As I have often said, when I first started blogging, I had few expectations of it. I did it because I had nothing else to do. Today, I stand at quite a different place with dreams and castles built on this delicate piece of virtual space. Air Castles you say? Air Chrysalis, perhaps :)
Nevertheless, my biggest joy of having this virtual presence has been the very real and tactile human relationships I have formed over the years. I have met and continue to meet such incredible people with such deep passions for this world that it leaves me awed by the magic of humanity and inspired to be worthy of that company. It's like when you go to support a marathon runner, somehow, briefly as it may, you feel the desire to run one as well.
Many a time, I have considered these interactions casual, yet they have persisted so long, it has dawned on me that there is something deeper after all. It has always intrigued me to meet people through my blog as they were so entirely different, in backgrounds, experiences and outlooks, from me and the social circle I was familiar with, thus far. Yet, they are equally ambitious, resourceful, smart and inspiring without being ruthless, calculative or materialistic. It has been such a great eye and mind opening experience. I have met some amazingly warm, true to their soul, genuine people who have welcomed me with open arms and no judgement! What? No Judgement??! Yes, really, have you met me?!
I am incredibly honored to call as friends some of the most talented, beautiful and amazing people I have ever met in my life! They have in various ways inspired and motivated me and I have the utmost respect for their work and even more so for the largeness of their hearts. I cannot but not keep talking about them in my posts, so you know who they are. I am thrilled that three of them are (or soon to be) published and will be able to bring the joy of their work and their cuisine to millions of people through their cookbooks.
Today, I wanted to
talk about my Italian journey with
and her cookbook,
, which, is a
testament to her passion for Tuscany
, it's land and savoring the fruits of it. I stayed with Giulia for a week last year and after having engorged myself, during that time, on several of her homemade dishes, I can, with hand on my heart, say that she is simply a brilliant chef! Her love for Tuscany is so distinct in every bite of her food. There is no way you can escape falling in love with the region when a beautiful and accomplished friend gives such a passionate presentation of it. I also blame her, in jest of course, for the pounds of happy weight I added on that trip!
There was, of course, no hesitation at all, when her cookbook came out, in ordering it. I wanted the piece of heaven I had visited, on my plate, again, in the urban chaos of NYC. I begged and pleaded with her to come visit me... with the secret hope of reliving all that joy from a mere few months back. I am still working on that but, meanwhile, I decided I could not wait for Heaven any longer. As soon as I had her book in my hands, I earmarked a number of recipes that I had to try!
Oh! I wanted to cook that
Coniglio ad arrosto morto
(altho I have never even cooked rabbit before!) and that
Fresh herb Arista
(Such simple elegant flavors but such a bold dish) and that
Capon braised in tomato
and...that and...that and...that! The list of course was the entire book! There were meats that I had never cooked before but could not wait to. I am still asking my farmers for rabbit! Her book gives you recipes to make wholesome, hearty, heartfelt dishes that are at the same time so elegant and so well-put together that you cannot but feel the chef's heart on the table!
So, after all this, browsing, salivating etc. I have yet to make many of those dishes. One day I will. Meanwhile, an epiphany hit me, as I sat one cold day, posturing to myself and desiring some warmth. Not much more. Just that. For no reason, I picked up Juls' book, thumbing through my bookmarked pages and then thumbed through it again, because I had none of the ingredients for the more elaborate ones that had caught my fancy. I landed on page 63, which, was a Spelt Soup. It called to me. And then it hit me.
The pure joy of Tuscan food is in the simplicity of it! As Tessa Kiros says in her prologue to Juls's cookbook "
These are dishes that are honest and strongly respect their main ingredients
So I made soup with mustard greens, beans and dried morel mushrooms. It was inspired by the Spelt Soup.
Simple. Rich. Comforting. Laced with love. I smiled.
That's all! Need I say more?
Then another day, I wanted something sweet. Page 140. Rice pudding tarts. OK, I don't like rice pudding but I love tarts! And, the thing about Giulia's short crust pastry recipe, it has none of the fuss of cutting in cold butter and worrying about it melting in the heat of your hands. In hers, you gently rub the butter into the flour and see the magic of lending your hand to the recipe.
In short, her recipes are about being real and comfortable and thus bringing out the best in the ingredients and the dishes.....
I have also reenacted a number of recipe from
. One of my absolute favorites, which, I think should be a pantry staple is her recipe for
, a vegetarian pasta sauce that is rich and meaty in flavor, without the meat. It is super easy to make and fantastic for feeding large crowds (which I did) and an easy base for add ons!
And, one of my favorite sweet recipes from Jul's blog is this stunningly simple