Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rome Cooking Class

Artichoke filled ravioli, topped with fried artichoke.  Fresh pasta and filling, made by moi!

Potato gnocchi with simple, fantastic tomato sauce.

But let's start at the beginning not the end... shall we?

While in Rome recently on business, I was lucky enough to have a weekend of "free time".  I chose a cooking class to best enjoy my day, learn something and meet some new people. 

We met at the Campo di Fiori marketplace to shop for our class. It was a rainy morning, but that added to the fun.

 Artichokes are in season, and Rome is well known for some pretty fantastic dishes.
We needed some of these, of course.

We hit the cheese and dairy market to get some fresh ricotta and some basics.

Then the meat market.  Everything we wanted was in this place, but it was too small for all of us to get in there.  The whole shop would have fit into my kitchen.

Really this class was more about the doing and enjoying and less about a "lesson".  Federico made a point of saying that Italian food was very simple, usually only 3-4 ingredients per dish. He said to focus on the freshest, best quality ingredients, which is good advice for lots of things.

We didn't walk away with a recipe book of things to re-create, but really learned some simple techniques for success. I liked that..

Here's one example recipe:
Pork and Roasted Pepper Ragu Sauce 
Our cooking class was on Tiberina Island in the river Tiber that runs through Rome.  It's the only island in Rome and the Ponte Fabricio, is the only original bridge left in the city, connecting the island to the rest of Rome. This isn't my photo, but you get the idea.  The island is very small, and houses two hospitals (old charming ones), a church, a restaurant, a gelato place, a pharmacy (cute!) and TWO apartments.  

Our cooking class was in one of those apartments.  I can't imagine one of these units comes cheap.  Our kitchen window opened out towards the church square, where we got to enjoy the comings and goings of a local wedding from the window.  You can't see the bride in this photo, but the crowd was stomping their feet and singing, asking the new couple to come out.  We loved that.  It was so fun to see many generations in the crowd interacting and having fun.

The apartment was beautiful with cloistered ceilings and arches throughout each room.  The kitchen had a large island just the right size for 9 class attendees.  I came by myself as I was traveling for work, and this was my weekend getaway.  We had 6 Americans; 3 young gals from California, 3 older friends from Texas, a Brazilian and and an Israeli lady, plus me.

We loved the red aprons that looked like sleeveless chef's coats. 
Fresh artichoke... smaller and rounder than the ones we see around the West Coast.

First, trim up the outer leaves.  They're tough, and gotta go.   Leave the stem as a "handle" for the next part. 
Then cut off the top 1/3 or so, and scoop out all the inner leaves, digging down to remove the "fuzzy stuff" from right above the heart of the artichoke.

Now, cut the stem short to about 1" and peel until you get to the white inside. Each artichoke was filled with mint, and then steamed until tender.

 Here's a picture of the finished dish again...

The filling was minced artichokes, ricotta and Parmesan cheese.  Our chef made the sauce for these with a little leftover filling and some of the artichoke cooking stock. Simple creamy delicious, with no cream added. I will blog this recipe soon.
Onto the gnocchi...
We cooked the whole potatoes in very salty water.  Federico told us that the salt uses osmosis to dry out the potato, as the moisture from inside leaches out into the cooking water, making the potato the right consistency for making tender gnocchi.  You aren't supposed to poke the potatoes, because you don't want them absorbing the salty water. He used a ricer to get the potatoes ready to make pasta.

The ratio to make gnocchi is 4 parts potato, 1 part flour and 1 egg yolk.  Mix, mix, mix until soft and pliable.  
Make a rope of the potato gnocci and cut into small pillows.  Put the pillow on a ridged paddle, and push and roll your gnocchi.  These little suckers soaked up the sauce and were the most tender and delicious gnocchi I've ever had.
One cup of all purpose flour and one egg = pasta.  That's the only recipe in this blog today.

We also made a semolina pasta that was just semolina flour and water (with lots of fresh pepper inside).  Federico told us that the poorer South of Italy was more known for semolina pasta, and the "richer" North used eggs in their pasta.
These are cavatelli, easily made by squishing and rolling your finger on a small pellet of fresh dough.
The pasta we made with this was sausage, mushroom and roasted, pureed red peppers- yep, just three ingredients of amazing yumminess.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of that dish. 

Here we are making long pieces of pasta for our ravioli.  Of course, you can make these smaller, but then we would have missed the photo opp and the fun too.

The day is done...
Our class has been together for about 5 hours, starting as awkward strangers and leaving as friends.  A nice day spent shopping, walking, learning and cooking, drinking wine and eating together.  We made three pasta dishes, plus a simple sauteed lemon veal main course, and finishing with a dessert of balsamic marinated strawberries. A lot of wine was consumed too. I very much recommend Federico and Fabiolous Cooking Day, they offer other cooking classes in different locations that I would love to try when I go back.

The cooking day is over, as I walk from the class, I enter the mostly deserted square of San Bartolomeo all'Isola.  The wedding party is long gone, and all that remain are a few tourists and the cleaning crews for the church.

Just a couple more shots from the day.  
There is a reason that Campo di Fiori is named for "field of flowers".  Besides all the produce markets, there are crafts and lots of fresh flowers. The square is ringed with outdoors cafes and people enjoying the outdoors. 

We walked from the Campo di Fiori, through the Jewish Ghetto to get to our class.  I came back Sunday and had a late lunch at one of these outdoor cafes.  I had an amazing spinach gnocchi with gorganzola cream sauce. I sat for almost two hours and watched the world go by.

This is not far from the Sant' Angelo, the Jewish Ghetto, on the way from Tiberina Island. 
Beautiful red poppies in bloom everywhere.

My advice?

Most of all... Enjoy your day, take it easy and soak in all the sights, culture and tastes around you.  

I sat in this alley way off of the main square in the Travestre, right next to the Bascilia di Santa Maria, one of the oldest churches in Rome. It has beautiful 13th century mosiacs inside, and out. Not a bad place to chill.

In this photo, the square opens up to a fountain with steps all around.  Local performers were "performing" for donations.  It was very orderly and civilized as they taking turns as there were many groups. People milled about with cones of gelato enjoying their day.
After wandering through the church, I enjoyed a glass of Moscato for 6 euros and sat for about an hour watching all the people go by. 

I can't wait to get back to Rome.

Want to know about some other travels? Check these out:
Thai Cooking School Adventure
Elephant Handler for the day in Chaing Mai, Thailand
Victoria BC Food Fest
Meat Anyone?  A trip to Hamburg
Japan- Best Boxed Lunch EVER
Japan Adventure- Part 1
Japan Adventure- The Food- Part 2
Iceland- The Weekend Adventure
In n' Out Burger "Animal Style"
Singapore Flying Crab 
Singapore Fruit
Turkish Spice Market Delight
Jamaica's Blue Hole and Jerk Lunch

No comments:

Post a Comment