A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure by Marlena De Blasi
They had met and married on perilously short acquaintance, she an American chef and food writer, he a Venetian banker. Now they were taking another audacious leap, unstitching their ties with exquisite Venice to live in a roughly renovated stable in Tuscany.
Once again, it was love at first sight. Love for the timeless countryside and the ancient village of San Casciano dei Bagni, for the local vintage and the magnificent cooking, for the Tuscan sky and the friendly church bells. Love especially for old Barlozzo, the village mago, who escorts the newcomers to Tuscany’s seasonal festivals; gives them roasted country bread drizzled with just-pressed olive oil; invites them to gather chestnuts, harvest grapes, hunt truffles; and teaches them to caress the simple pleasures of each precious day. It’s Barlozzo who guides them across the minefields of village history and into the warm and fiercely beating heart of love itself.
A Thousand Days in Tuscany is set in one of the most beautiful places on earth-and tucked into its fragrant corners are luscious recipes (including one for the only true bruschetta) directly from the author’s private collection.
Recipe from the book:
Deep-Fried Flowers, Vegetables, and Herbs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups beer
1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 ice cubes
Peanut oil or extra virgin olive oil for frying
Zucchini blossoms, nasturtium flowers, and borage flowers, rinsed, dried, and stems trimmed
Celeryleaves cut in branches, rinsed, and dried Whole sage leaves, rinsed and dried
Tiny spring onions or scallions, stems trimmed to about 4 inches in length, rinsed and dried
Warm sea-salted water in a sprayer
In a large bowl, beat together with a fork the flour, beer, water, and sea salt to form a thin batter. Let the batter rest for an hour or so, covered and at room temperature. Stir in the ice cubes and let the batter rest for an additional half-hour. Stir the batter again. It should now be smooth and have the texture of heavy cream. If it’s too thick, add cold water by the tablespoonful until the “heavy cream” texture is achieved.
Over a medium flame, heat the oil in a deep fryer or a heavy pan to a depth of 3.” The more slowly the oil heats, the more evenly it will heat, helping you to avoid hot and cold spots and unevenly fried foods. Test the oil by dropping in a cube of bread. If it sizzles and turns golden in a few seconds, the oil is ready.
Drag the flowers, herbs, and spring onions through the batter, shaking off the excess. Place them into the hot oil and let them bob about for half a minute or so, allowing them to take on a good, dark crust. Turn them with tongs, to finish frying, then remove them with a slotted spoon to absorbent paper towels. Using a virgin plant sprayer, spray each batch immediately with warm sea-salted water and keep them in a 100-degree oven while you fry the next batch. Better, gather people around the stove and eat the things pan to hand to mouth. A very informal first course.
“De Blasi’s glittering descriptions and mouthwatering recipes take you directly into the heart of Italy and into the souls of the Italian people.”
-Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of Lucia, Lucia
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