Saturday, April 9, 2016

Cooking With Aunt Dora

Rolled Veal
What 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 . . .)

The Green Italy Crew
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
This 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

Making Pasta
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?

We 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
We 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 . . .

While 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 Nutello/chocolate cheesecake.
The Results of our Work

In 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. 

1 comment:

  1. We spent two memorable days with Art, Regis and their wonderful family and friends. Hope to meet them again soon in Puglia. Now that Art has driven in Naples, we would be happy to hire him as a driver :) Gio, Green Italy Tours