Follow me as I journey from the southern tip of Italy’s Puglia region all the way up to the Trento Alps. I’ll be focusing on budget-friendly travel, and I’ll rarely use a car. Along the way I’ll sample traditional foods, visit lesser-known ruins and cities, sample excellent wines, and visit local cooking schools, the entire two months living out of a backpack…
Day 49 Part 2
Taking a cooking class in Italy is a great way to connect with the locals, learn the traditions, and spice up your culinary abilities. For me, the ideal cooking class combines relaxed education with friendly companions and good wine. Abruzzo Cibus’s cooking class did just that. When we arrived in the spacious kitchen, Cheryle Cotton-Molino (cooking school instructor) and Massimo Criscio (Managing Director) were waiting. Cheryle quickly took over, handing out aprons.
Cheryle worked among the top-tier management at The Garden restaurant in Philadelphia, where she spent time among celebrities and politicians (notably Julia Child, whose 80th birthday she attended), before moving to Abruzzo with her Italian husband in 2000. She also opened Harry’s Bar and Grill in Philadelphia. Cheryle created a relaxed atmosphere as she doled out various jobs and told us what was on the menu. The fabulous Jersey Ladies have a lot of cooking experience, and an extensive repertoire of Italian dishes passed down by their mothers and grandmothers. There were plenty of jokes about Jersey slang, like “gravy” for tomato sauce.
On the menu were an olive marinade, prosciutto and arugula involtini (recipe below), a fresh cucumber salad dressed with a white wine vinegar (made using a 25-year-old mother—an enzyme that turns wine to vinegar), and Polpettine Cacio e Uova, which is a sort of meatless meatball. All of the dishes were very easy to prepare. The cooking class is ideal for beginners; since most of us were quite experienced, we spent much of the time talking about life and plying Cheryle with questions about Italy.
When it was time to eat, the food tasted all the better because we had worked together to prepare it. It reminded me of something Georgeta Perhald, Sommelier at Rocca delle Macíe , said: “At the table you never get old.” All of our needs were satisfied: sharing, community, food, wine, and laughter.
Later, after testing out Cheryle’s homemade limoncello, I took a walk down the steep hill atop which Palazzo Tour D’Eau is located and explored the town. It was immensely quiet. In the dark distance, clouds were accumulating between the hilltops, carefully smothering the last rays of sunlight.
INVOLTINI di PROSCIUTTO con ARUGULA e PECORINO – SERVES 4 to 5
(Prosciutto Rolled with Arugula and Pecorino Cheese)
8 to 10 thin slices of prosciutto
8 to 10 shavings of pecorino/parmesan* (from a whole piece)
2 bunches of arugula (washed with hard stems removed)
1/4 cup (60 ml.) of olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon (strained)
salt and freshly ground pepper
15 cured black olives, pits removed (optional)
On parchment paper arrange the prosciutto in a single layer.
Pour the strained lemon juice in a non-reactive bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly. Drop in the arugula, add salt and pepper and toss thoroughly.
Starting at one end of the slice of prosciutto place a small bunch of arugula. Add 1 shaving of cheese. Roll into a roulade making sure it remains intact.
Continue with the remaining slices of prosciutto. Arrange on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper to taste. Garnish with black olives (optional).
* in lieu of pecorino you may use parmigiano, romano or grana cheese.
Written by and photos by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com