It is always a pleasure to have Italian casareccio (homemade food). It is even more exciting to enjoy it here in the U.S. and made by a well known Italian cook. Stefania Aphel Barzini has been in the United States giving cooking classes and having events for about a month. She finally reached Los Angeles last week. If you are not familiar with Stefania, take a side trip to her website: www.follecasseroula.com. She does cooking classes in Rome as well as special events and week long events in a few regions outside Rome. And, if you’re planning on a trip to Rome, put her on your list of things not to be missed. Her experience as a food writer, cookbook author and cooking show presenter shine through no matter what she does.
The first event in Los Angeles was sponsored by ArtBites.net. Maite Gomez-Rejón’s company pairs art, history and cooking in tours and classes around the southland. The cooking portion was to be a Tuscan lunch so Maite started at the Los Angeles County Museum talking of Florentine art and artists from the dark ages to the Renaissance. She is very knowledgeable about art history and food. We then moved on to Surfas (a cafe/kitchen store in Culver City). It’s a wonderful kitchen for classes and Stefania along with her assistant Paola made a magical afternoon that ended with a fantastic lunch. They are all so experienced about foods, especially regional products throughout Italy I am always happy to join a class since there is always some new tidbit of information I have never before heard.
The lunch was a Tuscan luncheon and included a fabulous artichoke and potato soup, a panzanella salad and a couple kinds of bruschetta. The meatballs in tomato sauce were unbelievably tasty and the peach upside down cake was a finishing treat.
When you travel finding a cooking class is a great experience and wonderful way to connect to local cuisine and you will remember the experience a long time.
One of the best dishes Stefania prepared was Zolfini bean bruschetta. Unfortunately, you cannot get these terrific beans here in the U.S. They are grown only in a limited area of Tuscany, and not exported. But you can substitute northern navy beans. Try this healthy, high protein antipasto.
Zolfini Bean Bruschetta
Toasted Bread (Italian)
2-1/4 cups zolfini or navy beans
a small rosemary branch
2 cloves of garlic
1 shallot. chopped
really good quality extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt and Pepper
Sautè 1 garlic clove with the shallot and rosemary in a pan. Turn into a crock pot, add the beans, cover them with water and let cook covered over low heat until beans are softened. Depending on the age and size of the beans – from 2 to 4 hours. Purèe the mixture in a blender or use a stick blender. Rub the bread with a garlic clove, then spread some beans over the top, add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately. So simple, so good and so good-for-you.
Having access to the wonderful foods of Italy that are not readily available in the U.S. is my mission. Expressly Italian is your personal shopper from Italy to you. I want everyone, whether you travel or not, to experience real Italian tastes. Much of the year I have some of the finest extra virgin olive oils (including olio nuovo till it’s gone) and honey from Sardinia (one of the only places on earth with no polution. I want everyone to share the excitement of the wonderful spice mixes from Mauro Berardi’s Campo dei Fiori market stall. I am contacted by people from all over the world asking how to acquire Mauro’s mixes outside of Italy. I have his most popular mixes available all the time. If you are interested in knowing all the items I bring back from Italy twice a year or want me to bring something (duty free) back for you, please drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily add you to my mailing list.
My love of Italy, the people, the food fuels my life. I hope you share my joy in the Italian way of eating.