Autumn in Virginia tends to be mild, which means it lacks the splash of a New England or Midwestern fall. Fading green, yellow, and brown are the predominant colors in my yard at the moment.
On the upside, a mild fall means an extended grilling season. And that means I get to keep making this tagliata from Emiko Davies’ book “Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence.”
Tagliata means “cut” or “sliced.” Hence the word “tagliatelle,” which refers to sheets of pasta sliced into ribbons. Here, however, we’re talking about beef, specifically Florentine Chianina beef, which is some of the best in the world. Done this way, minimally seasoned, simply grilled, then sliced, it is beyond delicious.
If you keep up with Italian food blogs, chances are you are familiar with Emiko Davies. She writes about regional Italian cuisine, with an emphasis on the food of her adopted hometown of Florence, for her own blog and for Food 52. She also takes beautiful, evocative photos of the city, many of which are included in her book.
Even before I met Emiko this summer I knew we would have plenty in common; we both draw inspiration from regional Italian home cooking and from the 19th Century Italian cookbook author Pellegrino Artusi. Also, how could I not admire a cook who searches high and low to source fresh pig’s blood for sanguinaccio ~ a traditional custard-like chocolate pudding made during butchering season? (I have never had it, but my Abruzzese mother loved it and used to describe to me, with some nostalgia and much fondness, the process of stirring the thick mixture of milk, chocolate, sugar, and blood.)
Emiko met my jet-lagged family and me for lunch on a sweltering day in late July. With the possible exception of our son, who sleepwalked through most of the day, we loved being treated to this insider’s glimpse of one of the most tourist-trafficked cities in the world (more on Florence in a future post). We had lunch at Fiaschetteria-Trattoria Mario, a Florence institution in the historic centro. It’s a tiny, casual, family-run place with white tile, wood paneled walls, a tacked-up hand-written menu on butcher paper, and lots of activity. And like a lot of traditional Florentine trattorie, it’s open only for lunch.
The kitchen specializes in classic dishes, particularly roasts and steaks, and we shared several platters, including (if I remember correctly) roast veal and pork, and beef tagliata, along with sides of roast potatoes and stewed beans. After I got home, I turned to my copy of “Florentine” to read more about the traditional food of the city, and this tagliata jumped right out at me. It’s the first recipe I’ve made from Emiko’s book but it won’t be the last.
This tagliata di manzo calls for just five ingredients ~ beef, rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, arugula, and shaved parmigiano ~ which means that they must be high quality in order to shine. Since I can’t get Chianina beef around here, I buy naturally raised beef, mostly from local farmers’ markets. Olio2Go is my source for excellent Italian olive oil, including the peppery Tuscan oil that puts the finishing touch on this dish.
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PRESERVING ITALY EVENTS: The book tour is winding down, but there are a handful of events and classes coming up. I’ll be adding a few more in the coming days so please continue to check the Events Calendar, and join me if you are in the area.
Harbor Springs Festival of the Book, Sept. 30-Oct. 2: I’m excited to be part of the inaugural Harbor Springs Festival of the Book, in beautiful Northern Michigan. Join me Friday, 9/30 for a Preserving Italy luncheon at Birchwood Farms Golf & Country Club. Chef John will be making recipes from the book and I’ll be in conversation with my friend, cookbook author Maureen Abood. More here.
ITALY EARTHQUAKE FUND RAISER: On the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 27, Via Umbria, in Georgetown, is hosting a fund raiser for victims of the recent earthquake in central Italy. There will be cooking demonstrations and tastings, regional wines, plus speakers and a live auction. I’ll be offering samples from Preserving Italy. More here.
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Think of this as a less daunting version of bistecca alla fiorentina, that classic, gargantuan grilled and sliced Tuscan steak. Emiko Davies, author of "Florentine," suggests sirloin or rib-eye as a suitable cut. Be sure all your ingredients, especially the meat, are top quality; this simple preparation really makes them shine. Emiko suggests good crusty bread as an accompaniment. (Recipe slightly adapted from "Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence," by Emiko Davies.)
- 800 g (1 lb. 12 oz) sirloin or rib-eye steak, about 4 cm (1 1/2 in) thick
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Tuscan
- Freshly ground black pepper and flaky sea salt to taste
- 1 handful arugula, to serve
- Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve
Remove the meat from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
Bash the rosemary with the palm of your hand on the chopping board to release the essential oil, and drop it in a small jug or bowl with the olive oil to infuse for 1 hour.
Heat a grill pan to maximum heat (see NOTE). Season the meat with salt and brush over some of the rosemary-infused oil. When the pan begins to smoke, turn down the heat just a little and place the steak in the pan.
Cook for 4 minutes on each side, turning every 2 minutes, then cook for a further 2 minutes (on the bone side if using a bone-in cut), holding the steak upright with a pair of tongs. Transfer the meat to a plate, pour over the rest of the rosemary-infused oil and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 4-6 minutes.
Slice the meat into 1.5 cm- (1/2 inch-) thick pieces, season with freshly ground pepper and salt flakes and serve topped with fresh arugula, shaved parmigiano, and the juices left over from resting the meat.
NOTE I usually make this on my outdoor grill: Heat a charcoal grill on high, and when the flames have died down a bit place the steak on the grill. Grill for 4 minutes on each side, turning every 2 minutes, then cook for another 2 minutes, turning as needed, for a rare steak (Florentine steaks are typically served very rare).