See those odd-looking spindly stick cluster things? Those are what grow capers (those tiny, salty green balls that pack a wallop of flavor). Also good on salads
But back to the show.
Today’s class was focused on cooking with FRUIT! Quite possibly my favorite food category. I don’t take pictures of everything I eat, mostly because it’s just not all that interesting or photogenic, but if I did – you would be very sick of apples and pears. I think I eat at least one of each a day. Can’t wait for summer berries!!
NEEDless to say, I was quite excited about today. We started with a salad:
Spinach, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, red onion, pears, fresh buffalo mozzarella, dressed with lemon juice + olive oil + few drops of good aged balsamic vin.
Now, I grew up with the reigning queen of salads. My mother makes wonderful and creative salads not unlike this one, and I’m actually pretty envious of her ability to whip up the right dressing that complements the salad ingredients. That said, this salad blew my tastebuds away! The pears just made it. Although I would recommend using a more pungent cheese like a goat or bleu, would have been even better with the sweetness of the pear.
We also made some fresh rosemary focaccia to go with it (and by made, I mean actually hand-made it from ingredients-up, not just took it out of some plastic and threw it in the oven):
This is, I believe, my first-ever experience with a souffle…and now I am wondering why. This. was. so. good. It had the light, fluffy texture of mousse that I adore but was warm and moist like cake fresh out of the oven. The chocolate was dark but not too heavy and all in all, this was a little ramekin of heaven. We did not alter this recipe, and the only fruit added was that raspberry that you seeon top, but I think it makes an important statement nutrition-wise: it’s perfectly healthy to eat indulgent foods! It’s all about the portion size. And what better an end to a meal than chocolate? Especially in carb-form. I left perfectly satisfied.
This class was the first that I didn’t go ga-ga over every single dish we made, but the salad, focaccia and dessert more than make up for the other two (which weren’t even bad, just not something I personally enjoyed as much as the others).
The rest of the day was spent in a nearby piazza with a nap in the sun and bit of dog-watching. Lovely.
I am not sure that I have formally discussed this other than maybe some lines here or there, but I am as of now looking into culinary school after next year’s graduation (aaah! senior year…how did this happen???). I have no idea what exact career I want–and by no idea, I mean I have about 30 different ones–but I do know that my passion for and fascination with food only seems to increase, and I’m following what I love. I would go for Baking/Pastry because that’s really what I love and where I feel I’m more creative, and, well, I’d much rather deal with finicky pate a choux than learn how to de-bone a duck. It’s something I’ve been putting off announcing mostly because whenever I ‘announce’ something like this, I end up going in a completely different direction. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, as long as I love it, but right now I’m so into the food world that the thought of me suddenly not going into it is too scary and sad for me to think of.
Just throwing it out there.
British weekend is coming!
BUT, Italian was more or less painless. I left actually pretty excited because yesterday we gave oral presentation about our favorite books and I chose:
Ruth Reichl is one of my very favorite authors. This book is about her time as The New York Times’ food critic, and it is just a completely charming, funny book. I’ve read her others, which I like almost as much as this, and just started her newest one, Not Becoming My Mother. ANYway, my Italian teacher went out and bought it after she heard me talk about it! I love spreading the foodie love
Today continued to make up for last night’s ick-factor when I came home, made a big cup of coffee, and discovered my internet to be restored. And all was well again. Honestly, I think my issue last night was lack of sleep more than anything else. It’s just been a bit of a tough week sleep-wise. And really, when I look back on my semester here, I am not going to remember the internet-less nights of stress; my trip is going to be marked by my sunny afternoons spent lazing in Piazza Indipendenza, making fun of the pigeons and talking to the dogs.
The ladies who
Lazing in the piazza is exactly what I did today – after my cooking class, of course! Today was a “green class” – lots of antioxidant/fiber-filled goodness!
