Frittata with Fresh Black Truffles

Wow, was I excited when I walked into Cavalli Caffe for an espresso macchiato on a recent Saturday morning. Piero, the truffle guy from Tuscany, was there and he had truffles, the “Diamonds of the Kitchen”, dug up in Tuscany just 2 days before.

He had white truffles, smaller in early spring , called “bianchetto.” And he had the last of the larger black winter “tartuffo nero.”  Later in the season the spring truffles, tartuffo bianco, will be bigger.

Truffles are fragile and you need to use them within about a week of harvest. White truffles should not be cooked but black truffles can be used in cooked dishes.

Black truffles pair well with eggs so I had to make a frittata. Piero said his wife made the best. Now I’m in trouble. How could mine compare?

Piero described his wife’s frittata and I realized her Tuscan rendition was similar to mine. I made a few adjustments and I was ready for the kitchen.

I didn’t want the egg mixture to overwhelm the black truffles so I just added salt, pepper, chopped parsley, grated parmigiano reggiano and diced fresh mozzarella. I grated a large black truffle into the mixture. Save some to grate atop the hot frittata hot out of the pan to maximize the tartuffi aroma.

Lucky for me, Piero enjoyed my frittata. Whew!

The frittata didn’t last long.

If you are in the Bay Area, Santo will post the availability of truffles all season. You can find fresh truffles for sale online. If you don’t use them all right away, make a truffle butter or truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil so you enjoy their aroma and flavor for months.

Frittata with Fresh Black Truffles

Ingredients

  • 6 extra large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (depending on the size of your pan you may need to add more to lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan)
  • 2 tablespoons flat Italian parsley, roughly chopped.
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 3-ounces fresh mozzarella, diced in small cubes
  • 30 grams fresh black truffle (or as much as you can afford)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  2. Grate 2/3 of the truffle saving a piece to grate atop of the frittata
  3. Add the parsley, parmigiano, mozzarella and 2/3 of the grated truffle to the eggs and mix well.
  4. Over medium-high heat add the olive oil to a 9” inch cast iron or sauté pan and lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan (if you use more eggs, use a larger pan)
  5. When the olive oil begins to shimmer pour in the egg mixture.
  6. As the frittata begins to set up, gently break up the center of the frittata with a fork and with a spatula move the frittata away from the sides of the pan. (You want to continually move the egg mixture to the hot pan surface to cook.)
  7. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  8. Continue to gently pull the frittata away from the side of the pan to allow the egg mixture to flow onto the hot pan surface.
  9. Gently move the spatula under the frittata to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
  10. When the frittata is fully set on the bottom, put a plate on top of the pan, flip the frittata and slide it back in the pan to cook the other side.
  11. Loosen the frittata from the pan with the spatula.
  12. When the frittata feels solid to the touch, flip the frittata onto a serving platter. (If you don’t want to flip the frittata, place it in a 375 degree oven or under the broiler to set the other side of the frittata.)
  13. Grate the remainder of the black truffle on top of the frittata.
  14. Serve immediately.

Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma

My HP Production crew devouring spaghetti cacao e pepe I cooked in my Rome kitchen
My HP Production crew devouring saltimbocca I cooked in my Rome kitchen

The last time I was in Italy I hooked up with my friend Luca and the crew from his video company, HB Productions. We spent days together shopping and shooting episodes of me cooking in my apartment near the Spanish Steps.

Here’s the first of those HB Production episodes just in time as early spring vegetables hit the farmers market.

I shopped every day in Campo dei Fiori, the huge open air market in the historical center of Rome. I was lucky to meet Alessandro who had a produce stand there. He was my guide to the spring vegetables he had to offer.

This day he had wild chicory, cicoria, he foraged early that morning in the hills near his home outside of Rome. He sold me the chicory with a condition. “Cook it with olive oil and lots of garlic, that’s all.” “And chili pepper,” I said. Alessandro agreed and added “but no lemon, no lemon.” Boy, these Italians are strict but that was my plan anyway.

What a wonderful Slow Food moment, scoring locally foraged cicoria to cook in my Rome apartment a few blocks away from the market! Watch me use a versatile, simple method to respectfully coax maximum flavor from this humble wild green. Here in the U.S. curly endive is the closest to the wild chicory I cooked in Rome.

