Sweet pepper bruschetta, gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce, pork loin in a grape gravy and crostata tart were on the menu for today’s lunch.
The cooking started at 9:30 this morning and by 1:00, I couldn’t move.
The instructor is a genius at organizing what needs to be done when to put an entire meal together at just the right time.
Again, her resounding words for today were, “Italians like it simple. Good produce, few ingredients, not too much time. It’s easy!”
Sweet Pepper Bruschetta
This appetizer had a wonderfully strong flavor. Great combination.
- 3 cups sweet green peppers (look like jalapeños) , sliced in rings with the seeds
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 2 anchovies
- 2-4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- water as needed to retain moisture
- big pinch of salt
- day-old bread, sliced thinly
- Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the sliced garlic and cook for a minute. Add the anchovies and smash them into the hot oil until they melt and disintegrate.
- Put the prepared peppers and salt into the pan and continue to cook, adding water as necessary to keep the mixture moist. Cook for about 7 minutes then pour in the vinegar and continue to cook until the peppers are soft.
- Drizzle a baking dish with olive oil and place about 3 slices of bread on top. Spread the pepper mixture on the bread and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake in a hot oven for about 10-15 minutes.
I have always loved gnocchi, but that love was unfounded. The love I have for this recipe is the real deal. These gnocchi were like smooth little pillows in my mouth. Indescribable, really.
- 1 large, old potato per person
- all-purpose flour in the proportion 1/3 of amount of potatoes
- Boil your potatoes with the skin on. Once the skin splits open, you know the potatoes are done. You want them to be soft but not soaking up the water.
- Pull the skin off of the potatoes and smash with a potato press. Spread the potatoes out on a wooden board and allow to cool completely before moving on.
- Eyeball the flour using about 1/3 the amount of flour as you have potatoes.
- Very gently knead the potatoes and flour together, being very careful not to smash the mixture or stretch it out. The method is a gentle, push in from the sides kind of knead.
- Once the dough is in a compact ball, cut off a small handful of dough and roll into a long snake, about the width of your finger.
- Cut the gnocchi with a sharp, non-serrated knife about the width of your thumb. Roll the little pieces in flour and set aside, not allowing the pieces to touch one another.
- Continue rolling, cutting, dusting and setting aside until all the dough is prepared.
- Boil a pot of water and add a small handful of salt. Yes, a handful.
- Drop the gnocchi in the boiling water and wait a few minutes for the pasta to rise to the top. Using a wire mesh slotted spoon, pull out the floating gnocchi and put directly into prepared tomato sauce.
Garlic Tomato Sauce
I’m starting to see that less is more.
- 6-8 ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic
- lots of olive oil
- lots of salt
- fresh basil
- 2 handfuls fresh grated parmesan cheese
- Cook the tomatoes in a large sauce pan over medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Strain the tomatoes, skin, seeds and all in a tomato crusher gadget with a crank handle. The sauce will drip out below.
- Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan over high heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce and a huge pinch of salt.
- Reduce the heat, put a wooden spoon across he pan and set the lid on top. Keeping the lid cracked allows the sauce to condense more slowly, creating a better flavor. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in a handful of parmesan cheese.
- Add the gnocchi and toss to cover. Do not stir the gnocchi or it will break! Rip up a handful of fresh basil and toss in as well.
- Plate the pasta and sprinkle with even more parmesan.
Pork Loin with Grapes
- 1 pork loin
- cooking twine
- salt and pepper
- 10 juniper pods
- 3 bay leaves, torn
- olive oil
- 4 shallots, quartered and pulled apart
- 2-3 cups green grapes, cut in half
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
- Tightly wrap the loin with twine. Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and fresh black pepper over the entire loin. Drizzle with olive oil and massage the meat. The instructor said not to be afraid of salt, pork absorbs what it needs and leaves the rest.
- Coat the bottom of a wide sauce pan with olive oil. Heat over high heat and add the shallots, crushed juniper, bay leaves and 1/4 cup white wine. Cook until the alcohol has evaporated, constantly moving the shallots.
- Add the loin to the pan and braise until the meat is sealed on all sides, do not brown. Add another 1/4 cup of white wine and cook the mixture down.
- Add the grapes, reduce the heat to medium low and cover to cook. Use the wooden spoon trick again, propping the lid open a bit allowing steam to release.
- Make sure the mixture remains moist. If it starts to dry, either smash the grapes or add a bit of water.
- Continue to cook on the stove top for 40-45 minutes, turning the meat regularly, allowing it to brown and stirring the sauce.
- Wrap the cooked meat in aluminum foil and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves from the sauce. Pour the remaining ingredients into the same contraption used to smash the tomatoes. Crank the ingredients through and serve with the sliced pork.
Since I don’t eat meat, I was served an extra dish of baked smoked mozzarella with bread and olive oil.
- 250 g. all-purpose flour
- 80 g. sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 100 g. very cold butter, cut into tiny cubes
- 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
- 1 jar of jam, we used pear
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder. Add the butter to the mixture. Working very quickly and with cold hands, begin at one edge of the bowl and work your way across crushing the butter and flour mixture together with your finger tips.
- Lightly whisk the egg and yolk together and our into the mixture.
- Use the side of the bowl to knead the egg into the mixture. Compact the mixture into a very tight ball and cover with plastic wrap. Put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Take a large piece of parchment paper and lightly dust it. Cut off 2/3 of the dough and put in the middle of the paper, dust the ball with flour and cover with two pieces of plastic wrap.
- Working from the middle out, roll the dough until it is larger than your pastry dish. Remove the plastic wrap and place the dough, parchment paper and all, into your tart dish. Push the dough into the dish and cut off the remaining edges.
- Spread your jam evenly into the dish, making sure to get every little groove covered with jam.
- Roll out the remaining 1/3 of the dough. Cut the dough into 1 inch side strips and lay three strips across your pastry. Lay another 3 strips the other direction creating a tic-tac-toe design.
- Cut another strip of pastry and begin to pinch it around the edge of your pastry. Continue your way around until there is a lovely border of pastry around the whole dish.
- Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool. Before serving, dust the pastry with powdered sugar.
Even though I ate 7 hours ago, I still feel stuffed. Hopefully a little yoga will help.
I asked the owner of where I’m staying if there is any place to do yoga near by. I thought it was a long shot as this place is in the middle of nowhere, but it just so happens that there’s a studio at the bottom of the hill. I walked down this afternoon and met not only a yoga teacher, but a master Yogi from India.
We enjoyed a cup of chai tea together and had a really nice chat. He invited me back for a lesson between 8-10 tonight and then to stay for dinner as well with the other students.
I’m excited but also a bit nervous since I’ve never done “real” yoga before. I’ll let you know how it goes! Wish me luck!