This morning Angela is cooking rabbit – coniglio- for lunch. I hear Bob Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’ s door before I even enter and find Angela and her friend Nicola at the large wooden kitchen table, each with a glass of homemade wine in hand. At first my eyes popped. Wine at 11:30? Then I realized that this dinner was really a lunch. I soon joined them and am surprised at the light and smooth flavor of the local red. Nicola, knowledgable in food, produce and things agricultural, begins to tell me the history of Tuscan cookery.
Between Angela’s lesson on making the rabbit, I quiz Nicola on the various types of fruits and vegetables, learning their Italian names. It’s amazing how much Italian I understand. I learn that Tuscan food has a strong French influence. Just my cup of tea.
Braised Rabbit with Olives
- Brown the cut up rabbit in olive with three whole large cloves of garlic and a few pepperoncini- small red chiles.
- Add three carrots, cut into two inch pieces, two stalks of celery, cut into one inch pieces and one small whole onion. Let this simmer for one half hour.
- Add about a cup of fresh (or canned) chopped tomatoes along with pomodoro (tomato) water to half way cover the rabbit. Simmer 15 minutes more.
- Add one cup of white wine. Simmer another half hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. A. slightly thickened sauce forms. Add more pomodoro water if too dry. At the end, stir in a handful of olives.
Olive trees outside the kitchen almost ready tp pick.
Angela and her husband Davino also make their own olive oil. Eager to taste the Tuscan variety, I found a spoon and poured myself a drink. Very smooth with a slight hint of heat on the throat at the end. Delightful. I learn that Tuscan oil is softer and lighter than its kissing cousin in Puglia which has a much more forward bite and heat. I love the diversity.
As the wine flowed, we eat an antipasti of marinated artichokes and olives both made by Angela. The baby artichokes are trimmed (they feed the trimmings to the donkeys which I haven’t seen yet) boiled 10 minutes in salted water and drained overnight. The next day they are submerged in a large jar of olive oil, dried peppers and peppercorns and left to marinate for three months.
Angela’s baby marinated artichokes
Olives brined with cinnamon sticks.
Fresh green beans are trimmed. Angela shows me how to “cook” the garlic and pepperoncinis in a small amount of olive oil just until they soften. We then add the beans and what else but tomatoes and cook on the stove 20 minutes.
While we are cooking, Davino is slicing prosciutto on their red antique slicer to feed the cats and us.
We eat al fresco under an arbor of dangling grapes. The rain has cleared and the sun is breaking through. All the dishes are brought to the table and we serve ourselves family style.
After a delicious lunch, the meal is finalized with dolce but just not any kind of dessert. Today we are eating chestnuts from this property that have been boiled with bay leaves and spices. They are served warm. Davino demonstrates how to peel first the outer layer then the inner to discover the soft white flesh inside. Delicioso!
Using a knife, carefully peel off the hard outer shell then again the thinner skin.
A cup of espresso and I am ready for a nap. Grazie Angela and Davino for sharing your home and bounty of La Mimosa with me.
Tigre doesn’t miss a beat taking every opportunity to look for leftovers.