The market bustled with Florentines as we and our teacher/chef Barbara (not the same as the one from rome) bought fresh fruits and vegetables for our meal: Fresh tomatoes of many different varieties, zucchini, red peppers, yellow peppers, rasberries, and more. And fresh meats: chicken and pancetta (kind of like bacon but not cured the same way.) And fresh focaccia bread. All these things filled many shopping bags which we carried with us out to the car.
It was only a short drive back out of the city and into the countryside once more. It only took a second of driving for the streets to level out and turn back into farm once more. Barbra’s house was a lovely place situated on a small hill in a field, it was surrounded by trees and the sun streamed in through all the windows. We took the bags and carried them around the back of her house and into her kitchen. Her kitchen was all at once unassuming and homely and then simultaneously professional and capable.
Our menu was:
- Antipasto: salami and prosciutto with various cheeses and breads
This is pretty easy to make, all you do is to take the meats and cheeses and put them on a big plate. The highlight of this course was the focaccia bread. It was salty and savory and the best focaccia I have ever tasted. It made wonderful little finger sandwiches of the meats and cheeses and it did a great job sopping up the remnants of the first course left in my bowl.
- First Course: home made pasta with tomato and pancetta sauce
For the sauce we had to blanche and peel all the tomatoes and dice both the pancetta and blanched tomatoes into a pan. This simmered with some other ingredients (I think) for a while as we rolled our own pasta. First we needed to make the dough with high gluten flour and eggs then roll it all up and kneed it for quite some time. After this it is ready to be cut into little cubes and rolled into long thing spagetti noodles. The rolling process is lengthy and quite frustrating except for the thought of eating what you are spending hours rolling out. It took the whole class, 8 of us, over an hour to get them all done. these spagettis were lumpy and no where near perfect noodles. They were boiled for 2 mins and then the sauce and noodles were mixed to create a luscious tasting pasta dish.
- Second Course: stuffed vegetables and chicken with cheese, mustard, and pancetta
The vegetables needed to be cut and laid out while the cheeses, capers and herbs were mixed together in a bowl, then the cheese and herb mix was dolled out into the open cut veggies. They were baked and tasted wonderful. Little savory and crunchy morsels of goodness. For the meat the chicken had been pre-pounded by the butcher so that it was in flat filets, those filets were covered in mustard and then strips of fresh parmesan were laid in the mustard. After this the whole thing was rolled up into a ball and a strip or two of pancetta was wrapped around it it was cooked. These little chicken and pancetta wraps were one of the best things I ate the whole time in Italy. I cant even begin to describe the way that those flavors worked, the chicken was not dry at all and perfectly accented by the other ingredients. You can imagine, im sure what it tasted like.
- Desert: raspberry tart
To begin making this, first we had to make the dough for the crust. Roll it out, freeze it for 15 minutes and place it around the pan. Then the tart part was made and mixed with vanilla and brought to a boil. The tart was poured into the pan with the crust and garnished with fresh rasberries and cooked. It was brought out just before we realized that we were too full to go on and it was again delicious.
After cooking the meal we all sat down to eat it. We started with wine, sparkling white for me, and continued down the menu until we had all had our fill. Amazing food, and my skills as a cook were definitely improved in this Italian cooking course.
The rest of the afternoon was relatively Uneventful. We were so full that all we could do was go back to the room and lay down for a while and by the time we got up my dad and sister were hungry for dinner and my mom and I came along for the ride. We walked an inordinately long distance to get to some touristy restaurant that apparently was only moderately good. Then stopped for gelato on the way back, I did not partake, still full from lunch.
Tired, full, and happy we went back to the room and faded into sleep.