We had very interesting presentations on Greece (Eric), Lebanon (Jessica), Israel, (Patti) Spain (Stephanie), Morocco (Kristin), Southern Italy (Lisa), Egypt (Callie), Southern France (Tela) and I did my presentation on Northern Italy. Northern Italy is made of of 8 regions and each region has its own specialties influenced by bordering countries. The region I was most familiar with is Emilia-Romagna with Ravenna, Parma, Modena, Bologna, and Rimini. I recognized two things right away–Reggio Emilia students came to the cooking school last fall and were at a Texas Chefs Association meeting where we sampled balsamic vinegar from Modena and some of their dishes. Also, when I was around ten years old my familiy went on vacation to Rimini, Italy where we had amazing dinners every night in the hotel dining room, always starting with soup. I had never tasted such delicious soup, each one with different shaped pastas. I also remember the gelato stands everywhere. I’ve always wanted to go back there.
After the presentations we were given our assignments for the night. When I saw our assignments I thought, “This is getting to be a lot of fun!” Seems like this week was the first time I didn’t feel a slight sense of panic when we got our packet of assignments for the night. I realized I could make anything on the list of 18 dishes, however when I glanced at the list and saw the following there were a couple dishes I had never eaten. falafel kibbeh dolmas hummus paella ratatouille mousakka meatballs Spanish tortilla tabbouli
saltimbocca Moroccan chicken arancini risotto gnocchi cassoulet babaganoush
Chef Kurima had us all draw two slips of papers, one with an “easy” dish and one with a difficult dish. I was hoping I wouldn’t draw paella or saltimbocca, things I had never eaten or made, so guess what–I drew paella and hummus. Hummus is easy and I’ve made it many times but paella was a different story. I managed to make the paella but lose the packet of saffron I was holding in my hand. Still can’t figure out where it ended up. I used turmeric because I thought it would give it the same yellow color. When I tasted the paella I was surprised to find that I loved it! We also had to make an individual dish of a stuffed item representing our country. That was easy for Italy, home of ravioli, tortelli, tortellini, canneloni, mannicotti, etc. I wanted to made a dessert so I tried chocolate stuffed ravioli using a common truffle filling (cream and chocolate) and making the pasta by hand. I had forgotten a lot of the instructions for making the pasta dough but with Chef’ Kurima’s help ended up with good dough. She also showed me how to use the ravioli press and I was able to make 2 dozen ravioli. I fried them in oil and dusted them in confectioners sugar. Very tasty!What I’m really starting to love about culinary school is the opportunity to try new things and learn how to make things I would have never thought I would like. For example, Callie made saltimbocca with chicken. It looked OK but when I tasted it I loved it. Thin chicken, sage leaves, proscuitto and fontina cheese, dusted with flour and cooked quickly in hot olive oil. I also tried cassoulet for the first time. Very complex mixture of flavors and wonderful. Can’t wait to try it. The gnocchi Lisa made was also a treat and I plan to attempt that soon. There were some dishes I have eaten and can live without, such as kibbeh and dolmas–just not my taste. All in all, it was an adventure and we had some outstanding food to sample at the end.