Tuscany: Food, Wine and “Le Terme”…Need I say more!

Wine tasting in the Banfi Castle, a Fiorentina steak in Montalcino, a fountain/cascade bath in Saturnia and more typical things to discover about Tuscany.
Let me bring Tuscany to you and discover some of the most delicious food, recipes and of course; wine (if you’re a wino like myself you will truly appreciate), and a few other surprises I discovered and wanted to share with all mythineaters.

It all starts in Montalcino the home of “Brunello di Montalcino” a luscious, deep red wine that has to be aged at least 5 years (or 6 years if it’s a Riserva) by Italian law and only made with Sangiovese grapes from the Montalcino vineyards.  If you like it just a little younger there is “Rosso di Montalcino” also luscious and deep red but more subtle, it only has to be aged about a year, still made with Sangiovese grapes from the Montalcino vineyards. Both amazing. The process is quite long, so there are about 2 weeks a year to be exact when the grapes are picked, generally the last week in September and the 1st week in October, then they are selected carefully, placed in these huge tins for fermentation, then moved into wood barrels and for the remainder of the aging they get placed in the bottle and when ready labeled and off to be sold. There are about 300 “Cantine” that you could visit, with some of the most famous in the world known as Banfi, Biondi Santi Franco, Brunelli, Campana, Colombaiolo, Il Poggiolo, Belpoggio, Barbi and Poggio Antico just to name a few.

                                    

The wine is paired beautifully with the Bistecca Fiorentina which is a loin cut from the male cow raised only in the Tuscany-Umbria region called Chianina . The bone has a “T” shape know as a T-bone steak in the USA, the smallest you could order is about 1 lb and 9 oz. and 2.3 inches thick. They cook it rare about 3-5 minutes per side (and don’t try to ask well cooked or they will give you a dirty look).  You salt it only at the end when you serve it; we accompanied the steak with some stewed veggies. It really was delicious and melted in our mouth.

               

Another famous dish around here is the “Ribollita” which means re-boiled, because every time you re-heat it, it tastes better. It’s derived from back in the day when the farmers only cooked on Fridays, so they used to get vegetables and old bread, cook it in a huge pot and then reheat it the rest of the week. The two most important ingredients are black cabbage and beans. You top it off with some Extra virgin Olive oil and Bread.

Then you have a lot of boar, that’s the meat they use for their Ragu sauce served with Papardelle.  I had Bresaola made from the Chianina cow served with rucola; and of course I had a delicious fresh Porcini soup. Crostini with Pesto, Patè or Pecorino toscano. And something very simple yet amazing, Ricotta Balls with just a bit of olive oil and Parsley.

                       

After all this delicious food there is of course endless desserts, but myself not being a sweet tooth decided that I would opt for the more simple cookies, afterall this is what Tuscany is known for. You’ve all heard about the world-famous Cantucci aka Biscotti in the USA. Then there is one that I particularly love called Brutti ma Buoni which means ‘Ugly but Good’ (in this case Delicious). It’s simply made with ground Hazelnuts, egg whites, sugar and powdered sugar.

  

Yes, I ate and drank all of this and still managed to go to Saturnia a town about 60 km south-west of Montalcino known for their Terme, which is pretty much a natural Cascade of Sulfur water that is at a normal temp. of 99,5 degrees Farenheit. It’s extremely therapeutic and highly recommended for the skin, bones and any circulatory issues one could have not to mention the relaxing benefits you get from the water. It is the most unique waterfall cascade/spring that I have ever laid my eyes on, supposedly the sulfur causes coves and that is how all theses little pockets are created. I loved every second of it and needed some detox relax after all that drinking.

    

Ciao, Hope you enjoyed Tuscany as much as I did.
 
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Try this: Delicious Tagliatelle ai Funghi (Tagliatelle with Mushrooms)

If you’ve been following my blog you know how much I love to eat healthy and when it’s vegetarian it’s all the better. I think that sometimes we do get the misconception that if it’s healthy it’s probably not quite as good or that it’s not going to curb that craving we are having at the moment for something not too healthy. Well, I can assure you that it is possible to have a delicious and healthy meal all at the same time!

As you already know I love mushrooms, they do have a reputation of being slimy, or too mushy; however the truth is that they aren’t. The mistake alot of us make when cleaning mushrooms is washing them. However, we are not supposed to wash mushrooms, (and please never, never soak fresh mushrooms) the way we are supposed to clean a mushroom is with a damp cloth, you should gently wipe away any dirt, and in the hard to reach places grab your marinade brush (make sure it’s dry) and gently brush away any excess dirt; voilà you have a clean and ready to cook mushroom. Mushrooms are very porous and moist already, so if you wash them they will absorb all the water and when cooked release all the liquid which in turn make it very soggy, cleaning it the right way will help the mushroom maintain a nice texture and also flavor.

In this recipe I use funghi Pleurotos, it’s a type of mushroom that is quite common here in Italy you can find it all the time at the grocery store. I have not ever seen it in the USA but I would replace it with a Portobello, Porcini or Champignon any mushroom you find should be fine. This is an easy and healthy dish, very few ingredients and time are required, but you’ll look like a million dollar chef. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

250 gr. Tagliatelle*

8 oz. of Mushrooms**

1 garlic clove

4 tbsp of Extra virgin Olive oil

a handful of chopped Parsley

grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Salt and Pepper to taste

crushed Chili pepper to taste (optional)

Place a pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime start cleaning your mushrooms, once they are clean you can slice into 1/4 inch thickness, if the stems are long remove the stem and slice separately then join together all sliced mushrooms and set aside.

In a medium or large sauce pan heat up your olive oil and join your garlic (whole but peeled). If you are using chili peppers you can throw in now as well. Allow the garlic to get golden and remove, throw in your mushrooms and let sauté at medium heat stirring occasionally (not too much). Also add salt; if you feel the need you may add a drop of water to the pan, so the mushrooms don’t stick.

By now your water should be boiling so throw in the Tagliatelle they should only cook for about 4 minutes (always follow box instructions). Drain the pasta and join to the mushrooms, mix together and turn off heat. Add the chopped parsley and pepper. Serve right away and top off with the Parmigiano Reggiano.

* If you don’t find Tagliatelle, you can use Papardelle, Linguine, or even Spaghetti.

** Whatever fresh mushroom you are able to find of course Porcini or Portobello is best but use what is fresh and available.