Too Many Cooks In The Tuscan Kitchen ….
We cooked and ate ….
I think my passengers were a little apprehensive knowing we would be cooking Tuscan food today but I think they would agree that the experience was a highlight of this journey.
Chef Libero Saraceni (Ristorante Tre Pini, Via Imprunetana 134 – Firenze Italy – http://www.ristoranteitrepini.it) met us as we traveled to a Farmers Market located in the old Jewish area of Florence.
He divided us into a number of groups and we were given a shopping list of ingredients to buy at the market. To make it challenging the ingredients purposely were listed in Italian! My group had no trouble finding baby spinach and radishes.
When we arrived at the market Chef went to a bread stand and ordered a special local bread similar to our focaccia covered with rock salt but it is flatter and more dense than our focaccia. One hour later when we left the market this fresh out of the oven bread was ready and delivered to the market for us. We all ripped into it – was it ever good!
We then traveled to our Chefs elegant restaurant which is located in the enchanting hills of Chianti Classico. Its housed in a impressive renovated farmhouse. Years ago it was a post house – travelers would stop to rest and change their horses before continuing along the road known as The Wine Riad of the Chianti Colli Fiorentini. We were treated with a refreshing glass of strawberry wine.
Chef Libero had his sous chefs ready to help us along with his in-laws. I laughed – he said his ex-wife is a good friend but she lives in one house and he lives in another. His in-laws are 82 years old and Anna is a expert pasta maker. For years it has been custom on Sundays for Anna to make pasta for her family.
This restaurant has been family owned for 3 generations. Libero’s 2 sons are now involved.
Years ago the local peasants would make their food last, nothing would be wasted. These rustic foods are now Tuscan specialities.
We learned how to make – homemade pasta, La Ribollita, La Pappa Al Pomodoro, La Panzanella and I Cantucci.
I along with one of my passengers were in charge of preparing La Panzanella bread salad – an odd combination of stale bread that is soaked in water, vegetables, red wine vinegar and olive oil that we mixed together with our hands (it’s honestly very good). I also assisted the guys in the kitchen who were making our soups. Most of my passengers were busy making pasta dough or stuffing ravioli.
We dined in a enclosed outside area overlooking the lovely restaurants gardens. A talented singer and guitar player did a wonderful job entertaining us during our meal. Chef Libero added extra courses to our homemade lunch so there was almost too much to eat but many bottles of wine to wash it down.
What a wonderful time we had.
We reached the famous Tuscan town of San Gimignano mid afternoon. Unfortunately it was raining but even without the sun we could admire the beauty of this hill top town filled with towers. Years ago family’s built towers to show wealth – the taller the better. Of course there are lots of tourist shops selling leather, pasta, ceramics, jewelry and one of the worlds top Gelato shop is located here (not hard to find, just look for the long line of people waiting to buy).
Dinner consisted of pasta topped with vegetables, chicken served with polenta and a apple tart topped with gelato.
Tomorrows highlights includes a visit to a Culinary Town and we’ll also see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.