Picture this: a beautiful summer day in Tuscany, you relaxing for a late lunch on the patio overlooking the Tuscan hills and vineyards. Tuscany is a beautiful destination any time of the year, summer included. Its cuisine is often linked to wonderful fall and winter soups, stews, and game dishes, but today we explore some of the classic summer Tuscan dishes that you can create at home or learn to make during one of our Tuscan cooking vacations.
If you’ve got an old loaf of Tuscan bread in the pantry, best way to use it is in this bread and tomato salad. Usually the slices are torn, soaked in water, and then squeezed dry. It is then traditionally mixed with tomatoes, onions, often time cucumbers and/or fresh herbs. Season it with a bit of olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper, and you’ve got a delicious summer dish. It is only as good as the ingredients, however, so use the best bread, tomatoes, and olive oil you can find.
Tuscans, like most Italians, go crazy over zucchini squash blossoms. These delicate, orange-yellow flowers are sold in bunches not to dress up the table as a centerpiece, but to make very tasty appetizers, sauces, and even pizza toppings! The classic way to eat them? Battered and fried. The blossoms are cleaned, stamens removed, and stems trimmed. Sometimes a filling (usually cheese and anchovy) is placed inside the flower, then they are dipped in the batter and deep fried. They cook quickly and form a surprisingly light, delicate appetizer for a fried dish.
Sedani ripieni (stuffed celery)
This dish, which hails originally from the city of Prato, is best made with the Pratese sweet celery, rather than the bitter varieties you can find in some regions of Italy. The celery is cleaned and cut into uniform pieces (3-4 inches long), blanched, cooled, and pressed to remove the extra water. They are filled with a mixture of ground veal (or beef), finely chopped ham or mortadella, and mirepoix. (A piece of celery is placed both on the bottom and top, so that it forms a layer all around the stuffing.) They are then breaded and fried, then cooked in a tomato sauce. Delicious!
This thin, salty-sweet tart hails from coastal Tuscany, and is usually eaten as a snack. The basic recipe is simple: cut and drained zucchini folded into a slightly sweet batter and baked, then served warm or room temperature. It can be more on the savory side (“scarpaccia salata”), with aromatics such as garlic and onion and a salty cheese such as parmigiano, or sweeter (“scarpaccia dolce”), with a bit of sugar and even vanilla. Fun fact: the name means “ugly old shoe.”
You can make and eat these recipes and more during a cooking vacation in Tuscany, such as at our best-selling Cook Under the Tuscan Sun. Or, enjoy them at home on a nice sunny day with a good glass of Tuscan wine, and make believe you are enjoying a Tuscan holiday of your own!
By Peg Kern
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