Firenze Files: Experimenting with Fiorentine Food

As I’ve been learning more and more in photography class (such as how to use the camera in a mode other than “Auto,”), I’ve been taking much better pictures of everything from the streets here in Firenze to all the wonderful food here.  Here is a little chronicle of my evening of cooking, including a snack while cooking, a starter course of a salad, and a second “piatta” of steak.  While beginning on a sauce for my steak, I made myself an insalata caprese on which to snack.  It’s a very simple salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, and balsamic to which basil and olive oil are often added.  I do have a tiny basil plant here that sits on our roof while I hope for it to grow, but I spared its leaves so that it can continue to grow.  Below is pictured my insalata caprese with my favorite course-ground sea salt, my seasoned steak coming to room temperature, and my simple salad of tender lettuce being created.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the dressing, I simply used a few drops of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, a quickle dribble of baslamic vinegar, and a healthy amount of rich, golden olive oil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI bought the mammoth steak at a tiny marceleria (butcher shop) where all the cuts of beef are labelled in italiano.  The cuts are also different from the ones we would recognize from a grocery store in America, so I simply pointed to something that seemed easy to sear in a pan and asked for one of them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI cooked it in rendered pork belly fat–indeed, before I was here even a week, I had prepared pork belly (panceta fresca) to eat and to have some good lard to cook with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI threw a few sage leaves and a clove of garlic into the pan while the steak cooked, trying to perfume some of the fat.  It may have been successful, I’m really not sure; what did happen was crispy, almost fried sage leaves and a tender sweet garlic clove that were delicious consumed on their own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sauce that I made for the steak was inspired by my limited pantry containing vino rosso (red wine), aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar), onion, and garlic.  I sauteed onion in garlic and more rendered pork fat and added about equal parts of vino and aceto.  A touch of salt, a small spoonful of mustard, and minced sage completed the mixture.  I prepared this first and had it reducing on the stove while I prepared the rest of my meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAre the pictures much improved!  I’m so excited with how rich and real the food looks.  It comes from lots of experimentation with different light settings and apertures, from finding a good source of natural light (the window in my kitchen), and from my growing experience in the Clifton Inn kitchen where I get to see food presentation at its most beautiful and refined.

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