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eG Foodblog: Franci (2012) - From heirloom tomatoes to zucchini blosso


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Welcome everybody to the Principality of Monaco!

Monaco is a very small Country located halfway between Nice in France and the Italian border (they are about 15-16 km from here or 10 miles if you prefer). It feels like France but the Italian influence is very strong due to the proximity to the border and the large number of Italians residing in the Principality. In fact, although I’ve been living here for almost 3 years, speaking both Italian and English, I have not managed to learn French yet.

My name is Francesca but my husband and my family often call me Franci. I was born and grew up in the South of Italy, which I left for studying at age 19. Since then I lived in Milan, then moved to the States (San Francisco, Hanover NH, NYC), then back to Europe in London and for almost 3 years on the French Riviera. As some of you might have read on the dinner thread, we are an American/Chinese/Italian family. My husband was born in Shanghai and moved to the States with his family at age 10. Our origins and our travelling greatly influenced my cooking over the years.

I studied business in school but I’ve always enjoyed cooking a lot. While living in NY, I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, going to school at night and working in banking at the same time. That has been one of the best years of my life and I truly enjoyed the experience. After that I went for an internship in a good restaurant in NYC and shortly after I moved to London where I completely gave up working in banking and became a commis in a luxury hotel. The experience was short lasted and because of relatives health issues and later on my pregnancy I gave up the idea of cooking professionally, at least in a restaurant kitchen.

Now I have two small children, a boy almost 5 years old and a girl, the little one you have seen in the picture, who is almost 15 months old. This equals that I had to reconsider a lot of my cooking, keep it really simple both in the preparation and in the presentation.

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Ok, let's get started!

Most of you, meaning the Egulleters in the States, are still sleeping...I got up 6 am this morning. I wanted to surprise my son and bake something for breakfast. I generally prefer to eat eggs in the morning or savory foods. Not very typical Italian or French. My husband doesn't have breakfast and the children are very different. My boy likes sweets and the girl like savory foods, like my husband and I.

I'm a coffe person but this week I feel a little out of shape and had a cup of Earl Grey with honey while working on breakfast


I made a cross between scones and "biscotti" (in the italian way, so to say more a cookie): cocoa and chocolat chips and walnuts and currants. Here before and after baking



Sunday is usually a low stress cooking for me. I decided to make the most typical Sunday lunch meal in my hometown. So orecchiette with a meat sauce.

By 8 AM, I already made the dough and prep the meat for the sauce.



Orecchiette traslate in little ears, it is the typical pasta from Apulia and Basilicata. It is made with a durum flour, meaning a finer semolina, in Italian know also as semola rimacinata=remilled flour. It's just flour and warm water, no eggs.

The meat sauce, the way my father likes to make is made with a mix of lamb, pork and beef. Best would be pork jow (fresh pork guanciale) which I didn't order so used one chop, lamb neck and a gelatinous piece of beef.

Now, children permitting, I'm going to make orecchiette.

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Do you have a garden?


Unfortunately I don't have a garden, only two small balconies where I keep my herbs. Properties are very expensive, at most you see roof gardens.

Hi Franci - I really like the look of your scones cross biscotti. Do you use a basic scone dough and then add flavourings?

Thanks Marie-Ora.

It started as a basic scone recipe from Epicurious but now I'm not sure how much it diverted from the original. For 400 grams flour I use 1 stick butter, 100 grams sugar, 1 TBS baking powder, a little bit baking soda, salt and one egg in a measuring cup with cream added to make 1 cup. They keep better than scones.

Looking forward to your blog! We went Pugliese for Lunch today too.

Really Ambra? What did you have?

My orecchiette are far from perfect. My mom is a northener and, while living in the South, orecchiette were so readily available that I didn't learn how to make them, only when I left, of course, the urge hit me. They are not easy. These, very likely, would not pass my aunt test.


My husband complained on the sauce, too salty for him. My daughter was the one who really appreciated her lunch


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Franci, your pasta is truly beautiful. I buy orecchiette from the grocery store. I find it to be a bit "stiff" or hard even after cooking for the right amount of time. Yours look exactly how they should. How do you form the "ears"?

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Lovely oricchette, Franci. Having never made pasta, I am most envious of those who turn it out as a matter of course. And unhappy that gluten intolerance keeps me from eating it, unless I cheat.

Looking forward to your blog; I always enjoy your creative meals!

Don't ask. Eat it.


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Do you have big fights about who invented noodles/spaghetti first? Who invented ravioli/wonton first?

dcarch :laugh:

Usually we don't argue about these matters, we talk more of the things we have in common. Chinese have something similar to orecchiette: Ma er duo, Cat's ears.

Franci, your pasta is truly beautiful. I buy orecchiette from the grocery store. I find it to be a bit "stiff" or hard even after cooking for the right amount of time. Yours look exactly how they should. How do you form the "ears"?

Thanks Shelby. What kind of orecchiette do you buy? Fresh, dry of common brands or the dry artisanal kind? Try to cook them longer untill feels right to you.

It is easier nowadays to link some videos. I'm trying to understand with the new format how to link youtube videos...I'll get back to you.

Going back to today's cooking. I always have some chicken stock in the fridge.

I made a simple chicken and vegetable soup for the children


I've not being feeling really well this last week and tonight I decided to have something soothing. Nothing like Congee. My children wouldn't eat it nor my husband...I just love it. I made more to have some for breakfast tomorrow morning. I added some of the stock and vegetables from the children soup. Really nice


My husband had an hanger steak which I couldn't photograph fast enough...and also some saute' oyster mushrooms for both of us.