You may have seen some of the Rome footage in this Hungry Village production. Get a peek of Luca and his aunt Giulia, the best cook in the family, who joined me in the kitchen for a couple of episodes.

I hope to have the other Rome episodes ready to post soon. Stay tuned but in the meantime here’s my saltimbocca recipe.

So You Want To Be An American? is the music in the episode. I love the tune. Here’s hip Neapolitan crooner Renato Carosone’s 1958 rendition of his Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cooking Foraged Chicory in Roma
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A simple chicory preparation that you can use for other leafy greens too.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound chicory (curly endive)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • pinch of chili flake
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a pot.
  2. Add the chicory and blanch for a minute or two.
  3. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes to the pan and cook until the garlic just begins to take on some color.
  4. Drain the chicory and add it to the sauté pan. Add sea salt to taste.
  5. Stir well to dress the chicory with the oil.
  6. Serve immediately.

 

 

New Gianni Video Now Live

Rome's Campo di Fiori, an open-air produce market
My produce guy in Rome’s Campo di Fiori

Sorry if you couldn’t access the video episode Gianni: From Italy to North Beach in my earlier post.

You can watch it now.

Here’s the Hungry Village video. Meet some of my friends from a week living in a Roman neighborhood and how that experience colors my Italian-American lifestyle here in San Francisco.

More from the Hungry Village people on Facebook and their website.

Keep on cooking.

Buon appetito!

Food, Family & Friends

Making My Mom's Lasagna with My Godson
Passing It On–Making My Mom’s Lasagna with My Godson

How often do you get to put something inside someone’s body?

No this ain’t a sex post but it’s close.

I just returned from 3 weeks in Italy when I sat down with my friends at Hungry Village. Cameras rolling I riffed on what draws me back to Italy each year and what fuels my passion for sharing my food with family and friends in my home and with you on my blog.

I hope you enjoy a short video of my time living in a Roman neighborhood and my Italian-American lifestyle in San Francisco’s North Beach.

The folks at Hungry Village shoot and produce my video episodes. Check out these talented Hungry Village friends on Facebook and on the Hungry Village website.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

 

A Working Roman Holiday

Campo di Fiori Rome
Campo di Fiori Rome

Campo di Fiori, the farmer’s market in the historical center of Rome was ablaze in the morning sunshine.

The stalls were overflowing with spring bounty. Peas, artichokes, fava beans, chicory and other leafy treats, even early tomatoes, were everywhere.

I was scouting the market as I waited for Luca, my producer to show up with his video crew so we could plan tomorrow’s shoot. I wanted to see what I would cook in my apartment kitchen.

I came across Alessandro cleaning artichokes. When I took his picture he looked up and said I had to either give him one euro or a kiss. We settled on a Roman welcome embrace.

I can’t wait to share my market and cooking experience with you. New video episodes from North Beach and Roma are coming soon.

Buon appetito!

 

 

Join Gianni for a Culinary Tour of Emilia-Romagna

Bologna Produce Stall

The crowds have thinned and the September weather is glorious. The markets overflow. It’s one of my favorite seasons to visit Italia.

It’s a fine time to settle into the region of Emilia-Romagna the culinary heart of Italia. Prosciutto and parmigiano come from Parma and Reggio. Balsamic vinegar has been made in Modena for centuries. Bologna’s fabulous food has earned it the nickname “La Grassa” (The Fat One).

Join me for a fabulous 8-day culinary tour September 23-30, 2012. We’ll pick you up at the Bologna airport and then take care of all the details so that you can just enjoy your culinary adventure in Italia. We start on the Adriatic coast and make our way to Bologna at a leisurely pace.

  • Learn pasta-making from a real Sfoglina, a dying breed of dedicated pasta wizards
  • Hunt wild mushrooms in the Apennine foothills
  • Explore medieval villages and lesser-known food markets
  • Taste parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto di parma and balsamic vinegar where they’re made
  • Join home cooks and chefs for cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes featuring classic Emilia-Romagna dishes
  • Savor the food at unique and inspired restaurants

My travel partner Vanessa DellaPasqua of Global Epicurean and I will be your hosts and your guides. Join us for a journey that will heighten your appreciation and deepen your understanding of Italy’s food culture. You’ll meet a bunch of wonderful Italians too. They’ll share their culinary wisdom and kitchen secrets with you.

