Taste of Italy: Authentic Tuscan Biscotti (Cantuccini)

Homemade Tuscan Biscotti, Florence, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Homemade Tuscan Biscotti, Florence, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Featured in Five Must-Try Food and Wine Experiences in Florence (And a Shopping Detour), biscotti — also known as cantuccini — are a traditional after-dinner dessert hailing from the Tuscan city of Prato.  Serve these twice-baked treats with vin santo (an Italian dessert wine) for dunking.

  • 3 cups of cake flower
  • 1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
  • 1 cup of whole almonds
  • 3 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vin santo

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place almonds on a cookie sheet and toast in oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove.  In a large bowl, mix the 3 whole eggs, 2 yolks, vin santo, 1 cup of sugar, orange zest and sea salt.  Add flour and baking powder gradually.  Kneed dough on a lightly floured surface and work in almonds.  Divide the dough into three parts and form each into a log (approx. 12″ x 1.5″). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.   Place logs well apart from each other, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and slightly firm.  Cool for about 30 minutes on the baking sheet.  While still warm, transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices with a serrated knife.  Arrange on two parchment paper or baking mat-lined baking sheets, cut side down, and return to oven to bake for 25 minutes, turning once.  Cool and serve with vin santo.

Taste of Adventure

Taste of England: Honey Roasted Parsnips

Honey Roasted Parsnips 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Honey Roasted Parsnips 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Fall is peak season for these sweet cream-colored beauties. An essential part of a traditional English Christmas dinner, these earthy, honeyed gems become everyday fare with this simple recipe. When roasted, parsnips develop a deep, rich nutty flavor. Look for medium parsnips with beige skin at your local farmers market. Serve with roasted pork loin and a glass of pinot noir.

  • 5-6 medium parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 6 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. In a large bowl toss the parsnips and the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Transfer the parsnips to the roasting pan and spread into a single layer. Roast for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and toss to ensure even browning. Return to oven and continue roasting until golden brown (about 10-15 minutes), being careful not to overcook. Season with sea salt to taste before serving.

Taste of Adventure

A Soul-Satisfying Sojourn to a Tuscan Kitchen

MezzalunaIn Italy, it is tradition to give a young woman a mezzaluna and a wooden cutting board when she marries. Once the board becomes worn and a hallow emerges after years of use in the kitchen, she is considered a skillful cook. The once flat cutting boards in the kitchens of the four Tuscan “mammas” who founded Tutti a Tavola look more like bowls these days. With the cooking skills they will teach you, and a few years of patience, you too will proudly display this trophy in your kitchen.

The mammas will welcome you into one of their rural farmhouses in the village of Castellini, Radda or Gaiole in the Chianti region of Tuscany, each offering an old-world setting for the rustic dishes they will teach you. In Mimma’s kitchen, the soft glow of the sun at the golden hour filters in through the kitchen window as she offers you a bubbly glass of Prosecco. A duo of crostini (garlicky Tuscan white bean, and spicy mortadella and ricotta) are quickly assembled and the first glasses of Chianti are poured. You quickly find yourself gathered around Mimma’s long wooden table, chopping onions and garlic while enjoying homespun stories. The menu focuses on straightforward Tuscan fare using the freshest local ingredients, like The Best Italian Lemon and Rosemary Chicken Ever, farfalle with caramelized leeks and tomatoes, pan-roasted zucchini, and tiramisu with farm fresh mascarpone.

For those with more time, the mammas will host you in one of their homes and take you under their wing for a two-day culinary experience. You will be in food-lovers utopia with an extra virgin olive oil tasting, a local market tour, a wine cellar visit and tasting, and hands-on afternoon cooking classes that roll into unforgettable dinners overflowing with laughter and camaraderie. There are few experiences in life more soul-filling than enjoying the company of new friends and superb food and wine as you dine al fresco overlooking the Chianti hillside.

Taste of Adventure

Taste of Tuscany: The Best Italian Lemon and Rosemary Chicken Ever


Italian Lemon and Rosemary Chicken, Chianti, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Don’t let the simple ingredient list fool you. As Mimma might say, this chicken keeps marriages together. Adapted from the Tutti a Tavola cookbook, and featured in A Soul-Satisfying Sojourn to a Tuscan Kitchen. Serve with oven roasted potatoes, sautéed zucchini and a glass of Chianti Classico.

  • 1 small chicken, whole
  • 2 tablespoons very finely minced lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons very finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of sea salt
  • several grinds of black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • lemons cut into large wedges (enough to almost overstuff the chicken)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the lemon zest, minced rosemary leaves, sea salt and black pepper. Massage the chicken with the olive oil and the seasoned sea salt mixture. Stuff the chicken with the rosemary sprigs and lemon wedges (no need to truss). Place the chicken on the rack of a roasting pan and roast for 70 to 90 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced. Let rest before carving.

