Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cooking in Tuscany

Nan and I spent the day with Alessandra, shopping and cooking. Alessandra owns a beautiful shop in Cortona, il Girasole , and she conducts cooking classes in her home. We started the morning in Cortona with a cappuccino and Alessandra sharing her love and knowledge about Italian cooking. As she talks, I can't help but see so many similarities with our southern cooking. Alessandra described Italian cooking as a simple cuisine of the poor people who made do with whatever was available. Farm workers were given a place to live and a spot of land to grow their own food, much like the sharecroppers in the South. Alessandra's style of cooking was passed down from her grandmothers and her mother who grew up in the Cortona area.Shopping in Cortona is a real treat. Our first visit was to the fruit and vegetable stand. This is not a self-service market. Signs request that you not touch the food for sanitation purposes. What a great idea! Alessandra tells the shop owner what we want and the owner picks out the freshest for our approval.
Our next stop is the wine store before going to the small super mercati. Check out the picture above. Yes, that is a UGA sign. Cortona is the location for UGA's Study Abroad program. Here we purchase the staples for the meal.

The butcher is our last stop. I love butcher shops in Italy. The smell is earthy and the selection incredible. The chickens are sold with their heads and feet so you can see the freshness. We buy a beef roast, fresh sausage and a chicken breast.

Alessandra lives in a charming house built in the 1500's. Her kitchen is the center of her home. We put on our aprons, a gift from Alessandra, and start to work. This is not a "sit back and watch" type of cooking school, but a chance to create classic Italian dishes under the watchful eye of an accomplished cook. During the day we cook, clean, eat and drink while enjoying the conversation. Kenny, Edwin and Keith join us for a wonderful dinner. The menu included:


Polpettine Ascolane
a delicious meatball with beef, pork, chicken and olives

Fiori e foglie fritte
fried squash blossoms and sage leaves

Pecorino fresco con pere e confettura
pecorino cheese drizzle with honey and red pepper flakes

Bruschetta con olio nuovo
bread with freshly pressed olive oil
Primi Piatta

Ravioli al radicchio di Treviso e zaffferano
ravioli with radicchio and leeks

Risotto ai porcini e zafferano
risotto with porcini mushrooms, sausage and saffron

Secondo Piatto
Involtini alla salvia
beef roast and sauce

Carciofi saltati
artichokes with pancetta

Sorry I don't have a picture, I was too busy eating!

Limoncello and Grappa


Rossi e Bianchi di Cortona

When we were planning our trip, the one thing I really wanted to do was cook. Thank you Alessanda for the perfect day. I now have a friend in Italy! Ciao!

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