Christmas from Chianti

By Karen Parr-Moody

 

In the heart of Tuscany is the Chianti wine region, one that informs the palates of all who tread amid its terra-cotta roofs, verdant vineyards and undulating hillsides. Such vistas have long enchanted Nashville caterer and cookbook author, Raleigh Hussung, who penned “Pigs is Pigs, Folks is Folks,” a tribute to her family’s legacy of Southern cuisine. (Photo, right: Chianti near Florence; courtesy of ©Sandro Santioli.)

 

Raleigh and her husband, veteran restaurateur Buck Hussung, love visiting Venice, Rome and Florence. But it is the Chianti region that has captured their hearts. Each time they go they stay at Fattoria Poggio al Sorbo in Castellina, a farmhouse that is as pretty as a postcard.

 

For years, Raleigh has brought back culinary treasures to create Italian flavors in her home kitchen, as well as to give to her friends. Now she’s importing these finds to sell at Booth T-112 at GasLamp Too, which features an array of honeys, oils, sauces, seasonings, pastas and vinegars.

 

One of the items, seen at left, is Stefania Calugi’s “Tuscan quality” white truffle sauce – or “crema tartufata bianca” – which is sold in her booth with a hand-written note that says, “It’s fabulous!”

 

Made from the finest truffles found in Northern Italy, this white truffle sauce serves multiple purposes. Raleigh recommends tossing it with pasta, adding it to gravies and sauces or mixing it with mashed potatoes.

 

In Chianti is the hilltop village of Panzano, which is home to Officina della Bistecca, a restaurant operated by the famous, eighth-generation butcher Dario Cecchini. From Cecchini’s internationally-known shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Raleigh has procured a critical item called Profumo del Chianti – or “essence of Chianti” (photo, right). This is a type of seasoning that can be traced to the region and to a time when salt was so expensive that farmers “cut” it with herbs to save money. The blend includes sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, laurel, fennel pollen and juniper. It can be used for everything from seasoning steak to adding to bruschetta.

 

Among the many culinary treasures at Raleigh’s booth are bottles of extra virgin olive oil and Balsamico di Modena from Fattoria La Vialla, a 3,000-acre organic, biodynamic farm and winery that is operated by a family in Tuscany (photo, left). Such oil and vinegar are, naturally, staples of a kitchen and impart complexity and fragrance to a wide variety of recipes.

 

A boon of Italian flavors from the kitchens of Chianti isn’t all that is offered at Raleigh’s booth. One can also purchase her cookbook “Pigs is Pigs, Folks is Folks” (photo, right). Raleigh attended Vanderbilt University and has lived in Nashville for many years – she is descended from James Bell, one of the earliest settlers in Brentwood. Yet her roots are in Atlanta, where she gathered her earliest memories of dishes served by generations of cooks. In this book, she passes on those memories, along with recipes, such as one for Amaretto pie, which are sure to delight.

 

 

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