Welcome June

A letter with 10 recipes to cook this month, and an insight on what I'm reading, watching, listening to, cooking and dreaming right now.

I remember when these were the days before three long months of summer holidays. Once school was over, I would find myself all alone in the countryside. There weren’t many occasions to meet friends over the summer holidays, and I would be looking forward to the seaside holidays with my cousin, and September when I was thrilled to be back to school.

I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely. There were books, and magazines, and Disney comics, handwritten letters and postcards, country rides with my bike, homemade cakes, blackberry hunting sessions, afternoons spent watching old movies and eating gelato. I felt empowered, connected. I felt like I had the chance to grow and to explore my inner world.

This is the same feeling I had the other day while I was walking along my country road with Livia. We have so much to do this summer, a book to work on, a podcast, a weekly newsletter… but I have the feeling that this will be a season of big changes. I feel connected and empowered, thanks to books, podcasts and Social Media. I feel like I will have once again the chance to grow, and explore. Tommaso and I have so many projects brewing on the stove, hopefully, this will be the season to turn them into reality.

And now, as always, a list of things I’m cooking, listening to, watching, and reading, as this is what is keeping me inspired, and connected.

What I’m cooking.

Zucchini and eggs, mainly. Zucchini are the first summer vegetable I reintroduce to my cooking repertoire as soon as the good season kicks in. So I’m making pasta with zucchini, sautéed zucchini as a side dish, zucchini and tuna salads, frittata with zucchini and zucchini carbonara (for this, I’m sharing a recipe on the blog today!). Fresh eggs are my go-to ingredient when I’m late and I have to figure out lunch (more often than you can imagine). As our eggs are super fresh and come from our happy chickens, we have them as a meal at least twice a week. Can you share your favourite recipe with eggs? I want to try something new next time!

What I’m reading.

This has been a good month. I left my phone aside more often and found pockets of time to read. First I read from cover to cover in a weekend L’invenzione della felicità, written by my friend Benedetta Gargano, a novel inspired by her relationship with her nonna, and the time her grandma spent with her, when Benedetta adopted her not to let her spend the last years of her long, exciting life in a nursing home. Benedetta gave her 97-year-old grandma the chance to learn, be surprised, and have fun when she thought her life was almost over, and she was gifted in return with the biggest, purest love. I laughed and cried, and then I run to hug my grandma once more.

The second book has been a revelation. Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor. This book is a fascinating exploration of the art of breathing, with a memoir approach, that makes everything more accessible, interesting and relatable. From a Paris catacomb to a jogging experience underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the author collects all the past and present knowledge about breathing. I found myself focusing on my breath more than I have ever done - I have a past with adenoids, so I’ve been one of those children always breathing with their mouths open! It is such a transformative book.

What I’m watching.

Another month of crime series has passed. Growing old, I realize I can only unwind watching crime series, and food-related docu-series. I suffer watching dramas - Tommaso made me cry all the tears watching Clouds, on Disney+, inspired to the true story of Zach Sobiech. On a side note, I just started watching High on the Hog on Netflix, and I’m hooked.

Food, community, culture, resiliency. Based on Jessica B. Harris’ award-winning book, High On The Hog traces the moving story of a people's survival and triumph via the food that has knit generations together and helped define the American kitchen. From Gumbo to fried chicken, our culinary journey stretches from Africa to enslavement, to the Harlem Renaissance, up to our present-day; we celebrate the courage, artistry, and resourcefulness of the African American people. This is not just an African American story; it’s an American story. A feast for all the senses.

What I’m listening to.

I resumed walking in the early mornings with Livia snuggled in her stroller, so my podcast consumption went up again. This month I’m sharing two podcasts I’m really enjoying, plus a bonus. The first one is Keep calm and cook on, by Julia Turshen. I’ve been listening to Julia’s podcast for years now, but season 5 is just a treat, with nine episodes of a virtual book tour. In each episode, Julia is interviewed by a special guest about her newest cookbook, Simply Julia, and you learn so much about body positivity and acceptance, comfort food, home cooking, the process behind writing a cookbook, and much more. I really enjoyed the conversation with @doriegreenspan, and one of the questions that came at the end of that episode. Who are the four cookbook authors - dead or alive - you would love to cook for and have you join your table? This is such a good question, I’m still thinking about it. There would be Laurie Colwin for sure, but I might come with an answer soon. What about you?

The second podcast is A slice of Cheese with Peter’s Yard, hosted by Jenny Linford, a talented food writer and the kindest person. Jenny talks to cheesemakers around the world, exploring the fascinating world of cheese, from cheddar to brie, paneer and goat cheese. If you’re into Italian cheese, don’t miss the episode on Parmigiano Reggiano, where Jenny talks with Rachel Roddie, and the one on mozzarella, with Katie Quinn and Domenica Marchetti.

