Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuscan Inspiration

Recipe Courtesy of: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

I have just finished reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. YES, this is the book that the chick flick was based on (and yes, I totally loved the movie), but the book is very different. The amazon.com summary is as follows:

In this memoir of her buying, renovating, and living in an abandoned villa in Tuscany, Frances Mayes reveals the sensual pleasure she found living in rural Italy, and the generous spirit she brought with her. She revels in the sunlight and the color, the long view of her valley, the warm homey architecture, the languor of the slow paced days, the vigor of working her garden, and the intimacy of her dealings with the locals. Cooking, gardening, tiling and painting are never chores, but skills to be learned, arts to be practiced, and above all to be enjoyed. At the same time Mayes brings a literary and intellectual mind to bear on the experience, adding depth to this account of her enticing rural idyll.

Needless to say, I finished this book in about 6 hours - the time I spent flying from Phoenix to Philly - and as soon as I got home went to check the market for Tuscan farm houses. It just got to me, the amazing food, people and the ability to live off of your land. What more could a person want?? In two sections of the book she also lists a bunch of recipes (one for summer, one for winter) that were provided to her by local friends. Many of them look amazing! I'm sure that they would be even better if you had access to the produce that she does, but I think that Whole Foods / Farmers Markets may compete at least a little.

This is the recipe I decided to make:

Baked Peppers with Ricotta and Basil

The real recipe calls for a half cup of green onions, but as one of the people I was cooking for does not like onions, I nixed them and added the lemon element. I did not really add too many pictures of the final product, because although these tasted great, the presentation left something to be desired (see above pic). At the end of the recipe I will comment on ways to improve this.


3 large peppers (I used one green, red and yellow)
Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 eggs
2 cups ricotta
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cooking Instructions:

1) Singe peppers over gas flame. DON'T cook so long they turn limp (oops).

2) Cool in plastic bag and peel off the skin.
3) Drizzle with olive oil.

4) In a bowl, mix the remainder of the ingredients.

5) Fill peppers and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

OK, so the results were mixed. Like I mentioned, they tasted GREAT! However, they ultimately resembled ricotta pepper pancakes, not stuffed peppers. I think I cooked the peppers too long so that they lost their structure. Also, the peppers were too small. In the future, I will not de-skin the peppers, just cut them in half and let the oven do the work. Pepper skin is really not that bad. I think that would really solve the only problem as I see it. Also, I just stirred the ricotta mixture, not beat it, so maybe that would be better also. Of note, the basil was fresh from my garden and the ricotta was a small farm produced variety, not mass produced. We served these with some lemon/chicken pasta thingies and the following salad:

Summer Salad (Tuscan Inspired)


Handful of basil
Salad greens
2 medium tomatoes
Handful strawberries sliced
3 oz fresh mozzarella cubed
Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cooking Instructions:

1) Mix together. Done, simple, DE-licious!

I could eat this salad any day of the week, it is one of my absolute favorite things to make. Tomato + Basil + Mozzarella is the best combo on earth....

Well, this menu really brought some Tuscany to Doylestown. We had Yuengling, but I think wine would have been more appropriate. Oh well. It was delicious and after spending about 2 hours in the emergency room because I sprained my ankle, tasted even better. I will try some of the other recipes in her book and get back to you. Next is some semolina gnocchi I think.



E said...

I made something like this once. I bought that mini mixed pepper pack at Trader Joe's, split them in half and stuffed them with ricotta and herbs. Because the peppers were tiny, their skins were tender enough to not have to be removed prior to baking.

Sorry about the ankle. Pretty toenail polish, though.

Victoria said...

looks yummy. I've been obsessed with baked/roasted/grilled peppers and sweet potatoes and stuff like that and omg your recipe looks yummy. =) I'd love to try it out! when are you baking those CUPCAKES?!=)

Georgia said...

Victoria - My "guest blogger" Alli is in charge of the cupcakes, unfortunately she had a pest infestation in Boston, so is without kitchen presently - soon though!

E - Thanks for the tip on the little peppers, I love those things, they are great. I like to slice them up and then saute them..mmm...also, the ankles getting better :)

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