Saturday, October 17, 2009

now we're cooking with gas...

I have been promising this afternoon excursion for days and have finally gotten my act together to tell you about it.
After a long day, we were treated to an evening cooking course in a restaurant located in Riolo Terme.  The restaurant's owner Nicola treated us to not only demonstrations of great food, he gave us wonderful tips that we can use at our next dinner party.  Basically, it was a course in how to feed a crowd and not spend your evening in the kitchen.  I think the information translates to a dinner party or trying to get dinner on the table in between carpool obligations.  I can say that I successfully employed a technique for his pasta with prosciutto and arugulaI made the sauce well in advance and when we sat to enjoy the appetizer, I threw the pasta in the water.  It boiled and the sauce reheated while I enjoyed melon wrapped in prosciutto.

Nicola was adorable.  Like chef Luigi, he is from Calabria.  My mother is also from Calabria, so it felt like I was in the kitchen with family. Nicola owns Ristorante Villa Golini with his wife.  The restaurant is quite large and sits on a large piece of property. It is equipped for catering and is a favorite location for weddings and large gatherings.

In the garden they have this 20 foot tall flashing firework-like neon structure.  It  looks very out of place in the bucolic setting.  It was a bit off putting and reminded me of spanish disco.  I half expected "boom, boom, boom" to be blasting from the speakers.  But once we entered the restaurant, and discovered Nicola's delicious food, my concerns disappeared.

One of the first things we made was a delicious pizzaiola sauce.  It can be used on bruschetta for an appetizer or on pasta or with veal, chicken, or  fish.  It is a great go to condiment and can be made well in advance.
Watch Nicola make it here...pizzaiola demo
The measurements aren't exact...and really should be done by your particular tastes.  But here is an estimated recipe
Pizzaiola a la Nicola
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbs capers
2 pinches dry oregano
handful of minced italian parsley
1/2 cup white wine
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Finely chop the garlic with the capers.  Heat a saucepan and then pour olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and capers and gently cook.  Add the white wine and allow the alcohol to cook off.  If you are feeling especially spunky, light the pan on fire to burn off the alcohol.  Add about 1 cup of prepared tomato sauce.  If you make your own great, if you don't add whichever is your favorite.  Toss in oregano and gently cook to soften the herb.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  It's ready to serve.  The less the cook it, the better.

The crowd favorite recipe was the garganelli with prosciutto and arugula.  It was delicious and something that I hadn't had before.  Cooking prosciutto can sometimes render it gamey.  But this preparation does anything but that.  As I mentioned, I made this last night...homemade pasta and all.  Garganelli is difficult to find, so you can substitute penne or even fusilli.  Also, last night I didn't have any arugula on hand, so I used baby spinach instead. It gave it a bit of a different flavor profile, but it was good, and I just added more pepper to supplement.

Garganelli Prosciutto e Rucola
1 lb pasta
2/3 lb thinly sliced prosciutto
2-3 Tbs cognac 
 big giant handful of arugula
1/2 cup tomato sauce (not pureed tomatoes, but actual sauce)
2 Tbs olive oil 
2 Tbs butter 
 a bit more arugula for garnish
parmesan cheese for garnish
Cut prosciutto in julienne and fry lightly in butter-oil mixture.  Only fry for a few minutes.  Add cognac and let the alcohol evaporate or burn off the alcohol with a flame.  Add the tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the arugula.   At this point you can be done until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, drop the pasta in boiling, salted water.  Drain when they are al dente.  Put the pasta in the pan with the sauce and cook on the flame for a minute or two.  
When serving, place on a platter and top with a bit of parmesan and arugula
We made so many wonderful dishes and I wish I could have you all over for dinner to tasted the wonderful recipes.  I will continue to try these recipes at home and will post the results and any changes I make to them.
our host nicola
I know I have mentioned before how everyone we met makes a version of limoncello and nocino.  Well, the restaurants are not different.  Nicola's wife broke out the good stuff for us.  They both were delicious and a wonderful end to our evening meal.  For the record, our meal was...
bruschetta pizzaiola
garganelli prosciutto e rucola
veal scallopini with chives
grilled steak with herbs
roasted potatoes
roasted tomatoes
double berry semi-freddo with berry coulis
I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that we prepared everything in advance, in about an hour.  It helped that Nicola is a professional and was able to whip around his kitchen like a ballroom dancer. But I found that he kept everything very straight forward and simple and used great ingredients, which is a winning combination.
If you ever find yourself in the hills of emilia-romagna, follow the bright lights to ristorante villa golini and have yourself a wonderful meal.


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