Dreaming Of Primavera In Italy

A warm winter welcomed in spring as yellow mimosa made an early appearance, and lavender and cherry blossoms flutter colors of violet and white.  Gardens too are revealing their first signs life as rows of butterhead lettuce, cress and mâche grow.  Farmers are hoeing their land and planting potatoes by the moon, while in the kitchen the fruits of the season grace our table ~ fava beans, peas, asparagus, and the first Sicilian zucchini too.

For the perfect spring menu we suggest - carciofi arrostiti, pasta e fave, pesce al vapore e tiramisù al limone.  We have several new Cooking Tours where you will learn how to ~ so please read on.  Let's tie on our aprons and get cooking!

Buon appetito!  
  Table Talk
Spring has arrived with splendor in Italy.  And to celebrate, Cooking Vacations first heads north to the chic town of Modena. Nestled in the Po River Valley, the fertile geography of Modena is the ideal location for the Emilia-Romagna region's most famous crop- Lambrusco grapes. And with grapes comes sweet Lambrusco wine, the barrel-aged aceto balsamico of tradition, and Bensone modenese, the local Lambrusco-soaked cake. What a joy for the senses to pair a fresh glass of bubbling Lambrusco with plump hand-rolled tortellini stuffed with cheese, spinach or mushroom. It's a light-hearted, almost frivolous wine, but no less enjoyable for that! The city also has a strong pork tradition- so as well as all those delicious local hams and salumi, try some slow-roasted pork with garlic, herbs and white wine, or pork tenderloin with balsamic vinegar.

Amidst the Romanesque city stands the Duomo, then, not far off, the birthplace of Pavarotti, and in the nearby village of Maranello stands the Ferrari museum - after all, Modena is also known as the capital of engines. And while many people come to Modena for its sports cars, its stately architecture, or even its university - which is one of the oldest in Europe, most come to enjoy its unparalleled gastronomic offerings.  Among Modena's culinary claims to fame is its Parmigiano Reggiano, the world-renowned cheese made in rounds as big as cartwheels.  Pair with prosciutto di Parma, salted Parma ham, or grate on top of handmade pasta made from Modena's flourishing crops of wheat and farm-fresh eggs, and you'll understand why Modena is considered the gastronomic heart of Italy!
What's Cooking
Join us for our Chef Mino's Emilia Romagna Kitchen - 4 Day Program -an extraordinary hands-on cooking experience in the heart of Modena. Learn how to prepare traditional antipasto, fresh pasta, main courses and desserts, while learning the traditions of Italy's gastronomic heart ~ Modena. Cooking classes are designed for food lovers passionate to learn more about the products and history of this magical region, Emilia Romagna.
Join us for our Positano Cooking & Walk Of The Gods tour featuring the best of local cuisine and trekking through Positano and Capri for the most breathtaking Mediterranean scenery. When you are not trekking you will be cooking hands-on with Chefs Raffaele, Filomena and Fortunata learning how to make regional antipasto, fresh pasta, local fish, meat or pizza in the heart of Positano. To help burn away the calories from all of the fresh food made in the cooking classes, you will be walking and trekking throughout the week. So lace up your walking shoes and get ready to trek, walk and explore the Amalfi Coast's famous Walk of The Gods and Capri's Monte Solaro.
Join us in our Sicilian kitchen with Chef Davide for a hands-on cooking experience in the heart of historic Catania. Get busy in the kitchen and visit Catania's busting outside market where your chef will guide you through the rich flavors of the city center. From smoked salmon carpaccio, red tuna fillets, pistachio-crusted black Nebrodi pork, fresh pasta, to cannoli and desserts with almonds of Avola, Chef Davide plays to the tastes, sounds and sights of the moment.

Recipes From Our Kitchen
Spring is an exciting time in the Italian kitchen, the first crops of asparagus, artichokes, peas, fava beans and spring onions are piled high on the table and waiting to be transformed into light, healthy cuisine. Days are suddenly longer, the garden begins to take shape, and on warmer days, lunch is served outside under a big fancy umbrella keeping. Here are a few traditional Italian recipes to help you celebrate the new season and its produce.

Fragolone Aperitivo
~ Strawberry & Mint Prosecco

Risotto Agli Asparagi  
~ Asparagus Risotto 
Spiedini di Pesce
~ Seafood Skewers  
Tiramisù Al Limone
~ Lemon Tiramisù  

Sip & Swirl 

This month we take you to the vineyards of Marisa Cuomo on the Amalfi Coast where historic grape varieties are transformed into world class wines. Each wine produced here, from the deep pink rosé to the award winning white - Fiorduva, embodies the scents and tastes of this magnificent stretch of coast.