Taste of Adventure

Italy’s Most Famous Butcher – Dario Cecchini

Dario Cecchini

Halfway between Florence and Sienna, encircled by the rolling Chianti countryside, is the Tuscan hilltop town of Panzano, home of the most famous Butcher in Italy, Dario Cecchini. Equal parts showman and larger-than-life butcher, Dario’s passion for his craft was featured in Bill Buford’s Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, as well as Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Tuscany. A visit to Antica Macelleria Cecchini – which Dario affectionately refers to as “paradise for carnivores” – will be a treasured experience. Dario’s family has owned this shop for over 250 years, and he has preserved it in the style of an 1800s macelleria (butcher’s shop). A quirky juxtaposition of the traditional and contemporary if you happen to arrive on a morning where Dario is blasting rock music from AC/DC.

Set aside at least a couple of hours to take it all in. Dario will welcome you with his beaming smile, holding court from a pulpit-like platform behind the counter. His American wife lovingly serves as translator as Dario expertly wields a shiny knife, sharing his philosophy on the art of nose-to-tail butchery, “having respect of the animal, of its life, of its death, and using everything to the very last tendon with conscience is what I have been doing every day for the past 38 years.” He’s also been known to quote entire passages from Dante’s Inferno as he works his magic to transform a side of pork into superb pork chops. Enjoy a hedonistic spread of charcuterie, olives, pecorino cheese, and oven fresh bread slathered with whipped lardo. Even those arriving first thing in the morning will be offered an accompaniment of robust Chianti from Dario’s own vineyard. Unsurprisingly, the macelleria is always buzzing with a meandering procession of villagers, artists and friends of Dario. Enjoy this slice of Tuscan life, and be sure to grab a bottle of Dario’s “Profumo del Chianti” (Essence of Chianti), a delectable blend of sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, fennel pollen, juniper and salt that will immediately transport you back to Panzano when sprinkled on steaks or atop grilled bread with olive oil.

For those with a bit more time, snag a seat for lunch or dinner at the lively communal table at Dario’s Officina Della Bistecca. This isn’t an ordinary meal, but an 11 course beef-centric experience to be shared with locals and fellow travelers. Pace yourself, as you won’t want to miss the spectacular finale of the world famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina. An extraordinary feast with endless Chianti and a side of raucous laughter guaranteed.

The charming village of Panzano itself is worth discovering. Spend the weekend, perhaps during the four-day Vino al Vino wine festival held the third weekend in September. For about 12 euros you can stroll along the main square sampling wine from local vintners and munching on Tuscan goodies, all to the sound of live music. And don’t miss the lovely Sunday morning market showcasing seasonal produce, cheese, roasted meats and more. Salute!

Taste of Adventure

Taste of Bali: Jamu Kunyit (Turmeric and Tamarind Drink)

Jamu Kunyit

This refreshing tonic will immediately transport you to Bali. Adapted from the Lebong Culinary Experience cook book, and featured in Top Three Cooking Experiences in Ubud

  • 5 ounces of tamarind paste, smashed
  • 5 ounces of fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced
  • 5 ounces of palm sugar syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 17 ounces of water

Mix all ingredients, except lime juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Add lime juice, then strain with a fine sieve. Serve over ice.

Taste of Adventure

Taste of Bali: Base Gede (Basic Spice Sauce)

Base Gede

Although assembling this sauce can be quite labor intensive (especially if you hand-grind the mixture in a lesung in the traditional fashion), Base Gede is the quintessential ingredient in most Balinese dishes. Mix it into minced chicken or beef for sate, incorporate into soups for an exotic boost, or stir into basic curries. Most ingredients can be sourced in your local Asian market. Adapted from the Paon Bali cook book, and featured in Top Three Cooking Experiences in Ubud.

  • 5 small shallots
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of lesser galangal
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of galangal (aromatic ginger)
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of turmeric
  • 2 small chilis (hot)
  • 3 large red chilies (mild)
  • 4 candlenuts or macadamia nuts
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass, trimmed and crushed
  • 2 salam leaves or bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of shrimp paste (Indonesian shrimp paste, Terasi, if possible)
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  1. Clean and wash all ingredients. Slice and remove seeds from the hot and red chilis. Finely chop the shallots, garlic, lesser galangal, galangal, ginger, turmeric, candlenuts, red chilis and hot chilis.
  2. Blend the chopped ingredients, coriander seeds, nutmeg and cloves in a Balinese lesung, or in a conventional blender, until they form a fine paste.
  3. Sauté the paste in the coconut oil. Crush the lemongrass stalk then add salt, pepper, palm sugar, salam leaves and the lemongrass to the paste. Sauté for about seven minutes on low heat.

The sauce will last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator, and up to 6 months in the freezer.

