Theideaforthis recipecomesfrom mydaughterVirginia.She is arealfoodieand loveto try newdishes.A fewdays agoheToldme thathetastedthisRisottowhile she waswith herauntMarianna, at a restaurantinPisa downtown. "Mom, souch a deliciousrisotto!"continuedto saywhilehereyeswereshining. Yesterday a farmer gave me a beautiful pumpkin from his garden.
Well, at thispointI tooktheadvantageand Idevelopedthe plateinmy own way. This is myversion, Buon Appetito!
She's my mother in law and one of my best partners in our job: CuocheinVacanza.
She has always been a housewife taking care of her family. Since I started my job of cooking classes trainer and chef at home, I asked her to come with me directly to the holiday homes of our students and guests. This was probably one of the most intelligent ideas I never had: now, at 5 years from the birth of my company CuocheinVacanza, I'm grateful to her for the precious tips and advices.
Although I attented to the Italian Academy for Professional Chefs in Florence, I can truly say that her teachings, with those from my Grandma, are the most important school for me. In fact everyone can learn tecniques, but few people are so lucky to be followed from someone who put her heart in cooking and thinks to the guests first of all.
Obviously she's a really fantastic chef, a marvellous person and she's always ready to teach everyone the finest art of cooking, that's why she's so requested in our Cookery Courses around Tuscany.
Here is one of her "little bakery" cookie. You're going to abtain a really elegant cookie, worth of the best bakeries, but so easy to make!
Listening to our customers, one of the best experiences here in Tuscany is our herb-gathering cooking class. It's a pleasant walk inside the tuscan Nature, with me and a very experienced herbalist, Maurizio.
The purpose is to recognise the wild edible plants and herbs you can find here, to pick up them along our way and ending in a very old stone house where we can enjoy the meal together.
This is a very original and particular experience, dedicated to all ones who're looking for an authentic experience, far from clichés of entertainment tourism. You can share it with family or friends, all you need is confortamble shoes. Few days ago I was lucky to meet 4 girls coming from around the world who liked to partecipate to the wild-edible herbs cooking class.
October is one of the best months for this: young plants are growing up after the Summer and the first rains and the colors of Autumn, here in Tuscany, are absolutely gorgeous and stunning.
I think it was one of the best working day I've ever had: the company was fantastic, beautiful people to stay! We walked in nature for a while, picking up the herbs, observing and comparing them with other kind of plants. We talked about how cooking them and tasting them in the best way.
You can find different herbs following the change of seasons; in October: catmint, star grass, thyme, silene, wild carrot, dandelion etc.
If you're interested to watch the pictures of some herbs that you can find during our course, you can have a look to another post about herb-gathering that I wrote last year, justClick here , read and look for a slide show.
After 1 hour trip, we arrived at a stone house surrounded by olive trees and we started to prepare our meal.
Every ingredient is organic: vegetables from Maurizio's garden, the bread (by natural mother yeast) is baked in a old wood oven, wine and extra vergin olive oil from Monti Pisani and the pasta is from the organic farm Floriddia).
We spent the time together laughing and talking a lot. At the end of our lunch we tasted some cookies and we drunk a smal glass of Grappa too.
During the afternoon we came back to our cars, walking across the nice village of Calci, famous all over the world for his Chartrehouse.
I asked to one of the girls to write something about their cookery, nature trail and wild edible herbs course and I'm posting her comment just below, so that you could understand what kind of experience is, not only from me, but directly from a customer-friend.
Here's the Rieview:
When my friends and I booked a cooking
class with Erika, we had a few expectations. We knew the food would
be good, and we would have fun. What we didn’t know was that it
would end up being one of the most memorable things we’d ever done.
The class we selected was not typical in the least bit; it was the
herb gathering, nature hike class. In all honesty I assumed we would
meet Erika at a garden somewhere, pick a few well-arranged, familiar
herbs then cook for a bit.
When we arrived at our meeting spot, I
suspected my assumptions were incorrect. We were in a small parking
lot, amid the huge, glorious Tuscan Hills, not a stationed garden in
Erika introduced herself and Maurizio, the herbalist
accompanying us. Both looked well-equipped for some more serious
adventuring, and I wondered if maybe I had worn the wrong shoes.
Erika had us follow her by car to a more suitable parking lot, and we
soon began our trek. Maurizio, who was friendly but seemed shy at
first, handed us each a tote and kitchen knife. Then he pointed to a
distant cottage high on a mountain top and told us, that, was where
we were headed. I had definitely worn the wrong shoes…
We walked up. It was a smooth, steady
climb upward through the local village. We were surrounded by lovely
houses and fantastic, old buildings. Erika and Maurizio took turns
offering bits of information about the places we were seeing. They
were both so kind and well-informed, the conversation was never
We soon found ourselves among the olive
trees. The road had turned to a path that soon disappeared.
Maurizio was busy finding various wild greens and herbs for our
feast. He always took a moment to tell us what he had found, and
explain the plant’s use. His knowledge and skill were
extraordinary. I was so captivated by the views, eager to find the
desirable plants, and entertained by the conversation, I didn’t
want it to end. The trails passed glorious scenic overlooks. There
were also beautiful walls made from layered stones, and interesting
houses as we continued up. With all the sights, nothing compared to
the view from Maurizio’s house. We were able to see downtown Pisa,
and Erika said on a clear day you could see the Leaning Tower and the
Maurizio’s home was enchanting. He
was a wonderful host, and went out of his way to make us feel
welcomed. We set our collection of greens on the counter. Before he
began, Maurizio asked our food preferences and dietary restrictions.
Then he got busy working. Maurizio took great care in his cooking.
His passion for natural ingredients was obvious, as everything he
used was organic. We enjoyed some wonderful wines, and handpicked
grapes from Maurizio’s vines. We helped when there was an
opportunity, but for the most part we just relaxed.
The first course was magnificent.
There was a bed of cheese topped with fresh greens. We ate it with
Maurizio’s homemade bread. It was baked in his home’s ancient,
built-in, stone oven. It was drizzled in the most wonderful olive
oil. We also had a delicious bruschetta. The main course was pasta
with fresh herbs, tomatoes, and tuna. It was fantastic, light and
full of flavor. We finished with little sandwich cookies, espresso,
and Italian liquors.
The walk back to
the car was very quick, and the perfect end to a perfect afternoon.
We left completely satisfied from the food, magic, and friendship we
encountered. My words do it no justice. It is for anyone hoping to
make unique memories, and do a little work for an exceptional meal.
My only advice for those interested is to wear comfortable clothes
and shoes, and bring bug spray.
Grazie, Erika and Maurizio! We are so
grateful for everything you did for us. We will never forget it!
(By Heather Zirkle)
Thanks to all of you girls, we shared with you a beautiful experience... hoping to meet you soon in Tuscany!