Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cooking Class at Azienda Agricola Infantino

Saturday morning, the 21st, dawned cold, windy, and looking like it could rain at any moment.  We were up relatively early.  Les had band practice, dad took off on the bike, and mom and I were off to a cooking class at Azienda Agricola Infantino, an organic farm close to where we live. Les and I had been there before for a of olive picking and lunch so I knew that whatever was on the menu would be fabulous.

Just before 9am Mom and I walked out to the front gate of our housing complex to catch a ride up to the farm. Our wait consisted of trying to find a place both blocked from the wind and in a patch of sun. No easy task.  Once we arrived at the farm we were talking about how cold it was, freddo in Italian.  We were told no, not freddo, fresco! HAH!

Anyhow, after a cup of delicious coffee made with Italian beans and a Swiss coffee maker we began our work.  The cooking class was centered on fava beans. I had purchased some of these beans last spring, but didn't have a clue what to do with them.  My attempts didn't turn out so well so I was excited to learn how to make something delicious with this ingredient.

We were presented with two crates of fresh fava beans, still in the pods.  Our job was to shell the beans.

Before & After

The first dish we made was a fava bean omelette. Ingredients included fava beans (of course), wild asparagus, wild fennel fronds, bread crumbs, grana padana (similar to parmigiano), onion, garlic, salt, and eggs.  While we were waiting for the omelette to cook we were presented with antipasti and wine mixed with blood orange juice. Oh my, what a combination!  It was delicious!  The antipasti consisted of pickeled mushrooms, eggplant, olives, cheese, bread, and salami. Those of us attending the class sat down and enjoyed the pre-feast feast.  After about 45 minutes or so the omelette was done (they cooked it very slow on low heat to make sure that the beans had a chance to cook).  Of course we dug right in.

Fava Bean Omelette

The next course was the pasta course, of course with more fava beans.  This time the beans were boiled and partially cooked and then sauteed on the outdoor stove with onions and garlic while the pasta cooked. When the pasta was finished the fava bean mixture was tossed with the pasta and a generous amount of their amazing homemade olive oil.  We were each served a generous portion to which we added parmigiano and more delicious oil.  Our oil choices included infusions of garlic, pepperoncino (spicy), and other herbs.  I went with the garlic pepperoncino oil. It was sooooo good!  (on a side note, I bought a bottle of this oil and have nearly used half of the bottle, it is THAT good.  I use it on everything, espeically steamed vegies.  Just the oil and a bit of salt and they are awesome!)

Unfortunately, from the omelette on I didn't take any pictures.  The threat of rain combined with the distraction of delicious food kept my camera safely tucked away in its bag.  Oh well.

After the pasta course we were definitely getting full but still had two more courses to go! Meat & dessert.  The meat course was some of the most delicious sausage I have ever tasted.  It came from a butcher up in Mineo that is only open in the evenings. Emilio, the owner of the farm, roughly gave me directions to the butcher shop.  Now I just need to find it.  The meal finished off with some sort of candied dried fruit, grappa, and coffee.  Mom and I were adventurous and even had a few drops of grappa.  Super strong stuff!  Even just the few sips I had kept me warm from the chilly wind for a bit. :)

After we finished eating we had the opportunity to buy some of the farm's products. I came home with a big bottle of the very best olive oil ever, a bottle of the infused garlic pepperoncino oil, and a bottle of lavendar infused olive oil for baths or massage. Nature finally told us when the class was finally completed.  The sky all of a sudden looked very threatening and everyone quickly cleared the courtyard tables and brought everything into the house.  Seconds later it was raining. We said our goodbyes and quickly ran back out to the van.  As the van headed back down the hill the raindrops grew huge and almost looked like they were a little bit frozen. Not quite hail, but close.

Mom and I were dropped off at the gate of the housing complex and quickly walked home to avoid getting soaked. When we got back to the house Les' band was just finishing practice.  After the band cleared  out we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening at home.  Mom and I had put a corned beef in the crock pot that morning and it was already smelling divine. I had intended to make the corned beef on St. Patrick's day but we were in Lipari, so we had our St. Patty's day feast a little bit late.  Later that evening my mom put out a spread with the corned beef, cabbage, and her yummy potato pancakes.  One of my favorite comfort food meals that tastes best when mom makes it. :)

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