October 3, 2011

Cooking in the Countryside

Another busy week leaves so much to say & little time to do it {or little motivation to acutally do so}. In fact, just before I posted this my computer charger caught on fire and my battery is on the verge of dying thanks to a power outage while my laptop was plugged in. But now that my rant is over, yesterday's excursion deserves a bit of unrestricted space so brace yourself, I wrote like my autobiography is being published tomorrow...

From the time planning began last year, cooking in the countryside topped my Italian adventure wishlist. Naturally, the chance to cook with esteemed Tuscan food blogger,Giulia Scarpaleggia of Jul's Kitchen would be the cherry on top. Giulia's blog introduced me to the joys of Italian cooking so I was ecstatic when she graciously extended a welcome to come cook with her! Giulia recently started offering private cooking lessons in her  family's {BEAUTIFUL} restored villa, I Tigli, in Colle di Val D'Elsa, a medieval town that is everything you dreamed the Tuscan countryside would be.

The day started off taking my first Italian bus trip. After hearing horror stories of people falling asleep and missing their stop or the bus never arriving, my anxiety rose to an all time high. Fortunately, Kait, {new friend} Hannah, and I made it to Colle without a hitch! We took the quick jaunt to the countryside via SITA for only 5 Euro! Warning: Trying to find the current schedules online {even with an extensive Google search} produces little so ask an Italian when it comes to buses.

Giulia generously met us at the Colle stop as the villa is out of reach from public transport and told us about the picturesque town she grew up in as we wove up to the villa on the hillside. After taking the villa in, we made it into the kitchen and got to work!

A girl after my own heart, Giulia started us on dessert! While I'm not a Tiramisu in the states, I can't eat enough in Italy {I even order Tiramisu gelato on most nights}. Tiramisu needs to set in the fridge for a few hours so we whipped egg whites to a peak, churned marscapone {an Italian cheese that sets the Italian tiramisu apart}, and dipped lady fingers in coffee. There certainly is no need to lift weights after that arm workout! After layering the cups to perfection, off to the fridge the Tiramisu went with my cravings running right behind it.
{For a similar recipe: Jul's Black Tea Tiramisu, sub. black tea for espresso}

Next we began the savory main course, Roasted Turkey with Sage & Almonds. Layering turkey, prosciutto, sage omlette, and roasted almonds promised the perfect dish. How could they flavors not make your mouth water? The roasted turkey was easy prep {roll, tie off, and roast} so onto fresh pasta we went while its aromas filled the kitchen...

{Watch out for the recipe this week at Jul's Kitchen}

While I'd appreciated fresh pasta over the years, I'd never set out to make it so past making proved to be quite the fun challenge! Starting with a volcano, my mound was the first to leak but Giulia helped me rebuild like volcanoes erupting is a daily occurance. While I still kneaded the dough, Kait & Hannah produced gluten {to give myself a little credit, I was the only pasta newbie}but with a lot of patience my mound came out just fine!

As the mounds were left to grow,we {literally} slurped Olive Oil from two regions of Italy to learn the differences in quality and taste. Did you know you shouldn't judge olive oil by the color? Leaves are often used to dye it green & professional tasters use blue glasses to avoid judging on color. Another secret: swirl the cup between your palms to warm it to room temperature to bring out the proper aromas and taste. I preferred the Tuscan to the Sicilian {the other two chose the Southern} for the southern oil bit my tongue with a spicy tomato aftertaste while the Tuscan oil left a heavier but less strong taste at the back of my tongue.

Our pasta was ready to be folded and stretched when the tasting was done. Giulia brought out her grandmother's pasta press for the occasion, allowing us to hand churn every noodle until the end. We hand cut a thicker noodle and made a thinner linguine with the press. The pasta was sooo fun to play with!

{Check out a few Fresh Pasta recipes}

Done with the main preparation, we put together two crostinis  {Baked sausage & anchiove} for an appetizer, cut fresh vegetables to roast, and Giulia prepared a simple tomato sauce & sage butter for the pastas. When the finishing touches came together, we toasted the three hour lesson and dived into the first course!

The meal was one of my favorite parts. The four of us enjoyed the fruits of our labor over great conversation exchanging travel stories and cultural questions while enjoying some of the most incredible flavors I've experienced since arriving!

Thanks Giulia for an experience I will not forget! I only hope others can share in the rich cooking traditions of I Tigli that you so graciously shared with me!

For more information on cooking with Jul's Kitchen, visit here!

A review on a few Firenze restaurants, a video of the Mokaflor roasting plant, and my mid-week adventures are on there way....just must conquer this Blogger's block & finding a solution to my little computer fire...oh the joys of living abroad!

1 comment:

Sara B said...

how rad you made your own pasta! i love cooking with friends too, it's the best :)