Gesprekken en gerechten: Frances Mayes and her recipe

photo Frances Mayes (source internet)

For years I have been an ardent reader of the books of the American writer Frances Mayes, who wrote Under the Tuscan Sun, a stunning memoir on restoring a derilict villa in Tuscany and how to fill in her new Italian life. For over 20 years she has given her readers much inpiration out of the Tuscan land. I read on her weblog,www.francesmayesbooks.com that coming 13 March 2012  a cookbook with her Tuscan recipes will be given to the light, a saying of giving birth In Italy, dare alla luce. Suddenly I got the idea to invite Frances Mayes for my series “gesprekken en gerechten” (conversation and recipes) Based on the answers she gives I am going to conceive a recipe, that  I hope will please her. I chose for a surf and turf dish with an tomato/mascarpone sauce. The turkey meat and crayfish have both conquered the European menu, coming from the New World. And what to think of the pommodori? These are the quintessence of so many Italian dishes  Ofcourse there is no meal without wine. In my opinion a young Morelino de Scansano will pair with the dish. This wine is made from the Sangiovese grape in the coastal region of Maremma. This wine is not stocked on wood and bottled after 8 months. Serve this wine slightly cooled.

Who is Frances Mayes and What would you like to share with us? 
Writer, traveler, reader, cook. I live half and half in Tuscany and North Carolina, where my family is. I’m exceptionally lucky to be married to Ed, poet and fellow-adventurer. We never forget that life is to savor and rejoice in.

You were a teacher in San Fransisco, creative writing, how did this help to start an new life as a writer?
I’ve been a writer since I was nine years old. My teaching career built up a helpful knowledge of how other writers write. I learned to read anew–once for pleasure, again to see how the writer did it. I wrote a book, The Discovery of Poetry, that quantified my knowledge of the craft of a poem. Working with young writers was always stimulating–seeing them catch what I said and run with it. I quit teaching a decade ago to devote myself to full-time writing. I don’t miss teaching at all–23 years was good.

You wrote that at first you liked the calm pace of the Italian land compared to the frantic life in San Fransico. Now you live in North Carolina. Is there still such a difference?
My social life in Italy has become formidable! So now, North Carolina, where I’ve lived only six years, is my peaceful place.

You invested a lot of energy in restoring houses. In an other life, would you like to be a “geometra”?
I’ve a shadow career always haunting me: architecture. I’ve studied it always and love to travel to see buildings. I like interior design too and have a line of furniture, At Home in Tuscany, from Drexel Heritage. I like houses that ARE the inhabitant, not super-designed places that could be anyone.

Your prose speaks to the imagination, certainly with me. How do you do that?
Thank you! I like to work with images because they make direct contact with the senses of the reader.

My parents were/are very French oriented. The last two decades there has been a shift from French to Italian cuisine, certainly in my generation. How does it feel to be one of the pioneers in this field?
Cooking has been enlightening in Italy–the simplicity that’s possible with prime ingredients and a good way with them. Early on, I studied cooking with Simone Beck, partner of Julia Child, in Provence, an area so close to Italian cooking. I still love French food–and Moroccan, Chinese, Mexican, Thai–but for day-to-day, Italian is best.

On Italian society, you’ve called it homogeneous. Did you experience change in the last two decades?
Oh, yes, yes. The entire world is changing fast. Everywhere there are people who are from elsewhere–and in Italy I’m one of them! Right now in Italy, there’s a big influx of Romanians, who blend well, though one of my neighbors calls them “red face.” Immigration has been hard for Italy because for so long they were the immigrants but no one came to their soil.

What do you miss from the US being in Italy?
Only friends and family and my farm.

Culinary speaking, you have quite some experience in Tuscan cooking now, which one is your favorite recipe? 
That’s impossible to say! Love the pastas, the gelato, and most of all the plethora of vegetables from my garden. The big pork roasts, the pizza, guinea hen, figs, plums—everything!

Corn, tomatoes, eggplant are all from American descent. Italians gave an own twist to it. What can they learn form someone from the South like you?
Not much! They know everything! When I’ve served classic southern desserts such as pecan pie or caramel cake, they push it away after two bites. Too sweet. I’ve planted American corn and have had no success. “This is for pigs!” they say wonderingly. I think they would like, if I made it, our low-country boil, hush puppies, shrimp and grits, maybe fried chicken.

Last but not least, do you want to share anything else in my blog? Please be welcome 
I meet many Dutch people in Italy. You all are great travelers. I hope to get back there on a book tour sometime–have been only once.

Your dish I will give a litlle hint will be Italo Southern style. This for me will be quite a challenge.
I look forward to tasting it!

photo Sunday morning at home

Thus for Frances a recipe from under the low Dutch sky, with American origins and a dash of Tuscan sun.

The recipe:

Ingredients 4 persons:

4 turkey breasts
5 oz crayfish
1 bunch of parsley finely chopped
4 thin slices of smoked bacon
salt, pepper
2 tbs olive oil
knob of butter

1 can of peeled tomatoes
1 sweet onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
salt, pepper
dired oregano
4 oz of mascarpone cheese
2 tbs of cream
olive oil
1 glass of white wine

2 oranges
2  heads of radicchio
1 cup of  roasted walnuts
salt, pepper
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs of walnut oil
2 tbs of induced balsamic vinegar or crema di balsamico
a little dash of dried oregano

Preparation:

Cut the turkey breasts in halves an put them between two sheets of clinging foil. Flatten the meat by using the back of a pan. This is always fun to do. Season the meat with some pepper and salt. Put the crayfish and finely chopped parsley on top of the meat and roll the meat tightly around the crayfish. Cover the rolls with the bacon. Put together with a wooden stick. Heat some oil and butter in a frying pan and fry the rolls of meat quickly until brown. Put them on an oven dish and keep warm in the oven on 176 degrees. (80 Celsius)

In another pan fry the finely chopped sweet onion and garlic in some oil. Add the peeled tomatoes and a glass of white wine. Season with salt and pepper. Add some oregano. Let this simmer for a while. Whisk the cream and mascarpone in a bowl to loosen up. Strain the tomato sauce through a sieve. Do not bring the sauce to a boil again and mingle bit by bit with the cream/mascarpone.  (cover to keep warm)

Peel the oranges and cut them in nice thin slices. Cut the radicchio in pieces. Put both in a salad bowl and top with the roasted walnuts. Make a vinaigrette from the oils and induced balsamic vinegar. Season the salad with some salt an freshly ground pepper. Add a dash of dried oregano. Pour the dressing on the salad in tiny drips, so that the oil and balsamic vinegar seem to appear as drops.

Get the turkey rolls from te oven and put them on a plate. Cover with the creamy tomato/mascarpone sauce. Add some of the salad. (or in a separate plate)

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