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.
This early morning thing stayed with me for a long time. I’m not a morning person, it just doesn’t come naturally to me, as if I do not put on the alarm at night, or if I didn’t have an 8-month daughter, I would probably sleep longer. But I’ve been fascinated by the charm of the early mornings ever since reading this quote by Allan Jenkins.
“Sometimes I feel it as my secret, like Narnia, outside time or at least the rest of the day. I cannot believe everyone doesn’t know about it and take an occasional step through the wardrobe.”
So now, when I am almost 40, I’m trying to change my habits and wake up earlier than usual, nibbling away at precious minutes every morning. I brew me a cup of tea, and sit at my desk to write. Sometimes it is just a few words before the aforementioned baby Livia decides she wants to have breakfast. Other times, I feel more focused, or awake, and I manage to write a whole newsletter or close a difficult headnote to a recipe, words flowing as they used to flow years ago.
It is not easy for me, and it doesn’t work every single day. But when I manage to drag myself out of bed in the silent house, the morning starts on a positive note.
Today, with my cup of Jasmin green tea, I’m sharing with you what I am reading - if only I would not fall asleep at night -, watching, listening to and dreaming these days, plus 10 recipes to cook this month to celebrate May. We’ll be back with the weekend cooking project next week!
What I’m reading.
I would have loved to share a new book - a food memoir, a cookbook, a crime novel… - but I’ve just read research books for our cookbook since last month. I miss a few good pages read before going to bed, but lately, I just fall asleep in a second, just the time to whisper goodnight to Tommaso and Livia, and I’m in dreamland. I hope this is just a transient phase, so I’m asking you: what should I read next? You can tell me your favourite book in the comments.
What I’m watching.
Have you seen Seaspiracy on Netflix? I was shocked, then I started questioning what I had just seen, and finally read one of Mark Bittman’ s newsletters, ‘You deserve more than what Seaspiracy has to offer’. He is always spot on, balanced and informed in his opinions. He shared an article by Alan Lovewell, from Real Good Fish.
Seaspiracy brought some very real and serious global issues to light but chose to tell only a sliver of the story, supported by sensationalism and an agenda. In response, let’s better educate ourselves on the issues. Let’s support domestic and local fisheries. Seek out seafood sources who can tell you where your fish comes from. Eat lower on the food chain and try underutilized species. And above all, celebrate and honor what the ocean provides.
If you are interested in sustainable seafood, it is a very good read.
Apart from that, at night we tend to watch crime series and movies now. We rewatched all the episode of CSI Miami, and we usually do no miss an episode of Law & Order SVU.
What I’m listening to.
MotherFood, Alissa Timoshkina’s podcast. Alissa is a food writer, author, chef, curator and mother. I’ve been listening to Alissa’s conversations with other mothers who share a career in food all through my pregnancy. It has been beneficial, as during the lockdown last year I totally missed the chance to talk with other mothers or mothers-to-be, sharing doubts, anxieties and fears. Seeing motherhood through food was just the perspective I needed to find courage and inspiration. I especially loved the conversations with Aran Goyoaga and Olia Hercules.
What I’m cooking.
The positive effect of having watched Seaspiracy is that it made me question the way I choose seafood. When I discovered that on Tuesday mornings, a cooperative of fishermen from Livorno, on the Tuscan coast, comes to my town to sell the daily catch, I decided that, if possible, from now on, I will buy fish exclusively from them. I consider this a privilege because that fish is not only fresh, sustainable, and local, but also more expensive.
I balance out this choice by introducing at least 6 legume-based meals a week. At the moment, I’m soaking cannellini beans and borlotti beans, which are part of our weekly meal plan and, incidentally, the protagonists of two recipes I am testing for the cookbook. If you’re searching for simple, wholesome, nutritious recipes with legumes, try this chickpea and barley salad.
What I’m dreaming.
