Sunday in Siena

It’s Spring Vacation.  Yesterday morning, Allan and I caught the 6:00 AM flight from Tunis to Rome, which takes exactly one hour, rented a car and drove to Tuscany.  We are staying for a week at the Agritourismo Marciano, a farm stay just outside the city walls of Siena.  So far, it is exactly what we wanted:  a real farm, rustic but tasteful, organic, clean.  It’s all of that.

They have a particular thing about the laundry here which is all fresh and bright from air drying.  Well-done laundry is important to me and gives me a clear message about the deep levels of intentionality this establishment has.    The cat particularly liked it, too. I felt like him last night tucked into my clean, crisp sheets.

This was the kitchen this morning when we came in to share breakfast at the long farm table with the other guests.  It’s cozy, here.

Due to limited internet access, my husband wasn’t able to check his email this morning so he read a guidebook instead.  When we got into the car to go into Siena for the day, he had everything planned, including a great little surprise place for lunch.  I find that incredibly romantic.

We so passionately want to find the great little places to have a bite to eat and do not want to be herded along tourist trails from one oversized meal to another.  He read about Antica Pizzicheria al Palazzo della Chigiana which is probably locally known as Antonio’s.  It is a tiny meat and cheese shop that is legendary with the locals.  A line starts to form near noon and is soon out the door.  Allan read that you could ask them to assemble a platter to eat on the spot and if you bought a bottle of wine, they would lend you glasses.

They aren’t actually a restaurant, but they can prop you up with your delicatessan treasures on a wine cask in a corner and there you can spend an indulgent 1/2 hour groaning with each bite and licking your fingers. Antonio was really touchy about taking pictures.  He had several posted signs forbidding it and tragically,  you never saw a more atmospheric place in your life; it’s begging to have its picture taken.  I sort of begged him a little and he grudgingly allowed me to inconspicuously take a few so I kept it really brief.  Here are just some house-canned sauces and artichokes.  I love the hand-drawn labels.

Here is what was on that plate:  five varieties of pecorino, which is the Italian name for cheese made from sheep’s milk and then cured meats that ranged from wild boar to farm-raised, air-dried pork.  Notice the condiments that brought it together and that bread had chunks of salty meat and chunks of cheese.

This meal was a great find and it set a tone for the kind of food we want to source out the rest of the week.  Take out your Siena Brown color-crayon and color along with us.

Between the Pear and Cheese

I love putting French phrases into Google translator to see what I get.  The super literal translation, messing around with the syntax, sometimes puts words in a slightly more poignant order and makes me take them more poetically.  Take for instance this French starter recipe I found this week.  Obviously, it is a lovely stack of pear/cheese/pear etc, but isn’t that title just begging for an ellipses?  Are you already filling in the blank for what comes between the pear and the cheese?  Literally?  Metaphorically?

I’ve been playing around with a magazine this week that is the French equivalence of Bon Appetit.  It is called a table.  I’ve learned so much translating recipes, making predictions about what I think is called for and then sometimes getting surprised.  For example, many recipes call for 1 c. a café de ________ or 1 c. a soupe ____________.  Even though it didn’t exactly make sense for the recipe I was fairly assured that I was going to be using a coffee infusion and some other sort of liquid solution.  It turns out that the first one is a teaspoon and the second is a tablespoon.  That’s all.  Now, isn’t that surprising and nonintuitive?
            This recipe says almost everything with the photo.  It is simply a strata of pear and cheese that has been sprinkled with lemon juice and dusted with a cracked pepper mixture.  It comes together more deliciously than the short list of ingredients suggests.  If you want to make it more substantial, place it on a bed of greens that have been tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper.  For the full winter detox meal, follow the salad with a bowl of my favorite lentil soup. 
6 small pears
200 grams of any delicious cheese
½ lemon, juiced
Mixed peppercorns, cracked
1.     Peel pears, leaving stem. Core them from below.  Sprinkle all sides of pears with a few drops of lemon juice.  Cut into 4 pieces each (see photo).  If bottom doesn’t sit flat, trim it straight across.
2.     Thinly slice the cheese, preparing about 5 slices per serving.  Encourage some rough edges.
3.     Arrange on a plate.
4.     Sprinkle with cracked pepper.
6 s