la cucina: the kitchen

At our six hour cooking class with Spanocchia’s born and bred Loredana, we were taught many things today. Toured around their vast hillside garden, I saw their stone-creeping capers, walnut tree, limonatta trees for limoncello, free-run chickens, twenty seven cats, three dogs, and a cabbage patch.


Loredana, with her English translating (also homeschooled for twelve years) Kansas-born Tiana, taught us to prepare a menu of Crostone al cavolo nero (Kale Crostone…only Kale recipe I’ve ever enjoyed). We made Tiramisu and finocchi gratinati (fennel in béchamel), rotolo di petto di pollo (chicken breast butterflied, rolled in omelet and spinach), and my kids’ piece de resistance…ravioli spinaci e ricotta al burro e salvia (ok, so they didn’t appreciate the swiss chard).

Chingalli…aka pig. Learned this word in a discussion that began over the pigs nightly attack on the compost. We nearly drove over three when returning from Siena last night. Please package that and send him via airmail. How capable is Vatican City’s postal service?

Finocchi…fennel. When we arrived Saturday, we were given a huge basket from Spannocchia’s farm garden (the medieval farm that we are residing): three heads of radicchio, garlic and onions, carrots, potatoes, beets, and four heads of fennel. Besides an orange and fennel salad, I was at a loss for cooking with this licorice-flavoured veggie. The cooking class dispelled me of uncertainty…serve it in Bechamel sauce! Anything goes with Bechamel.


Pomadarro…I have never tasted tomatoes like these. People say such things as: These are the BEST tomatoes I have ever tasted in my entire life, and though we North Americans tend toward exaggeration, I have two of four kids now eating them each night. That’s a 50% increase from three days ago. These are the BEST tomatoes I have ever tasted in my entire life!


Olivo di Olio…This is the BEST olive oil I have tasted in my entire life! They say with words, you must paint a picture, speak in the five senses. I believe one can’t be converted on pure argument…one must experience it. Still, greenish yellow, tastes like olives, not just oil, and it IS THE BEST olive oil I’ve tasted in my entire life. Tasting is believing.


Now I have eaten a diverse, rather spoiled diet these last fifteen years. Loads of organic farmer’s market veggies and fruits. British Columbia fruit is delizioso…why we sell Washington fruit in our grocery stores…well, seems like a crime to me.  But there must be something to this Italian iron clay soil or humidity that accounts for the crunchy-as-newly-picked apple Red Onions (ciopolla) or gigantico heads of radicchio.


The kids would add that the canned Toona is the best in the entire world. But they don’t like the milk. Apparently, not a lot of cows here in Italy. Butter is hard to come by. Goats, sheep, yes…cause a lot of GREAT cheese, but not great milk.


Jim captures it well when he says: the Italians didn’t go to kindergarten, they went to cookthegarden.

Add your thoughts to cooking the last of my fennel bulbs, a cabbage head and the beets…