“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Friday, November 29, 2013

La Dolce Vita...The Sweets of Florence

Buongiorno!! The past few weeks in Italy have been absolutely incredible. From exploring the museums and piazzas to marketing for fresh fish and bread, it has been amazingl. And of course, I am learning so much. Today I’m excited to share with you all of the sweets that I’ve been making here at cooking school in Florence. Buon Appetito! 

Cantuccini (Almond Biscotti)

Biscotti means twice baked, referring to the way that the cantuccini is prepared. It is a very sticky dough that is shape into a loaf, baked and then cut into strips. They are very crunchy and the almonds add a wonderful flavor, they are served here in Italy with a cup of Vin Santo for dipping.

Soft Cantuccini Dessert

I would dare say this a new take on cookies n crème. Why? Well, I’ll tell you! These dessert is made up of a Bavarian Cream that has some cantuccini in the cream. It is filled with a Vin Santo gelatin and is topped with a foam made with cream, cantuccini and Vin Santo. It is then decorated with pieces of caramelized cantuccini. This one of my favorite sweets that we’ve made.

Soy Lecithin Cookies
I know, I know, soy lecithin? But, we want to know how to cook with all of the different products out there right? So if you want to enjoy a sweet treat but are watching the old cholesterol, this is the cookie for you! It is soft and has a slightly nutty taste, we served them with fig jam.


Oh, where to begin. These were so good, I could have eaten the whole tray. But I kept my dignity intact and just had three. These are a traditional dish from Sardinia. It is pasta dough that is shaped like a ravioli and filled with a pecorino, lemon filling and then fried. Yes, fried. We then topped with an assortment of honeys.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cooking in Firenze...GELATO DAY!!

Ciao mei amici!! The day that I was so, so excited for at school has finally arrived, gelato day!! Yes, a full class devoted to my favorite frozen treat. I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me. For one thing, we made different bases (cream, milk and ice for sorbetto), made some sweet gelato, some unexpectedly sweet gelato (mint) and some savory gelato (parmigiana). It was a very, very fun day. Another dessert that I’m sharing with you all is one we made last week..wait for it….an Eggplant Mousse with Chocolate Ganache and Mint Syrup. I know what you’re thinking, but let me tell you, it was AMAZING!! The eggplant mousse was so light and creamy, you would never guess it was eggplant. Let me know what you think of all of these beautiful sweet treats! Buon Appetito!! Oh and for more pictures from my Italian adventure, be sure to follow me on facebook, pinterest and twitter. Grazie mille!

Parmigiana Gelato with Balsamic Vinegar and Toasted Walnuts

This “gelato” was not a traditional gelato at all, as it is not made without an ice cream machine. It is a base of cream and parmigiana with a clove of garlic and nutmeg to just flavor it. It is then mixed until completely smooth and put in the refrigerator to set. It’s a wonderful savory dessert or appetizer for something to really impress your guests. The texture of the gelato is a perfect balance between a soft cheese and a hard cheese.

Strawberry Sorbet

This sorbet was made with a classic sorbet base in the ice cream machine and then an Italian meringue mix was added in the middle of the process. It made for an incredibly light and fluffy sorbet.

Basil Gelato

The basil gelato was made with a mix of milk, cream and sugar. I would be curious to try making this with the basil without any sugar for a more savory version.

Fiori di latte Gelato

A classic made with a milk, cream and vanilla. So light and creamy, this is the perfect base for any flavors of gelato that you want to make!

Vanilla Gelato

This gelato was made with milk and cream but had the addition of a few egg yolks and glucose. It was a richer taste and texture then the fiori di latte but would also be a great base.

Chocolate Gelato

This was made using the fiori di latte gelato base. We then made a chocolate ganache and added it the base. We used a dark chocolate bar, which I love, as I like my chocolate gelato very rich, as this was.

Eggplant Mousse with Chocolate Ganache and Mint Syrup
Yes, again, eggplant mousse!! The eggplant was cubed and seeped in milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, strained and then pureed. It was topped with a chocolate ganache and mint syrup. This was amazingly delicious, I can’t wait to make it for friends!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fish...glorious fish in bella Firenze

Ciao a tutti! The past week at Giglio Cooking School has been incredible. I spend three and a half hours every morning doing what I love…cooking!! But I’m doing so much more than just cooking. I’m learning completely new things, different techniques and preparations. The other day I cleaned and gutted a fish for the first time. I know I shouldn’t be as excited about that as I am, but I can’t help it. I love all aspects of food, from the prep to the final product. Next week we’re doing a full class devoted to one of my favorite pastas…GNOCCHI!! This past week we did a lot of fish so I wanted to share some of the lovely dishes we’ve made. Ciao ciao for now!!

