Over the tuscan stove – erbe toscane (tuscan herbs)
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Over the tuscan stove – erbe toscane (tuscan herbs)

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Thu 26 May 2005 12:00 AM

What gives the Florentine roast pork, Arista, that fabulous flavour?

 

Why are the roast potatoes here the best you’ve ever had?

 

Where can you get some of this magical and fragrant seasoning for your own kitchen?

 

The secret is right outside your garden door, or at your local vegetable vendor. Tuscan kitchen flavours are simple and easy to incorporate into your own home cooking.

Tuscany is not the only region in Italy with claim to a characteristic seasoning; indeed, each region has its own signature herb(s). Sicily’s is oregano, Siena’s is tarragon, or dragoncello, and Rome’s specials are mint and garlic. Tuscany to me is rosemary and sage. Used separately or together, these herbs are never absent from my kitchen. Of course, there’s no substitute for using fresh herbs, but for when this is not possible, it’s best to keep a ready stock of herbs you’ve dried yourself. Finely chopping the fresh herbs and sprinkling them with fine (not coarse!) sea salt will help them to dry well, preserve their fragrance, and allow you to save them for later use.

I myself tend to opt for preparing a dried blend I call Erbe Toscane. It mixes well with olive oil to make a dipping sauce, and I personally like to heat in oil, which then becomes perfect for drizzling on my bean soup.

Many Tuscan butchers use a similar combination of herbs, to which they add fennel seeds, black pepper, and a hearty amount of garlic, thus creating a wetter consistency ideal for the inside of roast pork or as a rub on the outside of beef. Look out for the prepared roasts at the Sant’ Ambrogio and San Lorenzo markets, and you will see how the Tuscan masters season their meats.

 

 

Recipe for Erbe Toscane:

 

1 cup fresh rosemary

needles/ Rosmarino

1/2 cup fresh sage

leaves/Salvia

2 cloves fresh garlic,

sliced/ Aglio

Fine Sea salt/ Sale fine

 

Remove the rosemary needles from the branches and the sage leaves from the stems.

Spread out the herbs on a wooden cutting board, add the garlic, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sea salt.

Using a mezzaluna or large knife, chop in a rocking motion until the herb mixture is almost a powder.

If the mixture seems too wet, add another teaspoon of salt.

Spread the mixture on a wooden cutting board and let dry over night.

When dry, the Tuscan herb mixture can be kept in a tightly sealed jar on your shelf; it does not need to be refrigerated.

Try creating your own blends! Change the proportions of the herbs; add thyme, lemon peel, orange rind, fennel seeds, or, if you’re lucky enough to have some, fennel pollen.

Be creative!

When using dried mixtures, remember that they already contain salt.

I adore making these roast potatoes with Erbe Toscane:

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Wash the potatoes (and peel if you are cooking for a Florentine).

Cut into small bite-size pieces.

Place in a bowl and toss with extra virgin olive oil and some of the prepared Tuscan herbs (recipe above).

Add some additional sea salt/sale grosso and mix well with your hands.

Place the potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour. Turn the potatoes after 30 minutes.

 

Warning: these potatoes are addictive!

 

I also add whole peeled garlic cloves, zucchini, and carrots for a wonderful roast veggie dish.

 

For more recommendations see Divina Cucina’s dining guide online at:

www.divinacucina.com

 

 

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