|My personal meat platter at Castello di Verrazzano|
|Pasta with saffron cream, prosciutto and zucchine|
But I must admit I do have one gastronomic complaint about Central Italy - as much as I love going to Tuscany every year the thing I crave by the end of our trip is fresh green vegetables! This part of Italy is about meat + pasta + cheese and many amazingly different and unique combinations of all of them. Of course there is also an abundance of ripe juicy tomatoes in every size and shape, deeply flavored roasted eggplant, marinated artichokes, delicately fried zucchine flowers, but sometimes a girl just wants a SALAD!!!
|Truffles foraged in Umbria|
So one of the American traditions that I enjoy on a regular basis has slowly and reluctantly crept its way to Tuscany. Each year we go, as the Italians try to cater more to American tourists, I have noticed salads are making their way onto restaurant menus. Thankfully these are not salads as we know them - there are no bottled gloppy dressings or fake processed cheese, no stale croutons that came out of a can or "salad in bag" stuff here. It's their spin made of course with fresh local ingredients that change with the current season's offerings. Like crisp lettuce topped with the thinly sliced, small pears that were ripening on the trees and shaved with the local pecorino cheese from Pienza just a few towns away or the local figs that grow wild on the hillsides combined with strips of sliced prosciutto over freshly picked arugula....
|Fufluns frolicking on the left|
All of these wonderful food memories are bringing me to one such salad we had on our last trip - not once, but twice! There is a great little pizza place off of Piazza della Republica in Cortona called Fulfuns (fittingly the Etruscan God of vegetation, gaiety and wine!) that we tested out on my family the first week and then brought our Swirl guests the following week. Not knowing what it would be but assumed it would be "green" Kerry and I ordered the "Carpaccio di Zucchine"; the epitome of Italian flavor and simplicity! Freshly grown local lettuce and basil topped with very thinly sliced zucchine ribbons and shaved parmigiana cheese, a sprinkle of roasted pine nuts served with half a lemon and Tuscan olive oil to dress it. I've made it a few times at home now and while it will never be as good as it is in that medieval hill town washed down with a pitcher of local Trebbiano, it brings me back to sitting outside on that cobblestone street with family and friends enjoying the food and flavors of Tuscany.
|Carpaccio di Zucchine, Fufluns Cortona|
Carpaccio di Zucchine (serves 2 hungry Americans craving greens)
1 fresh head of local lettuce or Boston Bibb lettuce if not in season
2 baby zucchine sliced very thin on a mandolin
1 handful of fresh basil torn into pieces
2 T. toasted fresh pine nuts
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
shaved parmigiana or grana padana
Extra virgin olive oil
Take a large flat bowl, add the lettuce an torn basil leaves. Top the greens with the zucchini, salt and pepper, and pine nuts; Serve with 1/2 lemon on the side and olive oil. To dress, put a fork in the lemon half to break the fibers and squeeze the juice all over the salad. Follow with olive oil, toss and enjoy!
|I didn't have pine nuts this time so I used roasted almonds, preferred the pine nuts!|