Saturday, April 12, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 14 (Part 1 - Italy)

This week: Northern and Southern Italy, Northern and Southern France. Unfortunately, I was out sick on day 2 of France, so I don't have any pictures from those dishes.

Northern Italy:
The "poverty line" divides Northern and Southern Italy. It runs north of the regions of Lazio and Abruzzi and south of Tuscany, Umbria and Marches. Most of Italy's natural resources - and historically its wealth - are located in the north. Risotto and polenta are the grain staples in the north. Northern Italy is also known for having great artisanal butters. Needless to say, cheeses are also big, and we went over a bunch of them, including Gogonzola, Parmesano Reggiano, Fontina and water buffalo cheese from Lombardy.

Northern Italian Cheeses.

Classic risotto.

Panzanella (Bread salad). Better than I was
expecting. The bread didn't get soggy like I expected.
Very different and refreshing.

Pollo al Mattone (Chicken Under a Brick). Funny
looking, but delicious!

Zabaglione with raspberries.
A boozy, refreshing dessert.

Also, learned that Italians identify by region, not nationality.

Southern Italy:
Rome is a food mecca. Some of the oldest documented written recipes originated from Rome. Today, the area is known for its very rich foods. Produce is similar to what would be found at farmers markets in Southern California. Cheese, grains, legumes and lamb are staples.

Other Southern Italian regions are known for San Marzano tomatoes and Mediterranean spices including coriander, cinnamon, tumeric and cumin. The most northern regions, Basilicata and Calabria are among the poorest. Octopus and squid - considered "poor man's seafood" - are plentiful, as well as sardines and anchovies.

The island of Sicily has a lot of natural resources for agriculture. Swordfish and tuna are plentiful as well as crustaceans and bivalves along the coast. Citrus, nuts, lamb, poultry and produce including tomatoes, peppers, raisins, kale and chard are among the staples of the Sicilian diet.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. Very good, but very spicy
due to the chili flakes.

Arancini di Riso (Rice Balls with Cheese). The
breading stayed very solid on the outside, and the
rice and cheese inside were very creamy.

Meatballs. Our group had already made them pretty
small until we were informed that's the American way
of doing them. Italians make larger meatballs. You
learn something new every day.

Cannoli time!

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