I have always loved writing, and now that I am retired I thought I would be able to find time to write, but it seems that I still manage to fill my days with activities. I have however found that while I travel, I enjoy writing about some of the interesting things we do. I hope you enjoy reading of our adventures as much as I like writing about them.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
Cooking With Aunt Dora
do you give someone who has everything? How about a cooking class in Italy
about cooking Italian food? Since our son and his Partner were visiting us in
Lecce, we decided to save their birthday gifts until they got to Italy and we
gave them Italian cooking lessons (For fun; not because they needed them of
course . . .)
GreenItaly, the tour company we used for a tour of the area with friends, also
offered cooking classes. We were so impressed with their service that we
decided to go with their offerings; it was close by and seemed like a fun day.
The owner offered to pick us up at the Ostuni train station and offered us a
quick free tour of the town of Ostuni after dinner.
The Expert Pasta Makers
was no usual cooking class. We were not in a big fancy “School Kitchen”, we
were in Aunt Dora’s farm house. As we pulled up to the obvious working farm, we
were greeted by the uncle and numerous dogs, who questioned our presence on
their territory. The uncle shook everyone hands, but he obviously spoke no
English and went about his work on the farm. We were ushered into the house
where we met Aunt Dora, her daughter and a friend. Aunt Dora is a retired
professional cook from a local B & B, but more than that, she is like our
driver’s Mother who we met on the tour, an Italian wife, mother and homemaker,
doing all the cooking and preparation of food for the family. Who better to
teach us to cook Italian?
started off preparing veal, which was seasoned, stuffed, and rolled to be
gently cooked in homemade tomato sauce from tomatoes grown on the farm. These
tomatoes were picked when ripe and left for a week “in a box” to sweeten. Back
home I have to add carrot or sugar to my Mexican or Californian tomatoes, but
that is not needed with real Italian tomatoes.
Proud Pasta Maker
then made pasta. Everyone was given a pile of flour and we added water and
mixed it to create the pasta dough. Having made pasta myself many times, I know
the feel, and Aunt Dora was impressed with my ability – not so much some of the
others. Once the dough met Aunt Dora’s exacting standards, it was rolled into
long ropes. We then cut it into little pieces and made Orecchiette. This is not
easy and takes practice. You use a knife and press and pull it across the piece
of dough and onto your finger to create a convex circle of pasta, which is then
reversed onto your thumb. It sounds difficult and it is. It took us all a while
to get a decent piece of oreccchiette. As we slowly practiced Aunt Dora slickly
produced a pile of these little pasta. Fortunately I was working on the same
pasta board as she was, so my efforts got mixed with hers and I looked pretty
good. Once we had sort of mastered this skill, we were instructed on making
Macaroni, which is much easier. You simply cut a small piece of pasta and slide
your knife over it, rolling a little cylinder of pasta.
Finally Finished . . .
Aunt Dora and her helpers finished the veal and cooked the pasta we sat down
for an amazing selection of Antipasto dishes, all made with local ingredients
by Aunt Dora. Fried zucchini, breaded eggplant, fava bean puree, roasted
peppers, artichokes, molded ricotta cheese, salami, and others I do not recall.
All were delicious, and I was having serious doubts if I would have room for
the actual dish we had worked on, but when it arrived everyone did their best.
Of course the meal was lubricated with lots of local wines and someone must
have leaked the fact about the birthdays, because desert was a delicious
The Results of our Work
addition we were served Tangerines from the orchard and we left with a branch
of fresh lemons to take with us.
We left for a walking tour
of Ostuni, full of Italian food and knowledge of how to make it. Let me know if
you want to know how to make oreccheitte, I think I can do a reasonable
imitation of Aunt Dora’s pasta.