Originally peasant food, or la cucina povera, the Tuscans have utilized their homegrown products which they prepare fresh. Minimal amounts of herbs, spices and olive oil are oftentimes the only ingredients required.
Breads, olive oil, herbs, mushrooms, vegetables and Pecorino cheese are abundant and represent the main ingredients of a Tuscan meal. The Tuscans have also mastered the art of beef and pork farming.
Beef from Maremma and the Chiana Valley are regarded as some of the most sought after in the Mediterranean region. This large, white-colored breed of beef known as Chiana cattle is grass fed, low in fat with a spicy and salty flavor. Said to be so tender that it can be eaten raw, it’s usually only grilled for a minute or two per side over a very hot fire. A favorite in all of Tuscany is Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, or Florentine T-bone Steak. (Wait for it…recipe to follow)
Pork is also a mainstay in Tuscany. Historically, pork has always played an important part in peasant-style cooking due to their ease of raising and low cost to feed. One healthy hog would feed a family the entire year for the cost of table scraps and grazing. No part is wasted. Large cuts come to the table while the rest of the hog goes into stuffing, soups, sausages, and even lard. Tuscany is renown for their sausage and cold cuts making their antipasto dishes a perfected lunch.
Tuscan grilling has traditionally been done on a metal rack over an outdoor fire, or in the fireplace. Many households had an elaborate fireplace that offered ample room for cooking, side compartments for breads, as well as a means to heat their homes. In the hot summer months, the outdoor pit was put into action. This outdoor grill is much the same way that grilling is done around the world, today.
No, Tuscan style grilling isn’t a different way to play with fire. It’s a simple, yet methodical process of preparing food for the fire. Cooking over flame without frills is how it’s done. This is the same premise that a good backyard barbecue should be based upon. Sure, we have our spicy barbecue sauces that we love to lather on, but sometimes simple is best. Just the minimal amount of herbs and spices may be all that’s needed. Shut up and give the meat a chance to talk.
Try these grilled Tuscan style recipes. You’ll be amazed at the complex flavors you’ve created with relative ease. Learn the proper pronunciation and you’re sure to impress your neighbors!
Bistecca Alla Fiorentina
Florentine T-Bone Steak
- 4 prime cut steaks Although T-Bones are traditional, a porterhouse, New York strip or rib-eye will also work. Tip: Bone in…is the secret!
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher or sea salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves garlic, chopped
- In a small bowl, mix olive oil, rosemary, and garlic
- Brush both sides of steaks with olive oil blend and allow steaks to reach room temperature.
- Prepare a hot fire, around 450-degrees F.
- Place steaks on grill. Cook approximately 5 minutes.
- Flip steaks and season grilled side with salt. Cook an additional 5 minutes.
- Flip steaks and season second side with salt.
- Remove from grill and brush both sides again with olive oil blend.
- Apply a heavy application of ground pepper to one side and allow to rest for 3 minutes before serving.
Arista Alla Fiorentina
Florentine Roast Pork
- 1 pork tenderloin (about 3 pounds)
- 1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
- Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind all herbs.
- In a small sauce pan, bring all ingredients, except the lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Place pork tenderloin in a large resealable freezer bag and add marinade. Marinade in refrigerator from 4 hours to overnight.
- Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for medium indirect heat (about 300-degrees F). Place pork tenderloin in the center of the grill.
- Grill, covered for 35 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 155-degrees F. Turn once during the cook time and baste often with the lemon juice.
- Remove from grill and let stand for 10 minutes prior to slicing.
Goes great with angel hair pasta and grilled mixed vegetables.
Suggestion: Mix up a little of the herb blend and sprinkle over plates prior to serving.