5-1. Specialities of the Mugello

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Marmellata di fragole (Piquant strawberry marmalade)

500g strawberries
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar

Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan and cook over a low heat until the mix reaches a marmalade-like consistency. So simple! At some restaurants the marmalade is served with a paté. It also goes well with a chunk of pecorino cheese at the end of a meal.

4-1. Specialities of Pistoia

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Biscotti (Pine nut biscuits)

The Trattoria da Fagiolini in Cutigliano offers these light little cornflake and pine nut biscuits with vin santo at the end of every meal.

Makes about two dozen

150g unsalted butter at room temperature
200g sugar
3 large eggs
300g flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g pine nuts, toasted
400g crushed cornflakes

Heat oven to 180C. Line baking trays with baking paper. In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, one by one, beating thoroughly after each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder in another bowl, then add to the butter mixture, beating until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the pine nuts.

Put the crushed cornflakes in a shallow bowl. Take 1 heaped tablespoon of the dough mixture and roll it into a ball in the crushed cornflakes. Place on the baking trays about 3cm apart. Bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes, then allow to cool.

3-1. Specialities of the Valdinievole

 

Branzino al sale (Sea bass under salt)

Why this salt coating of the fish makes such a difference to the taste is difficult to understand; the bass turns out delicate and moist, in no way salty. But the presentation is lovely; the golden-brown crust breaks open easily and the fish is served filleted.

Serves 2

800g sea bass fillet
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Freshly ground pepper
400g coarse sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1 small wine glass of white wine

Clean the fish, put rosemary and pepper inside and place in an oiled oval baking dish. Heat the oven to 220C. In a large bowl, mix the salt together with the beaten egg. Coat the entire top of the fish with the salt, making a thick crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and pour the wine around the fish, not on the salt. Replace, and bake for another 10 minutes. By this time the salt should have taken on a golden colour. Remove from oven and pour off any remaining liquid.

At the table, gently remove the crust in one piece (or broken, it doesn’t matter), slip off the skin and fillet the fish.