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Tasting Tuscany by Paul Lindemuth

I’m freshly back and still unpacking from two glorious weeks in Florence and Tuscany.  What an amazing destination for someone that loves wine and food!

My first full day in Florence was an immersion into the food culture of that city.  I had the privilege of sharing the day with Sharon Oddson Gargani, author of “Once Upon a Tuscan Table”, in the kitchen at her restaurant Trattoria Garga.

We began the day with a tour of Florence’s Mercato Centrale, a feast for the senses, filled with scents, a riot of color and every imaginable cheese, meat and vegetable possible.  We purchased the ingredients for our class and then returned to the restaurant where I worked alongside Sharon, one on one, to prepare a delicious lunch which we shared with my partner Michael and our friend Lynn, washed down with bottles of white and red Italian wine.

Working with the ingredients from the mercato brought a whole new meaning of “farm to table”, since we were so close to the farms and purveyors that sell their local products there.

The culinary traditions in Tuscany run deep.  We tasted the traditional Florentine dish peposo in several restaurants.  The rich history of this dish goes back to the construction of the Duomo.  Workers at the kilns in Imprunetta were producing the terra cotta tiles that cover the beautiful dome.  Hunger was satiated with a hearty stew made from inexpensive cuts of beef that had been heavily peppered for preservation, thus the name peposo, derived from “pepe” or pepper. More pepper was added to help keep the stew even longer.  The stew was cooked in massive clay pots in the same furnaces that produced the tiles. The labors ate the stew with plenty of bread and washed it all down with watered-down red wine.

In Florence and Tuscany today, peposo is served in virtually every restaurant. Rather than inexpensive beef, it is now prepared with much more luxurious cuts like beef short ribs or veal cheek, aromatic vegetables and plenty of good Chianti wine, served with a large bowl of Tuscan white beans and olive oil.

Peposo
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 bone in beef short ribs, 8 to 10 ounces each
  2. 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  3. 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  4. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  5. 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 3 sage leaves
  7. 3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 2 cups Chianti
  10. salt to taste
  11. cooked white beans
  12. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle all sides generously with 1 tablespoon kosher salt.
  2. Place the chopped garlic and a pinch of salt in a mortar and mash with pestle until it forms a paste. Add the tomato paste and mash until blended. Transfer the mixture into the bowl with the beef and rub onto all sides of the meat. Add the ground black pepper. Distribute evenly over all sides of the beef.
  3. Transfer the meat to a deep skillet or Dutch oven bone side down. Tuck the sage leaves, rosemary, and bay leaves between pieces of meat. Carefully add wine along the side of the pan to avoid washing over the top of the meat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly. Place the pan into the preheated oven and cook until the meat is fork tender, turning pieces every 30 minutes or so, about 3 1/2 hours. Transfer the pieces of meat to a warm bowl.
  6. Return the pan to the stovetop over heat to high and bring the braising liquid to a boil. Simmer until liquid is reduced by about half or until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bones from the meat.
  7. When the sauce is thickened, transfer the meat back to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and spoon the sauce over meat. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  8. Spoon the stew into bowls and serve with the white beans, drizzled with olive oil.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

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