Patate agli spinaci
This was very interesting. We took boiled potatoes and peeled them–you want to boil vegetables with skins on because if you peel them first, the water will take and dissolve all the nutrients! Of course, you can do this to create a vegetable stock – all the nutrients seep into the water. But for this purpose, boil-and-peel! The potatoes were then riced (I am pretty sure it was a ricer?) –you could probably grate them too– and mixed with spinach that had been sauteed shortly with olive oil and garlic. This mix was put in a pastry bag and squeezed onto a baking sheet into perty potato-spinach flowers and sprinkled with parmesan cheese (which got all crunchy and golden and delicious!), and baked. They were pretty tasty, although I feel like they could have used a bit more oomph. More salt maybe? I feel like potatoes and spinach are two more or less bland-flavored veggies (don’t get me wrong, though, I love eating both!) and they needed more than just the herbs and cheese to make these really *pop.* Ok, I just talked about potato-spinach flowers for about five minutes, NEXT plate…
Trofie al pescatrice e pesto
Holy WHOA this was SO yummmmmmy!! We used trofie, a type of pasta that looks like it’s been stretched and then twisted, and is popular in Liguria which is near Genova where basil is grown for pesto! Nice little linkage there, no? We made the pesto, but instead of using water like last time, we used some ricotta cheese to make it creamier. Normally I don’t like super creamy pesto, but it went so perfectly with this dish! Into the pasta also went cubed pieces of fresh swordfish…oh dear, how I love fish. I’m pretty sure my eyes lit up when he said we would be making fish! The fish taste was not at all overwhelming and was perfectly balanced by the sweet and creaminess of the ricotta-pesto, and the pasta choice of trofie worked really welll. Something about the thin shape and soft denseness really seemed to accentuate the pesto flavor and the alternate texture of the fish. Definitely had 2 servings of this! Could have happily drowned in it.
Foccacia agli spinaci
They made the foccacia from scratch, of course, so the chances of this being amazing were pretty good from the start. We used mozzarella instead of the usual scamorza, because the mozzarella is fresh and less fatty. They sauteed the spinach in olive oil and garlic and then stuffed it inside the foccacia (btw – that is not an easy to word to spell) and baked it. Towards the end of baking, Marco (our teacher) brushed olive oil and white wine on the top so that it would turn a nice golden color. The secret to making foccacia in under an hour? Use a pinch of sugar in the dough. The yeast loooves sugar and will grow faster with the addition of the sugar.
This was out-of-this world good!! It was just salty enough and suuuper doughy (a very good thing!). I had extras on the crust because it was just. so. good. I just love bread. You start with yeast, flour and water and yet the variety of different results you can get from those simple ingredients is infinite. So cool.
Finally, my team’s dish:
Sfogliatine di pomodori verdi (con sorbetto di limone)
This is basically a jam made of green tomatoes, lemon juice, and cane sugar inside puff pastry. We de-seeded and cubed the tomatoes and cooked them in a pan with the sugar and juice of half a lemon, and towards the end of cooking added crumbled pieces of panbrioche (a sweet bun, basically) to thicken it. We brushed milk (instead of egg yolk) on top of the sealed pastry triangles and sprinkled them with a little more cane sugar. Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so, and you’re good to go. We served them with a “dollop” (my teacher was very proud he remembered that word) of lemon sorbetto, which put these over the edge! It may sound very odd, but it worked so well. The green tomatoes are higher in acidity, and paired with the sweetness of the sugar and the sweet-sour sorbet (plus that hot/cold contrast), this was one of the most uniquely tasty dishes I’ve ever had. The jam was SO easy to make; definitely worth a try on my own! (Or your own – if you want the recipe, just leave a comment!)
After class & said-park lounging, the roomies and I decided on aperitivo for dinner. I have given up trying to takes pictures in Kitsch because it’s just too dark, but just image a nice glass of prosecco and various little appetizer tastings. Always lots of food and nice prosecco for the low low price of 8euro. Hard to beat.
We have make-up classes tomorrow - whatever classes we didn’t have on Monday (we got it off for Easter). I know I am going to the market for my Food & Culture class to walk around and talk to the vendors. Should prove to be quite interesting at the least!
I know I’ve said it before, but I really love my cooking class. Like, really really.
I recommend serving it with some good Tuscan bread. But then, I recommend serving everything with good Tuscan bread…
Off to Rome very early tomorrow, and I have been procrastinating packing. I’m not over-the-moon excited about it, but I am bound and determined to see the Sistine Chapel, and that I am excited about. And restaurants. And gelato. Ok, I’m a little excited about it.
I will be back Sunday evening – with lots of pictures!