Italian Pecorino and Cappucino
by Sandra Lewis    Mon, Aug 14, 2006, 11:38 PM

Several years ago I decided that when Hannah graduated from high school I would take both my girls on a big hurrah trip somewhere. Since it was my dollars that would fund the excursion I unilaterally decided that "somewhere" would be Italy. And a great decision it was if I must say so myself.

For several glorious days this past June we thoroughly exhausted ourselves by taking in most every major site there is to see in Rome, Siena, Montalcino, Florence, and Venice. I made all the arrangements myself with the help and guidance of a dear friend over the Internet. We navigated our way around using the public bus and train systems and even rented a car in Tuscany, all without knowing a word of Italian. I have more than 500 digital photos to show for the effort.

I came home saying, "Ciao," and with an addiction to real Italian pizza. I never tired of eating pizza in Italy and sometimes we ate it more than once a day. This was convenient as this was about all my budget could afford. I was not happy about having to surrender a stick of salami to customs upon our return, but I did manage to hang onto a nice hunk of parmigiana reggiano.

My favorite food discovery was an appetizer I ordered in a small cafe and wine bar, Alle Logge, in Montalcino, - toasted pecorino cheese. It was a beautiful chunk of pecorino that had been melted, slightly toasted, and drizzled with the most delightful honey I've ever tasted. The honey was clear and clean tasting, almost transparent on the dish.

I hadn't been home more than 48 hours when I made my way to Jimmy's Food Store, determined to recreate this dish at home. I picked up a nice hunk of Tuscan pecorino there and then a jar of a light, mild-tasting German honey, Acacia, at Central Market. Back at home, I used a non-stick pan heated with a bit of oil to melt and then toast the cheese. It turned out a bit toastier than the dish I'd had in Montalcino, but it was close enough for me and definitely a keeper.

The first trick to this dish is letting the cheese come to room temperature before toasting so that it melts easily. The second trick is to make sure you buy Tuscan pecorino. Be careful at Jimmy's. There was much confusion behind the counter there on my second trip as to which pecorino was Tuscan and I came home with the wrong kind. It definitely didn't melt.

Ariel's favorite food find was Italian cappucino which is served luke-warm and has a deeper, richer flavor than we get in the states. We drank cappucino's every morning with breakfast as this is the Italian way and beyond breakfast when the mood would strike us. Most Italians chase their morning cappucino with a pastry while standing at a coffee bar sometime during their morning commute. I am convinced that this is why this drink is served luke-warm. They don't have time to let it cool.


 

I want to go back to Italy and spend more time in Tuscany. So many wines, so little time. But for now, I am content with my toasted pecorino and (German) honey dish along with my memories of a great time with my girls. We had very few tense moments given that we shared every meal and one bathroom for 11 days straight.

Take a look at the movie I made using the photos from the trip here.

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