For those of you who have asked, here are a few of the recipes we learned in Italy. (I don’t have Serena’s yet, but hopefully will soon. These are Chef Matia’s. And I have to tell you he is a big believer in using a food scale instead of cup measures…)
And by the way, the cutest-ever potatoes recipe and balsamic reduction method were already outlined in the Sept. 21 post.
This was a tad time-consuming (making the bechamel), but easy and with fabulous results. Matia baked the flans in pyramid-shaped silicone molds and presented them over balsamic reduction drizzle with a wafer-thin slice of Tuscan bread that had been toasted and brushed with evoo leaned against each flan.
- .5 liter of milk (whole — I never saw any reference or use of low-fat milk the entire time we were there!)
- 2 oz. butter
- 2 oz. flour
- 1 egg
- 3 oz. fresh pecorino (which is soft and perhaps unattainable in these parts; you can substitute another soft, mildly flavored cheese), grated/cubed
- 1.5 oz. aged pecorino (pecorino romano), grated
- balsamic reduction
- salt and pepper
Matia’s written directions simply said: “Prepare a very dense bechamel made with classical ingredients” as if that’s something everyone knows how to do. But never fear! I took copious notes. Here’s how: Heat the milk in a saucepan and keep hot (not boiling). Melt the butter in a separate, heavy saucepan (copper if you’ve got it). Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon (not a whisk as most recipes indicate — he explained the science behind the spoon, but it escapes me) and cook until light golden and lump-free. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the hot milk a bit at a time, stirring like mad.
When all the milk is incorporated, put back on the heat and stir and cook until thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly so the egg doesn’t scramble when you add it. Incorporate the egg and cheeses, stirring well. Put into silicone molds (or buttered and breadcrumb-coated tins or pans) and cook at 350 for 12 minutes. Serve with balsamic reduction.
- 6 oz. chocolate, broken into pieces (he used good 70% cacao chocolate)
- 4.5 oz. sugar
- 2 oz. cake flour
- 2 oz. butter
- 4 eggs
- 2 oz. strawberries
- 1 T. sugar
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Add the flour. When it’s well combined, add in chocolate mixture and beat for a few minutes. Put it into a pastry bag (or ziplock bag). At this point, you can store it in the fridge overnight if needed. Fill silicone molds with the batter and bake at 350 for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 2 minutes before unmolding. Puree strawberries with 1 T. sugar. Put each cake on top of a bit of strawberry sauce, sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake. Garnish with sliced strawberries, if you’d like. (Update: It took 7 mins. when Chef Matia baked them in shallow molds, When I used muffin tins I baked them for 10-11 mins. They’ll look really jiggly when you remove them from the oven, but they’ll firm up.)
There are thousands of recipes for this delicious, simple, peasant-y soup, each of them with slight variations. I’m presenting Chef Matia’s here with others’ suggestions/options. We actually stuffed ravioli with this stew soup, but I liked it better served in a bowl like we ate it at Le Piazze. Yum.
- 7 oz. stale Tuscan bread (for us, any dense, hearty bread –all the better if it’s unsalted; not loaf bread), cut or torn into chunks
- 14 oz. good, ripe tomatoes, quartered (some people skin and seed the tomatoes; you can use good Italian canned tomatoes in a pinch instead of fresh)
- minced garlic cloves to taste
- diced onions (Matia didn’t use them, but some do)
- a bunch of basil (Matia says the smaller leaves taste best)
Saute the garlic (and onions, if using) and the tomatoes in olive oil. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are fully cooked/soft. Tear the basil with your fingers (never cut basil with a knife or scissors) and add it and the bread chunks. (Some people soak the bread in broth or water first.) Cook until soft and mushy and thick, kind of like porridge. Some people add broth. Delicious!