Costa d'Amalfi Rosato  
This rosé, made from Aliganico and Piedirosso grapes, offers hints of plum and strawberries on the nose and has a decisive flavor with good acidity and minerality. Pairs well with antipasti and fish dishes.

Furore Bianco Fiorduva  
This exceptional white is made from Fenile, Ginestra and Ripoli grapes picked over-ripe and brought into the cellar whole. Maturation includes three months in oak barriques, which produces a bright yellow wine with yellow hues, the scent reminiscent of apricots and broom flowers, with a hint of tropical fruit. The taste is smooth, dense and characterized by a considerable aromatic persistence of dried apricots, sultanas and candied fruit. More than once voted the 'Best White Wine in Italy', this is a true special occasion wine.

Furore Rosso Riserva  
This reserve has a deep ruby red color, an intense aroma of forest fruits, blackberries and blackcurrants. It's a deliciously smooth, elegant wine with undertones of spices and woody notes that stands up well to meat-based dishes and ripe cheeses- or simply sip as is!.

With Love From Italy

  Atlas 150 Aluminum Pasta Maker, Crate and Barrel 
Crank out your own fabulous pasta dinner with this easy-to-use pasta maker from Crate and Barrel. The hand crank technology allows for a smooth operation as you mold fresh dough into linguine, spaghetti, or lasagna noodles in minutes. With its aluminum finish and Italian shape, the pasta-maker also looks great with any kitchen decor.  
On-line at:  www.crateandbarrel.com

Aceto Balsamico     
 Add a taste of Modena to your kitchen with a bottle of White Cap balsamic vinegar, barrel-aged for 12 years and made from local Lambrusco grapes. The light, acidic flavor and fragrant aroma make this DOP certified balsamic vinegar ideal for carpacci, steamed vegetables or red meat marinades. Tradition awaits!
Tart Cherry Jam      
 The Modenesi love a good sour cherry jam or sour cherries in syrup made with amarene brusche, dark tart cherries. Local Modena amarena cherries now enjoy the PGI certification (protected geographical indication) and are considered a true delicacy. Fabri make wonderful cherries in syrup which come in an iconic blue and white jar, making them the perfect gift. Use on toast, to fill tarts and sweets and to sweeten thick natural yogurt.
Go to: www.eataly.com 

Italy On A Plate

Flavors Of The Season
By Germaine Stafford

Germaine continues her roundup of what's happening in the culinary world in Italy and gives you her chef of the month, book recommendation, and a list of seasonal foods for spring.
What's in Season?  
Pork products (salami etc.), Octopus, Cod, Cuttlefish, Sea Bream, Spring lamb, Rosemary, Wild garlic, Radishes, Spinach, Watercress, Morel mushrooms, Asparagus, Artichokes, First fava beans (broad beans), Jerusalem artichokes, First strawberries, Rhubarb

Osteria Francescana  

Chef Massimo Bottura combines art and cooking at his three-star Michelin restaurant in the heart of Modena. Listed as the second best restaurant in the world in 2015 by Restaurant Magazine, here Chef Bottura creates an intimate atmosphere with twelve dining tables set with modern decor. Choose from two tasting menus, 'Tradition in Evolution' and 'Sensations', both rich with local red meat, fresh vegetables, and of course, aceto balsamico made by Bottura's own Villa Manodori. Reservations required.
Osteria Francescana
Via Stella, 22
41121 - Modena (MO)
Tel. +39. 059 223912
Book Corner 
The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food
Join Lynne Rossetto Kasper as she travels through the food and wine of Emilia-Romagna. While many ingredients will be recognizable - Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma and balsamic vinegar, other specialties hark back to the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries - rosewater macaroni Romanesca, and baked penne favored by a local Cardinal, for example. Throughout the book, you'll bump into characters such as Lucrezia Borgia, Rossini, Napoleon's Empress Marie Louise, Verdi and Pavarotti, all of whom were charmed by the region's cuisine.
As you turn the pages, learn how to cook the world-renowned ragù bolognese, perhaps the region's most famous dish, and take a step into modern times with tagliatelle and fresh herbs, risotto with red wine and rosemary, and chestnut ricotta cheesecake. A welcome addition to any kitchen ~ this book leads you on a delicious culinary journey through Emilia Romagna.
Check it out at:  Amazon.com
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