When ever I go anywhere, the first place I want to see is the city market. If it is a large town, there will be a market in a building. Smaller towns have weekly markets in the small squares once a week or more. We have monthly markets for organic food markets, flea markets and special artisan markets. Some of the moving markets also have clothing, housewares and food trucks. Often, these little shops bring in products not available in the small local shops.
I was really lucky to live right in front of Florence’s Mercato Centrale for 20 years. It was my daily inspiration.
Being able to shop daily, or almost daily was so inspirational. Eavesdropping to pick up new recipes from the locals shopping, asking the vendors for their own versions. You can find as many versions of classic recipes as there are cooks. Recipes change neighborhood to neighborhood and town to town.
One of the most fun Italian past times are field trips for food. Going out to the countryside to discover the BEST– you name it. Local wine, butchers,bakers and cheese makers.
Buying your oil and wine right from the farm. I consider them treasure hunts. We make a day of it, visit a town, perhaps on market day, find a fun place for lunch or a new pastry shop for a coffee and snack. Discover a new product, make new friends. What is even better, is that this is my life. All my research I then save up for my Divine Days, custom tours. Nothing is more fun than sharing my new friends. I am working on a calendar, market tours, day trips in Chianti, truffle hunting. After living in Italy now for more than 30 years, I have tons of fun places to recommend.
During my weeklong programs, we always hit a weekly market plus a grocery store. They are great places to pick up fun kitchen products and items at inexpensive prices. I get 2 -3 year old parmigiano for under 20 euro a kilo. Things like sea salt,herbs, a mezzluna for kitchen chopping. So many fun normal things to bring home. I always suggest bringing an extra suitcase.
Each region as local specialties, like this fish. To me, it looks like a baracuda in the face– but flat. It looks scary, but is one of the most delicate fishes and now a personal favorite when ever I can find it. In Sicily, I learned to cover the filets in breadcrumbs seasoned with fresh herbs and create a roll and bake. It is FABULOUS.
The secret to being a good cook, is being a good shopper. My mother-in-law, Tina, told me
” Spend more time shopping and less time cooking” It is really a no brainer. If you buy flavorful fresh products in season, they need very little done to them to taste good.
Most of my market tours and day trips are private, but am looking into offering group tours and market to table classes later this year.
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You can also find my book for sale, both as a real book and an ebook and you can download my app from the site.
Right now is the magical season pre-easter,called carnevale, on the site I have recipes for several of the seasonal special sweets, most are fried.
I am going to Carnevale in Viareggio on Sunday ( hoping it doesn’t rain) and will post pictures– it is an incredible experience.
The weather has been confusing and I really don’t know what to cook. It has not been cold enough for my favorite winter dishes.
I am getting ready to leave Italy for a month on the west coast teaching. I hope to meet as many people as possible and share recipes and tales from my Italy.