my davinci storyteller experience 2014

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After climbing into a minivan at Peretola, the airport in Florence, our driver Filippo expertly navigated the road toward the Casale di Valle, a 15th century hunting lodge set among vineyards in Tuscany, the place that was to be the home of the DaVinci Storytellers for the next week, I struggled to keep my eyes open. I didn’t want to miss my first-ever glimpse of the Tuscan countryside. Toscana! And I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing out of the window was real.

My eyes were bleary and my head felt fuzzy, like the fleece blanket wadded up in my tote bag, which I’d hoped would be just the comfy thing I needed (along with an eye pillow) to help me sleep during my overnight flight. I never sleep on planes – or trains and automobiles for that matter – and this time was no exception.

Was I dreaming? Up until now, this vista of rolling land, patchworked with vineyards, distant rows of cypresses and ancient stucco farmhouses had always been just that – a beautiful series of images stored up in mind from studying art, books and photographs.  [Read more…]

tuscan brined pork chops with salsa verde

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This recipe for juicy brined pork chops is a variation on one I’ve been making for years. While I was in Tuscany during my DaVinci Storyteller experience earlier this fall, I soaked up the aura and sensory beauty of the place – it’s hard not to! Aromatic foliage grows wild everywhere, like bay laurel, lavender and rosemary, each of which happen to be classic and delicious seasonings for thick cut pork chops.  [Read more…]

chicken in red wine vinegar sauce

One of dozens of things I’ve learned from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, possibly my favorite food book of all time, is the method of pre-seasoning meat (and fish) with salt. Generously, and often well in advance of cooking.

The thought of not only planning next day’s dinner in advance – and actually starting to prepare it too – seems like one more good intention gone astray. BUT, in this case the “preparation” involves taking chicken out of the package, sprinkling it with salt, putting it back into the refrigerator and forgetting about it for 24 hours. Yup. Trust me, it’s totally doable. And that simple step has a big impact on the outcome.  [Read more…]