Sunday, April 18, 2010
The Italian Meal
Traditional Italian meals are broken into four courses: antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce. Most classic ristoranti will expect you to order at least Antipasto and Secondo or Primo and Secondo courses. When you're eating in Italy, you'll likely want them all:
Antipasto. An appetizer course, sometimes accompanied by an aperitivo, such as a glass of prosecco, a sparkling white wine. Antipasti in Tuscany tend to be light, such as a few slices of bruschetta or crostini, which is bruschetta with a topping.
Primo. The soup or pasta course. Don't think of it as your main meal. Primi are usually starchy, perhaps a risotto or some gnocchi. Portion sizes may be smaller than you expect for pasta, but that's because you're nowhere near being finished.
Secondo. The main dish, usually meat or fish, almost always accompanied by a contorno, or vegetable side dish, that is usually ordered separately.
Dolce. The "sweet" course, although it's more likely to be a cheese. Italians like something to accompany the end of the bottle of wine. There might be fruit and some fresh walnuts, or perhaps a ricotta tart. You can now sit back and sip a glass of vin santo with a few cantucci, as Tuscans call their biscotti, or maybe drink a potent digestivo before balancing a last cup of espresso (sugar but no milk!) on your groaning belly.
Dining in Italy
Go with the flow in Italy's restaurants and feel free to ask the waiters for help. Italians are warm and welcoming to visitors who love their food. Even the humblest trattoria will change its menu based on what looked good in the market that morning, so don't miss out on specials of the day. And don't hesitate to read up on the subject. Mario Batali says, "The best book for travelers to Tuscany is Faith Willinger's Eating in Italy."
Italians tend to dine a little later than Americans, so don't be surprised if the restaurant is empty at 7:00--the locals will start filing in around 9:00. The tip usually already will be on your bill in the coperto, which is the "bread and service" charge, later divided among the restaurant staff. Diners also have the option, but not the obligation, to leave a little extra something on the table just for the person who waited on them.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
While in Florence we tasted the best Gelato ever! My Favorite by far was....But first the story!
Florence is recognized by many as a gelato capital of Italy, where it’s harder to have bad gelato than it is to have good gelato - My sister Roxana a travel specialist to Italy suggested this stop for Gelato. I knew right then what my mission had to be - eat as much gelato in Florence as I could. It’s a tough job, but I knew I had to do it. For the children.
So in this City of Gelato, is there one shop that is considered by locals and tourists alike to be the pinnacle of the art form. In fact, there is - it’s Vivoli. I visited in mid-March, late afternoon just after visiting the remarkable Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church in Florence, Italy. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini, and Marconi, thus it is known also as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell'Itale Glorie). We walked a few blocks and then we saw it. There was only a small neon sign glowing above the door. The neighborhood was simple and quaint. You pay first and go. The best about eating gelato is that you can ask for multiple flavors, 3 is the norm.
Location: Via Isola delle Stinche 7 50122 Florence; it’s roughly a block northwest of the Piazza Santa Croce
Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 09:00-01:00 (closed in August and January-early February)
More Information: http://www.vivoli.it/, tel - +39 055 292 334
Good to Know: The portions are a little smaller, and prices are a little higher - so if you can splurge, get one size bigger than you usually get. Also, there are no cones available at Vivoli - only cups.
But PLEASE do not confuse it with “ice-cream”.
Gelato is NOT ice-cream. Gelato is Italy’s version of ice cream, with three differences.
First, gelato has less butte fat than ice cream. Most Gelato has 10% butterfat. Ice Cream can have as much as 30%
However, less fat does not mean less taste. With the lower butterfat content, gelato is less frozen and melts in the mouth faster. Custard does the same.
Second, gelato has a much higher density than ice cream. Ice cream is produced by mixing cream, milk and sugar, then adding air. Manufacturers add air to ice cream because it nearly doubles the quantity of their product. But, it cuts their quality in half. No air is added to gelato. The result is a higher quality dessert with a richer, creamier taste.
