As the years pass me by (ever so quickly) I’m often times reminded more and more about the beauty that there is to be found in “The Simplicity of things”.
Yes gone are the days of clutter and collection of stuff that was crowding my life with stress and chaos. For the last three years I have made an ernest effort to purge my life of all the excess stuff that was weighing me down. This new way of approaching a more simple life has gradually crept into my style of cooking.
It all began with my trip to Italy a year and a half ago. I spent a whole month eating my way through the cities of Parma, Florence, Como, Genoa, Garessio, Venice and Tuscany. What stood out most to me is how simple many these exquisite dishes where prepared. The most glorious meals that contained no more than 5 or 6 simple ingredients. The secret was that all of the ingredients where fresh or artisanal made.
I began to appreciate the fact that “Less is More”. What I appreciated most , was many of the dishes that I was able to taste and enjoy in the region of Toscano. Once I returned home I was eager to focus on that very fresh and simple approach to meals I would be preparing at home.
So you may wonder who could one turn to for true authentic Rustic Tuscan guidance in the Kitchen? Well my friends that’s easy it comes in the form a very true Tuscan Farmer and Cook by the name of Gabriele Corcos.
Gabriele and his adorable wife Debi Mazer are the hosts of the Cooking Channels amazing show Extra Virgin. Let me tell you this is true Rustic Tuscan Cooking at it’s best! I became a fan back in 2009 when they had a little podcast called “Under The Tuscan Gun”. Each week I would eagerly plug in earphones to my ipod and for a few hours each week I would educate myself on the cooking world of all things “Tuscan”. I was an instant fan and I was hooked.
This past March I was fortunate enough to score a reservation a tasting of a very memorable Tuscan dinner prepared by Gabriele while promoting his Porchetta Tour in Los Angeles. The event was held at the ever fabulous Mauro Cafe. Here is a peek at the menu that was served that night.
So let me share with you a basic Tuscan Meal 101
The Menu is as follows:
Seared Hanger Stake with Almond Sage Pesto
White Bean /Pancetta Bruschetta
Sautéed Lacinato Kale & Garlic
- 1 cup raw almonds, toasted
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
- ¾ cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- 1 clove garlic
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Four 6-ounce flat-iron steaks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- For the pesto: To the bowl of a food processor, add the almonds, olive oil, parsley, sage, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice and pepper flakes. Process until smooth.
- For the steak: Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan and, when it shimmers, add the steaks. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove to plates and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Top the steaks with a dollop of pesto and serve.
- ***Cook's Note: Remaining pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
“Tuscans have historically been called bean eaters, because they have often clung to staples that lasts longer, like dried beans. In Tuscan culture, nothing gets tossed out. Tuscan’s have been known to eat beans every day of the week if they need to and if it means more indulging in the round, buttery feel of Cannellini beans when they’re soft and lightly mashed, count us as being leaders, too. We love these beans, especially with rosemary and olive oil. – Gabriele Corcos
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
- ¼ pound pancetta, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thickly sliced
- 3 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed
- 2 (15 ounce) cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Baguette, sliced
- Heat fireplace to a medium heat. Adjust grill racks over the flame and heat a heavy dutch oven over the rack. Alternatively, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the oil to heat. Add pancetta and render some of its fat. Add rosemary and garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Stir in beans, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Mash the beans with the back of the wooden spoon. Don’t mash them all smooth- you want some texture.
- Toast sliced baguette. Serve the beans on top of the toasted bread. Drizzle with Olive oil, if desired.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ red onion, chopped
- 6 small zucchini (very young zucchini with few seeds) sliced in half moons
- Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Once hot add onions and sauté until soft, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and sauté while stirring until they are golden and soft, about 8-10 minutes more. Season the zucchini with salt and pepper, to taste.
- 1½ pounds young kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- ½ cup vegetable stock or water
- Salt and pepper
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, but not colored. Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste