Showing posts with label Tuscany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tuscany. Show all posts

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A taste of Tuscany, anyone?

Please welcome our good friend, Erika Chase, author of the Ashton Corners Mystery Book Club series as our guest today.  Take it away, Erika! 

I love used book sales and every fall, I can be found volunteering at a huge two-day event in town. The down side is that I come home laden with new finds while the space is not readily available. That’s not been known to stop me, though. And this year was no different. Out of the armload of books I found, one in particular gets a place of honor on my coffee table. It’s called A Table in Tuscany, Collected and Illustrated by Leslie Forbes.  It’s filled with classic recipes from Italy and the most stunning color drawings from around the country. 

So, here’s this wonderful book calling out to me. (I love all things Italian!) And I responded by choosing one particular recipe to try first. Puttenaio or Prostitutes’ Stew.  Looks hearty for a cool fall evening, doesn’t it?  

Well, it is. I loved it, as did my guinea pigs, ah, guests.
Cooking it is easy. It’s the prep work that takes the time. Lots of chopping involved, so beware.


1 lb. green peppers
2 large potatoes
1 stick celery
1 large carrot
1 lb. Portobello mushrooms 
1 large onion
1 lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded 
2 zucchini
4 slices of prosciutto
¼ pt. olive oil
Small handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, rosemary, thyme or basil (I used rosemary as I have a large plant gracing my kitchen)
Sea salt   (I prefer Celtic sea salt)
2 cloves garlic, crushed

(Please note, the original recipe called for 2 eggplants but I substituted the mushrooms since one of my guests has a sensitivity to nightshades. Also, since tomatoes at this time of year are not very flavorful in this area, I added half a small tin of tomato puree. Another addition of mine was the prosciutto – because I like it!)

1.      Cut the onion into thin slices and the rest of the vegetables into chunks.

2.       Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook everything except the tomatoes and the herbs for 10-15 minutes.
          Add the salt and tomatoes, cover and cook over a high heat for 10 minutes. Then simmer for 1 hour. 15 minutes before the end of cooking add the fresh herbs.

This can be served hot or cold; I’ve tried it as both and prefer the hot. Also, next time, I’m tempted to add, as one of my male guests suggested, chunks of beef. It can also be made entirely meat-free. Your choice.

Erika Chase is the author of the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. The fourth book in the series, BOOK FAIR AND FOUL, came out in August and the fifth, LAW AND AUTHOR, will be released next spring.  Those cats look a lot like the two she lives with.

 She’s been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada for Best Short Story. 

Erika is now working on a second series, under her own name, Linda Wiken. The Culinary Capers Mysteries will debut later next year, from Berkley Prime Crime.  Some people foresee even more cookbooks in Erika/Linda's living room. 

 Find out more  HERE!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Romantic and rustic roast chicken

A scenic and nostalgic trip and recipe brought to you by Mary Jane Maffini, part of the Victoria Abbott team.

Roast chicken: romantic and rustic
When you look at great recipes, usually they are made up of ordinary ingredient, good quality and fresh, prepared well with spectacular results. This chicken reminded me and my husband of the dinners we shared in a tiny, perfect apartment we shared in the historic village of Anghiari, Tuscany, a few years back, when I was researching The Dead Don't Get Out Much, the fifth Camilla MacPhee mystery (yes, it contains a trip to Italy). We’d pick up the ingredients in the small shops around the piazza and carry them back up the steep and twisty medieval street to the apartment where we’d cook in a kitchen that was smaller than the typical desk. The meals were always terrific, in part because of the lovely herbs that grew on the little terrace by the door, in part because of the location and in part because of the vino that was served at every dinner. 

We were tickled to reproduce that flavor and feeling in freezing Manotick, Ontario, in the middle of winter. With the delicious meal, the simple setting, a candle, and an Italian red wine in stemless glasses, it felt like a mini-vacation. 

Here’s how we did it:

Half a loaf of rustic Italian bread cut in 1 thick slices, enough to provide a bed for the chicken
4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 chicken about 4 to 5 lb
½ to one whole garlic head (rub off outside papery skin and slice in half horizontally through all the cloves)
½ lemon
½ lime
Sprigs of fresh rosemary or two tsp dried
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, coarsely chopped 

Preheat oven to 400 F (205 C). 2. Place bread slices in centre of a metal roasting pan.

Drizzle 2 to 3 tbsp (30 to 45 mL) of the olive oil over bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Season cavity of chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with prepared garlic head, lemon, lime, tarragon and thyme.

4. Rub outside of chicken with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
5. Place chicken, breast side up, on bread slices.

6. Roast chicken for 1 1/2 hours, until it is very brown and crispy and pan juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh. Internal temperature should be 165 F (74 C). 7. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

8. Serve with slices of the fabulous bread from the pan.

This property is owned by one of my Canadian friends. If you’d like to get more details, click this link:

This is the book I wrote based on the research in Tuscany.  It's available in print through some outlets and in ebook format.  You can check out this and the other twelve Mary Jane Maffini books at Mary Jane Maffini

Here's a link to the ebook! The Dead Don't Get Out Much: A Camilla MacPhee mysteryi
Enjoy the food and the trip!