Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fishy Monday, Boboli, Lucca, & Pisa

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Waking up Monday morning was a little difficult after our long and busy weekend away from Florence.  Class began with a review of what type of questions to look forward to for our midterm that was to take place Tuesday (today).   Next we focused on Central Italy and Tuscany cuisine.  Tuscany is said to be the land “touched by God” because it carries the best quality of food you can find all around the world.   There is seafood from the coast, grains and wine from the rivers, meat from the mountains, truffles from the center (near Florence!) and rice from southern Tuscany.  Next came the lab…

I had read on the syllabus that we were having a fish soup called Cacciucco. It is a famous soup of central Italy that was made for the workers.  Chef Tommaso had us all gather around the front.  And that is when he took out alllll of the fish we were to use in our recipe today.  Octopus, squid, mussels, clams, dogfish, and a few types of small fish.  The small fish and octopus still had their eyes.  There is nothing like raw fish to wake you up on a Monday morning!  I cleaned out my own fish for the first time, and probably the last time. 

Looking a little skeptical of the slimy little squid

The base of the soup smelled delicious and was made up of olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, rosemary, sage, parsley, and 1 small chili pepper. One base was made with white wine, octopus, squid, mussels, and clams, and the other with red wine, dog fish, and the small fish.  The base of cacciucco is always the same and the fish can vary, depending on what is available.

Fish soup in White Wine
Fish Soup in red wine

When the soup was done cooking we served it over a thick slice of garlic toasted Tuscan bread.  I was brave and tried all of the fish I had never tasted, such as the octopus, dogfish, and small fish.  I am a huge fan of fish, so this was not a problem for me! Except for the fact that the small fish still had eyes.  Ignoring that disturbing site, the fish was actually very tasty.  The texture of the dog fish and small fish reminded me of trout.  It was very flaky and easily absorbed the flavor of the base and red wine.  As for the other soup, the octopus was not bad… just a little rubbery… And the other fish I had no problem eating!!

The final product

After class I stopped at San Lorenzo market to send some wine, olive oil, and balsamic home to the states!  And then went over to Boboli Garden.  I have wanted to visit Boboli Garden since I arrived here in Florence, believing that it was filled with big, beautiful, and colorful flowers.  Boy was I wrong!! It was more of a huge park.  Although, there was a small section of pink flowers that we found, the garden was mostly made up of the color green.  We sat and relaxed for about an hour looking out over Florence, walked around for 20 minutes, and then returned home, wishing I had saved 6 euro for something else.

After a night of studying for the mid term scheduled today, we entered Apicius (our classroom building) and were confronted with the news of no midterm.  We all had mixed emotions.  We were excited that there was no test, but disappointed we had spent the night studying when we could have been out and enjoying Florence and hanging out with other people in the program.

Class went on as usual.  Today’s discussion was about Liguaria region of Italy, which is known for it’s beautiful flowers, rich of olive trees, and eggs.  The famous recipe of the region is Torta Pasqualina, which was one of the recipes made which is a recipe made for Easter (Pasqua = Easter).   The torta is made up of pasta dough, artichoke and swiss chard (or spinach) mixed with ricotta, and an egg.  This is made in layers to create a beautiful and delicious pie!

The other recipe made today was focaccia bread.  I have had focaccia bread in the states, but the one my group made today (mostly Erica’s creation) was AMAZING!  I guess it is true that bread always taste so much better right out of the oven!

After class we (Erica, Liz, Shep, Audrey, Missy, Lacey, Laura, and I) were off the Lucca and Pisa!! The train ride to Lucca was about 1 hour and 40 minutes.  We arrived around 3:30 PM and entered the town with empty stomachs in hope to find delicious food.  We wanted something light and cheap to give us some energy for our bike ride.  We thought we had found a great little joint, but it was nothing but a disappointment. I ordered a porcini mushroom risotto.  It was the worst risotto I have ever tasted.  I guess that’s what you get for cheap and fast food!

But the day was not over.  We still had a bike ride to complete around the walls of Lucca.  Audrey had a great Rick Steve’s guidebook that led us to a bike rental place where you are able to rent a bike for 1 hour for only 3 Euros!!  What a deal!!

The ride was so relaxing.  The wind felt so refreshing and the air was so clean.  The eight of us rode around the bike path twice before our hour was up.  After returning our bike we had some time to kill before catching the train to Pisa.  There was only one thing missing from our wonderful afternoon… you guessed it… Gelato!!

We stepped on the train at 6:15 PM for Pisa and arrive around 6:45 PM.  Luckily the leaning Tower was only a five-minute walk from the station!! We only had an hour until the train left to go back to Florence!  We quickly walked over towards the Leaning Tower of Pisa to take the pictures that every tourist of Pisa must take!

We finally returned to Florence around 9:00 PM.  The days here seem to be getting shorter and shorter.  Today flew by!! I went to class, went to Lucca for a bike ride, and saw an important landmark.  I’d say it was a successful day!!

Buono notte!

Molly Jean

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