Welcome to CiboChat!

CiboChat is the Food and Culture blog of FUA Florence University of the Arts. This blog project reflects our aim to share the cultural and especially gastronomic experiences of our students, faculty, staff, and Florentine locals. Check out our Florentine Food Guide for how to dine like a local!

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Blog

Tuna tartare with bufala mozzarella, coconut sauce, lime and chili pepper

Tuna tartare usually consists of finely chopped raw tuna that can be prepared and served in a variety of ways. Initially, tartare was created as a French dish and was often prepared with beef. But since its conception, it has evolved time and time again to include certain meat or fish you desire. Tartare is often served at fine dining eateries, and fits right in with Apicius’ Spring menu. Here’s how to make Apicius’ interpretation of this elegant classic.

Serves 1
Ingredients:
Tartare
50 gr Savoy cabbage
90 gr Tuna
White wine for cooking
Citrus Air
120 gr lime juice
80 gr lemon juice
8 gr sugar
2 gr salt
2 gr Lecitine (1.7%)
0.4 gr Xanthan gum (0.3%)
Chili peppers (to taste)
250 gr water
50 gr sugar
5 gr salt
Bufala & Coconut Sauce
150 gr buffalo mozzarella
200 gr mozzarella water
80 gr coconut milk


Method:
When preparing the chili peppers, slice the peppers and cook sous vide at 85°C with a syrup made of the water, sugar and salt. Set aside until ready to serve. To prepare the bufala and coconut sauce, puree the ingredients together until smooth and add salt to taste. You can also adjust the flavor to your liking, adding coconut milk if necessary. When ready the expected texture of sauce would be similar to a liquid yogurt. Next, slice the savoy cabbage julienne-style and stew them in a pan with olive oil, garlic, salt and white wine. For the tuna, finely chop and dress with olive oil, salt, pepper. To plate this dish, take the bufala and coconut sauce and pour it into the center of a pasta bowl. Next place the chopped savoy cabbage in the center and flatten with a spoon. Place the tuna tartare on top of the cabbage and garnish the sauce with chili and micro-greens. To finish, add the citrus air on the tartare.

Fedora’s Artisanal Chocolate Eggs

By Lauren Mulvey

This spring at Florence University of the Arts’ pastry shop, Fedora, head pastry chef Simone De Castro is working on his latest round of chocolate eggs with his students. De Castro’s spring collection will feature 11 eggs of varying designs based around the natural environment and sustainability, as well as a mini collection of specialized chocolate eggs for children. During the spring season, chocolate eggs pop up in nearly every market and pasticceria in Italy’s city centers. Chocolate eggs are an Italian Easter tradition that rose to popularity following World War II. The chocolate eggs themselves are a special treat, but they serve to hold gifts for family members and children. On Easter day, families in Italian homes around the country can be found cracking their egg open to find a secret surprise inside. De Castro has been making collections of eggs every spring for years, and each year, he has selected a theme that presents a string of thoughts and feelings he has experienced. In Fedora this spring, you can expect to find chocolate eggs embellished with earth-inspired textures like wood,
stone, leaves and flowers. “Nature is the only place that calms me,” De Castro said of his choice to utilize these themes. Not only will the eggs include imagery of nature, but their packaging and production will also be sustainable. De Castro ensures the chocolate is free trade, packaging is recyclable and the production of the chocolate excludes the usual use of non-sustainable tools.
“I don’t want to dirty the world with the creation of rubber molds or plastic molds,” De Castro said. “I prefer to use my hands and some techniques for modeling that use tools that can be sustainable.”
The process of making these eggs is straightforward, but requires precision. De Castro explains in simple terms, one must temper the chocolate, pour it into a molded shape, wait for it to crystallize and place the Easter gift inside before closing and decorating the final product. For now, De Castro works alone on the eggs. However, students in Fedora’s Chocolate Artistry course, starting in FUA’s fourth session on April 4, will assist De Castro in completing his vision and crafting the chocolate carefully for families and gatherings throughout Florence. Through this process, students will not only practice their chocolate crafting skills, but will immerse themselves in Italian culture at one of the most joyous times of year in Italy. To see De Castro’s 2022 chocolate egg collection in-person, visit Fedora between March 22nd and the end of the Easter season.

Baccala pan-fried with “black” butter, chickpea puree, and black cabbage pesto

By Lauren Mulvey

Though the phrase “black” butter might be unsettling at first glance, this seafood meal is a trademark of Italian culture. Baccala, or salted cod fish, is traditionally eaten on special occasions and can be prepared in numerous unique ways. At Apicius kitchens, our chefs have prepared a delicious mix of fresh flavors to pair with this classic.

Serves approximately 6

Ingredients
“Black” butter
1 kg butter
100 gr capers
70 gr anchovies
20 sage leaves

Combine butter, capers, anchovies, and sage leaves in a pan and cook until the butter turns a rich brown color. Let the butter cool for 30 minutes then reheat and strain before cooling the mixture down and storing.

Chickpea puree

Ingredients:
500 gr cooked chickpeas (with cooking water)
1 garlic clove
1 rosemary sprig
5 sage leaves
1 shallot

To start, finely chop the garlic clove, shallot, rosemary and sage separately, and add to a pan with olive oil. Cook on low heat until soft. Add the 500 gr of chickpeas with their water and cook for 10 minutes. Next, puree the mixture adding 100 gr of olive oil until the puree is smooth. Finally, add salt to taste and set aside as you prepare the rest of the meal.