I mentioned also a bonus episode. In one of the past newsletters, I mentioned how I truly appreciated Alissa Timoshkina’s podcast, Motherfood. Well, I had the pleasure to talk to her, as I’m her latest guest in her sixth episode of the third series. So if you are curious about my experience with pregnancy and motherhood, from a food perspective, go have a listen! I’m so happy, and excited, and proud!

What I’m dreaming.

HOLIDAYS! Yes, I’m dreaming about the upcoming holidays, the first after two years, the first we’ll have with Livia. We’ll drive South to visit Tommaso’s family in Salento, Puglia. It will be a long drive, so we’ll have to make it over two days. On our journey, we’ll make a quick stop in Montegrosso, as I desperately want to eat again at @pietrozito_antichisapori, where I had the best meals of my life. It has been a farm-to-table restaurant well before it became fashionable, and Pietro Zito’s food is the most authentic, honest, vibrant food I have ever had. Lots of superlatives, I know, but I can barely contain my excitement.

Please consider sharing it with your friends and family or on Social Media if you like this newsletter. It will help us grow! Thank you! xx


June and our cooperation with our friends from Il Querceto di Castellina

We’re truly proud to collaborate with our friends Mary and Jacopo from Il Querceto di Castellina this month! Located in the Chianti Classico area, Il Querceto is a little corner of heaven, an organic agriturismo and winery in Castellina in Chianti.

Jacopo’s grandparents bought the place as a family vacation home in 1945. It has seen many changes. In 1997 the old vineyards were replanted. Since its first year of production in 1998, Querceto has been relying on sustainable techniques in both the vineyards and the cellars. In 2009 they began their move to organic production, and were certified organic in 2012. Grapes are harvested by hand from the sloping vineyards about the estate, yet another example of the principle in action—that a great wine is born not in the cellar, but in the vineyard.

Querceto is a place of peace and pleasure, where the welcome is warm and family-like and the wine highly connected with food.

For those looking for something extra special, the candle-lit dinners in the Livia vineyard are truly a midsummer night’s dream.

Once we’ll be able to travel freely again, add Il Querceto to your travel destination dream list, but for the moment, we have something special for you!

If you subscribe to Querceto newsletter you will receive a 10% discount on your first online order. You will also be kept in the loop on all of the news and offers coming from Querceto di Castellina.

They also created a special offer for you!

A 6 bottle box with: 1 Igt Toscana Rosé Furtivo 2020, 1 Igt Toscana Bianco Livia 2019, 2 Chianti Classico DOCG L’aura 2018, 2 Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione Sei 2017. The cost is 135€ instead of 150€ (shipping non included) + you will have the chance to enjoy a special 45 minute zoom tasting with Mary and Jacopo from Il Querceto.

Contact Mary at wineorders@querceto.com to purchase this special box, requesting for the Juls’ Kitchen special box.

Last but not least, from next Monday, for 4 weeks, we’ll share in our subscription based newsletter a traditional Italian recipe, paired with one of Querceto’s wines. We’ll begin with a fresh Italian aperitivo recipe paired with Furtivo, their Igt Toscana Rosé.

Ten recipes to cook this month

Let’s all agree summer is here. I feel it is time to welcome into the kitchen the first summer vegetables, green beans, zucchini and zucchini blossoms, fresh herbs like basil and mint, cherries, apricots and big pasta salads for the first balmy nights of the season.

Fried zucchini blossoms. Fry them on the spot,  leave them just one or two minutes in a dish lined with kitchen paper, then enjoy them standing, all around the dish, in a new modern ritual made ​​of murmurs of pleasure, small surprised exclamations when you bite into the melted mozzarella under the crisp crust and happy eyes of those who savour one of their favourite dishes.

Basil pesto and ricotta lasagne. I started making this basil pesto and ricotta lasagna during the lockdown, as I tended to buy plenty of fresh ricotta from the dairy that delivered meat and cheese once every two weeks. You can make this lasagna in no time, if you have basil pesto and fresh pasta at your hand. They are lighter than a classic ragù lasagna and have the fresh taste of summer.

Arugula pesto. If you have to start somewhere, start with something simple and essential like this pesto, which will reward you with a fresh, summery bowl of pasta. Add some halved cherry tomatoes for colour. You can use this arugula pesto also to dress boiled vegetables, or to spread on bread, topping it with a hard-boiled egg and an anchovy for a mouthwatering appetiser or for the simplest frugal meal.

Pasta with zucchini and saffron. You can use milk instead of cream if you prefer a lighter sauce. If you can’t find fresh mint, be very careful with dried mint, otherwise, it might be overpowering. Drain the pasta al dente, two or three minutes ahead of time, and sauté in a pan with the zucchini sauce, a generous grating of Parmigiano Reggiano and a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water to bind all the flavours. I missed this simplicity and the delicate scent of mint.

