It is ICKY outside today. It's raining right now, the hardest I've seen it come down since we got here. Hence, I am inside, in our teeny warm kitchen, blogging.
I am feeling MUCH better today - I made a concerted effort to get my butt in bed by 11:30, and I swear just being in a horizontal restful state for 8 hours makes a HUGE difference in my energy levels. My 8 AM Italian class is a little rough, and the past few days have been pretty brutal. I got about 2 hours yesterday and had to come home and go right back to bed, which bothers me - when I get up, I like to stay up and keep my day going, but there was no "going" in my state. Today was quite a horse of a different color, thankfully.
***We interrupt this blog post to report...it is snowing! Not pretty snow though, just wet, heavy-looking stuff. Good thing I have no reason to be outside for the rest of the day!...Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging.***
After a rather frustrating Italian class, I stopped at the grocery store and went home to make my oats & green tea, which has become my habit from Tuesday to Thursday after Italiano. Today was chocolate-banana oats:
Bowl-licking may have ensued. We don't talk about it.
Then it was off to my cooking class! I just adore this class. The teacher is awesome. In fact, as we were eating today, he was talking about how he came into this job (which I totally want.). He has been cooking since he was 12, went to culinary school, then got a degree in English & Film Studies, and quickly realized that it is not possible in Italy to make any money in the film industry. He turned back to cooking, but was frustrated by the restaurant/cooking industry - no time off ever, endless working days, mediocre pay, and you work under a chef who tells you what to do. He loves teaching because "there are no secrets" - chefs like to maintain their stash of secret recipes, but as a teacher he doesn't have any secrets. He learns from his students, and vice versa, and loves it. Amen.
MMM, and we made some GOOD STUFF today. It was in the theme of aperitivo, which is a popular Italian custom. It's basically a pre-dinner drink/snack to "whet your appetite" - or as my teacher said, the Italian Happy Hour. I have done it twice so far. Most bars/cafes in Florence offer it, and it's great for students; they charge you a set price and you get a drink and as food as you want for about 7 or 8 euro. The first time I did it, I randomly got red wine (which I'm still just not into at all) and the food was very appetizer-like. My roommate and I tried a place across from our apartment Tuesday night though, and it was really good. HUGE buffet with lots of variety, and this time I ordered my newfound favorite...
(Pretty picture, right?! I discovered the "close-up" setting on my camera. Makes quite a difference.)
ANYway, to get back to my class we split up into groups to make different Italian finger foods (the best kind, trust me).
One group was in charge of involtini di melanzane alla mozzarella, which involved super thinly-sliced eggplant briefly in a salted (prevents sticking) pan. Then they placed a thin slice of mozzarrella and basil on each eggplant slice, rolled it lightly in breadcrumbs + parmesan cheese, and baked it.
Another group was in charge of the Spanish omelette - basically, you cook tomatoes + bell pepper in one pan, potatoes in another, combine it with eggs in a baking pan and bake it just til its done (sprinkle a little parm on top to make a nice crust).
I'm regretting not taking a picture of the middle - the vegetables made a kind of mosaic in the middle and it was perrrty. Sorry, I'm a beginner with this food blog thing - live and learn!
Another group was in charge of the bruschette, which I'm sure you're familiar with - zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, basil cooked together and piled on bread drizzled with olive oil and toasted in the oven. But really, I have never tasted bruschette like this. It was a serious flavorgasm.
A different group made almond biscotti. They were probably the best I've ever had, because the flavor was spot on, not too sweet, and the texture was perrrfect - not doughy but not break-your-jaw crunchy like biscotti often is.
I and another girl was in charge of the "Mediterranean doughnuts." Now, before you start getting any crazy ideas and yelling at the screen "hey, I thought this was supposed to be a nutrition class!"...let me explain. They're not really donuts - in fact, they are not even sweet. My teacher simply called them that because they are in a circle-with-a-hole-in-the-middle shape. They are meant to be eaten as a kind of "cracker" with the Spanish omelette. It's basically flour, a liiiiittle sugar, olive oil, yeast, and then cinnamon and fennel, poppy and sesame seeds. The recipe only calls for fennel but we added seeds to up the fiber and nutritional profile of them. I had so much fun making these - kneading dough is a very zen activity. As for the taste? HOLY COW! This was my favorite part of the meal. The fascinating flavor combo of the doughnut with the texture and flavor of the omelette was to die for. Don't worry family, I'm making this when I come home!
Fresh from the oven!
Now, this is an Italian cooking class, and no Italian meal is truly complete without wine. Much to my surprise and delight, it turns out that the classic drink served with aperitivo is...Prosecco! Twice in one week! I'm doing rather well, no? He also explained how to tell if it is a high quality prosecco - the more bubbly, the better the quality of the wine is. MMMMMM!
Sorry it's a bit out of focus - as I was clicking my teacher started talking and I turned around right as the picture took. Like I said...I'm a beginner.
Here is my plate:
It doesn't look nearly as appetizing as it did in person. Guess I'll just have to make it for you when I get back...
[P.S., I had another biscotti and another bruschetta after this. SO. GOOD.]
Another reason I love this class is that the meals we make never leave you feeling heavy or stuffed to the gills. I always leave perfectly satisfied, knowing I have enough food in my body to last me a while but I will also be hungry for dinner. It is truly the best way to eat.
After class I went to a little clothing store that I love and bought a wintery jacket, and just in time - it was only a few minutes after I came back to the apartment that the rain turned into sleet which turned into snow! My Floridian roommate was overjoyed...whereas the other 3 of us Northerners were, er, less than thrilled. I am READY for some spring weather, Florence!
Made dinner, another crazy Gillianasana concoction - chickpeas, garlic, balsamic vin, olive oil, tomatoes and pepper cooked together and thrown on top of some arugula. With some of my new obsession grated on top - pecorino cheese. Yes, Mom, I am willingly and happily eating cheese. Italy does crazy things to a person, I'm telling ya. But it is so goooooooood.
Actually, this random concoction was pretty tasty. I am definitely, however, a baker at heart. Hopefully my cooking class will help me a little bit though. I'm loving the book:
It's really interesting, for a nutrition geek anyway. I'm loving it!
Oh, I did a baaad thing. I looked into that Apicius, the Culinary Institute of Florence...they have a baking/pastry one year certificate program...uh oh, the idea has sprouted...
Ok, I reaaaalllly have to do homework. I'm "facilitating class discussion" on the readings for Monday's Food & Culture class. Actually, it's completely and totally fascinating, about female identity and how food affects it, and how "food rules" are evident in different cultures...ok, I'll stop before I even start. This post is long enough.
Oops, one more thing - you may notice that on the right of the screen there is a list of links called the "Blog Roll" - it's just some of my favoritest blogs, not all the ones I read, but it's a start. Just in case anyone has been bitten by the food blog bug *wink wink*.