What does Florentine mean in cooking? Although the term "Florentine" can be interpreted as the cooking style of Florence, Italy, in modern parlance it has come to mean cuisine that includes spinach as an ingredient. Adding spinach to almost any dish can qualify it as Florentine in some quarters, although Tuscan and authentic regional Florentine influences often enhance "Florentine" style recipes.
What Does Florentine Mean in Cooking: the Cooking of Florence
Even though spinach has taken center stage in what many people recognize as Florentine cooking, it isn't the only ingredient that distinguishes the cuisine of this region. The use of herbs like basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme add a Tuscan or Florentine flavor to dishes. Regional Florentine cooking also uses many local meats, like boar and rabbit, although beef steak is also very popular, particularly from Tuscany's white Chianina cattle.
Because of its proximity to the coastline, Florentine cooking relies heavily on seafood dishes, and as with other Central Italian dishes, often includes the use of olive oil, green olives, and tomato-based sauces.
Other common garden ingredients besides spinach make the foods of Florence versatile and delicious:
- Green olives
Spinach may have become associated with Florence as a result of the influence of Catherine de Medici, but the exact origins are unknown. In the mid 1600s, Catherine, the queen consort of King Henry II and a native of Florence, introduced spinach dishes at court and proclaimed the culinary innovation as "Florentine". At least that's the folklore. Whatever the origins, the term Florentine is now synonymous with spinach, often in egg dishes and dishes with rich, creamy sauces.
Spinach Preparation and Cooking Tips
Since spinach is a prime ingredient in Florentine style cooking, the following tips will help when you're using fresh spinach:
- When shopping for spinach, look for crisp leaves that are a deep, lush green. Avoid leaves with yellow tops or soft spots.
- Spinach starts to lose nutrients soon after being harvested, so pick the freshest spinach you can find, and use it promptly. Farmer's markets that sell local produce, often picked the same day, are a great choice.
- Before cooking spinach, remove the stems and thicker veins. Wash spinach thoroughly in lots of water, and swirl it to allow any dirt to sink to the bottom.
- Spinach can be used raw in salads, steamed lightly for five to seven minutes, or blanched and used as an ingredient in other dishes. Blanching is a process in which the spinach, or other vegetable like asparagus, is placed in boiling water briefly and then immersed in ice water. This sets the color and can enhance the flavor of some vegetables.
- If you're planning on growing spinach yourself, remember that it likes cool conditions, so make it a spring or fall crop, and give it moist, sandy soil.
What does Florentine mean in cooking? Most of the time, it means a good blend of Mediterranean flavors, often including spinach, for an Italian influenced dish. Try some Florentine recipes, either with spinach or without. Start with eggs Florentine or steak Florentine and expand your repertoire from there.