Get all of the Emilia-Romagna culinary adventure details. The tour is limited to 24 people. It will be like family.

Bella Napoli

Vesuvio Overlooking the City and Bay of Naples

Naples as you may have realized by now is one of my favorite cities in all of Italia.

My Italian roots are in Campania and Napoli is the region’s capital. I’ve felt as if I belonged there since I first visited. I love the food, culture and vivacious spirit of the people.

I was with my sister as we strolled the markets in the Spanish Quarter our first day together in Napoli. All of a sudden she looked at me kinda startled. “They all look like us!”, she exclaimed. Maybe an overstatement, but it was a recognition that we had a DNA connection to this chaotic, wonderful city and its people. I think this is why I’ve been so passionate about saving the North Beach Song of Pulcinella mural that reflects the Bella Napoli that I love.

Here’s a Napoli post from Italian Notebook— great pix of the city, the Bay of Naples, the active volcano Vesuvio, all from the cliffs of Vomero high above the city. Take a look at Spaccanapoli, a broad avenue from the Greco era when the city was known as Neapolis. Spaccanapoli literally means “Naples Splitter”.

There’s a cool funicular that runs from the city center and climbs all the way up to Vomero and the St. Elmo Castle.

It’s incredible to me that more than 3 million people live in the shadow of Vesuvio. It has erupted more than 3 dozen times since it buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D. Neapolitans are a tough people always living it seems just on this side of disaster.

But they have their patron San Gennaro, martyred in the 4th century, to protect them. His dried blood is kept in a vial and brought to the Duomo on his feast day, September 19. Thousands of people crowd the Duomo with even more outside. They pray, they chant and they wait for the Cardinal to wave a white handkerchief up at the altar, a sign that the dried blood has liquified. I saw the miracle for myself when I was last there.

The tradition holds that if the blood doesn’t liquify great tragedy will strike. That happened twice in the recent past. Vesuvio erupted in 1944 and in 1980 a massive earthquake hit Campania killing 2,000. San Gennaro’s blood didn’t liquify in both those years.

Chicken & Potato Cook-Off

Chicken & Potatoes: Lazio vs. Campania

It was Lazio versus Campania, and it was a blast.

Food author Mark Leslie was in town to promote his book, Beyond the Pasta, about the time he spent living with a family in Viterbo, northwest of Rome. Mornings he was in the kitchen with “Nonna” the grandmother, helping to prepare the family meals each day.

This is an experience I can relate to. So, we decided to both cook chicken cutlets with a potato contorni as a side. Mark’s are Nonna’s Lazio recipes. Mine are my Mom’s chicken cutlet and potato croquette, as they are still served in her birth village of Mirabella Eclano in Campania.

We met up at the Cookhouse (a wonderful new rental loft in North Beach – tell ’em Gianni sent ya!) for a little friendly kitchen battle. Watch the video above to see us cook our dishes side by side. Here are the recipes…

Mark’s Lazio Recipes

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Gianni’s Campania Recipes

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The Great Tuscan Bread Debate

Filoni (loaves) and ciambelle (rounds)

Don’t miss our private authentic home-cooked dinner at Baonecci on Sunday and help resolve this bread debate.

Every time I’m in Tuscany somebody complains about Tuscan bread. It’s made without salt. The Toscani say it’s so the bread won’t interfere with the taste of the dishes on the table, and I think they know what they’re doing.

They’ve been making bread in the “bread capital of Italia,” Altopascio, since the middle ages. The village was on a main pilgrimage route and the bakers ensured the pilgrims had bread each day. The bread’s fame is due to the local water and the natural yeast in the air – but no salt.

Altopascio is just 20 KM southwest of Lucca (the birthplace of Puccini. Lucca is one of my favorite cities. The historical center is enclosed by medieval walls so wide that you can walk all around the centro storico on a grassy path atop the walls.

