Italy Day 13 – Florence Cooking Class (The Lost Entry)

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NOTE: In May 2006, I took a 2 week trip to Italy. I blogged every day except for the last. Until now. This post has sat half-written on my hard drive for seven months. It’s still not the greatest, but I’m tired of looking at the file and feeling guilty for neglecting it for so long. So here it is, in all it’s half-assed glory. As you’re reading it, pretend it’s May 25, 2006. And pretend the writing is better.

Before cooking class, I walked across the bridge to Oltrarno to take pictures. I didn’t realize it until today, but the streets across the river get quite steep and scenic. A bit like Nob Hill in San Francisco.

Here are pictures from the morning stroll:

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(Even the dogs ride bikes!)

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(The Ponte Vecchio)

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And some shots from the Mercato Centrale, wine shop and bakery with the class:

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A butcher preparing smoked meats.
(Get it? Smoked Meats?!?!?! Ugh.)

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Balsamic Vinegars

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(Perla, Judy’s assistant, waiting outside the wine shop)

The food in today’s class was the best of the week. (Which is saying a lot, because the food has been unbelievable.)

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We started with Burrata mozzarella cheese. It’s kind of like buffalo mozzarella, but the outside layer of the ball forms this thin skin and the inside goes all gooey and soft. It was incredible drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and smeared on rolls with walnuts and pistachios.

We made pepperonata, a sweet and sour pepper recipe with red and yellow peppers, red onions, red wine vinegar, sugar and olive oil. Really really good, and not really really hard to make. Many of us dug in for seconds.
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Judy decided to be our sugar mamma today and splurged on a huge black truffle at the market. We used it in a salad with mushrooms, farro cherry tomatoes and basil.

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We also learned how to make fresh pasta. We mixed the eggs and flour. Kneaded it to a dough. Then rolled it through the pasta machine.

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Then we mixed up a filling of pear, pecorino and parmesan, and fashioned the sheets of pasta into ravioli. These were cooked and tossed with a butter and mint sauce using hand-crafted butter from the mercato. It’s kind of ridiculous, but even the butter here tastes better. It’s so much creamier than what we’re used to back home.

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For secondi, we made a rosemary and sage salt rub (using Judy’s Mezza Luna), massaged it into a leg of lamb with some olive oil and roasted it. Sooooo good. The spice rub filled the whole apartment with the most incredible aroma.

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Dessert was panna cotta, which was a lot easier to make than I expected. We tried it with a nice balsamic vinegar on top and also with an easy chocolate sauce that we made on the stove. The chocolate was good, but the balsamic was actually better. Go figure.

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And so ended my Italian cooking adventure.

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After saying our Ciaos, I took one last walk around Florence. Here are some pictures from the evening:

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After doing nothing but eating all day, I decided to go to dinner. Because, clearly, I was wasting away.

I met some new Florence friends at Quatrro Leoni. For starters, I had the Prosciutto e Melone (thought it’d be fitting to bookend the trip with that one, since it was the first thing I ate in Venice). The melon here is so perfect it’s almost obnoxious.

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The main course was tortelloni with some sort of ragu sauce that had a fancier name than “some sort of ragu sauce.” Not entirely sure what kind of meat was in it – I’m guessing ground beef or lamb. Or maybe pork, veal or chicken. Regardless, it was really really good.

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Dessert was at Hemmingway, a specialty dessert place with absolutely incredible food. I had a crepe filled with pistaccio gelato, tied up like a purse and drizzled with Kahlua. Amazing.

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I also tried the balsamico parfait – a 4 layer mousse-y kind of concoction with alternating layers of really rich chocolate, balsamic vinegar and strawberry mousses.

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The End.

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