The most famous product of the Chianti territory is definitely wine, which has been designated in the seventies with the DOP status (protected designation of origin). The Classic Chianti Wine D.O.C.G. is undoubtedly one of the best wines of the world, accompanying all the typical products of the Tuscany cuisine. Olive Oil The production of olive oil in Chianti might be less famous than the wine production, but certainly not less relevant. Particularly worthy of note is the Classic Chianti Olive Oil DOP. This quality comes from different varieties of olives, such as Moraiolo, Frantoio, Leccino and Correggilo, all produced in the territory of Gaiole in Chianti. One of the simplest but tastiest dishes of the Tuscany cuisine is the “fettunta”, that is, bread and oil. It’s just a slice of bread, cooked in a wood fired oven or grilled, and seasoned with a little bit of first press oil (olio nuovo), which is the one coming from the first press, still intensely green and sparkling. (“Tu proverai sì come sa di sale lo pane altrui, e come è duro calle lo scendere e ‘l salir per l’altrui scale..” Divine Comedy-Paradise , canticle XVII). With second press oil usually a little bit of salt must be added, or you can make a bruschetta, crusty bread grilled,with garlic, salt and oil. The fettunta, which can be served as hors d’oeuvre both at lunch or dinner, or even as a snack, is the golden dish of the peasant feasts dedicated to harvest-time, but it also accompanies the Tuscan hors d’oeuvre in restaurants and trattorias. Consortium of Chianti Classico Extravirgin Olive Oil The Consortium of Chianti Classico Extravirgin Olive Oil Terre del Gallo Nero has been founded recently in order to improve and protect the quality of this product and spread the mark throughout the world. This Consortium includes over 100 firms that own more than 1000 acres of olive-groves as a whole planted with 320000 olives trees. The prestigious mark of the Consortium “Terre del Gallo Nero” guarantees the quality, genuineness And typicalness of the product. In fact, olives are pressed only in oil-mills tested by the Consortium itself. The olive oil samples must be chemically analized and tasted by two special Commissions; if there are positive results, the olive oil can be bottled. Many tests are made also after and consist in taking some samples of bottles already packed in order to give a further reassurance of the quality. Now everybody understands why the extravirgin olive oil “Terre del Gallo Nero” reaches high levels of quality: it is because it has been carefully selected, and because of its very natural savour and very low acidity. The Florentine Steak Florentine steak isn’t just a dish, but a philosophy. Technically speaking, the steak must derive from beef meat, with the bone forming a letter T. The peculiarity of this steak is the cut, at least 5 cm thick, so that the meat never result too cooked. The Florentine steak must be grilled on each side for a few minutes, so that the meat remains soft and rare. It can be eaten alone, or accompanied by a sauce made with oil, balsamic vinegar and rosemary. The Florentine steak can be also combined with grilled sausages and vegetables. In restaurants it is mainly served alone, but if you ask for a well-done steak, expect a black look from the waiter! Sausages and Sliced products Sausages and all sliced products derived from pork belong to popular cuisine. Absolutely not to miss is the famous lard (the most appreciated is the Lard of Colonnata, produced near the marble quarries of Carrara, but the Chianti Lard is also worthy of note). Another typical product is ham (very tasty in Tuscany), Buristo (sweet blood pudding, also called sanguinaccio); finocchiona (a quality of sausage seasoned with fennel); beacon and soprassata (brawn) . Very appreciated is also the native swine breed called Cinta Senese, the only one to survive extinction, which is considered today one of the finest races. Its name derives from the characteristic black hair of the pig, which has a white stripe surrounding the whole body like a belt. Mediterranean Diet What is the Mediterranean Diet and Why is it So Good for You ? The Mediterranean diet is all the rage these days – it has a reputation for being sinfully delicious while possessing the virtue of being extremely healthful. Yet when asked to define it, many folks have hard time coming up with a good description. Not surprising. Any country contiguous with the Mediterranean Sea, from Morroco to Greece and from Spain to Israel, can rightly claim that its cuisine qualifies as a form of the Mediterranean diet. Indeed there are hundreds perhaps thousands of variations of the Mediterranean diet as micro-cuisines vary from village to village. In Italy alone there are subtle nuances that distinguish the cuisines of different regions and villages. Roman, Tuscan, Ligurian, Neapolitan and Sicilian cuisine, to name handful of broad categories, are all variations on the Italian version