Pasta with tuna, basil, parsley and capers. This is one of my favourite summer dishes, pasta with tuna, parsley, basil and capers. Nothing particularly refined, but so simple, immediate and fresh. While the pasta water boils, just finely chop fresh basil and fresh parsley and a good handful of capers, then add good quality canned tuna and finish with a generous drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil. It tastes like summer, holidays, lazy afternoons spent reading your favourite book in the shade of an old tree, midnight swims and cicadas concerts.

French bean salad with hard-boiled eggs. This dish debunks the myth that all salads are boring. It fills you up and has a heady basil smell. But above all, it is vibrant in its summer colours: the olives wink among the French beans and the eggs add substance. Do not omit the anchovies, they will make a difference. Add a plate of ripe tomatoes, some bread croutons and a fruit salad, and you can easily feed a bunch of friends you have invited over for dinner. If there are any leftovers, or if you’ve been so far-sighted as to put some away, you’ll also have a ready lunch to bring to the office or to the swimming pool the next day.

Zucchini blossom and potato casserole. Layers of thinly sliced potatoes, zucchini blossoms, mozzarella, eggs and goat cheese, and then fresh herbs such as basil and chives, make this zucchini blossom and potato casserole a perfect main dish for a summer dinner. You can also make it in advance: reheat it just before serving. As in the case of an eggplant parmigiana, it gains a better taste and texture.

Tuna loaf. The easiest way is to make a citronette, which is nothing but a cool way to call an emulsion of extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon, whipped with a fork until the sauce becomes creamy, smooth and thick. You can also add finely chopped parsley. A light mayonnaise, stirred with a dollop of plain yoghurt, or a tablespoon of organic mustard, are just as good.

Mead and peach cake. This mead and peach cake celebrates Midsummer, the days of light, abundance and harvest, and was inspired by the Celtic legends that have always fascinated me since the first fantasy books I’ve read, many summers ago, in that fresh bed in my grandmother’s house during one of those long summer afternoons of my childhood. It’s a cake that would suit woods and forests, fairies and leprechauns, it’s crammed with fresh fruit, ripe peaches, lit by a drop of mead.

Ricotta crumb cake. The recipe Sabrina gave me for the filling called for fresh ricotta, a tiny glass of vinsanto, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a generous handful of roughly chopped dark chocolate. If you make this cake for the first time, start with this combination, and you’ll fall in love. Then, for the next cake, you’ll bake, play with your imagination, or use one of these possible fillings I tried over summer, as ricotta and summer berries. Mash two cups of your favourite summer berries with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar, then set aside for half an hour. If you, like me, love herbal notes in desserts, try mint with strawberries, basil with raspberries, bay leaves with blueberries and sage with blackberries. Drop dollops of berries on the ricotta. Top with crumbles and bake.

What are you planning to cook this month? Is there something you are excited to reintroduce to your cooking routine? Let me know in the comments, I’m always happy to add new recipes to my cooking repertoire.

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Are you in the Southern Hemisphere?

Let me tempt you with proper homemade lasagne alla bolognese, a Tuscan kale pesto with homemade tagliatelle, and a butternut squash savoury strudel. Missing a seasonal dessert? Why don’t you make a zabaione as a pick-me-up?

Are you interested in more original recipes?

So you should consider subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you join the subscription-based weekly newsletter on Monday, you’ll receive an email with two fresh ideas for an Italian inspired antipasto.

What you missed this month: torta salata with zucchini and ricotta, zuccottoveal involtinianchovies two ways, and chard and cuttlefish stew.

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We love Letters From Tuscany as it is like having our own independent publication: we test, photograph, write each recipe just for you. It is a way of sharing great content, recipes that we like, created to inspire you, to bring a little taste of Italy to your kitchen, for you and your family.

Cookbook update

I sent four complete chapters, and I celebrated with oysters. This is how demanding it has been. Still so much to do, but I think I finally got a handle of it, so I’m excited to start working on the next chapters.

Join our virtual cooking classes

We are missing the people we used to meet during our market tours and cooking classes. We had to figure out a new way to share our passion for food, to virtually meet all the food enthusiasts who gave us so much through the years. This is why we launched a virtual Tuscan cooking class on Udemy, an online learning platform.

We’ve been working on new courses and videos. Read more about the courses here on the blog to stay updated.

Virtual cooking courses currently available:

Each course includes:

  • step-by-step cooking demonstrations,

  • a PDF with ingredients, tools, and instructions of each recipe,

  • lifetime access,

  • free access to upcoming new recipes.