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

Meatballs with potato purée

Comfort foods are always a must in every season, so for the upcoming winter season we suggest you warm yourself with our faculty and student’s version of meatballs and mash potatoes.

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Deep-fried eggplant, legume croquettes and carrot puree

Despite sounding like a summer dish these croquettes can be made in any season provided you have access to the ingredients. It is a versatile dish that can work both as an appetizer, side dish, or a little afternoon snack, the only limit is your imagination. The carrot pure makes for an excellent dipping sauce that adds a sweet and zesty kick to the dish that pairs well with the strong flavor of the croquet.

For the eggplant croquettes

Ingredients

2 kg black eggplants
300 gr cooked lentils, drained
500 gr swiss-chard, boiled and chopped
150 gr grated Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano
4 whole eggs
3 garlic cloves, minced
To taste parsley and marjoram, finely chopped
300 gr stale bread, soaked and crumbled breadcrumbs (for the mixture and for breading)

Method:

Start by dicing the eggplant into 2x2cm cubes and boil in salted water for 7 minutes, when cooked, drain the eggplants and squeeze out all the water. In a food processor mix the eggplant together with the lentils, swiss chard, eggs, cheese, garlic and herbs. Once everything is well mixed together add the soaked bread and mix well. At this point add breadcrumbs to thicken and salt and pepper to your liking. Shape the croquettes and cover them directly with the breadcrumbs. Deep-fry in oil 180°C and let drain, they can be served hot or room temp according to the season.

For the carrot puree

Ingredients

1 kg carrot, peeled and finely sliced
1 blonde onion, finely sliced
the juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp white sugar
2 garlic cloves

Method

The first is to heat the garlic and onion in a large pan with the olive oil. At the same time blanch the carrots in salted water. When the onion is soft remove garlic and add the carrots and sugar, let it cook at medium heat with little water, adding a pinch of salt. When carrots are very soft add the lemon juice and cook 3 more minutes, after that  puree high speed with olive oil in a food processor until it has a velvety texture, and is extra smooth. Lastly add salt to taste.
Serve the crochets on a plate together with drops of the carrot puree.

Pumpkin and Amaretti Risotto

Fall is pumpkin season, the sweet orange colored vegetable pops up in many recipes all over Europe and North America, from the iconic American pumpkin pie, to the traditional German pumpkin soup. Italy has no shortage of pumpkin based dishes, given the over 500 varieties of pumpkin that can be found all over the country that lend themselves to a great deal of experimentation. From pumpkin ravioli to pumpkin lasagne, there is a range of recipes from sweet to savory. The recipe that we bring you today lands somewhere between sweet and salty, a risotto that mixes pumpkin with the traditional almond flavored biscotti called amaretti. This is a match made in heaven, giving the dish a sweet and distinctive flavor. It requires some prep time like many risottos, but the result is well worth the work. Try it for yourself!

Ingredients:

650g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
30g unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
300g carnaroli risotto rice
75ml white wine 
500ml fresh chicken stock
40g parmigiano reggiano, finely grated
1/2 lemon, zest and a squeeze of juice
2 crunchy amaretti biscuits, finely crushed
30 g duck foie gras escalope

Method:

Start by preheating the oven to 200˚C. On a large baking tray, toss the pumpkin with 1/2 tbsp oil, season everything with salt and pepper to taste. Spread in a layer and roast for 45 minutes, turning halfway. Once completely roasted, pure’ half of the pumpkin and dice the remaining into small chunks, set aside so that we will use it later.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 tbsp oil and 10g butter in a large pan and fry the onion over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the rice, turn up the heat slightly, then add the wine and let it bubble until it is absorbed. At the same time bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan.

When the broth is warm add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice, let it simmer and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this step until the rice is al dente after about 10 minutes. 

At this point stir in the chunks and pureed pumpkin, complete cooking by adding butter and parmigiano cheese.

Once ready, plate the risotto in a shallow dish. Top with the crushed amaretti, and finish with a seared duck foie gras escalope.


Autumn Vegetable Salad

Who says salads are only for summer? Apicius International School of Hospitality’s Faculty and students have developed this unique take on the traditional summer salad, re-imagining it with ingredients that can be found during the fall season. They’ve created a unique dish that is as nutritious as it is flavorful, perfect if you’re trying to watch what you eat in these cold months.

Serves 4

Ingredients 

For the citronette dressing:
2 Lemons 
Salt & Pepper to taste

For the salad:
100 g Mushrooms 
50 g Salted ricotta 
50 g White grapes
1 Cauliflower Head
1 Red Cabbage Head
1 Fennel
50 g Rucola
2 Pears
100 g White Grapes
1 Endive
50 g Baby Spinach
50 g Sunflower Seeds

Method

Start by preparing the citronette by squeezing the lemons and mixing the juice with salt and pepper to taste. After you’ve done that, slice the red cabbage, cauliflower, and fennel paper thin and dress with the citronette; add salt if needed. Set aside the red cabbage since we will use it for the plating later.
Cut the mushrooms in wedges and sauté in a pan with oil and garlic until fully cooked, then set aside to cool down. While you wait, cut in half each one of the grapes and julienne the endive. Once ready, combine with the spinach, rucola, mushrooms, grapes, and endive in a bowl together with the cauliflower and fennel you’ve previously dressed with the citronette.

To plate the dish, firstly assemble all the elements we’ve cooked so far on a shallow plate. Lay the red cabbage creating a nest in the middle where you will place the rest of the salad. To finish, thinly slice the pears and set them on top of the salad with the sunflower seeds to decorate the dish, and as a last touch sprinkle some flakes of salted ricotta on top of the salad.


A Guide to Buying Good Olive Oil in the Supermarket

By Malta Olhiser, Photos by the Author

Olive oil plays a major part in Italian food culture and many locals take pride in this product. But not all olive oil is good olive oil. Especially in the region of Tuscany where there are many olive oil producers. So how do you tell the difference between a good product and a bad product? This guide will help you find the best-tasting olive oil on the market. 

The first step is to check the label.

Olive oil harvesting typically happens in the month of October and November. The date of the oil will tell you a lot about the flavors. The older the oil is, the blander the flavors of the oil will be. Also, check to see if the olives that have been harvested are 100% authentic Italian olives. If the olives come from “European countries” that means that they have been imported from another country and face the risk of being rotten and old. There are also many products that mix olive oil with other oils such as soybean or anything cheaper than olives.

The second step is looking at the color of the bottle.

Olive oil that comes in clear bottles run the risk of spoiling faster than olive oils that come in darker bottles. Darker color bottles are better for olive oil because it allows the olive oil to have a longer shelf life and not spoil as easily. Consider choosing a bottle color that is a shade of green like the oil that you will be tasting. Of course, this is hard if you have not tried a specific company yet, but the dark green colors typically have the best oil in them.

The last step is to look at the price.

In supermarkets, you can find olive oil at very affordable prices. Harvesting olive oil takes manpower and there is a short period of time where olives can be harvested. So, a cheaper price usually means that the olive oil is not authentic and is mixed with other cheaper oils. The overall production of olive oil also takes a lot of time and money. However, a higher price is not always an indication of 100% authenticity, but the lowest price will not be the best tasting and is almost always poor quality. 

Below you will find pictures from the supermarket that will help you find a better-quality olive oil.

These two oils would not be considered the best options. The one on the right is in a clear bottle, where the one on the left, despite the price being higher, contains olives from European countries meaning that the olives have been imported. 

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This bottle would be a much better option for the taste. It is 100% authentic Italian olive oil which is what you are looking for while purchasing.

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