of the Mediterranean Diet. It is the south/central Italian version of the Mediterranean diet which we will focus on in this course. It is among the most healthy of all Mediterranean cuisines, and we believe is the most delicious. Despite the many variations of the Mediterranean diet, there are some common characteristics that are found in all the healthiest versions. Perhaps the single most important feature that unites all these cuisines is olive oil. It is a vehicle for the tastes that permeate these cuisines and it is the elixir of health that makes them so beneficial. Olive oil is the source of almost all fat in the health Mediterranean diet, there is very little saturated fat from meat and not many other vegetable oils either. Not only is olive oil a beneficial monounsaturated fat, it carries many important anti-oxidants along with it. But perhaps the most important characteristic is simply that it makes vegetables taste absolutely delicious. This encourages the avid consumption of vegetables that is so characteristic of the healthy Mediterrranean diet. Broccoli, spinach, tomatoes (technically a fruit), and scores of other vegetables and plant foods have, individually and collectively, been associated with lower rates of disease – especially heart disease and cancer. Italians in particular have a love affair with these foods and specialize in making them irresistible. But that’s not all. The lowly bean is held in high esteem in the Mediterranean and when combined with olive oil and the proper accompaniments is a culinary delight. It is also a staple of good health. The same can be said of nuts of all varieties. While the healthy Mediterranean diet is not big on milk and butter, cheese and yogurt are important components. In Italy cheese is used largely as a condiment to make other foods such as pasta, tomato sauce and vegetables even more delicious. Yogurt which is found throughout the Mediterranean has long been associated with extended life expectancy, and some studies suggest that it may lower cholesterol, enhance immunity and have anti-oxidant properties. A Mediterranean meal, especially in Italy, would not be complete without red wine. Modern science is finally establishing what Mediterraneans have believed for millennia – red wine in moderation appears to be good for your health. Each glass of wine contains the concentrated phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants of hundreds of grapes. These substances seem to prevent cholesterol from doing damage and prevent blood clots from forming. Put it all together, the olive oil, the fruits, the vegetables, red wine and you have a diet drenched in deep passionate colors. These colors not only bring a seductive beauty to the table, they carry the greatest concentration of anti-oxidants and healthy phyto-nutrients. It seems that nature in all her wisdom has imbued the most colorful foods with the highest concentration of health enhancing substances. Just as important is what you will not find in the healthy Mediterranean diet. Fast food is verboten and red meat is consumed infrequently, almost as a condiment. Butter and cream sauces are also the exception. Of course in northern France and Northern Italy you will find people eating this way – but these regions are far from the Mediterranean and the sunny climes that produce the healthiest foods and lifestyles. Finally we cannot overlook the Mediterranean perspective on life. Italians in particular have a reverence for food and good conversation. The two of course come together at the dinner table, each enhancing the quality of the other. After dinner a long walk in the fellowship of friends and family provides those pleasures many of us seem to be lacking. These simple pleasures – good food, good talk, and long walks are the secret to a long, happy, and healthy life. Come join us and we will show you how it is done!. Why Go Organic? Healthy Body, Healthy Planet A healthy diet requires more than simply cutting out junk food—it involves getting the most nutritional value out of every bite you take. It takes good food to build a fit body. But did you know that your food choices also have an impact on the environment? If you’d like both a healthy body and a healthy planet, consider going organic. Definition of Organic An organic product is raised, grown, and processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics or hormones. Only farmers who produce food according to USDA organic standards and become certified by an independent third-party accredited agent can label their product as “certified organic” (with the exception of very small farms with sales under $5000 annually). The term “conventional” describes non-organic farming practices. The Benefits of Organic Food According to a 2001 study, today’s conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have about half the vitamin content of their 1963 counterparts. Organically grown food, however, is more nutritious than food produced