Citizens of Siena have only to look beyond their ancient walls to admire the countryside that surrounds them. It is no wonder many their favorite ingredients come from this generous land, but wait to you see what they do with them! From antipasto to dolce, the Sienese have learned how to eat well; consider following their example.
Asparagi - Tuscans love asparagus, especially the wild ones that appear in the open countryside around Easter. Gatherers, who can be spotted with their telltale plastic bags and fistfuls of long slender stalks, may well have something like this in mind when they get home:
Recipe: Rinse and trim the asparagus of their woody ends; tie them up in bundles and boil in lightly salted water for about 10 min. until tender but still firm; divide them among serving plates. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil with 1 T. of vinegar and poach eggs by breaking each into a small bowl and sliding it carefully into the water. Lower the heat and cook for 2-3 min. until it turns white and opaque, with a soft inside. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and put them gently onto the asparagus. Add 1 T. of butter to the top of each pile, scatter with parmesan shavings, a grinding of black pepper and a little salt. Serve it with grilled bread and you have an elegant first course or breakfast.
Crostino nero - On small slices of toasted bread is the liver pate beloved by the Sienese. It combines chicken liver with capers, anchovies, sage, butter and perhaps a drop of Vin Santo, Siena’s port-like ‘holy wine’.
Cinta senese - One of the most prized contributors to the Tuscan menu is the domestic pig named for its white ‘cinta’ or belt that circles its stout shoulders and black belly. This antique breed of pig can be seen pictured in the ‘Effects of Good Government’ fresco in Siena’s town hall. With a DOP status and prized for the quality of their meat, you may see a small protected group of them snuffling about happily outdoors as you drive the back roads around Siena.
Pics con sugo di cinghiale - Pici is a thick hand-rolled pasta, rather like fat spaghetti, originating in the province of Siena and often seen as a first course option in local restaurants. Often combined with a full-flavored meat sauce featuring game such as wild boar (cinghiale), hare (lepre) or duck (anatra), it may not be dietetic, but it is delicious.
Siena sweets: Panforte, Ricciarelli, Cavallucci - Some of the traditional sweets of Siena will not be found on the dessert menu, but in the many pastry shops and coffee bars in the province. The most typical are: Panforte– Siena’s own rich fruitcake (literally ‘strong bread’), dating back to the Crusades, low, dense and full of spices, almonds. A thin slice will do you. Ricciarelli– a ground almond based biscuit dating back to the 14thcentury that is soft and dusted with sugar. Cavalucci– a chewy biscuit usually made with Tuscan honey and rich in amonds, candied fruit and coriander, they are delicious but a bit hard on the teeth unless bought fresh.