Cannellini Bean & Pasta Soup
Chicken Soup with Poached Eggs
Braised Veal Shanks (remember my Lamb Osso Bucco?)
Paglia e Fieno
Sauteed Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Sage
Polenta with Tomato and Fontina
Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms
Potato Gnocchi with Thyme Butter
Roasted Red Peppers
Green Beans in Tomato Sauce
Tomato and Mozzarella
My, oh my, what a wonderful and STRESSFUL day it has been today. We ventured into the lovely country of Italy. Ah, how I wish I could go to Italy right now and wander in and out of street markets and smell the fresh tomatoes, sweet basil, and fresh baked ciabatta. The Italian meal is generally eaten in 6 courses:
- Antipasto- Hot/Cold
- Il Primo- Pasta, Risotto, Polenta
- Il Segundo- Meat, Poultry, Seafood
- Il Contorno- Salad, Veggies
- Frutti Etromaggio- Fruit & Cheese
- Il Dolce- Specialy Desserts
One of the greatest characteristics of Italy is that their food is shopped for daily. Unlike here, where we buy weekly, even monthly ingredients. In Italy, the day’s groceries are bought in the morning, and cooked later that evening. Italian lunches are the largest meals of the day. They can linger on for 2 maybe 3 hours, and after eating (and a few glasses of vino), the town shuts down for a couple of hours. Doors, shutters, and blinds all put to a close so that digestion can be relaxing and satisfying. Tough life they live huh?
Did you know that there are 447 varieties of cheese made in Italy? 447! Speaking of cheese…guess what Chef and a few students made in class today? Two words. Fresh mozzarella.
I could not believe how easy it was! Well, I suppose it was because we already started with the mozzarella curd, but still. To sum it up, chef put about a gallon of water to an almost boil, added a ton of salt, and poured it on top of the mozzarella curd. The water made the curds melt and he kept pulling and stretching it (picture 2) until the curds were completely smooth, and then he formed them into balls. Amazing! And it tasted so incredibly fresh.
I love how diverse Italy is. In fact, it is so diverse that they practically have a “Mason-Dixon” line that divided the North from the South and starts to extremely divide in food characteristics. For example, the North is much more classical and detailed. Their flavors are more subtle and they use creams, butters, and olive oil in their sauces. They use fresh, flat, and stuffed pastas. When I think of northern Italy I think of November-February here, when people eat more warm, comforting, and let’s face it, fattening food. Oh, and did I mention gnocchi? Fresh. Gnocchi……..
Gnocchi’s are little italian dumplings that have gone to heaven, landed on my fork and melted in my mouth. If only there were a food group called gnocchi that required us to have them every day in order to survive. Unfortunately, they must be considered an infrequent treat, for they do not supply much of any nutrients, but I could not remember the last time I had them, so that was good enough for me. 🙂
Being that I was Chef of the Day, I had to assign the menu to the students who were not doing their practical. I just so happened to assign the gnocchi’s to a friend of mine, Jesse, who just so happened to trash Johnson and Wale’s recipe and use her grandmothers, who is right off the boat from Italy. I got to talking to Jesse for a little while and she told me about the way her grandmother always did it. Surprisingly she told me that she normally used potatoes that have started to rot and are a little dehydrated when making the dough, and if those were not available , than potato flakes could be used instead and they are just as good.
Anyway, after she made the dough she rolled it out into long logs, cut them about an inch or two long, the made indents, but I will get to that in a second…
Then in order to make an indent, she took a fork and rolled the dumpling back gently, in almost a flicking motion.
As if life could not get any better, she boiled them, then sauteed them in butter and thyme. Thyme, by the way, is my FAVORITE HERB! Jesse made me very happy today. Thanks, Jesse.
Southern Italy. This, to me is more of that March-May “beach season is coming” diet. No cream, or butter, just pure olive oil. Seafood is their main staple and tomatoes base most sauces. The south uses dry pastas that are tubular, such as rigatoni or penne. Garlic is plentiful, and herbs like thyme<3, rosemary, and oregano burst throughout their food.
The food today was my absolute favorite so far in this lab. Tomorrow we are headed for Spain and Portugal! Two more days til Thanksgiving Break!!!!!!!!!
I’ll leave with a few gorgeous plates from today as well: