Cookbook author, photographer and blogger Emiko Davies brings us on a culinary tour around the Tuscan table from her home in Tuscany.
You could probably recognize Tuscany in a postcard – landscape that is blessed with softly rolling hills sporting olive trees and rows of vineyards, or of deep golden fields interspersed with farms and medieval towns. It’s that same landscape that is also reflected on the Tuscan table in the form of Italian extra virgin olive oil, wine, bread and special Italian cured meats and cheeses – products that often hold the prestigious status of PDO or PGI (or in Italian DOP, Denominazione di Origine Protetta, and IGP, Indicazione Geografica Protetta, respectively) or in the case of Italian wine, DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) and DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata – Controlled Designation of Origin) – both falling within the PDO status. These European designations symbolize a status that upholds not only the traditional methods of production but also guarantees that the product is made in specific regions of Italy, such as Tuscany, and is therefore genuine and tastes like it always has.
The essential Tuscan table is rarely without these distinguished foods. Take the things you would find on an ideal Tuscan salumi and cheese platter, a start to many a meal, often accompanied by a glass of Chianti Classico DOCG: thinly sliced Prosciutto Toscano PDO or Finocchiona PGI, a delicious soft Tuscan salame, heightened with the addition of fennel seeds. Then there is Pecorino Toscano PDO, a hard, whole and full-flavoured sheep’s milk cheese that can be eaten in a panino or placed center stage on an antipasto platter, as well as grated over pasta or rice dishes in place of Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO when aged.
Unsalted Tuscan bread appears on the table to mop up Tuscan stews and sauces (a practice called “la scarpetta”), such as peposo, a rich and peppery beef stew, or long-cooked, gamey braises like wild boar stew. It is also enjoyed in the most essential way – drizzled in peppery, Toscano PGI Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkled with salt – or even, better, grilled over coals and rubbed with garlic first. It’s hard to imagine the perfect Tuscan meal that doesn’t begin in this way, along with the clinking of glasses in a toast to good health.