A Gilda in Italia: Lardo di Colonnata

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  Yes, that's right. Those white ribbons are lardo di Colonnata (LARD!), a very special sort of bacon with only the fat and cured the old-fashioned way in white marble vats for months and months here in this town, Colonnata, a town near Carrara where marble has been mined since Roman times. I used the lardo to make a plain and simple bean soup. Just white beans, freshly hulled, with bits of lardo di Colonnata, a leaf of sage and a bit of olive oil. How many ingredients does it take to make a delicious and hearty dish?   … [Read more...]

A Gilda in Italia: Cannellini

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My friend, Matelda, came to my door yesterday with a clay cooking pot. The quintessential clay pot is unmistakably part of a cook's batterie de cuisine, but somehow I've come to be this old and never splurged on one. I have no answer as to why I never bought myself one, but having had one for all of two days here in Florence and breathing the fertile scent of earth, of clay, and of all things right in the world as our meal bubbles in the round, brown belly of the pot makes me nostalgic for times gone by. I had to cure the pot first by soaking it in water for 12 hours. At the market this morning, the first thing I noticed was the freshly hulled cannellini. So, remembering how my mother cooked our beans in a clay pot with a round belly like this one, I decided that had to be the first thing I cooked in my new pot: beans. The difference here is that when they're ready, we will eat them … [Read more...]

A Gilda in Italia: Serpentini

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Serpentini! They remind me of Medusa snakes, but they are luscious string beans found everywhere in the open air markets here in Florence. These, however, were part of the neverending cornucopia brought to me by Chiara, my friend in Lucca.  They're perfect summer fare cooked with tomato and onion. … [Read more...]

A Gilda in Italia: Fiori di Zucca

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The other day, my friend Chiara shared with me a bumper crop of zucchini blossoms from her vegetable garden in Lucca. Chiara showed up with a bag overloaded with all kinds of veggies from her garden, including zucchini blossoms. I have had to plan well to use everything she brought. But there's no better use of zucchini blossoms than how my friend Antonella in Rome makes them: stuffed with mozzarella and a tiny bit of anchovy, dredged in a bubbly yeast batter and then fried in hot oil. Not exactly a low-calorie item, but you only need to eat one...or two. … [Read more...]

A Gilda in Italia: The Perfect Cornetto

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I've found the perfect breakfast cornetto. It's here at my neighborhood bar, Cibreo's. A cornetto is like a breakfast croissant, but it's so much more than a croissant. It's a cross between a brioche and a croissant. It's got eggs, butter and a little lemon zest.  It tastes light and airy and all things sinful. The French don't have any idea...je regrette!  I asked Isidoro, the barman, what it is about these cornetti that makes them so airy....something about the lievito controllato  or "managing your yeast," whatever that means!  Oh well, I just know that happiness is a hot-out-of-the-oven cornetto from Cibreo's with an equally perfect cappucchino to accompany it. … [Read more...]