As promised, I want to share my experience at the Badia a Coltibuono Cooking School. Along with three of my traveling friends, I attended the cooking school founded by famous author and cookbook writer, Lorenza De Medici. The lovely cooking school provides an idyllic setting where students can learn the secrets of authentic Italian cuisine. The cooking classes are held in a 1000 year old abbey in the beautiful Chianti region of Italy. The setting offers fantastic tastes, sights and wine of this beautiful region.
Our class began with a tour of the abbey and it’s exquisite gardens. An extensive herb garden was only steps away from the well-appointed classroom. We were then introduced to the recipes we would be cooking and all of the fresh regional ingredients. Seeing all of the beautiful, fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs and bread made me very grateful for all of the organic, locally grown produce that I am so lucky to find back home in Asheville, North Carolina.
Our menu for the day follows and everyone could participate at the level they felt comfortable. I have attended many cooking schools for years and always not only take away recipes, but new techniques that enhance my passions for cooking and home entertaining. Perhaps you might want to try your hand at an informal but simply elegant Italian dinner party at home. Search out Italian recipes on-line, or in your cookbooks and enjoy the pleasures that Italians include in every meal. I purchased the absolutely gorgeous cookbook ” Italy- The Beautiful Cookbook” by the cooking school’s founder, Lorenza De Medici, I highly recommend this lovely cookbook as much for the inspiring photography as for the recipes. It offers recipes for formal as well as informal home entertaining.
I most enjoyed the crisp panzanella, a rustic Italian salad made with day old Tuscan bread, which was served as our first course. The Tuscan bread, soaked and crumbled, mixed with lots of raw vegetables, herbs and lots of regional olive oil made a delicious starter.
As I am a big fan of dessert, I enjoyed a new technique when we prepared the “Old Style Duke’s Soup”. Strange as the name sounds, this dessert is basically a custard with Italian biscuits (cookies) soaked in liqueur and fresh whipped cream.
My favorite new technique was the chef’s recommendation to flavor your whipped cream with a bit of Chianti or other red wine. Not only does it add to the flavor, it adds such a lovely pink color and can be used on a variety of desserts. If you are not serving this whipped cream at once, I highly recommend soaked gelatin sheets to avoid the whipped cream from losing it’s stiffness.
After a day of cooking we relaxed and enjoyed the “fruits of our labor” in the elegantly designed dining room at Badia a Coltibuono. The simplicity of the antique furnishings, linens, crystal, and china provided a perfect setting for a delicious meal. We were also treated to several wines from the estate’s vineyards and cellar.
I highly recommend Badia a Coltibuono Cooking School for anyone traveling in Italy, Also, go on-line to search out one of Lorenza De Medici’s beautiful, but out of print, cookbooks. They are truly inspiring and well worth the investment. So search out a one day or even a week long cooking school in your area-many kitchen shops such as Williams-Sonoma and many independent shops offer interesting and seasonal free day classes. Then be inspired to entertain at home in whatever fashion suits your personal design style and budget.