Posts Tagged With: tuscany

Insalata dell’Orso

For those of you who speak a little Eye-talyun, don’t worry: this is not a bear salad. It is a salad inspired by one of my best and most favorite meals ever, at Bar dell’Orso in Monteriggioni, Italy.

After finishing off that massive slab of beef we bought from the Tuscan Butcher, we were looking for a simple dinner out. Based on guidebooks, online reviews, and our hostess Serena, we knew that this was the place locals (and savvy tourists) went to eat. Since we were savvy tourists, of course this was the perfect place for us! There were, however, a few wrinkles.

Like the fact that Bar dell’Orso does not have menus. Or waitresses that speak English. Luckily, this was at the end of the trip and I managed to come up with “vino rosso” and hold up four fingers. While we waited on the (always excellent) table wine, we regrouped. My friend Chris requested some type of meat, preferably chicken. The rest of us were flexible.

The waitress returned and said something that I translated roughly as, “What are you savvy tourists interested in eating this evening?” I looked at her hopefully and asked, “Pollo?” She shook her head, “Non.” Everyone looked at me. I looked at the waitress again and she rattled off what sounded like a list of entrees. All I caught was “wild boar.” Chris’s expression told me he was not interested in wild boar. Hmmm…

And then our waitress said the magic word, “Antipasti?” Followed by, “Prosciutto, formaggio…” and a bunch of other stuff. I frantically nodded yes and held up four fingers. Our waitress cocked her eyebrow and held up two fingers. I insisted by holding up four fingers again. She shrugged and headed back to the kitchen. About fifteen minutes later, this landed on our table:


Yeah, should have gone for two fingers worth. The prosciutto and Tuscan salami kinda ruined me forever, it was so dang good. And the sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes were unreal. Oil-packed veggies may not be as good for you but I say the calories are worth it. So, when I saw some super-sized bottles in Costco recently, I knew I was set for an inspired salad…


Insalata dell’Orso (serves 2)


2 big handfuls of salad greens

1/4 cup chopped oil-packed, sundried tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts

2 tbsps pine nuts

1/4 cup feta (okay, if you want to be all eye-talyun then use something else)

1 tbsp quality vinegar

Combine toppings and vinegar in your salad bowl. (The oil from the veggies mixed with the vinegar gives you a light dressing.) Throw in your salad greens and mix it all up. Pile on your plate and top with some ground black pepper.

Buon appetito, y’all!

Categories: Recipes, Salads, Travel Grub | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grillin, Italian-style

A little over a year ago, I ventured to lovely Tuscany with my hubby and my friends Lisa and Chris. We saw amazing castles and cathedrals. We drank gallons of delicious Italian wine. And we ate some pretty fine food. But, perhaps our most memorable meal was one we cooked ourselves. It all began, dear reader, with a day trip that ended in the lovely Chianti town of Panzano…

After spending the day trooping through some of the smaller hill towns near our base of operations, we rolled into Panzano dusty and hot and in need of some gelato. Luckily, gelato is never far away in Italy so were soon refreshed and ready to explore. We had read and heard about the famous Chianti beef and, as Texans, we felt it was our duty to buy some steaks, cook ‘em up, and judge for ourselves. We said something like, “Show us to the nearest butcher!” and the gelato guy pointed us around the corner and up the street. We stopped at the place with the sign…

We were barely two feet into the shop when a young woman appeared with wine and glass tumblers and poured us some red. Immediately, this place felt like home. The bad news was that she thought we were there to make a dinner reservation since the butcher shop had already closed for the day. When we explained that we really, really wanted some beef to take back to our villa and grill, she looked to the butcher. He considered us for a moment…

And then he told her in Italian to go fetch us something from the fridge. (That was my rough translation based on what next transpired, anyway.) She came back with a monstrous hunk of beef that cost a LOT of euros. It was already vacuum-packed and could not be cut. The message was (very nicely), “Take it or leave it.” After a brief powwow and some quick currency conversions, we reached the consensus that “what the hell, you only buy steak in Chianti once” and we pulled out our wallets. The butcher lit up, produced some seasoning, and issued rapid-fire grilling instructions – which were greatly appreciated as we were more than a little intimidated. We were so exhilarated by our purchase that I decided to commemorate the moment with a quick photo:

Months  later, I was glad I did because it turns out that we were in the presence of The Tuscan Butcher, Dario Cecchini, who is kind of a super big deal in the foodie world. All of which I would have remained oblivious to if I hadn’t stumbled across an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain comes off like an enamored school girl when he meets Dario.

So, off we went to cook our Flinstone-like steak. Smartly, Lisa and I put the boys in charge of the grillin so we could sip wine, dish up some primi, and take these pictures of the process…

We don’t remember what cut this was — any guesses? That is a large platter it is sitting on, not a plate.

Grill Man

This might give you some additional perspective

At some point, an old Italian gentlemen walked by, peered in at the grill, and proclaimed, “Perfecto!”

We found a scenic little spot once it was done…

And dug in… just a drizzle of olive oil on top.

And then we all lived happily after…

The End (Fine)

Was it good? My friends, it was mighty fine beef. Mighty fine.

Next post: experiments with Beer Can Chicken!

Categories: Travel Grub | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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