Walking the streets of Florence where the likes of da Vinci and Michelangelo found their inspiration and once displayed their art. Strolling through Chianti Classico vineyards and tasting the sweet, juicy grapes along the way. Gazing at the beautiful Tuscan hills from every angle imaginable. Learning traditional Italian recipes from traditional Italian women in their homes. Are you jealous yet? Then you should go to Tuscany, Italy! More importantly, you should go on a culinary tour of Tuscany.
I spent one week in Tuscany on a culinary tour with fourteen other fabulous people, and two extraordinary guides. I learned so many delicious recipes that I want to share. I don’t even know where to start.
Every dinner was a five-course meal, and of course the wine was not lacking. Our first cooking teachers were sisters, Alba and Anna. A simple appetizer we learned from them is Finocchio a la Parmigiana. Fennel slices dredged in flour, pan fried, then sprinkled with parmesan and cooked a little longer. I’m not big on the flavor of fennel, but this was tasty. The bold fennel flavor is muted by the olive oil and parmesan cheese, served warm and crisp. I could eat two bulbs of fennel prepared in this way by myself.
In addition to this fennel at dinner we ate: salami/fig appetizer, pecorino cheese/pears appetizer, tomato bruschetta, pesto bruschetta, ricotta ravioli, guinea fowl with olives, blueberry pie and apple pie, and plenty of locally-made wine. That is just one of the many five-course meals I had while in Tuscany!
Another cooking lesson was given by Massimo and Patrizia in the Chianti Classico region of Italy. Patrizia is a fiesty, short, Italian woman who loves her land and her kitchen. She was a riot! My favorite dessert of Tuscany was from Massimo and Patrizia. They call them “Caramelized Pears”, but I have been calling them “Chianti Pears” or “Drunken Pears” when I’ve been making them.
Pears poached in Chianti, cloves and sugar. Mmm Mmm Mmm.
Tuscany is beautiful and one blog post is not nearly enough to tell about everything I did, saw, and ate! I have many more recipes to share, and I promise I will. For now, please enjoy this simple appetizer, and a dessert featuring a shining star of Tuscany: Chianti.
You can view the rest of my Tuscany photos on my Flickr.
- Two bulbs fennel
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup grated parmigiana-reggiano
- 8 pears
- 32 whole cloves, about four per pear
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 bottle Chianti wine
- Rinse the fennel, cut off the fennel tops where they meet the bulbs, and the tough white part from the bottom, and remove the tough outer layer.
- Slice fennel into 1/4 inch slices.
- Dredge in flour.
- Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat.
- Brown both sides of fennel slices in olive oil, remove to paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
- Wipe out saucepan and return to heat.
- Add fennel back into pan.
- Add enough broth to come half way up the fennel slices.
- Simmer in broth until fork-tender.
- Remove to serving platter.
- Sprinkle cheese over hot fennel so it melts.
- Serve hot or warm.
- Cut the bottom off each pear so it stands straight.
- Insert about four cloves around the fattest part of each pear, towards the bottom.
- Place pears in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Pour sugar and wine into pan around pears.
- Cover, cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until pears are soft.
- Uncover and cook about 15 minutes longer to allow wine to thicken slightly.
- Serve pears hot with the pan sauce drizzled on top.
- Be sure to remove the cloves, you probably don't want to bite into one.