using synthetic chemicals, as shown by a study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993. On average, organically grown food is 63 percent higher in calcium, 73 percent higher in iron and 118 percent higher in magnesium, while being 29 percent lower in mercury. Besides potentially providing more nutrition per bite, organic food may also help you fight off disease. You may have heard of flavonoids, which plants produce in response to environmental stresses, such as competing plants or insects. Flavonoids have high levels of antioxidants, which serve as the plant’s natural defense and help us fight disease as well. Research suggests that pesticides and herbicides interfere with the production of these protective compounds. According to the 2005 State of Science Review (SSR) by the Organic Center, antioxidant levels are about 30 percent higher in organic food than chemically-grown foods produced under the same conditions. Most antioxidants are found in the peels of fruits and vegetables, but many people cut away the peel of conventionally grown produce to reduce their exposure to pesticides. Since it is safer to eat the skin of an organic fruit or vegetable, you get the maximum amount of antioxidants from your produce when you buy organic. Scientists now have a better understanding of how disease and environmental toxins are linked and have proven that exposure to chemical fertilizers and pesticides does impact our health. Some pesticides have been shown to disrupt the human endocrine system (which regulates our hormones), while others have been linked to breast cancer, uterine cancer and asthma. The Importance of Healthy Soil Farmers began using chemical fertilizers and pesticides around 50 years ago in order to boost crop yields. Over time, insects, weeds and plant diseases have developed resistance to these pesticides, which has prompted the development of stronger pesticides and the need for multiple applications during the growing cycle. Despite the tremendous increase in the use of pesticides since 1950, the percentage of crop volume lost to pests has remained about the same. A study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that 40 percent of the world’s agricultural soil is seriously depleted due to erosion (a result of planting the same crop over and over again), nutrient depletion (due to the use of chemical fertilizers) and salinization (the build-up of salt in the soil due to excessive irrigation). The good news is that organic farming methods, such as rotating crops, using compost or manure instead of chemical fertilizers, and careful water use can reverse this damage and rebuild healthy soil. 7 Reasons to buy Organic When it comes to your health—and the planet’s—here are the top seven reasons why you might want to purchase organic foods whenever possible: 1. Protect the health of children. Children are exposed to four times the level of pesticides in food than adults. Pesticides affect children more profoundly due to their higher metabolisms and smaller body mass. 2. Look after your own health. Several pesticides that are banned in the U.S. and Canada are used on foreign crops and shipped here for consumers to buy. 3. Safeguard the health of farm workers. Studies have shown that conventional farmers have six times the cancer risk of non-farmers. Because fertilizers and chemicals are often distributed by air, farm workers can be exposed to large quantities of chemicals without protection. 4. Preserve the soil. Over three billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the United States and Canada due to erosion caused by conventional farming methods. 5. Protect the water. Pesticides are known to contaminate groundwater, which affects the drinking water supply in most of the United States and Canada. If pesticide-contaminated water reaches lakes, rivers and other bodies of water, it allows the rapid growth of algae and suffocates the natural aquatic plants and animals. 6. Conserve resources. Conventional farming uses a vast amount of petroleum-based herbicides to kill weeds, while organic farming uses labor-intensive practices such as weeding by hand. 7. Fight global warming. Petroleum-based fertilizers give plants the nitrogen they need for rapid growth, but these nitrogen compounds can enter the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Thoroughly washing conventional produce and trimming away edible peels will help minimize any chemical residue while still retaining a high level of nutrients. If organic foods don’t fit into your budget or lifestyle, try not to worry. Most health authorities report that the health benefits that come from eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the concerns of pesticide use. Whether you select organic or conventionally grown produce, eating five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day is still the healthiest way to get the vitamins, minerals and fiber you need as a preventive health measure.