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Monday, June 14, 2010

Salud! At Whole Foods – Summer In Tuscany

Saturday I took another fantastico class at Whole Foods. This time it was part of a major Chick Day with Best Friend. (It was time to have a Y chromosome free day!!)

First lesson was on the making of caramelized onions. Merijoy explained that most people don’t caramelize onions correctly. The secret is to NOT over stir them, which messes up the release of the sugars that will caramelize the onions. And also, cook them over a slow heat. Let the juices release without browning immediately. As they start off, you can stir a few times but as it just starts to brown (minutes later!) – LEAVE THEM ALONE! Put a bit of parchment paper over the top to help pull off the excess water (a method called “sweating”) and let them brown. Check them every so often but don’t stir. As they get to the point of perfect brownness, you can give them a stir. Turn off the heat and recover with the parchment. Then let them finish cooking in the residual heat. And there you have it – perfect caramelized onions!


We started making our own little pizza… Italian style. No tomato sauce (which I prefer!) and just a few toppings on a fresh made crust. I went a bit different in direction as I have a food intolerance to onions…I can handle a small amount but no more. So I asked Merijoy if I could have a bit of the basil instead. We learned that if you overwork the dough it gets “angry”. That is when it keeps snapping back to a smaller size after you have rolled it out. What is happening is the gluten is activated. If you let it rest for a bit, you’ll have better time.


Those baked while we began working on the entrees, whose ingredients were laid out on trays ready for our use.


When the pizzas finished we took a break to eat them while they were hot. Mmmmmm!! Molto buon!!


Then back to work!


There were steaks to be grilled!


And one on one instructions to be taught.


Until finally it was time to eat. The buffet was lovely with fresh roses from the floral department of Whole Foods.


Florentine Steaks over Arugula with fresh Parmigiano-reggiano & Grilled Peaches

For the steaks we learned that most restaurants on grill long enough to get a bit of flavor and put on the “grill marks”. Then it goes into the oven to roast until the proper doneness as tested by an instant read thermometer. I can see where it would be useful with mega steaks like these.


Merijoy emphasized the need to let the meat rest for about 10 minutes after cook.


Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Basil

The chicken was SO easy! Mix a sauce, cover the chicken with it and bake. I think the only thing I would do different would be to brown the chicken a bit more.


Grilled Radicchio and Roasted Cauliflower


Radicchio is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ veggies. I love it. Best Friend hated it. Added to the dish was roasted cauliflower (I guess it was for the “I hate it” folks). Roasted veggies are high on my “good” list, so I was all-around happy with this dish. BTW, cauliflower is not just white… it comes in green, yellow-orange and purple.


Balsamic Berries with Mascarpone Cream

This could be a meal for me! Bliss!! Meraviglioso!!


The cream was whipped in a copper bowl. For some reason, this produces better whipped cream and egg whites. Something about the ion transfer. If it works…it works!

And we finished with a palate cleansing Basil-Mint Sorbet. Light, fresh, and cool. Sorry I didn’t get a photo. I was too busy enjoying!


Here’s the entire meal. It was even better than it looked!


Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Basil (recipe from Whole Foods)

6 bone-in, skin-on, chicken breasts (can use whole chicken)
½ cup basil, chopped – plus some for garnish
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
Fresh juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeds removed

In large bowl, mix onions, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and rub onto chicken pieces and place in a well-oiled baking pan with 1 cup water. Do not crowd chicken. Scatter lemon slices in pan.

Roast, uncovered, at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Check for doneness. Garnish with additional basil leaves.


Arrivederci!!Our class was called “Summer in Tuscany”. Oh my!! While both are excellent, I prefer the Northern Italian cuisine over the southern. The difference? Northern is more “farm” and Southern is more “urban”. Northern uses butter, cream, simpler cheeses, fresh pasta. Southern uses more olive oil, dried pasta, heavier tomato sauces. Personally I think the Northern Italian dishes are faster and easier to prepare as a whole.

Our menu for the class was:
*Personal Pizza with Onion Confit & Olives
*Florentine Steaks over Arugula with fresh Parmigiano-reggiano & Grilled Peaches
*Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Basil
*Grilled Radicchio and Roasted Cauliflower
*Balsamic Berries with Mascarpone Cream
*Basil-Mint Sorbet

1 comment:

  1. You lucky lucky gal you! So many gorgeous images you always bring us! ~Lili

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