It’s late summer and the heat has been smothering this week. But that’s no reason to avoid the kitchen, say nine Charlottesvillian girls and one adventurous math teacher.
Early this week, The Village School’s Italian Cooking Class visited Feast for a special tasting of some of Italy’s favorite flavors. Before trying to create menus themselves, says teacher “Mila” (her Italian name for the week), she wanted to have the girls at least taste Prosciutto and smell Gorgonzola.
Gathered around one of the wide, board tables in the Galleria, the blooming chefs giggled as they introduced themselves using their Italian names. I discovered that only one out of the group, “Caprice,” had actually been to Italy but the rest crossed their fingers in anticipation of someday soon.
First on our tasting menu was the “King of Cheese”, Parmigiano Reggiano. I explained the difference between this cheese, imported from Italy, and most parmesan at the grocery store. “Certain cheeses’ names are protected,” I told them. “Like Champagne, Reggiano can only come from Italy. If it’s made somewhere else, it has to be called something else.”
Next, the girls scooped creamy mounds of Taleggio onto chunks of baguette. Initially asked to experience each cheese by using their senses, the girls practiced looking at each cheese, feeling its texture, taking a whiff and finally popping a piece onto their tongues. The Reggiano and Taleggio won adjectives such as “strong,” “hard,” “dry”, “buttery”, and “tasty!”, while the Gorgonzola received a resounding “smelly!”.
The whole class agreed that the Proscuitto had a silkier texture than ham and that the Limonata, a lemon-flavored Italian soda, had less carbonation than Sprite. Everyone seemed adept at nibbling around the pit of an olive. “At least they don’t have those red things,” announced one student.
Finally, I handed around a bowl of squirming strings of black pasta. The girls eagerly pinched strands between their fingers and lowered them into their mouths. I waited until everyone’s mouths were full before telling them that the color came from squid ink.
A suspended moment passed before one courageous girl said she still thought it was good and another piped that she loved calamari. It turns out most of them liked calamari.
Thanks for the visit Village School and Buon appetito!
SQUID INK PASTA RECIPE:
1 lb squid ink pasta
2 lbs cherry tomatoes, all varieties
2 shallots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
bunch of basil
shredded piave cheese
Slice each tomato in half and layer on a baking sheet with sides. Toss with olive oil, shallots, garlic and s+p. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the pasta for 7-10 minutes and drain. Toss the pasta liberally with olive oil and salt. Gently toss in tomatoes and chiffoned basil. Serve with a generous shaving of piave.