Provence in Tuscany

I’m heading off to chilly Ireland tomorrow with my dad for a family reunion and general wanderings around the Emerald Isle.  Temperatures appear to be in the 60’s!  I’m thrilled.  I’ll take a bit of a chill over stinkin’ hot anytime.  Last year at this time,  I was off  to Tuscany with a group of lovely ladies.  We rented this farmhouse in Lucignano.

I’m not kidding when I say this place was a little bit of Paradiso.  In addition to the pool you see above, this house was stocked to the max with everything one needs to relax and eat under the Tuscan sun:  various outdoor dining options, including a large table under a pergola covered with wisteria, another large table under the front porch (which they call a loggia in Italy),  two indoor tables large enough to seat 10, and a round table that could be set up near the pool and pizza oven.  Yes, I said pizza oven (!), of the wood-fired sort.   There was also a Tuscan-style kitchen with all the high-end appliances and, of course, a garden from which we were encouraged to pick and use produce daily.  And that we did!  The most memorable was probably the most simple:  freshly picked lettuce with a drizzle of red wine vinegar, olive oil and freshly grated Grana Padano cheese to pass at the table.  Oddly, the tomatoes in Italy weren’t that great.  I think we got one out of our garden with which we made a small Caprese.  Grocery store tomatoes were about the same quality we get here in the States.  Who knew?  Likewise, there were many, many outings to uniquely Tuscan restaurants where things such as wild boar, rabbit and truffles could be ordered.  Our favorite was in town.  It was a winery that served quite decent wood-fired pizza, using their wine barrels as the tables. I’m still saving the bottle of Brunello that I bought there. 


grilled zucchini, gnocchi, fresh watermelon



Nidi, or nests, fresh pasta stuffed with pecorino cheese and honey, Orvieto


pizza quattro stagione (four seasons), from the wine barrel place

And perhaps the most Tuscan of all salads, Panzanella.  It’s perfect for using up that day old baguette that’s gotten just a bit too hard to eat.
day old baguette or farm bread, torn into bite-sized pieces (as much as you have)
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
10 leaves torn basil, plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
coarse salt
The surprising trick to this salad is to soak the torn baguette (must be a bit on the stale side or it will become too mushy) in water for 15 minutes and then squeeze dry.  Mix the rest of the  ingredients with the wet bread in a large bowl, drizzle the red wine vinegar and olive oil to taste (above amounts are approximate–it depends how much bread you have).  Add salt and pepper to taste and toss well.  Let this salad sit for at least a 1/2 hour to allow flavors to develop.
Also, you could add other ingredients of your choice.  I’ve seen this salad with chopped olives and capers as well.  It’s really just a delicious way to use up your leftover bread and produce.
I miss Tuscany, but next week I’ll be checking out the food of Ireland.  I’ve heard that not only has Irish cuisine come a long way since the days of fish n’ chips with mushy peas (my staple on a trip in 1986), but that it has become quite the foodie destination.  They say you can even get really good gourmet sandwiches in gas stations!  Could that be true?  I intend to find out and I’ll let you know.

About Liza M.

foodie, francophile, Ann Arborite, teacher, bookworm and self-professed latte-lover--come cook with me!
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1 Response to Provence in Tuscany

  1. Pat says:

    Just want you to know that I’m reading each addition to the blog…
    Enjoy the Emerald Isle. I’m home from Brisbane, another chilly place at this time of year, but only at night. Days were full of blue sky and sun and about 70 degrees. Perfect. xo

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