uniform ball until it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Let your pasta dough ball rest covered in plastic cling wrap for about half an hour. Fridge or no fridge. I do it in fridge. Literally.

When you are ready to roll your dough, cut off wedges from the ball (see video for a vague example)

Instructions for rolling out pasta with a machine

Smash your wedge to simulate a sort of stuffed circular pastry, flat enough so it can fit through the pasta machine’s widest setting. Flatten and roll dough through 1st setting (there should be either 0-8 or 1-8) and feed through the flattening attachment. Fold. Run through 1st setting again. Fold again. Run through 1st setting again. Fold again. Now before you run through, stop. Bump up your setting to #2. Run through folded dough. Run again. Now bump the dial up to #3 and roll through sheet once for each numbered setting (once for #3, once for #4, etc) bump up dial after until you reach sheet thickness of your liking. I personally like flattening until #6 or #8 depending on the machine. Try to dust each sheet of pasta with some flour so it doesn’t stick or tear as you move up the dials.

With your finished sheets- make the pasta of your choice: ravioli, tagliatelle (like in the vid), taglierini or use the sheets to make lasagna. let the pasta sheets dry out for a few minutes if you are going to use them for cut pasta unlike ravioli which needs to be filled and sealed almost immediately.

Questions? Leave them and I will answer.

Curious Appetite