Saturday, August 13, 2011
A Tuscan Paradise..Serenity, a Dog, and a Cooking Class
The final night in Italy...our group spent an evening in the Tuscan countryside. Together, we learned how to prepare a meal, under the guidance of a most pleasant and accomplished teacher. We enjoyed our final dinner, and tried to forget about leaving Italy the next morning....
It was exactly two weeks ago tonight...
We arrived at the 12th-century stone house of Stefania Balducci late on Saturday afternoon. Stefania conducts cooking classes in her modern kitchen in the cozy and contemporary interior of her home. We stepped off our van, having made the trip to the little village of Montefioralle in the Chianti region, midway between Florence and Sienna.
We were greeted by the tranquil beauty of the surrounding hills and vineyards.
Stefania's hospitality and openness made everyone feel as welcome as if we were home.
From her web site, www.pastaalpesto.com :
"In Italy the kitchen is the heart of the house. Everything passes through it. This is where history, memory, communication, identity, love, culture, play, alchemy, fantasy and joy all come together. And this is the essence of our cooking !"
Also there to greet us as soon as our feet hit ground was Demo, the most gentle and friendly Border Collie, who whined with excitement at the prospect of making seven new friends. She enjoyed the attention of everyone there:
While we had raucous fun while learning a lot in the kitchen, Demo remained pleasantly bored in the peacefully beautiful and rustic Dining Room.
In less than three hours, we learned to make the following menu items:
Ravioli (from scratch) filled with ricotta and chopped zucchini;
Homemade pesto sauce;
Pork loin stuffed with plums, Pine Nuts and Rosemary, simmered in milk;
Our anecdotes, some of them hilarious, will become legendary among us: how we mixed a simple dough of egg yolk and flour with our hands; created the long strips of pasta by cranking the pasta-maker; chopping zucchini as finely as possible; soaked lady-fingers in coffee and mixed the marscapone cheese and egg whites; how we dropped eggs on the cutting board; poked the "air" out of the ravioli; and watched the pork loin brown in olive oil before adding the milk.
And of course, there was wine, and grappa!
All of it was consumed voraciously, and I can state with pride that it all came out tasting superb!
In spite of the hard work and laughter, there was a serenity at the heart of it all.
And then we took our final ride together, down our last Italian country road.....