Puccini in front of his home in Lucca

Here’s a statue of Lucca’s favorite son the composer Giacomo Puccini. There’s a great bakery on the corner of the street leading into this piazza. I had my first bite of Buccellato Lucchese there. Buccellato is a gently sweet cross between bread and coffee cake, redolent of yeast and anise, studded with raisins and nuts and with a texture at once lightly tender yet seductively substantial. My best find in Lucca!

So, what’s the final verdict on Tuscan bread? Decide for yourself with the Gambaccini family – former Altopascio bakers.

Of course, I’ll be providing some more historical and cultural context for the four courses and four Italian wines we’ll be sharing. Hope to see you there.

A presto!


Italy: The Rules

Every time I go to Italia, I learn more rules. If you’re gonna go – and I naturally recommend you do – keep some things in mind…

Rule #1: Bring a Swim Suit

The view from our Balestrate beach house

After the long flight I find it important to rest and recharge on the first day in Italia. Especially in the south the weather is often still warm enough for swimming. Last October we swam every day in Sicilia.

Rule #2: Revel in the Local Food

Fish market. Ortigia

Immerse yourself in the food where you are. The 20 regions of Italia boast very different food. When in Sicilia we eat a lot of fish. When in Bologna we eat a lot of salumi and stuffed fresh pasta.

We conjured up menus for our home-cooked meal during our tourist adventures each day and picked up all the ingredients on our way home. Enjoy living as your neighbors do. Shop for food daily, fresh and local is available everywhere. Venture beyond the easy tourist spots and activities and challenge yourself. It will pay off.

Rule #3: Talk with the Locals

Our green grocers in Bologna

I am not fluent in Italian but I always try to develop a relationship with food people. Pick a local caffe and become a regular. Shop in the local mercato and get to know your vendors. Use the same shops and stalls every day to deepen your brief relations. You will expand your understanding of their culinary ingredients and preparations. Listen when folks talk about their culture, and do all you can to experience it for yourself.

Rule #4: Beware of Posted Signs

Salt fields at Motya near Trapani (photo by David Fagan)

A good highway map is essential when driving in Italia. I’ve learned not to depend on signs, they are often confusing or wrong. Check out your route on your map. Ask for directions. Be aware. We often can see the duomo from a good distance and use that as a beacon to guide us to the center of the town. Don’t give up and you’ll reach your destination. If you’re off course, go with the flow and you’ll discover amazing things. We had a hard time finding Motya but persevered and it was wonderful to see the source of the sea salt that I use in my cooking.

Rule #5: Prepare to Lose Weight

I eat everything and I eat a lot, yet I always return home hitching my belt one more notch!  If you don’t have mobility issues, plan your day so that you get in a lot of walking and stair climbing as you tour. It’s an easier routine in a town or city but it’s harder if you do a lot of driving. I try to ensure at least as much time on foot as in the car.

Vegetable boat Dorsoduro

Be sure to see the details of Gianni’s guided cooking trip to Italy in September.

Experiencing Roma

Rome Forum

Rome Forum

I Love Rome.

Probably getting close to 20 times I’ve been. Bernini’s sculpture, Michelangelo everywhere, Baroque over the top, beautiful people, the Caravaggio triptych in San Liuigi dei Francesi church, the wonderful food and romantic outdoor meals, Santa Maria in Trestevere, potato pizza with rosemary a taglio (by the slice) from the ladies in cardboard hats, the farmer’s market at Campo Fiore, the Jewish ghetto and flattened fried artichokes and baccala to die for.

A friend of mine, Personal Chef Tom Herndon, saw one of my recent episodes and shared memories of a couple of days together when our paths crossed in Roma…

We were lucky to be able to meet John in Rome a couple of years ago. We had the insider’s tour. He took us to the oldest church in Rome and then to the Jewish Ghetto for some incredible food, including an impressive deep fried artichoke. He took the entire group of 14 to a lovely cafe in a small square where we ate al fresco, including these bread ‘puff balls’ as big as a football! Then he showed us the best place to get gelato and chocolate bundino.

He’s a true gourmand and a man of passion about Italy. Our time in Rome was truly memorable.

We did have fun together! I love to gather groups and travel to Italy. We rent apartments so that we can get into the local pace of life and do some of our own cooking wherever we are.

Have you ever gone on a food adventure to Italy? If so, please tell me about it in the comments!