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our normal lives after this

our normal lives after this

Of course it didn't hurt that we were all in our favorite element, in the kitchen and around the table. The daily program went something like this: wake up, stuff ourselves with sesame-crusted semolina bread, fresh sheep's milk ricotta and about a dozen flavors of Fabrizia's homemade preserves as well as a cake or two that had magically appeared overnight. Set off on a little outing to visit a local producer, accompanied of course by copious tastings. Around noon gather back in the teaching kitchen for a hands-on demonstration of whatever local specialties were on the lunchtime menu, followed by a four-course communal lunch. Digest for a couple of hours. At five gather back in the kitchen for an aperitif, a new lesson and, at the end, another three or four course meal. Stagger to bed swearing we will be much more successful at curtailing our gluttony tomorrow. Wake up, conveniently forget all about the previous night's promises because really, food this good doesn't just fall onto your plate every day, and repeat.

The iconic pasta con le sarde, pasta with fresh sardines and wild fennel. Now I understand why they say you can't make it without that fennel��its flavor is like fennel on steroids. In this part of Sicily it's traditional to top the dish with a mixture of toasted breadcrumbs and sugar. The sweetness is a bit jarring at first bite, but it quickly becomes addictive.

But truly, I don't know what was better: the food, with its gutsy, punchy, sweet and sharp edges and ingredients that tasted like concentrated versions of themselves, or the fact of having nothing better to do all day than hang out with a group of similarly food-obsessed people and, with minimal effort on your part, have a multi-course meal of said food land on your plate three times a day. Believe me, there was true panic in everyone's eyes when someone voiced the fear we were all secretly harboring by the end of the week: "but how can we ever go back to our normal lives after this?"

How, indeed? I'm still trying to figure it out, actually, but at least I have memories, and more importantly, recipes. For things like a lemon-almond pudding called biancomangiare and sweet-sour artichoke caponata.

For fried fresh sardines drizzled with vinegar, and swordfish studded with mint, garlic and rosemary before being gently baked in wine.

For pillows of pasta stuffed with mint-flecked ricotta and drizzled with sage-almond pesto.

And for shatteringly crisp panelle, the secret to which is spreading the mixture as thinly as possible on plates, then letting them cool by an open window.

And for sweet, tender lamb stewed in the estate's own red wine, and ricotta-filled cassata ringed with pistachio marzipan, and an emerald stew of fresh fava beans, and crunchy-creamy candied-orange-crowned cannoli, and little pillows of ricotta gnocchi drizzled in sage-infused butter, and artichokes stuffed with pine nuts and currants, and sweet-sour braised rabbit, and pillow-soft, olive-studded focaccia...

It's a good thing Fabrizia's first book is coming out later this year. Otherwise I'd have to share all these recipes here, because really, they're that good.

Oh but don't worry, of course I'll give you one or two to tide you over in the meantime!

*Speaking of Julia Child, we heard a funny anecdote. Various members of Fabrizia's family were always stopping by, including one of her maternal aunts, who joined us for dinner a couple of times. On one of these nights she told us about how she used to sometimes accompany Anna, her sister, on her ambassadorial trips to the US, and once they were invited to dinner by Julia Child and her husband Paul. "The were lovely people," she told us, "and made us feel right at home." "But how was the food?" I asked her, dying of curiosity. She wrinkled her nose slightly. "Oh, it was nothing special. I remember Julia made us a pumpkin soup. It wasn't bad, but my own recipe is much better."

I didn��t use it which makes them sweet enough before each dish was empty Dracula when you��re done a tasty little holiday cocktail I slightly underbaked cooked this version more regularly deep-fried the tortillas I generously doled smell like Fresh Cinnamon Palace
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