Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Toscana in Cucina....mmm... FOOD!

Okay --

The goofy picture on the cover LOOKS like it should be a cookbook from China (I am NOT stereotyping...honest). The style of hat looks more chinese / asian than anything I've seen in Italy (admittedly, I haven't seen much of rustic farming attire from Tuscany.... but...)

I also admit I tend to stay far away from most cookbooks. They are either TOO exotic for me (which means I have to go out & BUY tons of expensive bits that I don't normally stock in my kitchen) or the recipes will take FAR too much time to make -- baseball season started this week. Time is precious and most of it is spent transporting people, compiling piles of gear, etc.

This book however, caught my fancy. Partly because it's one of the books from my newest purchase of mostly NON-FICTION (gasp!) books which I am entering madly on my website in hopes that orders will spike up and keep the bill paying thing going.

This particular book is, according to the rear cover, part of a twenty volume set (however, when I went searching for the other volumes to see what prices were running, I did not find any other titles in this series available anywhere.... is a puzzlement).

The book covers the basics (and not so basics) of Tuscan cooking from Antipasto to Dolci (appetizers to Deserts) and even a couple of local drinks to hoist back.

Again, dealing with the cook book thing.... I'm not so sure I'd really want to try spleen toasts (English instructions start: take some ox spleen and open it and scoop out the flesh -- yum!)

to Grand Duke Soup (which actually sounds interesting & not too hard to prepare. Note, the instructions on most of these recipes don't include exact measurements: "Buy some chicken breast and some meat of suckling calf and leave it to simmer in a good hen-broth...(that's from the Grand Duke Soup)

to Gnocchi di farina gialla (maize flour dumplings)

to pan de' Santi (Saints' Cake -- sounds wonderful, but the instructions assume a huge amount of prior knowledge. Here's the entire entry for Saints' Cake:
Although it's easier to find such a kind of cakes in the North of Italy than in Toscana , in the ancient Florence they were eaten according to tradition on the period of All Souls' Day: It is a genuine and simple sweet, easy to prepare. Kneed 1/2 kilo of risen dough for bread with 3 tablespoons of oil , 1 tablespoon of honey melted in bain-marie, some dried figs and dates, chopped pineseeds, raisins, some chopped walnut kernels. Give the dough an oval shape and leave it to rise for about 30 minutes. Brush its surface over with beaten egg and bake in a hot oven.

Ok -- I bake regularly. I make my own dough (several different kinds even...ha!) but this has me scratching my head. First off, lets assume a plain, unsweetened dough, but what is bain-marie? (googled it & found out it's basically a double boiler.... nowadays I MICROWAVE this sort of thing...carefully)
Pineseeds? Maybe the same as pinenuts?

Hmmm... now that I break it down, it doesn't sound half-bad, or too hard after all.

Maybe cookbooks can be my friend after all.

But I'm not going to try the spleen toasts.

PS: The newest online source for me for recipes which actually work -- which has really useful and USEABLE recipes (yesterday I made an Apple Pecan Tea Cake from a recipe that was Irish & Scrumptious!)

Keep watching for more non-fiction goodies from the stack.

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