I’ve been asking myself this question since I’ve had a rash of classes over the past week. My simple answer is this- I love to cook and I love to teach others how to cook. I get so much joy from watching people learn they can make delicious foods in their own kitchen and it doesn’t have to be all that difficult. Sure there are those recipes that take a lot of time, steps and ingredients and they have their place in the kitchen but so do the simple to fix, tasty foods that I write about as well. In fact I have recipes of all types here on my blog. I, personally, do not cook every single day as sometimes our schedule requires a simple sandwich and salad dinner or at times breakfast for dinner. When I have the time I do get busy with my creative spirit and make fun dishes that please our palates. When it’s a special celebration or holiday I go all out when I can.
Once again I taught a class last night. I think it’s the class I’ve wanted to do since I was hired last December. For almost two years I’ve been writing this blog and walking this journey to learn the cooking and eating habits of my Italian, Greek as well as my Polish ancestors. I knew this would lead into teaching others along the way and that is exactly what happened. Last night I taught a lovely group of women how to prepare and serve a traditional Italian meal. We started our meal with a colorful antipasti platter of Italian cold cuts, olive salad, Caprese salad and fresh bread. Due to a slight issue of cooking we followed that with our meatballs with marinara first then served the Zuppa Di Fagioli e Pancetta. Dessert consisted of a mini Chocolate Tiramisu cake, which was not your typical Tiramisu but had all the flavors in one little cupcake. Recipes to follow.
We began our night by cooking the meatballs and marinara because it takes time to cook. Next we moved on to making the soup so it would also have time to simmer. After soup we begin to assemble the antipasti platters. I invited the ladies to dig in and fix their own plates from the platters. Everyone enjoyed their antipasti. The meatballs and marinara was served with bread and I encouraged the ladies to drizzle a little olive oil on their meatballs for added flavor. Many did. While the ladies were eating their soup I began to work on the desserts. I had a few ladies who were eager to jump in and help at every step. It was so much fun to have “company” in the kitchen. Personally I will call the whole night a huge success.
Recipe time! (I really have to hire someone or find a willing volunteer to come along and photograph the class and dishes. I just can’t do both cooking and photographer duties at the same time.) If you are on Facebook, go and like Cool Beans Cafe’ and you can see a few pictures of us cooking.
1/4 pound of each, thinly sliced, sweet Capacola, prosciutto, Mortadella and Salami
Various olives, can buy some from a local grocery olive bar or jarred olives
Caprese salad-diced tomatoes, diced fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, sliced, olive oil, salt and pepper
Directions: Line a platter with some green lettuce leaves, fold meats into fourths and arrange around the platter. Put olives in a bowl and center the bowl on the platter. One another platter, arrange the slices of bread and put a bowl of Caprese salad in the center. Serve with cracked pepper, olive oil and shredded Parmesan cheese. You could also serve pickled vegetables or pepperoncini and sliced cheeses as well. Have fun with your platter!
Zuppa Di Fagioli e Pancetta
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 cans of cannellini beans
6 oz. diced pancetta
1-2 dried chili peppers
1-2 cups water
salt and pepper
Directions: Heat olive oil on medium heat. Saute’ garlic and pancetta for a few minutes until the garlic is golden brown, do not let the garlic get dark. Rinse and drain beans and then add to the sauce pan. Add in the chili pepper. Let cook a few minutes then mash about half the beans with a fork or masher. Add water to make the soup as thick as you prefer. Salt and pepper after the soup has simmered for 15 minutes or so. The longer you let this simmer, the softer the beans will become and the chili pepper gives this soup a kick!
Serves 8 or more
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed with the back of a knife
1 can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes
1 can of crushed tomatoes
fresh basil leaves
Directions: Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet or sauce pan, add garlic when the oil is shimmering. Saute’ for a few minutes, until golden brown. Add in tomatoes and break with the back of a spoon. Add in crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened. Add a few fresh basil leaves in the end. Serve over your favorite pasta. (see my recipes for my family’s sauce recipe which is more involved and has more seasonings in it)
Makes about 2 dozen
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1-2 tsp each dried parsley, oregano, and basil
Directions: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Mix all in a large bowl until combined but do not over mix. If it seems dry, add a little water or olive oil. If too wet add more bread crumbs. Form golf-ball sized balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes until nicely browned with a crust. You could also brown these in a pan on the stove top in some bacon grease or olive oil. Add to sauce and simmer for 30 minutes, minimum or longer. Stir often and carefully. Serve!
Dessert was a mini Chocolate Tiramisu cake recipe from The Pampered Chef so I am linking you to their site, due to copyright laws and all that business. Enjoy these rich little desserts with some coffee after any meal or anytime you have a desire for the flavors of Tiramisu but don’t want to assemble the traditional dish. Mini Chocolate Tiramisu Cakes
Now you know why I do what I do and I am loving every minute of it. Saturday I have a class of 12 kids who want to learn how to make homemade pasta, sauce and garlic bread sticks. All those recipes are around here on my blog as well. Just type into the search box what you are looking for. Until next time, enjoy your food and cook well.