Week 3 – Central Italy

This week I studied the cuisine of Central Italy. The menu consisted of Tagliatelle al Peperoncino (Red Pepper Tagliatelle), Melanzane Involtino (Eggplant Roll), Bruschetta, Pollo alla Toscana (Chicken Sauteed with Mushrooms), Polenta, Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese, and Tiramisu.

First, I didn’t add the crushed red pepper to the pasta however, I wouldn’t mind trying it sometime. Instead, I used the very simple recipe from Chef Bill which was 2 cups of flour and 4 eggs. Then, once I ran it through the pasta roller, I cut up some tagliatelle, fettucine and papardelle. I presented the papardelle with a simple tomato sauce and garnished with a chiffonade of basil. Chef said the pasta was cooked perfectly (i.e. slightly firm and not gummy at all). Since it seems an imperfect science, I was relieved.

Eggplant Rolatini was next. This recipe was a bit of a process. You must slice the eggplant somewhat thin, drizzle with oil and bake just so that it softens and is workable to roll. The recipe called to stuff it with prosciutto, but I only had ham so I wasn’t thrilled with the end result. Normally, I would stuff it with ricotta but the great part is that it can be filled with anything (within reason). The dish wasn’t a great success but I knew going in it would never live up to my grandmothers.

I will preface this entry by saying the Bruschetta was awesome. I’ve had bruschetta many times and it’s always been good, but the addition of Aioli to the bread was a stroke of genius. I’m upset that I didn’t come up with that idea myself. And roasting the garlic is definitely key to the flavor.

Pollo alla Toscana was a good dish. I’m not a real fan of mushrooms but the addition of sage brought out a nice flavor. Although I am of italian heritage, my family and I rarely ever use sage and you must be careful not to use too much because it is a very potent herb. I think this dish lacked a bit of flavor and maybe needed a hint of salt and pepper. But I coiuld see where they were going with the recipe.

With the Polenta I decided to use the Roman Gnocchi presentation and unfortunately the butter sauce broke. But as from a previous post, you get the idea. I’ve never made polenta before but enjoyed it. I wish I had put more salt in it because it was a bit bland. I find that the polenta can be a great starch used in the presentation of the dish and hope to incorporate it in other presentations.

What can I say about asparagus with parmesan cheese? It’s asparagus with parmesan cheese. It was good and I enjoy asparagus and the addition of the grated cheese lifts it up a bit. Not much else to say here. I guess it’s simply, you need to eat your vegetables.

Finally, it’s time for dessert. And on the menu is Tiramisu. One of my favorites. I adjusted the recipe and created a pudding type tiramisu and served it in a martini glass with the lady fingers. The recipe only calls for mascarpone, vanilla extract, coffee and marsala wine. The vanilla helps with the traditional tiramisu flavor. After that, I added heavy cream mixed with powdered sugar to sweeten the mascarpone mixture. Once I got a nice pudding consistency, I rolled the cookies in coffee, added them to the glass and topped it with the tiramisu and sprinkled cocoa. The finished product? A masterpiece. I love the presentation of this dessert and so do many people I’ve served this to. It’s fun and delicious.

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week 2 – Southern Italy

Unfortunately, our 2nd week class fell on the Martin Luther King holiday and we missed out on the cuisine of Southern Italy. Next week, Central Italy.

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week I – British Isles

Last week marked the first day of my Classical European class at the Art Institue of Ft. Lauderdale. This meant that we were to prepare the cuisine of the British Isles. The menu consisted of a Langostine Souffle, Fennel and Red Onion Salad with Tarragon Dressing, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Cheese and Herb Bread and Strawberry Shortbread. The following is an account of each recipe.

The Langostine Souffles’ were an excellent starter. Although a traditional seafood stock and the use of actual Langostines instead of shrimp would have helped with the richness of the dish, I found it to be light, fluffy and somewhat full of flavor. This was a wonderful savory souffle and the use of lemon zest and nutmeg brought out great flavor. Also, depending on your palate, you could add more cayenne to kick up the heat.

The Fennel and Red Onlion Salad is just what it sounds like. Fennel and onion were sliced very thin and tossed with a typical tarragon vinaigrette. This recipe was nothing to write home about but it helped me understand the types of ingredients used in the region.

Next was the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. I’ll end the suspense…Yorkshire Pudding did not make it but the Roast Beef was excellent. As a carnivore, we could not wait to dig in and maybe rushed the slicing process a bit. The Roast shoudl have rested a little while longer but was still packed with flavor. There was a great crust on the outside simply made from salt and pepper. We served the meat with the Fennel & Onion Salad.

Finally, a Strawberry Shortbread for dessert. Sweet and creamy with fresh whipped cream. The surprise here was the fact that the shortbread was more like a cookie than a cake. I enjoyed it nonetheless. What’s there not to like. Strawberries and whipped cream? All good things. The shortbread made it tough to eat because of the hardness of it. I would probably find a better way to have served it because when you try to cut into it, the cookie pushed everything out.

All in all, it was successful day in the kitchen. The dishes, although amateur in nature, were an interesting look into the British cuisine. Next time I want to make fish and chips.

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment