Food Adventures

Friday, July 21, 2006

First of all, here are some pictures of things I made this week

Semolina cake with chocolate ganache

Pasta with broccoli

Stuffed apple

Marquis moka

pasta caprese and lamb Roman style

Chocolate cake

Another week of culinary adventures is over. It has been fun and exciting, full of interesting dishes: stuffed squid (with carrots, leeks, and bread crumbs)—pronounced perfect by Andrea—carrot soufflé (less than perfect), sole with bitter orange sauce, pork with apples and, on the sweeter side, apple tart, lemon cake, Bavarian cream, and a variety of cakes. Our baking instructor (whose name is also Andrea) has had us make a number of the cakes that are sold in his chocolate shop and it's been quite a bit of fun. When we make recipes such as Bavarian cream or Italian meringue, which in and of themselves are not terrible exciting, we go a couple of steps further and actually use them in cakes, learning how to layer and combine flavors and textures. Of course, the funnest part of the exercise is tasting our creations, which even when they don't look perfect taste unbelievably good.

I have also made several different types of pasta, including orecchiette, which are quite difficult to make well. We were all so slow at it, that I was starting to fear we would starve (we had not eaten for at least 2 hours!), but fortunately, Marcella showed us how to make a similar shape that is easier to make because you roll it on a towel (to give it texture), instead of trying to shape it around your thumb and then flip it inside out on your index finger. We dressed the pasta with broccoli, garlic, olive oil and anchovies and had a wonderful meal.

So, this week among other things I have learned how to clean and cook squid and also skin and fillet sole, two things I was surprisingly successful at. In one of the classes, we used the sole fillets to make pasta. Yes, you did read correctly, we made pasta dough using raw sole, bread crumbs, and parmiggiano and then ran it through a ricer (!!!) and dropped it into boiling fish stock we had prepared from scratch (let's just say we cleaned and gutted a lot of fish that day). I must admit that this has been my least favorite dish so far; the combination of fish stock and fish pasta on a very hot day just didn't excite my taste buds that much. But the experience was fun.

In addition to cooking in class, this week I also helped out with classes four tourist groups. Many agencies bring groups to the school for a Tuscan meal and I got to help the chefs cook and serve the meal. The groups were mostly high school students, who tended to have most fun with making fresh pasta. I would be assigned to a group of 4-5 students and would walk them through the recipe and help them make it (I would actually do most of the work, especially if the recipe was a dessert and the eggs needed to be beaten). Different groups make different courses and at the end of the evening, they all have a 4 course dinner that they have helped prepare. Most find it fun, even though they are not very interested in cooking. One girl from Texas was shocked to discover that pasta is actually made fresh; she had never thought about how pasta is made.

Next week, we have exams on Tuesday and Wednesday, so Monday is the only day of real cooking. The practical exams are on Wednesday, but we will be making recipes we have made in the classes, so nothing new.

Florence is warming up again and today it's over 100F. Some might think that would stop me from eating pastries stuffed with cream for breakfast and washing them down with a couple of cappuccinos, but I have a job to do and I will continue to sacrifice myself for the sake of pastry research.

Have a great weekend!


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