Nicoletta’s Ribollita, how nicely it sounds, like an Italian Aria. Much like the woman herself, robust, full of life and warmth. Whenever I come home from traveling I find myself craving to recreate meals to share the tastes and stories of my adventures with my loves. How much better than a photo slide show is dipping in and having the warm, rich vegetable stew fill your mouth with the taste of creamy cannillini beans, kale, savory cabbage, onions and the sopped up chunk of rustic bread as I try and describe a perfect Tuscan day a the winery of Il Salicone.
|Vineyard at Il Salicone|
Our Saturday field trip found us walking down leaf strewn roadways, past grapevines whose leaves are changing from green, to gold, to brown. Wild grasses sparkle in the sun and we chatter as hungry women will do in anticipation of a classic Tuscan lunch. Nicoletta, our gracious hostess for Plate to Page Tuscany not only manages the villa, providing our much needed morning coffees and teas, but is also an expert winemaker. Imagine, this life she has created for herself after years of being an accountant, behind a desk. Makes you think any dream is possible, doesn’t it?
|From dark to light|
We enter her winery through large wooden doors into the cool cellar, permeating with the musky richness of fermentations past. How I love that smell. Modern stainless steel tanks rim the room and rows of oak barrels hint of future bottlings. The jumble of wicker demijohns echo the past and provide a reminder of how integral wine is to daily living. Can it be a measly bottle is just too inconvenient a container?
|How would you like to have one of these at home?|
Gliding up a few stairs, we move past the compact kitchen and out to the noonday sun. Casting off our sweaters to bask in the light, warming our bones to remove the frigid memories of the night’s past. Picnic tables with cheery cloths are flanked by a large terracotta colored wall, semi-tropical plants and benches with views to the vineyards and olive trees. Plates and plates of food are sent out from the kitchen; cheeses with honey, sliced meats, frittatas, all paired with Vespro Rosso di Tosca.
|Leek, Pancetta and Cheese Frittatas|
The opening corks release with that smile-invoking and familiar pop as the 2009 Poggiolcato Rosso comes out. Glasses are filled and Nicoletta proudly describes her selected sangiovese and other grapes to blend.
|Salicone Rosso di Tuscana|
Ribolitta appears and just as quickly disappears as spoons-full find their way to our plates, not only once, but perhaps twice.
|Nicoletta’s Ribollita — All Gone!|
Conversations ebb and flow, cameras click away, and true to our assignment, pens are put to paper. Soon Grappa, biscotti and cantucci signal dessert as we dunk and savor that last of the reds. “Caffe?” she asks? The “me toos!” clamour merrily in response.
|Work begins again|
Ambling back to the villa, dragging our feet a bit because you see, we still have hours of work ahead of us for P2P Tuscany. What a day.
Plate to Page Tuscany Trivia (feel free to add to this list!)
- Who asked, “Is sex or good deep powder skiing better?”
- Name the other soccer (futbol) coach.
- Who announced, “I’m greedy.”
- Who coined the phrase, “Pepper-azzi” ?
- Which of the P2P Organizers cringed when Abba started playing?
- Which participant brought a different treat for nearly every meal?
- Whose food writing was so sensual, passionate in English that it would probably be banned in her native Italian?
- How many wireless networks did it take to tweet moment by moment coverage from Il Salicone?
- What is the color of our Contessa’s glasses?
- What kind of mushrooms went into Ilva’s risotto?
- Who came from and who visited Malta recently?
- What newlywed just built a new home with a kitchen window view onto greenspace?
- Who thinks her brother is a better baker than herself?
Back at home and it has been two weeks since that lovely sunny afternoon. Time to get cooking.
“Ribollita means “reboiled.” A traditional ribolitta, rich with vegetables and legumes, is slowly simmered, then allowed to rest. Chunks of day-old bread are stirred into the soup and it is reboiled….. This is the epitome of a well-rested soup.” Lidia Bastianich, Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, Ribolitta, page 94.
Using this recipe as my basis with cannellini beans, onions, kale, savory cabbage, carrots, potatoes and swiss chard, pumped up a notch with some red chili flakes and small amount of sweet Italian sausage. Makes a huge quantity, about 7 quarts! Enough to reboil again and again.