Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dinner in Tuscany

Staging my first blog photo shoot reminded me of the “Stop the Insanity” woman. You know, the one with the spiky blond hair who clearly never had heard of the Weight Watcher's Lifetime Membership, which is proof that the insanity never ends. Dragging a good lamp into the kitchen and posing a tomato like a supermodel made me question my sanity in the kitchen in a completely new way. All the days of admiring those gorgeous photos on smitten kitchen led to that moment, I suppose. Tonight needs no props, as my inspiration is our trip to Italy last summer.

Nothing, not even the stellar recommendations of the Moore Brothers cast and crew, could have prepared us for our arrival at Fallocchio, one of the guest houses at Fattoria Corzano e Paterno. It is a special place, one that stops you in your tracks and makes you thankful to be alive. I'm not sure if it was the scent of the enormous rosemary and lavender bushes or the view from our terrace, but before we could finish unpacking our rental car I turned to John and said, "I'm not leaving here in 3 days." We didn't.

Adjusting to the rhythms of the Tuscan countryside was easy. We frequented the cafes and shops in nearby San Casciano, enjoying each other and our new surroundings for long, lazy afternoons. We watched the locals emerge from the surrounding farmhouses for their annual festival, where gelato was served inside brioche, for a decadent please-don't-stop-this-insanity experience. And among the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to meet two winemakers whom we have admired for years: Paulo De Marchi of Isole e Olena and Aljoscha Goldschmidt of Corzano e Paterno. After a visit to her dairy, Toni Ballarin, cheesemaker at Corzano and Aljoscha's wife, recommended the best place to buy bistecca fiorentina, which is a classic Tuscan thick-cut porterhouse from Chianina oxen. I often deviate from the traditional cut by using a quick cooking, very satisfying skirt steak. A bottle of 2006 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico completes a lovely meal.

We are not dining in Tuscany tonight, but it sure tastes like it.

Tuscan Skirt Steak

1 1/2 - 2 lb skirt steak

a few sprigs each - rosemary, sage and thyme

1 clove garlic, minced

extra virgin olive oil (I used Corzano e Paterno)

gray salt

fresh ground black pepper

a sprig or two of basil, for garnish

Preheat grill. Cut steak into 2 or 3 pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Prepare serving plate with herbs, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill steak on medium for 5 minutes a side, then allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice meat and place atop prepared herb plate. Pour beef juices over steak, then dress with olive oil, gray salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Garnish with basil. Plan your next vacation.

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