There's few things I love more than freshly baked focaccia. When it's still warm from the oven and crispy and has enough oil that it starts dribbling down your face. I'm a focaccia fiend! One of the first friends I made in Italy with the local focaccia lady, Carmen. Those early conversation days over a slice of fresh focaccia will always be a sweet memory.
Luckily, this addictive bread is surprisingly easy to make. A little time consuming but if you have a lazy day at home to multitask and make some fresh focaccia, it's totally worth the effort. Since it has no preservatives, it can go stale in a few days. If you don't eat it all in time, use the leftover stale focaccia to make some EPIC Panzanella!
When I was living in Austin, Texas while going to college, my aunt and uncle lived just north of me. Being avid bakers and cooks (my step-uncle is Italian), I spent many weekends and Holiday breaks up at their house learning to make some tasty Italian treats!
One of my favorites (besides focaccia) is freshly baked biscotti. Biscotti, also known as cantucci, are long, flat cookies that are baked twice...once as a flat loaf and again when cut into slices to crisp them up on all sides. I already have a weakness for freshly baked cookies but these biscotti are another level...especially with the chopped almonds, I'll justify eating a dozen because there's protein in them.
Regardless of my addiction to sweets, these are easier to make than you might think and are great when paired with your morning cappuccino...or just after dinner as a quick dessert served with vin santo! They also make a great housewarming or hostess gift.
We picked this recipe up during our Lucca retreat at our cooking class with Leela from Abbaca-la.
Oh Bruschetta...how we love thee so, and all the various forms you come in! Bruschetta is one of those dishes that's ridiculously easy to make and so satisfying every time. Especially during the summer when tomatoes are at their peak! With some fresh bread and a glass of wine, you're ready for a deliciously quick aperitivo!
This recipe is from our lovely Villa hosts in Castiglion Fiorentino, Famiglia Buccelletti!
Oh Panzanella...how I love thee so. After Farro Salad, Panzanella is my 2nd favorite go-to summer salad to make. Especially on a budget! When I was living in Lucca for a couple months during the summer, I'd bounce between these two salads all the time because they were tasty and made a LOT for not much money! Plus, making them in the summer has the added benefit of all the fresh seasonal produce that make them even more delicious.
They're actually really similar recipes too. Nearly identical actually except this recipe has the added tasty ingredient of fresh croutons! Traditionally, Panzanella is made with stale bread which is then softened with water to make edible again, then tossed with all the other ingredients. I like to make mine with day old focaccia which is a whole other level of YUM!
One of my favorite things about summers in Italy is the produce. Going to the market, be it an actual market or the local weekly market, is always such a treat because the quality of the produce in Italy is phenomenal! It's amazing how flavorful the produce in Italy is and just how affordable it can be in season too. Plus, lots of the produce you find at the market was probably grown in the nearby region!
A staple during my summers is a fresh Farro Salad. Farro is a small grain-like ingredient that has a chewy texture and is similar to barley. You'll see it pop up in salads, as sides or even in soups during the colder season. But during the summer, farro is the perfect addition to a fresh salad. The best thing about a farro salad is that you can easily change ingredients if something isn't available or you'd just like to add your favorite produce instead!
Written by Chelsea Ward, the host and founder of Wanderful Retreats