Italian Memories

Emilio, the handsome Italian chef, made it all look so easy, as he flipped the asparagus in the heavy sauté pan. Although we will never attain his expertise or his passion for cooking, watching his demonstrations were inspiring. When we tore off the anchovy tail cleaning those glistening creatures – looking nothing like the ones curled up in a small can under olive oil – he would smile graciously and fix our mistakes. Our little pasta curls (like tortellini) did not have the finishing snap of his, but they still tasted good.

After class, one on my fellow students brainstormed the chef’s tips, and we vowed to remember them when back in our own kitchens:

• Flour before egg when frying
• Vinegar on a sponge to wipe the edges of the plate
• Break eggs by gently tapping against each other
• Separate yolks by carefully straining through your hands
• Split asparagus before cooking
• Never microwave chocolate to melt (my mortal sin)
• Never roll out pizza dough; stretch and make dimples with fingers; less flour makes dough harder to handle but better to eat.

These are all I remember, but when the fog of Italian wine and sweets – and gelato – lifts, I’m hoping to recall more. Do you have cooking tips to add?

My friends from Chicago are planning a dinner party to reprise some of the recipes we made. I know I will smell that lemon almond cake across the ocean to my lanai.


La Dolce Vita – Positano, Italy

English: Part of Positano, Italy.

Positano, Italy

After weeks of practicing phrases on Duolingo (I can now say “the woman has the fork and the garlic” or maybe it’s “the woman has the fork in the garlic,”)  I am off to Positano to eat lemons and cook with friends.  John Steinbeck described Positano  in a 1953 issue of Harper’s Bazaar:

“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you are gone.”

Stephanie Rosenbloom in her New York Times article – What A Great Trip and I’m Not Even There Yet – noted that preparing for the adventure can be just as satisfying as the trip itself, and it has been – from trying to remember my Italian grandmother’s phrasing as she admonished me to “mangia il pane e beve il latte” -to climbing stairs in anticipation of Positano’s many steps – a natural stairmaster to work off all that pasta I plan to eat. Not sure how much reading I will do as I sip the limonata, but I am taking with me:

  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago
  • The House in Amalfi by Elizabeth Adler
  • Walking on the Amalfi Coast by Gillian Price
  • and another Donna Leon mystery


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