I’m dreaming about short trips to nearby towns, to the seaside, to our favourite restaurants. One of the places I would love to visit soon is @ilbaciarino, a charming eco-retreat in Vetulonina, with a breathtaking view of the Maremma hills that slope down to the sea. When we had the opportunity to experience a long weekend there, in December, we were not only astonished by the location and the generous hospitality but also by the fish-based lunch that Andrea, a former fisherman in Castiglione della Pescaia, prepared for us all. For me, a person who would happily live on raw fish, that lunch is stable in the top 5 of the best culinary experiences of my life. You can read more about our love for Maremma here, where we shared our small guide to this wild area of Tuscany.
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Ten recipes to cook this month
I’m thoroughly savouring Spring in the kitchen, but I’m already craving basil, zucchini and warmer days. The recipes I’m sharing with your this month will help you bottle the smell of Spring, but they will also give you a first taste of the good season ahead.
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.
Pasta with zucchini and saffron. While the pasta is cooking undisturbed, prepare the zucchini dressing: cook the zucchini already cut into cubes, to save time, in a small saucepan with broth or hot water. Drain the zucchini, add the saffron and a handful of fresh mint leaves, and then blend everything with a splash of cream until you get a delicate purée.
Spaghetti with clams and peas. It is a summery dish of spaghetti with clams with a strong memory of Spring, as they are dotted with sweet and crispy peas. I had already tried in the fall to team up clams and seasonal vegetables: at the time, it was butternut squash, my never-without vegetable for the cold months.
Minestrone from scratch. Once in a while, I make my own minestrone from scratch, buying all the vegetables I like, cutting them into regular cubes and freezing them in portions to have it ready when I feel like having a bowl of comforting soup. I feel like a trustworthy grown-up. File under adulting.
Italian potato salad. Dress it immediately, as soon as you have peeled the potatoes, until they are still hot, and mix it well. When you stir the salad, the potatoes will be slightly smashed and bruised, and that’s the point: they will absorb the seasoning and all the aromas.
Sweet and sour cod. This recipe perfectly represents the Livornese cuisine, made of poor fish, tomato paste and enlivening influences brought by other cultures, all welcomed and absorbed by a town that is not just a melting pot, but a pot of steaming cacciucco.
Strawberry tart with elderflower pastry cream. A strawberry tart for the last days of Spring, with a buttery shortcrust shell, an elderflower pastry cream filling and plenty of ripe strawberries, simply dressed with lemon juice and sugar.
Strawberry and mascarpone pound cake. The pound cake, also know in French as quatre quart, is one of the few desserts I can make, along with shortcrust and pastry cream, without having to keep a finger on the recipes written in my notebook or on a cookbook. Just remember the golden proportion: use the same weight of eggs, flour, sugar and fat component.
Rose petal syrup. You do not need much to embrace the good season with a good mood, or to smooth the rough edges of a harsh day: a spoonful of rose syrup works magic, it has the elegance of an ancient world.
Elderflower syrup. Make a refreshing summer cocktail with iced water, lemon and mint, drizzle over pancakes, use it to brush a cake or just smell it deeply to go back with your mind to those sweet first days of summer, kissed by sunshine and a light breeze.
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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What you missed this month: cuttlefish and chard stew, spring lasagne, beef, sausage and asparagus meatballs, a fava bean, salami and pecorino ciambellone, and a Tuscan Easter menu and a seafood recipe for Good Friday.
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I just realized I started testing the cookbook recipes from the most difficult chapters, with hearty, meat-based dishes. It wasn’t intentional, but I soon found out that this was probably a smart decision. Now I’ll go through the other chapters in a breeze (hopefully).
For the first time in months, during the weekend we’ll have friends over to eat all the food left after testing a few recipes. It used to be a habit for us, now it feels so special!
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.
📣 All the courses are on discount for 30 days to celebrate Mother’s Day, use the code MOTHERSDAY21 to reclaim it. 📣
Virtual cooking courses currently available:
Fresh pasta cooking class (24,99€, now 17,99€)
Vegan Tuscan cooking class (24,99€, now 17,99€)
Italian desserts cooking class (24,99€, now 17,99€)
Each course includes:
step-by-step cooking demonstrations
a PDF with ingredients, tools and instructions of each recipe
free access to upcoming new recipes