Nella Mia Cucina

By the time this post hits your screen, I will be in Northern Italy! A lot of cooking in my kitchen this past month has been in anticipation of this holiday. Additionally, in the past few weeks before our departure, my local supermarket in the UK started featuring Italian products in a special section at the entrance to the store – from bottles of bright yellow Leomcello and pinky Campari, to pots of fresh basil, jars of sun-dried tomatoes, cans of San Pellegrino mineral water and fizzy drinks, and much more. It is a marketing strategy they employ every year to capture the crowd returning from holiday, still high on the fumes of their Mediterranean escape. For me, it just served to hype up the expectation of a holiday to come – plus, I got to happily forage among the Italian products. Meanwhile, my husband was browsing on-line. So…in my kitchen – my husband’s paraphernalia deemed absolutely necessary for the long-distance drive from Northern England to Northern Italy.


But, back to cooking! In the past month, I’ve made a number of simple pasta dishes, many from one or other of the River Cafe cookbooks: lemon and basil, creamy tomato with rosemary and anchovy, double oregano (dried & fresh) with colourful plum tomatoes, and a no-cook sauce of marinated tomatoes, basil and garlic in extra virgin olive oil. I’ve nominated the River Cafe books for the 2015 list of cookbooks to be selected by the cookbook blogging club, The Cookbook Guru.


Of course, bread salads are also a regular feature in our summer kitchen – like this Bread Salad with Borlotti Beans, the combination of two classic Tuscan dishes – Panzanella and Fagioli all’ olio.


More beans – this time fresh – were used to make an easy and flavour packed antipasto, broad bean (fava) crostini. Well…easy once the beans have been podded and shelled. That is time consuming, but worth it!


After months of baking sourdough breads, I’ve branched out to ciabatta baking, although I am still waiting for my copy of The Italian Baker by Carol Field to arrive. This brilliant recipe came from Dough by Richard Bertint.


The Italian theme fit right in with our usual Friday night fare: homemade pizza.


And, since it was impossible to beam our car directly onto Italian soil (à la Star Trek), we cover quite a bit of France on our journey – there and back. One French town that we pass has always fascinated me – Dijon. This is quite possibly because the name stares at me every time I open the refrigerator and see a pot of mustard. This resulted in a fusion of French and Italian recipes – a northern Italian, herbed poultry dish (mine was with turkey breast steaks) from Lombardy accompanied with a creamy Dijon mustard sauce. You can get the recipe from my post, The Significance of Mustard in Holiday Planning.


One of the books I’m indulging in during this holiday is When French Women Cook by the celebrated chef, Madeleine Kamman. I hope to work up a post on this fascinating “gastronomic memoir” sometime soon. For me, it is the perfect book on food – part ethnography about the women who influenced Kamman early in life (from all over France) and part recipes of the spectacular regional and traditional food created by these women. Before our scheduled departure, my grapes were just right – still unripe, but juicy. I used this book to make my own verjus from a traditional recipe. It is an interesting old method of producing the sour grape condiment which I go into detail more in my post Victoire’s Verjus.


While I am away, I’ve put a number of posts in the queue to appear automatically on a regular schedule. I will try to reply to comments, but it may not always be possible. More Italian and French inspired posts when I get back!


A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who lists all of us IMK bloggers, writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.


  1. An enjoyable read about la tua cucina italiana (e un po’ francese ). It all looks so summery and delicious. Hope the trip goes well and that your vera cucina in Italia is suitable for some lovely feasts on the terrace.


    • Hope spring/summer rolls around for you soon. You know our first evening in France on the way out, we were so exhausted from the travel that we did’t eat! Saved our appetites for Italy where our first meal was in the Piedmont – fabulous with even more fabulous wine. Am enjoying the rustic beauty of the hills of Garfagana. We saw hunters out and are hoping boar will be on the local restaurant’s menu soon.


  2. So happy to learn that you’ll be visiting Italy. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. You sure have gotten your palate primed and ready. 🙂
    Buon viaggio!


    • As you know, it is a fabulous country! We like situating ourselves in an area and really get to know it. Garfanagna this time – so different from the other part of Tuscany further south. Food is slightly different, too.


  3. Very good looking meals. Have a great trip. I’m going to check out that cooking memoir too. I’ve been a little obsessed lately so it’s perfect! Can’t wait to hear all about your travels!


    • The book is great. Though it has been around for a while, it is still possible to get a copy secondhand. So far the trip has been exhausting – in a good way – and we’re soaking up so much about the place. Having fun!


  4. What delicious bowls of pasta! I can almost taste all the different flavors and textures. Love that broad bean crostini, too. Have a nice trip!


  5. Debi, I love all the Italian food that’s appeared in your kitchen BEFORE you even get there! 🙂 It all looks so delicious – particularly that four square of pasta – I’ve never owned a River Cafe cookbook but I think I might need to do something about that today! Your bread salad is also very appealing as I’m always on the lookout for ways to use up old bread. Richard Bertinet’s Dough started me off on my bread journey, I think it’s a brilliant book. Have a glorious holiday! xx


    • Celia, I do like the River Cafe books, but they have some flaws (in my humble opinion!) – 1) very little social/cultural context which I really like, but isn’t necessary for good food, and 2) some of the proportions of ingredients need adjustment – like too little pasta for the amount of sauce – so you need to read the recipe first and exercise your judgement. If you are going for a new Italian cookbook, I can also recommend Tessa Kiros’ book, Twelve (I did a post on it). It is, however, a collection of family recipes listed by season from the heartland of Tuscany – very regional, but one of my favourite Italian regions. I love Richard Bertinet’s book – it has opened up a new way of making bread for me. We are still in Italy, but stocking up the car with lots of regional foods from the Garfangana region in particular (the area of Tuscany north of Lucca) which is very different from the Tuscany further south. Am also storing up more stories to tell for the blog!


      • Debi, I have a problem with Tessa Kiros books – love the content and the stories and the recipe, but the two I have are printed in such faint fonts that my old eyes struggle to read them! I may get them again on Kindle – should be easier to adjust the font that way!


        • I know what you mean – I have those rather “arty” books, too. But Twelve was her first book and it is somewhat different and certainly readable. I like it particularly since my first book on Tuscan food (and the first cookbook of my married life) was A Tuscan Year by Elizabeth Romer and Kiros’ Twelve is somewhat similar how she presents her food in a seasonal manner.


  6. Have a great holiday! Sounds absolutely perfect – two culinary delights to travel to, I’m sure you’ll be a wealth of knowledge when you return! Looking forward to some amazing inspiration from you on your return. Thank you for a look IMK


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