Tuscan cuisine - Eating in Tuscany

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Tuscan cuisine
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The Tuscan cuisine

The Tuscan cuisine is a simple, peasant influenced, tremendously delicious experience for some people, though others might love the increasingly popular fancy created dishes, which have developed due to the adulteration and modernistic trends of traditional specialities.

It does not matter whether you are a purist or a gourmet, the traditional cuisine of a country reveals just as much about the food culture, its history and its people as it does about its architecture, art treasures and landscapes.

  A country’s breakfast tradition is, in general, extremely revealing. While some people drown their cereals in milk, and some dip their soldiers in soft-boiled eggs, or pile up scrambled eggs with bacon on their plate, the traditional Tuscan breakfast (Colazione) is made up of a cappuccino in which you dip pastries such as “cornetto”, “brioche”, “pezzo” or “pasta”. Compared with other breakfasts, it is a low-calorie start for the day that leaves enough space for the rest of the day for indulging in further lavish, gastronomic variations.

The unsalted bread is essential for all additional meals. It is largely used for dipping; it is also added to soups or can be eaten with spices and spreads as a starter. Olive oil, fresh vegetables and herbs are the bases of the Tuscan cuisine. Artichokes (carciofi), eggplants (melanzane), spinach (spinachi), chard (bietola) as well as rosemary (romarino), thyme (timo), basil (basilico), mint (menta) and garlic (aglio) are only some of the most important ingredients, which bring their essential aroma to every meal.

Apart from these fundamental ingredients, the choice of products of the particular region, of course, defines the menu. Therefore, you will find more venison dishes and mushrooms in the interior, while you will mostly find fish dishes on the coast. Fish dishes, as well as lobsters and crayfishes, still pass for poor-man’s-food (Cucina Povera) for many people up to, and including, the present day. This reverts to a time, when many Tuscan families were starving and only a fisherman in their family was there to provide support.

The acquacotta (boiled water) and the Ribollita (re-boiled) also have their origins in those times of poverty. The first one is a soup, made of onions, egg, vegetables, olive oil and toasted bread, on which grated ewe’s cheese is added at the end. To prepare a Ribollita, a common meal, of the day in previous times, you need onions, leeks, stew, Savoy, carrots, sage, white beans, bacon, olive oil, potatoes and white bread. The pappa al pomodoro is just as simple and tasty; here you mix bread soaked in water with a tomato soup. You can get snacks everywhere at noon or in between, whether you are at the market or the osteria. Small portions Porchetta (grilled piglet) or trippa (tripes or paunch sandwiched in panini (bread rolls)) are very popular with meat lovers. You can also eat a traditional Tuscan pita (ficaccia) which, sandwiched with tomatoes, olives and cheese becomes a Tuscan pizza, or you can eat a tramezzini (sandwich) or even try a donut (bomboloni) filled with jam or chocolate, at a frigittorie (chippy).

While, in some places, people only eat a small meal for lunch, which is like a snack in between - in the evening, the Tuscan families have a nice traditional multi-course menu. One or two starters, a main course, perhaps a cheese course, dessert and an espresso at the end are quite bad for the waistline, require a lot of time and, in case you eat out, can be quite expensive. For someone, who can not go through this procedure every night, there are many pizza restaurants and rotisseries with their tasty offer of yummy, ready cooked meals, such as stuffed calamari, grilled quails, pickled sardines etc. as an alternative. Many restaurants and trattorias (good middle-class taverns) are now aware that fewer and fewer guests order the full range of courses. That is why they offer special dishes, small servings, or they try to even up their losses, if no one orders a full course, by charging their guests 5 euros for bread and place setting, and almost 15% as a service charge

However, if someone decides to enjoy a full multi-course menu, which should not be an exception, in a good restaurant, the person can have the whole program from the antipasti (Italian starters) to the dolce (dessert), as if eating at Mamma’s place.

