Thursday, February 17, 2011
....Flavours of the Cucina Italiana
You can't think of Italy without thinking of food....
During our recent visit to Lucca, Italy the six of us spent the day with Chef Paolo Monti at his cooking school at the Hotel Carignano just over the river from the beautiful walled city. We chose a menu of Cucina Lucchese - Lucca Specialties. Get ready to drool....Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad); Crostini ai Fegatini (toasted bread with chicken liver and capers pate'); Crostini alle Melanzane (toasted bread with eggplant); Tordelli alla Lucchese (vegetable ravioli with sauce); Ragu' di carne alla Lucchese (aromatic meat sauce from Lucca); Costata di Maiale Bardato (Roast rack of pork with panceta, rosemary and sage); Patate arrosto (roasted herb potatoes); and "Cantucci" Biscotti di Prato (the famous almond biscotti). Delicious!
We started the day early with a shopping trip to the local wholesale market where Chef Paulo walked and talked us through the vegetable, cheese, meat, olive oil and finally the wine section. It was only at the end of his tour that he told us we could buy a few things to take back....in my case- one olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, and someones favorite limoncello.
After a shot of caffe macchiato we strapped on the aprons and pulled on the rubber gloves....everyone had a job. Chef Paola is a fantastic instructor and although he kept us entertained with his jokes (some of which Papa Hall would have been proud) he ran a tight ship and kept the kitchen meticulous with the help of an assistant who scurried around us constantly cleaning up our "stations".
The final product was a delicious Lucchese meal served with local wine in his restaurant. We sat around the table and laughed and shared stories with Chef Paola...it was a wonderful day in Lucca!