Slow Food SchoolSome touch and go connections to the internet have kept me from keeping up with my Recipe of the Week commitment (well, to be honest, I can't blame the lapse solely on missing internet connections). But not to worry, my commitment to eating and tasting is steadfast. :-) So many flavors have filled the last several weeks.
After Bowden had to return to the States, I came back to Macerata and was again un'ospita in Jackie and Antonello's generous guest room. They began preparing for a trip to the States, and while trying to make myself useful in their preparations, I stored up fresh views of Macerata to take with me to a new home: Parma.
A series of cabs, trains, buses, and hikes got me to Colorno to pick up two huge keys to my new apartment in Parma. It's small and efficient, but more than adequate, and my room is complete with a little balcony.
I left my bags and set out to explore the city. By chance, my last stop was a narrow alimentari with tempting products in the window. While I checked out the cipollini sott'olio and the mellow chunks of parmigiano reggiano, a gal walked in and asked the shopkeeper a question in broken Italian. Hmm, I thought. Another non-native? What are the chances? I introduced myself and asked if she might be a fellow student of the Universita di Scienze Gastronomiche (UNISG). "Oh, you're my roommate!" she said. We picked up a bottle of wine and a few staples before heading to our apartment. Clementine, or Clementina as she's known in italia, is a sweet gal and I like the idea that we met in a little grocery. Once again, food bringing people together.
The first day of class at the UNISG meant introductions, handouts, and presentations. Though surprisingly heavy on Americans and women, our class brings a wide spectrum of experiences to the table. Members of last year's class left a box of bottles and two of our classmates living in Colorno invited us to continue the tradition of a first night festa. Everyone brought a snack and we enjoyed cracking open the bottles and getting to know one another.
Beside our program in food communication, another 20+ students are nearing the end of their masters program in quality products. The couple of Americans in the group organized a Thanksgiving dinner for all 60+ students and staff. The chefs at ALMA even pitched in by roasting two of the biggest turkeys I've ever seen. Talented chefs they certainly are, but the Americans had to catch them before they butchered the turkeys. "No, we really DO roast them whole!"
Our first weekend meant celebrating the birthday of the only Spaniard in our class. She prepared a feast of paella, croquetas, and sangria that four of we Parma gals almost missed thanks to a misadventure with the Italian train system.
Italian classes and courses on cheese and cured meat technology have kept us busy, but my gelato "research" is coming along well thanks to Grom, a Parma gelateria. The flavor of the month? Chocolate Orange, complete with candied peel. Mmmm.
One night, the UNISG staff divided us up among the folks with cars and off we drove to the Valdiana for dinner at an out-of-the-way osteria. The director of the UNISG arrived with several bottles to save us from the sweet, fuzzy Lambrusco. "Put away that silly wine!" he said as staff popped the corks of Tuscan blend and a superb Barolo.
No surprises among the antipasti that night: a selection of cured meats including culatello and coppa, the region's specialties. Two traditional types of tortelli arrived next: ricotta with swiss chard ("all'erbe") and squash ("zucca"). The squash was a real treat wtih amaretti and mostarda mixed in wtih the sweet orange mash inside the homemade pasta. We had to wait until after the plates were cleared to hear about our second course. Female donkey was served all saucy and spicy with polenta. The meat was a little tough but delicious. Hee haw. (Thanks to one of my classmates who took this picture!)
So the recipe for the first week of classes at UNISG is based on the dish our Spanish classmate brought to the Thanksgiving feast. We munched on pistachios while watching her make the following tortilla espanol, a hearty fried potato dish.
Slowly warm a frying pan full of oil over medium-low heat. Add 6 pealed and sliced potatoes. Stirring often and controlling the heat appropriately, keep the potato slices cooking but not frying. When the pototatoes are still a few moments from tender, add two sliced inions. Continue stirring and controlling the heat to keep the vegetables cooking but not frying. When the onions and potatoes are tender, remove them from the oil and drain them well. In a bowl, beat about 6 eggs. Add the potatoes and onions and season with salt and pepper. Mix well. (It's more than okay if some of the potatoes turn to mush.) Pour a frying pan full of the egg-potato-onion "batter" into a well greased and warm frying pan. Don't disturb the "batter" until the bottom is browned and holds together. Put a big platter over the frying pan and invert. Put the frying pan back over the heat and gently use the plate to slice the tortilla into the pan. Let the second side brown evenly. Remove from the pan and enjoy while it's still warm.