La Cucina Italiana, A Trilogy (Part II, Cooking)

Ciao Readers!  And Happy Passover and Easter!

So, today we’re going to cook in Italy – specifically my language classmate, Terri, and I are cooking with Chef Giuseppe from “Extra Virgin” cooking school.  As you may recall, I have taken a variety of cooking courses in many countries, ranging from the super casual paella cooking with a fun bunch of well-lubricated Australians in Barcelona to the more “professional” kitchen of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (ooh la la).

While honestly, I already knew much of what we learned (cooking in Italy, unlike France, is “simple” in the best way – a few excellent ingredients combined to perfection), the class with Chef Giuseppe was a wonderful way to end my stay in Lucca (and yes, of course, a DELICIOUS one!).  (As a side note – Chef Giuseppe was featured on House Hunters International with his American love interest, Liz – Liz and I e-chatted about our respective experience with house hunters before I arrived.)  We met up with Giuseppe in the morning and went to a few small shops to get ingredients for the day, where he would fill us in on the products and their “back stories” (and have long leisurely chats with the proprietors).  Once we arrived at the “palazzo” (their apartment, which is Artchitectural-digest-worthy gorgeous!) we were offered drinks (including, of course, prosecco) and enjoyed olive oil and cheese tastings with mini-lessons before we got to cooking. There was obviously great attention to detail paid before we even arrived as there was a beautifully printed menu and place cards with our names on them (more “ooh la la”s).

As I was feeling tired and lazy on my last day in Lucca, and Terri was interested in mastering technique (though she is actually a “professional” herself – she sells her artisinal homemade gelato in her native Seattle!), I mostly nibbled and drank prosecco while Guiseppe and Terri cooked (and Giuseppe somewhat obsesively cleaned-up behind us throughout the day). Don’t let the photo of me laying out the maccheroni to dry fool you (yes, that’s what Lucca’s local specialty pasta is called, and yes, it’s pronounced “macaroni”), Terri did the hard part – all of the kneading of the dough.  The cooking ended with a drool-worthy multi-course meal (artichoke frittatta and salad, risotto with asparagus and truffle butter, maccheroni with ragu, all topped off with a dessert of buccellato (Lucchesi specialty sweet bread with anise), strawberries and lemon custard), served at a beautiful table with well-paired wine.  We left with little gifts, the aprons you see us wearing, and a little cheesiness for good measure (“official” certificates).  Buon Appetito!

A Photo-Filled Foodie Farewell to Florence!

Ciao Readers!

Well it has been quite some time!  I didn’t think I could leave Florence without one “farewell” post to say goodbye to all of things we have enjoyed about our temporary home.  And what better way to end our stay (and my blog) than with a cooking class!  Specifically, a hand-made ravioli-making class!

But before we start cooking, a quick update and “goodbye”…  Over this past month, we have been trying to enjoy all of the things that drew us here to begin with (in between trips to the post office, the vet, etc.).  As the weather has been way too sweat-inducing (much like Hell, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity) to enjoy the (non-air-conditioned) museums or the gardens, this basically leaves us with…FOOD!   We have been going back to all our favorite spots and eating WAY too much – in the form of pizzas and pastas and pastries and bruschetta with fagioli & lardo, and…well, you get the picture!  It has also been a time to say “goodbye” to folks we were just getting to know, and to thank those who have helped us during our stay (you know who you are).   In an effort to go out on a positive (and delicious) note, we indulged in a one-day cooking class….

We took this class from Food for Friends, which provides small in-home cooking classes (our class was us and two friends from Oslo and London).  The “home” is part of a magnificent Palazzo owned by the Chef, Francesca (pictured with Steve, below) and the course is run/translated by her friend Jacqui (originally from England).  For our course we made two too-yummy to describe ravioli – a traditional spinach and ricotta with butter and sage sauce and a more modern radicchio and burrata.  The class was great fun, especially because Steve put me to shame.  After all my boasting to the chef (in Italian, no less) about all of the cooking courses I have taken, my first batch of dough was so rock-like I had to start over!  In contrast, Steve’s dough and ravioli were so perfect that Francesca actually put some of his away for herself for dinner!  (Lucky for all of us there were only a few of my dense ravioli in the mix).  Throughout our cooking session Francesca would whip up little snacks, and there was plenty of prosecco to boot.  Overall, a good (and scrumptious) time was had by all!   Since there still is no smell or taste-o-vision, you’ll have to make do with the photos (which walk you through both pastas as well as the snacks)…

With these yummy photos from our class, I leave you, Dear Readers, as the Italy chapter of our life comes to a close and the next chapter begins….  It has been a pleasure.  Enjoy:

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