Third, gelato is served slightly warmer than ice cream. While both gelato and ice cream are served well below the freezing temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, gelato is served 10 to 15 degrees warmer than ice cream. Because it is less solidly frozen, gelato’s taste is further enhanced as it melts in the mouth.
It's all about the flavor!
During the Roman Empire Emperor, Nero would send his team of slaves into the mountains to find snow which would be mixed with honey to form a sweet refreshing treat. He would also add spices, leaves and fruit, creating an early version of gelato.
• Marco Polo, the Italian explorer, discovered flavoured ices on his travels to the East and introduced it back to Europe where it was called "Sorbetto" and was instantly popular with wealthy folk.
• Some believe that gelato was created in Italy by Bernardo Buontalenti for Francesco de' Medici in 1565.
Italy has long been considered throughout the world as the best place for ice cream. Many years ago, gelato was created in the far North by the people of Dolomite and in the far South by Sicilians. In Dolomite, the gelato was made with milk, eggs, sugar, cream and natural flavors. Snow was kept in underground storages during the Winter and when tourists visited Dolomite in the summer, the sale of gelato was a major source of income for its people. In the far South, gelato was lower in fat, water based, higher in sugar content and was called 'Sorbetto'.
As the years passed, recipes have changed and been refined and new techniques are used. The Italians, however, are still very passionate about their gelato and sorbettos. In Palermo, an ice-cream sandwich is often eaten on the run for breakfast. And in the markets, vendors slice buns in half and plop a scoop of gelato in the middle. In the summer months many gelato shops in Italy (gelaterie) stay open until 1 a.m. or even later.
Thanks to MAPLE RIDGE for the great info.
Vanilla ( per serving size of 100g)
Calories Total Fat (g) Total Carb. (g) Sugars (g)
Gelato 150 4.5 24 23
Cold Stone 235 14 23 20
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The Central Market in Florence is amazing! The area around San Lorenzo is probably the busiest in Florence and well-worth a visit on your Italy vacation. During the day, street vendors sell anything from t-shirts to leather goods. The Central Market (Mercato Centrale) is housed inside a large two-story building designed in the 19th century.
On the ground floor of the Central Market, vendors sell meats, fish and a variety of cheeses. If you are in the area at lunchtime, you can try one of the already prepared Tuscan take-out foods. On the first floor of the market one can purchase fresh fruit, vegetables as well as dried fruit, nuts, honey, homemade pasta, wine, herbs, and other produce.
Oils and vinegars, cheeses and meats, fresh and dry produce, the stalls were endless, and beautiful. And many contained my favorite item of all - free samples. I could imagine living here and coming every morning to do my shopping.
We tasted wounderful balsamic vinegar's that we well over 50 years old.
This is a wonderful dish using a balsamic glaze. Simple and easy!
You can watch me cook it at http://www.lillydiabetes.com/content/virtual-kitchen.jsp
Caramelized Salmon with Fruit Salsa
1 1⁄2 pounds fresh salmon filet with skin 3 tablespoons Splenda 1⁄2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper Canola oil
For the fruit salsa: 1⁄4 cup fresh papaya, chunked (or use canned)
1⁄4 cup fresh pineapple, chunked (or use canned) 2 fresh strawberries 1⁄4 cup diced peaches (if in season) 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 leaf fresh mint
For the glaze: 1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup water 1⁄4 cup brown sugar
For the glaze, add balsamic vinegar, water, and brown sugar to a small sauce pan and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until it reaches the thickness of maple syrup. Stir often. For the salmon, stir Splenda and fresh cracked pepper together on a plate.
Dip the salmon into the mixture skin-side up and rub into the sugar mixture (only one side is needed). Place the salmon, skin-side up, into a pan pre-heated with a little Canola oil and cook over medium heat for 4-6 minutes. Then place the pan into a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily. Don’t turn the fish! For the fruit salsa, dice the pineapple, papaya, strawberries, and peaches and place into a bowl.
Add fresh mint and lime juice. When the salmon is finished cooking, place it on a serving plate with the Splenda side up, and spoon the fruit salsa over the warm fish. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the salmon and garnish with fresh mint. Serves 4.