Truffles: yet another diamond of Italian cuisine

Italian cuisine is surprising. When you think you know everything about spaghetti, then you find out about risotto, when you mastered your art of cooking melanzane, you find about the great power of basil. Truffles are just another diamond of Italian cuisine: one of the most precious.

You might have heard about it, you might have tasted it in some fancy restaurant, you might have smelled while walking in the streets during your last visit to Italy.

Italian truffle

If you haven’t, well this will be an important discovery for you, I am talking of another diamond of Italian cuisine: truffles! Small and yet tasty tubers belonging to the family of fungus which are found in Mediterranean soil, they are called tartufo in Italian and a sprinkle of it is enough to make any dish special! Useless to say that the best ones come from Central and Northern Italy! That’s why they can’t be left out from our Florence Food Tour!

tagliata tartufoTruffle’s taste is hard to define. The most peculiar thing is that it involves the scent of it as well: you can recognize the smell of tartufo from few meters. If a trattoria has tartufo in the menu, you will smell it in the air. If you do, please do not miss it and try a tartufo dish of the house. Truffle goes great with meat (tagliata con tartufo), tagliolini (tagliolini al tartufo), risotto, eggs and you may find also very tasty tartufo sauces for your crostini. If what you are being served doesn’t have much taste than you know that you did not get a good truffle.

Usually truffle dishes are quite costly, since this fungus is really hard to find. It grows close to trees’ roots between 5 and 30 cm below the ground. The only way to harvest it is to train hogs and dogs and to dig the earth when they find the right spot. Truffles usually grow close to poplars, oaks, hornbeams, pine trees and beeches. In Italy, the truffle hunters are treated with respect and they are admired by local communities.

italian trufflesTruffles come in different shapes and colors, from dark to light brown, wrinkled or more smooth. There are many different types but if you are not  an expert the taste will be very similar. If you come to Florence, don’t miss our Food Tour experience! You’ll get the chance to taste the famous Tuscan truffle, and this will give you just another reason to be back!

The ultimate Italian summer salad dressing

saladsSummer is coming and it is time to get fresh! Bring all of your creativity in the kitchen and start getting mad on salad! Salads are just the best solutions for fresh, easy, quick and yet nutritive lunches! Parmigiano reggiano and bresaola, mozzarella and tomatoes, rucola and cherry tomatoes…you can really create anything out of simple ingredients!

Strawberry salad dressingEver tried adding fruits to your salads? Strawberry with vinegar is just one of my favourite! Not talking about regular vinegar of course but of aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar)! One of the greatest characteristics of this specific type of vinegar, traditionally produced in the central city of Modena, is that it renders all good flavours just taste even better! Try it if you don’t believe me! During our Florence Food Tours you’ll get the chance to try aceto balsamico with cheese and strawberries and trust me it will drive your taste buds crazy!

Here you go with a simple and quick recipe for your Strawberry Salad Dressing with aceto balsamico!

Ingredients

1 cup of strawberries (5/6 big strawberries)

2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

4 tsp balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Instructions

Blend the strawberries, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt in a blender or a food processor. Mix until smooth and serve it in a bowl next to your salad! You can even choose to cool it a bit in the fridge! In that case, be sure to prepare it a bit in advance and take it out right before serving the salad!strawberry salad dressing

As simple as this! Now you just have to compose your salad and pour as much vinaigrette as you like on it! I suggest a spinach, walnuts and gorgonzola salad for your first try for your strawberry salad dressing !

strawberry-salad

I have tried also this vinaigrette adding few leaves of mint and it does taste even fresher if possible! Some other options are adding poppy seeds to the dressing or a pinch of mustard!

Just experiment and find the right combination for you!  Looking forward to hearing your feedbacks!

 

Torta Fedora: the best of Tuscany

Italian culinary tradition is wide and varied: all kinds of pasta sauces, the many versions of lasagne, tasty meat stews, pizzas, and last but not least: the desserts. There are so many of them that there is always something new to taste. One of the less-known ones is Torta Fedora, a real delicatesse of Tuscan cuisine. A soft heart of puff pastry, whipped cream and sponge cake covered up with a crunchy layer of dark chocolate.

Torta Fedora

Torta Fedora

I bet we already made you drool! No despairs though, you’ll get the chance to try this tasty dessert of our cuisine during our food tours in Florence!

And in case you like it, and we bet you will, here is a simple version of this recipe that you can try at home. The only thing that you might struggle to find is the alchermes liqueur, which you can replace with any another kind of gentle and
Alchermes and Maraschino

Alchermes and Maraschino

sweet liqueur. Some versions of this cake is with maraschino, a liqueur obtained from the distillation of Marasca cherries.

Here is what you will need:

1 roll of puff pastry

1 disk of sponge cake

550 gr whipped cream

Icing sugar as required

Few spoons of milk

For the chocolate crust:

150 gr: dark chocolate

1 spoon of water

2 spoons of honey

Icing sugar as required

For the bagna (to soak the sponge cake):

65 g of water

35 g of sugar

50 ml of alchermes liquor

It would be better to prepare the sponge cake the day before or – don’t tell anyone we suggested you-  you can buy already-made one. First thing, you’ll need to bake the puff pastry. Before doing that make sure you poke few holes on it using a fork, gently brush it with some milk and sprinkle it with some icing sugar. Bake at 180° until golden brown.

While you wait for the puff pastry to bake, prepare the bagna, with which we will soak the sponge cake. Pour the water together with sugar in a small pot. Once it boils, you can leave it cooling a bit and then add the alchermes liqueur.

At this point, take the puff pastry out of the oven, cut it the same size of the sponge cake and lay the sponge cake on it. Pour the bagna all over the sponge cake and now our base is ready to be topped with a thick layer of whipped cream. Let now rest the cake in the fridge for at least few hours.

Cioccolato a pezzi

Let’s now prepare the chocolate topping. Cut the chocolate in pieces, put it together with 2 spoons of honey and a spoon of water in a small pot and let it melt in a bain-marie. Let it cool, sprinkle some icing sugar on a clean surface where you can pour the chocolate. Add icing sugar until it gets thick enough to make a ball out of it. Let it rest a bit until it becomes a malleable dough of chocolate.

At this point, place it on a long piece of baking paper and roll it out using a rolling pin. Now it is all up to you: decorate your Torta Fedora as you wish with the “chocolate papers” you made! You can also add some icing sugar if you want it to look nicer!

Torta Fedora

Well, if Torta Fedora doesn’t sound easy to make, we can assure it tastes good! Don’t miss our food tours in Florence next time you are around, during which you’ll have the occasion to ask more tips for this recipe to the local “artisans” of desserts!