Contributing Monkie Aria Alpert
Published on July 16, 2010
Photographer: Aria Alpert
If ever you have dreamed, as I have, about doing what I am doing, I could not recommend this school enough. I have begun my delightfully authentic incredibly charming cooking school here in Lecce, which is named with utter perfection, The Awaiting Table.
First you must, read all about them on their website awaitingtable.com and then, if the school moves you as much as it did me, get your ass on a plane and come here. It’s time. If not now, when. This has been my motto as of late and that is exactly why I am here. Happy and beautifully blissed out in Italia!
Silverstro, the charming creator and chef and wine extraordinaire, welcomed me with the open arms of an old friend I haven’t seen in years because he decided to move to Italy. He’s passionate and fun and loves, not only a lot of amazing food and incredible wine, but also his authentic appreciation for the Italian culture is contagious and I find myself feeling like a local, integrated into this lovely town of Lecce.
This is the schools last week of classes before their summer break, so fortunately for me this class is small with only 3 other students — a wonderful family who live very upstate NYC, near the Canadian boarder. Dorothy (or Dot if you prefer) Jeff and their son Ted. We are all having a ball together, in and out of the kitchen.
So…yes…on to the FOOD. The produce, the olive oil, the olives, the bread, the fruits, the cheese… let me just say simply… is unbelievable. We are making rustic, authentic to the area, seasonal dishes with love and connection and most importantly simplicity. We then, sit down together for lunch and dinner, Silverstro opens a bottle (or 2) of local wine and we share our accomplishments in the kitchen family style. Perfecto!
We start off walking into the school with a blackboard posting our Menu for the day. Our first day on the menu:
We start with our Antipasto, Mpepata di Cozze. Otherwise known as Mussels with white wine, garlic, sea salt, olive oil, touch of red pepper, fresh mint, parsley and basil.
Now, as you know or even if you don’t know me you should know I don’t eat shellfish. Haven’t in many many years. The sea is so polluted and the amount of mercury and toxins in the water is only getting worse in shellfish, so no shellfish for me. BUT…since I am in Lecce…F-it. They are known for there mussels here in Lecce. They get it from the step of the boot in a town called Tartano, only a few miles away. In the Adriatic. I mean, I would be a fool to pass this opportunity up. Gotta try one. Ha! One became many. Then soaked the bread in the juice and yes then…I was hooked. Incredibly fresh, sweet, tender, delicious.
Then our second course, or Primo as they call it here, was homemade pasta. Homemade eggless pasta. Each region in Italy makes different pasta and here in Lecce they use 2 different flours. A combination of 70% Semolina and 30% Barley. The combo makes it a vegan whole grain pasta which is very nice.
This was my first attempt to make homemade pasta and I gotta say, it was much easier than I thought. Any monkie can do it. Flour and water. Mix, knead, roll, cut, dry, boil, drain and serve with any sauce you like. We made Cappelletti Messicani pasta with fresh tomatoes, rugola, olive oil, sea salt and shaved hard caccio ricotta cheese.
The Secondo (and last) dish was Pesce al Cartoccio con Contorni. Otherwise known as Tuna with a raw sauce of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, marjoram, red pepper and sea salt. I know, Tuna is high in mercury so I never eat it anymore but I am sure you are already saying what I am about to write… f-it! And our wine was white, Tenuta Marina 2009 from Salento.
YUM. Italia. Divine. LECCE!