Italia Per Due: Week 14
Today, Jessica and I spent the day at a local catering venue called Villa Carafa. It’s known as one of the top caterers and places to get married in Puglia. The location has various rooms of different sizes and designs as well as outdoor spaces for weddings and receptions. Today we would help prepare food for a wedding of approximately 60 people, which is relatively small for an Italian wedding when most are upwards of three hundred people!
We started the day by making filo cups. Inside, we layered fried eggplant, tomato sauce, grated pecorino, and smoked mozzarella. These were then baked, which resulted in a crispy outside cup of filo dough and a delicious and gooey inside. They were served with as antipasti with a stracciatella cream sauce. Stracciatella is the inside filling of burrata cheese and it consists of pulled strings of mozzarella and heavy cream. They made the sauce by melting the Stracciatella with some milk and then they thickened it with xanthan gum.
Eggplant Parmesan in filo dough served with stracciatella cream
After we had lunch together with the staff, we watched as the executive chef put together a tasting menu for a couple that is planning to have their wedding at Villa Carafa in the future. We watched as he made a duo of risotto (stracciatella with parsley risotto and a shrimp risotto that was made using Champagne). We got to taste both and I can tell you that they were both some of the best risotto that I have had during my time in Italy. They were both creamy, perfectly cooked, and super flavorful. After this we watched him send out a pasta course which was Orecchiette with tomatoes and garlic.
Making shrimp and Champagne risotto
Once the tasting was complete, we helped the chef make a large batch of risotto for the wedding guests. We made the shrimp and champagne risotto that we finished with olive oil, zucchini blossoms and garnished with a filo dough chip. To end our day here at Villa Carafa, we took pictures with all the staff and thanked them all for showing us how Villa Carafa puts on events. It was such a blast getting to see another aspect of the Italian hospitality industry.
By Adam Shoemaker
Agriculture at its Best
What I want to talk about in one of my final blog posts is the agricultural experience I have had in Ugento and the rest of Italy. Luckily, I have gotten to spend my afternoons helping at the local farm in town—planting vegetables, picking the fruit, and exploring the cooking possibilities once we returned home with our bounty.
All of us together on the farm
Me holding a bin of fava beans I’ve just picked
The farmer, Emanuele, has given us an amazing opportunity to learn about where our food comes from. Since we got here, my friends and I have been astonished at how fresh and tasty the vegetables are in Italy. The fresh eggs, fennel, strawberries, and various other plants had a much stronger flavor than anything we have all tasted in America.
I will never forget the strawberries I ate at Emanuele’s farm. They were from this past winter’s season and they were the most beautiful red color. Their flavor was so strong, fresh, and juicy. I cannot remember ever having strawberries that good, even in summer in the United States, but I will always remember these.
Oh, those strawberries!!!
I will miss the sweet fennel, and spring peas when I return home. And it’s remarkable to realize that none of these Italian farmers use the pesticides as they do in America. The soil has no many minerals and nutrients that result in the best products. I cannot wait to return just for these vegetables!
Saying goodbye to a new friend…a baby goat!
By Angela Piccinich