 Steamed Shrimp with Shrimp Sauce

his is a lovely preparation for shrimp. The sauce is made with garlic, onion, olive oil and the shells and heads of the shrimp. Wine, a little water and parsley are added, as well as a little starch to thicken the sauce.
Risotto with Shrimp

A very classic dish, beautifully made risotto with some butter, wine, garlic, parsley and shrimp.

Shellfish Soup

If you grew up in an Italian household, odds are, at some point you had a take on this dish. Mussels and clams served in a light tomato broth served with crunchy, grilled bread.

Raw Marinated Salmon and Celery Root Soufflé
I have to admit, this take on salmon was completely new for me. I’ve never tried raw fish in this form, but I’m on an adventure and this is all part of it. The flavor was delicious. The salmon was marinated with oregano, fennel, salt, sugar, orange zest and peppercorn. I just don’t care for the texture of raw fish. This was served alongside a lovely Celery Root Soufflé that I can’t wait to add to my usual repertoire.

Sea Bream with Artichokes

This was a perfect fish for me, not very strong, just the way I like it. The fish was sautéed with olive oil, salt, parsley, garlic, white wine and artichokes which were cooked to perfection. I think I have learned the trick to preparing and cooking the perfect artichokes, I promise I will share it with you all soon!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

You guessed it, more PASTA from school in Florence!

Ciao a tutti!! Another day of classes at Giglio Cooking School in Firenze and boy do we get a lot done in those three and a half hours. Today we made pasta again…but oh boy, this was not just “pasta.” This was real deal homemade stuffed pasta. We had so much fun making the dough, then using the machine to roll it out, making all of the different fillings and stuffing them. Here is a menu of what we made.

Spinach Ravioli filled with Artichoke in a Pecorino and Thyme Sauce


Tortellini in Brodo

Agnoloti alla Piemontese (in a butter and sage sauce with thin slices of white truffles)

Ravioli al Consomme (stuffed with a meat gelatin) with Zucchini Cream, Carrot Petals and Fried Parsley

The spinach ravioli was stuffed with a creamy artichoke filling, the tortellini was made with a stuffing that had pork, chicken, mortadella, prosciutto, cheese and seasoning, the agnoloti was stuffed with a mix of brasato and roast pork and the ravioli was filled with Broth. These were all just amazing, different techniques, a lovely combination of flavors and textures, just perfect. Ciao ciao for now!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cooking School in Firenze, Tagliatelle and Orecchiette and Sfrappole, Oh My!!

Fresh tagliatelle.

Sfrappole, garganelli & orecchiette Emiliane.
Buongiorno! Though, I actually should say bounasera since it is already dark here in Florence. I had my first day of classes today at Giglio Cooking School owned by Marcella Ansaldo. It’s only been one day and I can’t wait to get back to class tomorrow. Not only is Marcella a lovely woman, but she clearly knows her way around a kitchen and her passion for food and cooking shows. These courses are not just demonstration, so if you’re looking to get your hands messy and do some work, then this is the right place!

I am here for the month long course, Italian Cuisine Across Time and Space, from basic traditional recipes to innovative techniques.  It’s three and a half hours every morning. As many of you know, I am a self-taught cook, but I recently starting working with a company called Feast on History as their sous chef for dinners and private events, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get some real training. And oh yeah, spending a couple of months in Italy doesn’t hurt either. 

Our first day was fresh and dry pasta. We made two basic pasta doughs, simple pasta with semolina and a pasta with mixtures of 00 zero and semolina. From the pasta with semolina we made tagliatelle, garganelli, orecchiette emiliane and sfrappole and from the pasta with the 00 zero and semolina we made orecchiette pugliesi. Marcella also gave us a wonderful lecture on the history of pasta, which for someone as interested in food as I am was very useful. These are the dishes we prepared, all from scratch:

Garganelli with Zucchini and Shrimp

Sfrappole with Baby Calamari and Arugula

Oricchiette Pugliesi with Cauliflower

Orichiette Emiliane with Ragu alla’Bolognese

Tagliatelle with Basic Meat Sauce

Ciao ciao for now!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pizza con Radicchio and Scamorza

Ciao mei amici! The other day my mother and I had been walking around Rome for hours. We were only in Rome for three days before leaving for Florence we decided to wait to go to all of the museums until we get back in December. By this point we have been walking for a looooong time and were originally planning on going to one of the restaurants a friend had recommended, but it was on the other side of the river and we were right by Fontana di Trevi. Our feet aching and our tummies growling we decided we just had to sit and eat. We came upon a little unassuming outdoor café right off the fountain a couple of streets down. My eye immediately went to the Pizza with Radicchio and Scamorza. The combination of the slightly bitter radicchio and the smokey scamorza is insane. So simple and incredibly delicious. The crust also had a slight chew but was nice and thin, just the way I like. I posted a picture of a slice of the pizza the other day on my facebook account and I couldn’t believe it, everyone seemed to love this idea of the pizza, the flavors, the colors. So, here it is…the famous shot of this lovely, lovely pizza. Ciao ciao for now!