Food Adventures

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The day after Italy wins the World Cup: everyone is very tired and many students do not show up. Even the teachers are tired and cut us some slack. I get 5 hours of sleep the night after the World Cup finale, so it's hard to wake up, but with enough espresso I manage to do it. Of course, this espresso-induced wakefulness has to be maintained with ever larger amounts of espresso, so I run to the bar around the corner from the school every chance I get.

Today is a day of several firsts for me: first cut and also first time I clean and cook squid. The former was not very pleasant, the latter surprisingly fun and delicious. In the morning class we make turkey breast rolls with ham and olives and also marinated eggplant with pecorino and chestnut honey. Both dishes are great combinations of flavors and I will be making them at home. The Regional Italian Cooking class provides a new twist of things: we're talking about Liguria and get to clean and cook squid, including a sauce of squid ink. The ink turns the pasta completely black. It's my first taste of squid ink and I really like it. It's hard to describe, but certainly worth the try. I eat so much of the squid ink pasta, that my teeth and mouth stay black for a while. In baking class, we all struggle with some almond paste cookies. When a giggle epidemic erupts and it's clear that it would take several hours for us to pipe the cookies correctly, Andrea has us make brutti ma buoni, which translates as "ugly but good." No piping, no particular shape. That I can do.

Stay tuned for a report of the custard and crème brulee making experience scheduled for Tuesday.

The puzzle of the day: Marcella asks me to grate some pecorino romano cheese on the penne I am dressing with squid and ink, but when my classmates try to grate some on their spaghetti, she says that on spaghetti with ink, you don't put cheese. Hmmmm. It's just the way things are done here: not only are certain pasta shapes only serves with particular sauces, but some of them get cheese and other don't when served with the same sauce. Not being Italian, I think the best I can hope for is not to have my food taken away from me at a restaurant if I make a mistake as serious as asking for cheese on my spaghetti with black ink.

To all my chocolate-loving friends: tonight I tasted some of the chocolate made at the shop of Andrea Bianchini, my baking instructor. I tried the habanero truffle and it was delicious! The ganache is rich and smooth and you only sense the heat of the habanero at the very end and far back in your mouth. There are other interesting flavors: rosemary and salt, olive oil and vanilla, cardamom and coffee, vin santo, saffron. I wish I could bring back some of Andrea's chocolate back with me but this is not the right time of the year to do so. I guess I'll just have to taste them all myself.


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