Taste of Adventure

Best Cooking Classes in Ubud

Ubud, Bali 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Ubud, Bali 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Bali, the “Island of the Gods.” Most people who visit fall madly in love with the warm people, the lush landscape, the almost otherworldly spirituality and the exotically-spiced food. Bali’s agricultural bounty is a treasure, and if you are passionate about cooking, this little Indonesian island is heaven on Earth. Make sure to leave room in your suitcase for treasures like coconut palm sugar, hand-harvested sea salt, pure coconut oil, vanilla pods, rich cacao powder and beans, coffee, tea, cashews, tamarind, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and the unusual Balinese long pepper. The most impassioned cooking fanatics will want to spend time in a kitchen on the island learning family recipes and techniques from the locals. These are Taste of Adventure’s top three options in Ubud.

PAON BALI You will start your day at the bustling Ubud market. Meandering among the vendors, you will be given a full tutorial on all the produce and spices this little island has to offer, with plenty of chances to taste exotic fruit like the rare mangosteen. Once fresh herbs, chiles, spices and vegetables are selected, you will be whisked away to the rice paddies for a brief overview of the painstaking process of growing and harvesting rice, carried on by Balinese families for generations. From there you will be taken to nearby Laplapan Village, the family compound of your host, Puspa, who will welcome you with an energizing drink. The afternoon cooking lesson, which takes place in the outdoor family kitchen overlooking a deep gorge filled with palm trees, is a carefully orchestrated procession of nine traditional Balinese recipes, including Base Gede (the foundation of Balinese cooking) and chicken with fresh coconut cream curry. Sit back, relax and enjoy the feast with your new friends and adoptive Balinese family.

LEBONG CULINARY EXPERIENCE The chance to spend the afternoon in a spectacular Balinese compound would be enough for most people, but food and culture enthusiasts will be spoiled by Sang Made and his family. After a brief tour of the local food market, you will be transported to Lebong, where four generations work together to provide an unforgettable experience. While enjoying rich Balinese coffee and golden banana fritters, you will learn about the compound, the shrines and other cultural tid-bits about Balinese life. The cooking experience takes place in a beautiful outdoor pavilion. The air quickly fills with aromatics like shallots, garlic, kaffir lime and lemongrass, as you work your way through the seven-course menu while sipping on refreshing Jamu Kunyit. There are a few more surprises after lunch that make the Lebong experience extraordinary. You will cherish every drop of the thoughtful departing gift of fresh coconut oil made in the Lebong kitchen over a wood-burning fire from coconuts gathered from the grounds.

CASA LUNA: SUNDAY TWILIGHT SMOKED DUCK CLASS Although Casa Luna offers a number of cooking classes throughout the week, the Sunday Twilight Smoked Duck Class is a special opportunity to prepare, and devour, the ceremonial Bebek Betutu in the stunning Honeymoon Guesthouse. This is a dish not easily replicated at home (as it entails wrapping a spice-smothered duck in Betel tree bark and smoking it over fiery rice husks), but cooks will quickly find themselves dreaming of inventive hacks to recreate the dish in their own kitchen. You will depart stuffed and inspired.

Taste of Adventure

Paleo: Avocado Chocolate Mousse with Orange Zest

chocolate mousse









One of the most popular treats at Wildfitness (Four Fitness Getaways That Will Change Your Life), this ingenious marriage of rich avocados with high-quality cacao will have you saying “au revoir” to the cream, sugar and butter-laden original.

  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons of high-quality cacao powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon raw honey
  • orange zest for garnish

Add all ingredients to a blender and process until mixture is a thick mousse consistency.  Adjust the cacao and honey levels to taste.  If you’d like, toss in some cinnamon, vanilla, or whatever other spice inspires you.  Divide among four small glasses, and chill for at least 2 hours.  Garnish with fresh orange zest before serving.

Taste of Adventure

Taste of Kenya: Pan Roasted Chicken in Whole African Spices








Savor this fragrant dish featuring African spices like ginger, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon with a simple green salad and a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc.  Adapted from the Wildfitness Cook Book, and featured in Four Fitness Getaways That Will Change Your Life.

  • 6 chicken drumsticks or 4 chicken breasts, skin on
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, divided
  • 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 4 cardamom pods, seeded
  • 1 cinnamon stick, split to release the flavor
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch of ground mace
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 small onions, sliced

1. Lightly fry the chicken pieces in 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a cast iron or heavy aluminum pan (not a non-stick) along with the turmeric and ginger, skin side down, until it turns golden brown.

2. Crush the cardamom seeds and add them to the pan along with the cinnamon stick, cloves, mace, cayenne pepper, black pepper, bay leaf and mustard seeds.  Sautee until the spices become aromatic, about 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add the garlic, onion and remaining butter to the pan and toss to coat.  Cover and cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through (15-20 minutes for legs, 30 minutes or more for chicken breasts).

Taste of Adventure