Tuscan Dining: That’s Amore
Walking through the gates of an airport in Italy makes any food lover giddy with anticipation of meals soon to come. There’s a special magic in Tuscan dining: Every bite becomes a memory to be stored away for future food droughts. Combined with the landscape’s peaceful beauty, lush vineyards, and olive-tree terraces, it’s hard to imagine ever leaving. It was difficult to choose a menu due to the wealth of the Tuscan kitchen, so we’ve featured dishes that mirror the region’s reliance on fresh ingredients and simple yet stunning flavors.
Trio of Bruschetta and Crostini
As the late afternoon sun strikes the hills around Borgo Finocchieto, a glass of wine featuring 100-percent sangiovese grapes is a must. So too are small bites: Crunching on bruschetta and crostini are a perfect way to ease into a leisurely evening. We love Sullivan Street Bakery’s bread – it’s ideal for this use. Trapani Sea Salt from Sicily is a nice finishing touch.
Tomato & Basil Bruschetta
In this case, classic is best. Be sure to use the finest tomatoes, basil, and olive oil you can get your hands on.
Yield: 7–8 servings
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Place bread on 2 baking sheets and toast until golden brown, about 4–5 minutes. Remove from oven and rub top of bread with garlic clove. Add tomato, basil, and oil to a small bowl and gently mix. Season mixture with salt and add to slices of bread.
White Bean & Rosemary Crostini
Tuscany is home to mangiafagioli (bean eaters), and this crostini showcases the meaty texture and delicate flavor of cannellinis. You might have extra beans, so add them to a salad, serve as a side dish, or puree for a great sandwich spread.
Yield: 7–8 servings
Soak beans overnight in a large bowl filled with cold water. Strain and place in a large pot. Cover beans with at least 3 inches of fresh cold water. Add onions and rosemary. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Strain beans and add to a bowl.
Preheat grill to 350˚F. Brush slices of bread with oil and season with salt. Grill bread until slightly charred, about 1 minute per side. Top slices of bread with beans and serve warm.
Fava Bean Crostini
Favas are a labor of love because it takes time to shell the pods and peel each individual bean. If you’re in a rush, it’s okay to substitute frozen shelled beans instead.
Yield: 7–8 servings
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and season with salt. Add fava beans and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Strain and place beans into a bowl with ice and water. Using a sharp paring knife, pierce outer skin of fava beans, and peel. Add shelled beans to a food processor with thyme, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons oil. Puree until mixture is somewhat smooth but still has texture, about 1 minute.
Preheat grill to 350˚F. Brush slices of bread with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill bread until slightly charred, about 1 minute per side. Top slices of bread with puree and grate Pecorino on top. Serve warm.
Rabbit is popular throughout the region, and braising it in the local Rosso di Montalcino keeps the meat, which has a tendency to dry out, nice and tender. The recipe only calls for one-and-a-half cups of wine, so when you’re killing time waiting for the meat to cook, be sure to enjoy what’s left.
Yield: 4 servings
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Add 1 cup boiling water to mushrooms in a bowl and set aside. Add pancetta to a Dutch oven on medium heat. Cook until pancetta is crispy and fat rendered, about 10 minutes. Remove pancetta and reserve. Remove and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan.
Raise heat to medium-high and sear rabbit on all sides. Remove rabbit from pan and add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until light brown.
Add Brunello, tomatoes, porcinis, and their juice. Tie thyme, rosemary, and parsley in cheesecloth and add to pan. Add pancetta and porcini. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and transfer pan to oven. Bake for 30 minutes and turn rabbit. Add additional wine and juices from tomatoes, if necessary. Bake until meat is extremely tender, about 45 minutes more. Remove rabbit and strain vegetables, pancetta, and herbs from sauce to serve.
Fennel and artichoke are two local staples and, as is so often the case, ingredients that grow together taste great together. The steak is the main event; it doesn’t need a sauce, which will just get in the way, but it does need a very generous helping of salt and pepper for seasoning.
Yield: 3 servings
Allow steak, covered, to come to room temperature. Preheat grill to 375˚F and brush with Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Grill steaks until medium-rare, about 5–6 minutes per side. (Center of steak should reach 125˚F using a meat thermometer.) Allow steak to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Add fennel to a medium bowl. Slice celery, including leaves, on the bias as thin as possible and add to bowl. Trim stem on artichoke and discard. Starting at bottom third of artichoke and using a paring knife, remove tough outer leaves until you have reached delicate center. Cut off top inch of artichoke and remove purple leaves from center. Using a spoon, remove choke. Slice in half and brush with lemon juice. Slice as thin as possible and add to bowl. Add remaining lemon juice and 1 tablespoon oil. Toss gently and season with salt and pepper. Use a vegetable peeler to lightly shave cheese on top of salad. Serve with sliced steak.
These twice-baked cookies taste even better with cappuccino, which is a great excuse to eat them morning, noon, and night. Anise, which has a licorice taste, might not be your favorite flavor; don’t worry, you can omit the anise seeds and add lemon zest instead.
Yield: 20 pieces
Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, anise seeds, and almonds. Mix well. In a separate bowl, add eggs, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Whisk ingredients together. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until combined.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into two loaves and shape each loaf into 2’-inch-wide cylinders. Place both loaves on parchment and bake until golden brown, about 35–40 minutes. Remove biscotti from oven. Reduce oven to 250˚F. Using a serrated knife, slice biscotti into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line baking sheet with new parchment and place biscotti, cut-side down, on parchment. Bake until crispy, about 25–30 minutes.