Spring isn’t yet sprung ~ in fact, snow, wind and ice are happening my corner of the world. But I don’t care. I’m looking ahead to summer. I am throwing open the virtual glass doors and stepping out on the veranda, into the sun.
A few weeks ago I got a surprise in the mail, a new cookbook from my friend Giulia (author of the popular blog Juls’ Kitchen), titled I Love Toscana. It’s a celebration of the much-loved (and written-about) food from this much-loved (and visited) region. Still, there is something fresh and joyful about the book, like a clean linen tablecloth hanging on the line and snapping in the breeze. It arrived on a particularly dreary dead-of-winter day, and flipping through its pages these last few weeks has cheered me up immensely. The photos are awash in warm earth tones and the recipes are Tuscan country fare. I’ve already made two and I’ll be making more.
Coincidentally, shortly after the book arrived I happened to get an email from Giulia’s friend Bianca, who is leading a photography tour of Tuscany in May. The week-long trip includes photography workshops on food, cityscapes, interiors, people and travel. There’s also a cooking class taught by Giulia at her home near Siena. Although I’m not able to go I told Bianca I would be happy to help spread the word. (I’d like to note that this is not a sponsored post; I just wanted to give a shout-out to some talented entrepreneurial women who have put together what looks like a great package.)
At this point, I must inform any gents who might be reading that the tour is aimed at people of the female persuasion. “Think of this more as a girl’s getaway to Italy,” Bianca writes, “with friends you didn’t know you had.” Bianca runs a boutique tour company called Italian Fix that specializes in small travel tours for women. Her spring trip, which she organized together with food photographer Leela Cyd Ross, is scheduled for May 19-25 and costs $3,500 (not including airfare).
Hosts Bianca and Leela, and cooking teacher/blogger Giulia
Gelato anyone? Some examples of Leela Cyd Ross’s food photography
Other tour highlights include:
* An insider’s view of the artists’ quarter
* A hotel in a 16th century palazzo
* A multi-course Tuscan meal with wine pairings guided by a local sommelier
* Exploring the country roads of Tuscany by bike
* A private walking tour of the city
* An exclusive portrait session with Leela Cyd Ross
The Tuscan countryside, as captured by Giulia Scarpaleggia
The trip is limited to 12 people, so if you’d like to know more, click over to Italian Fix. In the mean time, I am getting my Italian fix in the kitchen. While reading Giulia’s book, I came across a recipe for something she calls “the tuna loaf of my summers.” It’s a clever dish, a poached sausage of sorts, composed of good quality tuna mixed with eggs and Parmigiano cheese. It’s easy to assemble and can be made in advance, which makes it ideal for a carefree summer lunch or supper. (As I type this, snow and freezing rain are tapping against the window panes, making me pine even more for those carefree summer days).
I made the tuna loaf for dinner the other night and served it with a lemon- caper vinaigrette and farro salad on the side. We all pretended that it was 85 degrees outside and that we had just come in from a day of biking along the Tuscan coast. Or, I did anyway. Dinner was delicious.
(Adapted from a recipe in I Love Toscana, by Giulia Scarpaleggia)
This is a great recipe to have in your back pocket for a simple summer lunch or supper. Serve it with a hearty salad, such as a chopped salad or a Caesar salad, or a farro salad, as I did. You can make the tuna loaf a day ahead of time. After removing it from its poaching water, let it cool to room temperature. Leave it in its cheesecloth wrapping and place it in a plastic zipper-lock storage bag. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Giulia suggests serving the tuna loaf with a citronette (a citrus-based dressing) so I made my go-to lemon-caper vinaigrette.
- For the tuna loaf:
- 2 (5-ounce) cans of good-quality tuna in olive oil, drained
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
- For the lemon-caper vinaigrette
- Juice of 1 small Meyer lemon or 1/2 regular lemon
- 1 scant tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, lightly crushed
To make the tuna loaf:
Place the tuna in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is very finely chopped but not so much that it becomes a puree. Scrape the tuna into a bowl and add the eggs, Parmigiano and breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly. Lay a piece of tightly woven cheesecloth on a clean work surface. With your hands, shape the tuna mixture into a sausage about 2 inches in diameter and lay it on the cheesecloth, using your hands to pat and mold it together. Wrap the sausage tightly in the cheesecloth and tie both ends tightly with kitchen string.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and gently lower in the tuna loaf. Boil for 20 minutes. Using a large slotted spoon or skimmer, remove the tuna loaf from the water and transfer it to a plate. Let it cool to room temperature before serving or refrigerating. To serve, remove the tuna loaf from the cheesecloth and cut it into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a platter and serve with lemon-caper vinaigrette.
To make the lemon-caper vinaigrette:
Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, capers and salt. Slowly add enough olive oil (about 1/2 cup) to achieve an emulsified dressing. Drop in the garlic clove, cover with plastic wrap and let the dressing sit until you are ready to serve the tuna loaf.