Time to clean up and put the children to bed.

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Lovely oricchette, Franci. Having never made pasta, I am most envious of those who turn it out as a matter of course. And unhappy that gluten intolerance keeps me from eating it, unless I cheat.

Looking forward to your blog; I always enjoy your creative meals!

Thanks Kayb, I'll try to cook also some gluten free meals this week. I admit I eat pasta more out of convenience than for real pleasure...not orecchiette, of course :raz:

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Franci, you obviously know your way around a kitchen so it is nice to hear a bit about your cooking and cultural background. I look forward to following along this week, and hope the congee does its work so that you can enjoy it as much as I’m sure we shall.

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I love your plates with the bowl and then the wide rim. I grew up with those. The "Americans" only had the flat plates or bowl for soup with no rims. You have inspired me to dig through the dishware at my father's house and preserve them. Blog on!

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Thanks everybody for the kind words :smile:

The orecchiette, one of my faves, are lovely. You make a dark ragu--red wine?

Yes, I use a Primitivo di Manduria if I have it around, that's from my area.

As an alternative we make a meat sauce with meatballs, also horse meat, or with small braciole. Or tomato sauce/ tomato sauce and a spicy fermented ricotta/anchovies and cime di rapa (slightly different than rapini)

Going back to Shelby, on how to form the orecchiette. There is not one way. Leaving out how this woman dresses the orecchiette, she first make the orecchiette and then flip them. That's an extra step due to tradition and family preferences. Here. Or you can see this very fast woman in Old Bari here .

Maybe I've not mentioned it but as for Chinese making pasta we have hot dough and cold ones. Orecchiette are made with water that has been boiled and cooled down to lukewarm. For example, this woman here starts with cavatelli and she moves on to orecchiette. She says she uses boiling water for cavatelli and warm water for orecchiette and she complains that her orecchiette are not turning out fine because, for shooting the video, she used the dough for cavatelli. Other thing worth to mention: orecchiette are never really left to dry as for egg pasta.

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This morning noting exciting for breakfast or lunch. We still have scones, orecchiette and congee.

So, I'll take this time to show you my kitchen and pantry.

You will see it messy as it is always...It is not the kitchen of my dream but we are still renting and on the move.

I wish I could switch my bedroom with the kitchen to have a balcony and the view of the sea.


From the other angle


The electrical system in this house is a nightmare. After couple weeks we moved in the microwave burnt out, so I use it as storage, I had to replace the oven and the stovetop (so finally induction). Gas kitchen, for insurance reasons, are not allowed. Every house must be insured.

The refridgerator you see in the second picture is the original from the house. The temperature was just too high and so I went to buy a second fridge that is just outside the kitchen. Yes, it's the entrance, but I do not care. I have a huge entrance. This house is very badly designed.

I still kept the owner fridge, it works, I do not keep meat in it, I use it for condiments, for some vegetables and eggs.


The other fridge


next to it I have my pantry, a little messy at the moment and before it gets too hot, I'm trying to use flours and grains or move them to the freezer



My spices drawer


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This morning a went out for some shopping.

Monaco has only 35,000 residents, it is a small place. Also shopping for food is limited. A short walk from my place I get to an open air market. On the back of St. Charles Church there are a few vegetable stalls




I shop often at this last veg. stall. I asked if I could take pictures and he owner, Mr Claudio, very kindly said to wait 30 minutes when the good stuff was going to be delivered. But I was in a hurry and took some quick shoots. These guys are Italians as many other veg. sellers.

He has everything you might look. First of the seasons fruit and vegetables can be very expensive, but there are many extravagant people around here.


You can see some radicchio tardivo and radicchio di castelfranco. Although I remember I could find these vegetables also in the States.



Maybe not everybody knows "trombetta" zucchini that is a variety typical from the riviera. It has been only in the last couple years that I've seen it in season elsewhere in Italy.

It is less watery that a regular light colored zucchini. It holds cooking much better and it is often used to make the green tartes so traditionals of this area (both on the French and the Italian side)


After Mr Claudio's stall, where my butcher is located, you leave Monaco and enter France.

Edited by Franci (log)
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So, few steps up and you are in Beausoleil, France. This is the front of the Beausoleil market


Inside there are a couple butchers, a fish monger (I doubt he has a high turnover so I do not shop there), some vegetable stalls included one that I regularly visit, a portoguese store (where I sometimes buy salted cod fish) and some coffe places and delis.

More stalls on the outside but today it's Monday and not everybody is open, so I'll get here tomorrow.


Nearby there is also Formia , my butcher. I need to go there to pick some meat I ordered. I'll ask if I can take some pictures


They display in the window their medals and prizes. Sometimes you can see a picture of the animal you are eating because of some

competitions won.


I am sure I'm going to miss Formia when we leave.

Edited by Franci (log)
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I went to my local supermarket: Marche U. It is very tiny. My other option would be to go to Carrefour but I truly hate the place. I go there just for fish (it's the only option unless I go to Italy) and some other items that are hard to find elsewhere.

Marche U often sells local producers vegetables. Although I found a little expensive to buy a tiny basket of strawberries 6-7 euros




Here I bought the black crimea tomatoes the other day! And as well the zucchini blossoms.


There is a small prepackaged meat section but not much, some more not on picture.


The meat at the butcher counter is not as good as Formia but when I want to stop only once I don't have much to complain.

Worth noticing the offals displayed.



Edited by Franci (log)
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