There are many foods we associate with Tuscany. White bean stew. Ragu. Fresh pasta. The list goes on, from the super traditional recipes that grandma perfected, to more contemporary dishes found in Italian restaurants worldwide. However, the food would not be what it is today without two Italian staples--meat and wine. Tuscany is known for its beautiful white cows--the Chianina, and its wine--from simple red house blends to a robust Chianti. Every household has a bit of meat and wine on hand at all times.
For years, the kosher-observant traveler has been unable to sample these quintessential foods, let alone find the raw ingredients to prepare them on their own. Thankfully, the recent kosher revolution has brought about a welcome, and delicious change. Kosher Culinary Adventures is a unique Kosher travel company (and I’m lucky enough to work with them!) that provides people with a passion for food and travel the opportunity to eat like a local. We do that by finding the best kosher meat, wine and cheese, kashering a villa, and cooking like a Tuscan grandmother.
One of my favorite memories of Tuscany is Friday night dinner--we all sat outside on the patio that overlooked an incredible expanse of rolling hills. After a week of non-stop cooking for our wonderful guests, I was quite exhausted. Someone handed me a glass of wine from kiddush, and I took a tired gulp. The wine shocked me, simply by how delicious it was, and how little I’d been anticipating the flavors in the glass. It was a robust Chianti Classico from 2008 produced by Terra di Seta, deep, and heavy in a way that still expressed its fruity flavors. It was truly a magical moment--sitting in the pleasant Tuscan warmth, surrounded by friends, delicious food, and of course, amazing kosher wine.
We are lucky enough to work closely with Terra di Seta, the only fully kosher winery in Italy. It makes an award-winning Chianti Classico, a wine famous in the Chianti region of Tuscany. The wine is made up of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. The wine is so prized in the area that it must be inspected before selling. Only if it passes strict quality control measures does it receive a coveted pink label that lets the consumer know it is an authentic Chianti Classico, complete with a tracking number to ensure that there is no wine fraud. The taste is expressive, slightly heavy due to the intense Sangiovese grape, but with lovely fruity notes. Terra di Seta has a beautiful winery one can visit. It is located in the heart of Chianti, with about 37 acres of vineyards. The wine is all organic and kosher-certified by the OK. It is truly worth a visit.
Another wonderful and delicious memory is the steak we served. I know, right? It’s just a steak, you say. What can be so special about that? However, a Tuscan steak is made of different stuff than your typical American or Israeli meat. A Chianti steak is almost always from a free-range, happy cow, who ate well its whole life--grass, flowers, and weeds. Italians have a huge respect for the animals they raise to eat, and that shows through in the flavor of the meat. For our steak night, we grilled the steak quickly and finished it in the oven for a perfect medium-rare. It was juicy, tender, and bursting with flavor. Our guests were amazed that a simple steak could be so incredible. We believe that a simple ingredient can make the most amazing cuisine--when you treat a cow or tomato with care, it repays you with a flavor unlike anything mass-produced can create.
We’re including a recipe for a perfect grilled steak and a simple red wine sauce. Get yourself the best meat you can find, and grab a mid-range bottle of wine to cook with. Channel your inner Tuscan! Fuss with the food just as much as is necessary to produce a great meal. We served our Steak with Red Wine Sauce with thyme-roasted potatoes and simple green beans, with a lovely chocolate souffle for dessert. And, of course, a perfect glass of Chianti Classico.