On the coast, a typical antipasto (cold starter) is, of course, the “Antipasti Mare” with mussels (cozze), pickled anchovies or calamari. In the interior, the “Antipasto Toscano” is made of boar sausages (salsicce di cinghiale), bacon (prosciutto), Tuscan fennel salami (finocchiona), olives, fungi and crostini. The Bruschetta or Fettunta (oiled slices) are highly popular and well known in Germany by now; they are prepared with salt, oil and pepper, or can be served warm, with mashed tomatoes and garlic. If they are spread with liver-, milt-, or tuna pasty, they are called crostini. It is a must to try the panzanella, a bread salad with tomatoes, onions, spices and olive oil and, of course, you must sample the chestnut bread, which is delicious with ricotta and pecorino.

If you search for pasta dishes as a primo piatto (warm starter), you will rarely find it in Tuscany, though you will find plenty of soups in every variation: Zupa di faro (spelt soup), Zuppa die pane (bread soup), farinata (corn soup with cabbage) and the previously mentioned ribollita or Zuppa die Fagiolo (with white beans). The Leghornian specialty, the fish stew Cacciucco Livornese, must be included in this list. It is cooked with saltwater fishes, calamari, prawns, crabs and mussels together with tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, basil, garlic and white wine and is served with toasted bread.

You might also be tempted by Crespelle di funghi (pancake roulette with mushroom filling), a Risotto alla marinara (seafood), Sformato di verdura (vegetable pudding) or spiced Salsicce (sausages) with white beans.
The one and only pasta specialities of the rather pasta-poor Tuscany, are the pici, hand-rolled thick spaghetti and the ravioli, stuffed with spinach and ricotta.

The main course (Secondo piatto) usually comprises meat-, fish-, or poultry dishes, to which you can always select side dishes from a wide range of choices (the cortoni), such as salads, beans, peas, zucchini or courgettes, lentils, chard, chick peas, French fries, baked potatoes etc. These filling side dishes actually are not needed in this multi-course menu, however, they are delicious and top the main course off at last
You can find braised, veal, pork, chicken, rabbit or lamb with garlic and herbs, on almost every menu. One of the most well known dishes is probably the Florentine T-Bone-Steak, Bistecca alla fiorentina. The tender grilled, spiced meat of the white chianina cows can be served up to portions of one kilo. It is plainly grilled on the charcoal grill and, only if desired, salted and flavoured at the table.

On the other hand, the Leghorn-style red mullets, triglie alla livornese, are served in a sauce made of tomatoes, garlic and herbs and are one of the region’s most popular fish specialities.

Before getting on to the Dolce (dessert), which truly tests your stomach’s capacity with fresh fruits, desserts, cakes, and biscuits, you may to first get past the cheese course. But let’s be honest, who can resist oven-fresh savarins (buccellato) with anise and raisins, cinnamon- and coriander biscuits (cavallucci), almond biscuits (ricciarelli) or Siena’s popular fruitcake “panforte” from the family Nannini.
Another tasty experience is the crispy almond sticks, which you traditionally dip into a vin santo, Tuscany’s delightful dessert wine. This sweet “holy wine”, made of grapes, was only produced for ceremonial occasions in previous times.

Someone, who still does not back away from these sweet temptations, can carry on tasting from the wide variety of culinary delights like tiramisu, profiteroles (small chocolate cream-balls), torta con i bischeri (cake with pine nuts), Torta della nonna (Cream- or Chocolate Cake) or Panna Cotta.
Now an espresso is normally a must, but you can also top off your multi-course experience with a grappa, an amaro or a limoncello (lemon liqueur). A Lucchesian specialty is the biadina, a mix of hard- and light liqueurs with pine nuts inside. In previous times, it was made by the remains of nearly empty liqueur bottles, nowadays it is mixed with anise liqueur, sambuca, rum, grappa and as already mentioned pine nuts.

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Titel dieser Seite: Tuscan cuisine - Eating in Tuscany - Ferienhaus Toskana
Zusammenfassung dieser Seite: The Tuscan cuisine is a simple, peasant influenced, tremendously delicious experience for some people, though others might love the increasingly popular fancy created dishes, which have developed due to the adulteration and modernistic trends of traditional specialities.