Piselli alla Fiorentina (Florentine-Style Spring Peas)
One of the most often served vegetable dishes in Florence. While spring fresh peas are wonderful, the season is always too short. Otherwise use the best quality frozen peas. Any leftovers can blended with chicken broth, milk or water for a beautiful pea soup.
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
120 g (4 oz) diced ham or pancetta (un-smoked, Italian bacon)
1kg (2.2 lb) fresh or frozen petite peas
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1. Gently sauté olive oil, garlic and ham or bacon for 2-3 minutes in a small saucepan, being careful not to brown the garlic.
2. Add the peas, water, salt and pepper and cook covered for approximately 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper, stir in parsley and serve.
Pomodiori Ripieni (Stuffed Tomatoes)
Makes: 8 Servings
8 firm (almost ripe) tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 tbsp chopped basil
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp dried oregano (optional)
salt and ground pepper
1. Cut tomatoes in half, with a spoon carve out the pulp and seeds and collect pulp in a bowl. Lightly salt the inside of the tomatoes and turn them, cut side down, onto paper towels.
2. Combine chopped garlic, parsley and basil with tomato pulp and seeds. Add olive oil, grated cheese, bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste. Add the oregano (optional). Mix well to combine.
3. Stuff tomato halves with mixture. Lightly cover bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil and some water. Place tomato halves side by side, and cover. Cook covered for about 30 minutes over low-medium heat, adding a little bit of water if necessary. Tomatoes are done when the bottom of the tomatoes feel soft; check by sticking a toothpick through the centre of the tomatoes.
Fagioli al Fiasco (Beans in a Flask)
Tuscans are often known as the “bean eaters” by other Italians. This traditional method was used by Tuscan farmers to cook their beans. A glass jar was placed in a corner of the fireplace on hot embers before going to bed. The beans are cooked in the morning.
In order to get the same flavour, get a large stockpot, place a metal basket at the bottom to hold the bottle upright but also to serve as a barrier between the bottom of the pot and bottom of the bottle, then fill the stockpot with water until it reaches the same level as the top of the beans in the bottle, then bring to a simmer and cook until the water within the bean bottle is almost all gone. Keep adding hot water to the stockpot as it evaporates to maintain the same level of water. This is similar to the method used in bottling passata.
See the additional notes on cooking times and what type of bottle and plug to use after the recipe.
300 g cannellini beans (about 10 ounces)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
1. Soak the beans overnight. Place the beans, oil, garlic, and sage into a bottle and cover with water until the bottle is 3/4 full. The bottle should be closed with a wadded cotton ball in order to allow some of the steam to filter out.
2. Cook as described above . The water should simmer, do not bring to a rolling boil. Cook the beans until the liquid evaporates. Once the beans are ready, discard the garlic and sage leaves and then season with some fresh olive oil, salt and some freshly ground pepper.
Add a few grains of whole pepper to the bottle with the rest of the ingredients and then discard with the garlic and sage at the end.
Add more beans if you think the seasonings are too strong, but this depends on the size of the bottle you use.
Type of bottle to use: glass bottle such as the traditional Chianti wine bottles or a terracotta/clay jar shaped like a bottle since you need the neck to be narrow to close most of it up.
Type of cork/plug: it is important that the bottle be covered but at the same time you need to allow some of the hot steam to escape to prevent the bottle from exploding. Some suggest using a plug made of terracotta, as this is porous and would allow steam to escape but the more practical method is to either use a loosely wadded cotton ball to cover the entrance of the bottle or to make holes in a cork plug with a sharp knife. The cotton ball is the easiest and most practical choice.
Cooking times: if you use a fireplace or a wood oven, it could take up to 5 to 6 hours for the beans to be cooked. If using the stockpot cooking method described above, cook the beans until the water inside the bottle has evaporated.