Black cabbage pesto

500 gr of black cabbage leaves
5 garlic cloves
100 gr olive oil

First blanch the cabbage in clean water three times (each time using fresh water). Then remove the black cabbage leaf stems and clean them. Slice the leaves finely and boil in salted water for 5 minutes. Puree the boiled cabbage with olive oil and garlic until smooth. To finish, add salt to taste.

Baccala cooked in black butter

Soak the baccala in water and lay a piece of parchment in a casserole dish. Pour some of the “black” butter into the dish. Place the baccala, skin-side down, on a pan and cook until the skin becomes crunchy. Flip the cod and let it cook slowly until the pulp starts to flake. To serve, plate the chickpea puree at the base of the dish and top with the “black” cabbage pesto, laying the pan-fried Baccala on top to finish. A note from the chef: It is highly advised that you do not add salt to the finished dish.

Handmade Green Gnocchi

By Lauren Mulvey

Gnocchi is a classic dish dating back centuries in Italian history. But you may have heard this dish pronounced in some amusing ways. To set the record straight, gnocchi is pronounced no-kee, not guh-no-key or any other variation you may have heard. Derived from the word “nocche” for knuckles, gnocchi are small and round, and became a very popular dish throughout Italy and Europe because of the affordability of its ingredients. Here’s how to make a classic gnocchi with a selection between two delicious sauces.


Serves 10

Gnocchi
1kg white potato
300 gr spinach
300 gr 00 flour
2-3 eggs
Salt

First remove the skin from the potato, boil and mash it. Next, cook the 300 gr of spinach in a pan, chop finely and puree. Combine the ingredients and shape gnocchi.

a) Gnocchi with Sage Sauce
With butter, sage and Parmigiano Reggiano PDO for the butter sage sauce
Ingredients
200 gr unsalted butter
20 fresh sage leaves
whole garlic cloves (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
water/stock

To make the sauce, first melt butter in a saute pan with garlic and sage and let them infuse. Then add water/stock and black pepper. While the sauce cooks, boil gnocchi in salted water, drain and add to the butter sauce. Remove the garlic and let the gnocchi combine with the sauce on a medium-high heat. Take the pan off the heat and add grated Parmigiano and toss the pasta. Serve in a past bowl with additional grated Parmigiano on top of the gnocchi.

b) Gnocchi with gorgonzola saffron fondue, orange scented onion and walnuts

Ingredients:
600g Sweet Gorgonzola cheese
500g whole milk
250g fresh cream
5 sachets of saffron powder

Warm up the milk and cream together, but be careful not to boil. Add gorgonzola and mix. Let the cheese melt off the heat. Finally blend the mixture with saffron powder, strain and set aside.

For the orange scented onion

Ingredients:
300 ml water
300 ml orange juice
300 gr sugar

Prepare a 50 % syrup made with honey and orange juice. Cut red onions in wedges about 1 cm thick and cook with extra virgin olive oil and salt for 10 minutes until they soften. Add syrup to the onions and cook at medium-low heat until the liquid is dense and the onion is still “al dente.”
Add salt to taste. Boil gnocchi in water with salt and drain. Add to a saute pan with the fondue and cook on medium heat until the sauce thickens. To serve, plate the gnocchi in a pasta bowl and garnish with the onions and crushed walnuts.

Artichoke Salad, Parmigiano Reggiano PDO, arugula and pine nuts

By Lauren Mulvey

In Italian cuisine, artichokes are a favorite ingredient. They can be cooked in a variety of ways or added to dishes, like salads, for extra flavor and texture. Artichokes are native to Sicily and the earliest records of the vegetable were in Italy. In season between February and April, artichokes are particularly famous in Roman cuisine, and during this time, can be found in almost any fresh food market and on many restaurant menus. Just in time for artichoke season, make your own artichoke salad with crunchy roasted pine nuts, fresh arugula, and parmigiano.
A note from the chef: The ingredient quantities below are suggestions. The quantity of oil, salt and lemon juice used to dress the artichoke salad varies according to olive oil intensity and lemon acidity level. Additionally, the quantity of lemon is directly proportional to the bitterness of artichokes. Finally, how many artichokes per portion depends on the size of the artichokes (that are sold by the piece, not by the weight).

Ingredients (1 portion)

1.5 ea medium size Violetti Artichokes
40 gr Parmigiano Reggiano
35-40 gr arugula
10 gr Pine nuts
2 pinches of Salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Parsley

Start by preheating the oven to 150o C. Put about 10 grams of pine nuts on a tray and place in the oven to toast for 10 minutes or until golden. Clean the artichokes and immerse them in a mix of water and lemon (one lemon squeezed for every two liters of cold water). After cleaning, thinly slice the artichokes lengthwise and dress them with a bit of lemon, parsley, oil and salt. Toss the artichokes in a bowl to mix. Then place your 35-40 grams of arugula on a plate and lay your artichoke salad in the center. Add more lemon, parsley and oil to taste. For a finishing touch, shave the Parmigiano Reggiano on top and decorate with the toasted pine nuts.