What would our gathering of food lovers have been without a cooking class with some Lucchese women? Earlier in the week the group cooked with Panini Girl and we enjoyed a late lunch of verdure ripeine (we stuffed and baked gorgeous red peppers and zucchini) and erbazzone (a savory tart with swiss chard, pamigiano-reggiano and pine nuts). For our evening with the local cooks we were in for a real treat with a menu starting with bruschetta and finishing with freshly baked biscotti dipped in Vin Santo.
Bruschetta is something that you will see on menus everywhere and you’ve probably even made it yourself at home. As simple as this dish is, it’s not always done correctly. Bread, garlic, tomatoes and olive oil-how hard could it be? Well, you need to start with the best of those ingredients and follow some easy steps. Our teacher guided us through toasting the bread in the oven (I like to do it on the grill when I”m at home), to rubbing the warm bread with garlic, piling on the fresh chopped tomatoes and drizzling with the very tasty local olive oil.
The pasta lesson was probably the highlight of the evening as everyone got their hands into a pile of flour and egg, whipped up their own dough and then learned the ins and outs of using a hand crank pasta machine. I was thrilled to have a personal lesson in the art of using a mattarello-the long wooden rolling pin used to roll out the pasta dough by hand. It brought back visions of my grandmother standing over her kitchen table doing the very same thing. We went from rolling the dough to stuffing ravioli with spinach and ravioli. We also cooked a scrumptious dish of chicken thighs with fresh herbs, lemon, wine and olives from our teacher’s family grove and another dish of bell peppers in a lovely sauce with shallots and tomatoes.
The evening ended with the recipe we made at the beginning of class- biscotti with almonds and a hint of orange. Now I’ve been making biscotti for some time, but I was really impressed with how fast we whipped these up and will definitely get a batch in the oven as soon as I get home. The hit of the evening was probably the braised chicken dish and I have a feeling that if you’re invited to dinner by one of our group, this is what you’ll be served.
What a fun evening with old and new friends-authentic recipes, good local wine and lots of laughs!