Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Recipe: Arugula-Prosciutto Wraps

Just a few weeks ago, a few of us from TKS returned from a culinary vacation in Italy. (That sounds so fancy as I type it!) If you've been reading, you know that we spent a week in the Abruzzo region perched on top of a mountain, cooking and learning traditional foods from the area. This dish, Arugula-Prosciutto Wraps, was one of my favorites. Of course they had just picked the gorgeous arugula that morning, and most likely nursed and cured the pig themselves, and good heavens, I'm sure someone's nonna was responsible for the prosciutto...not really. But the part about picking the arugula? Yup -- totally true, and you could tell.

The folks at the cooking school were super nice, but they were a little slow getting our recipes into our hot little hands, so I went ahead and re-wrote this one from memory. It's just about the easiest recipe ever, so don't be too impressed. I've made it since I've been home and it's a huge hit -- crazy easy and super yum. Give it a whirl this weekend!

Arugula-Prosciutto Wraps
  • 1 bunch fresh arugula, washed and dried with roots removed
  • 8 slices very thin prosciutto
  • 1 small wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • good pinch of salt
  • black pepper to taste

Divide the bunch of arugula into 8. Nestle 2-3 shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano on the arugula. Using one slice of prosciutto per batch, carefully wrap the arugula and Parmesan bunches, leaving a bit of the arugula stick out the top.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place arugula wraps on a plate and drizzle with olive oil mixture. Serve immediately. If you want to go full Italian-style, add a few oil-cured olives and grissini (dry, thin breadsticks).

One note: You're going to want to use real, grown-up arugula (it's near the lettuce in the grocery store), not the baby stuff you get in the plastic container. And use good prosciutto too! The fewer ingredients in a recipe, the better quality each one needs to be. Word.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Things I Learned in Italy

I've returned to bucolic Frederick, ready to seize the day and take the town by storm. Or instead, I'm totally and completely jet-lagged and have had my 3rd night in a row of waking up at 3am. Amateur.

A world traveler I am not, though I guess, technically, I am, having spent time in Rome, Abruzzo, and ever so briefly in Copenhagen. I'm new to the 8 hour flights and the accompanying layovers. To the strangeness of being functionally illiterate with words swirling about that I simply do not understand. (Example: Uscita is not a subway stop in Rome. It means exit. Moron.) To driving up what seem to be endless and death-defying mountains with twists and curves that no bus should ever try to maneuver.

But with that said, I really enjoyed the adventure. I liked being away from home, for a bit, and I liked seeing things I never thought I'd lay my own eyes on, in their natural setting.

Look! The colosseum!

I'll tell you about the trip and the bits and bobs of all of the adventures in the next few weeks or so, as I remember them and go through my notes and so on and so forth. The cheese factory, the almonds, the ridiculously good pizza. Today though, today, I'm going to tell you what I learned while on my grand adventure, and not a whole heck of a lot of it has to do with food.

Fish & emotions...really!
  1. I am neither as brave nor as badass as I actually thought I was, and actually missed my family tremendously, including the two teenagers.
  2. Americans on holiday with unlimited quantities of wine sometimes do not behave in a way that is appealing.
  3. You should have at least a passable understanding of the language before you visit a foreign country. It's just the respectful thing to do.
  4. Fish, when consumed on a trabocco on the Adriatic Sea, really can conjure emotions (the restaurant's tagline, almost assuredly translated not quite correctly, read Fish & Emotions, and I had both)
  5. Hearing an Italian say the word Viper instead as Veeper will cause endless hours of laughter, and perhaps a nickname or two.
  6. You cannot seek out epiphanies. They must arrive on their own schedule, and sometimes not at all.
  7. Sitting in the basement of an Italian palazzo, cooking while music plays and a slightly off-kilter German stokes the fire of the pizza oven can be very pleasant indeed.
  8. If you're on a tour with a group of 20, you're incredibly lucky when you get a really good batch, even with the over-imbibing.
  9. A detox meal on the 8th day of a food-centric Italian vacation is never a good idea.
  10. It may be a fault to some, but I really don't care for Italian red wine, though Limoncello is all together another matter.
  11. If an Italian butcher and his family ask if you want you pasta "just a little spicy", the answer, must absolutely be a resounding NO.
That's our chef, Dino, behind me. I got a "brava" for my mad gnochetti kneading skills.

I liked Italy and I'd like to go back someday. I really liked the idea of Copenhagen a great deal more than I thought, though I never even got out of the airport or the hotel adjoining it. It could have been the great design or the tall blondness of everything, but it felt like a place I'd want to see...someday.

So here's the group, with our hostess Christina, on our last evening at the Palazzo. We cooked, we ate, we had fun together. I met people I wouldn't have otherwise, from Vancouver and Alexandria, and from a few places in between.

I was awed by the bravery of 3 young women, each traveling alone, and sometimes cursed the ability to go online and check emails and post pictures and recount the day to those at home instead of finishing it out by being downstairs, swilling down bio-dynamic Montepulciano in great quantities. I relished each lunch and dinner and cursed each breakfast, sucking down cappuccinos and not much else. I was terrified on the mountains and became "that woman", much to my chagrin, and tried to play off the fear, though unsuccessfully. I learned a few things in the kitchen, though not as many as I hoped, and though I was happy to set foot again on American soil, it was really for the family at home and not necessarily just being in the good 'ole U. S. of A.

So now it's back to real life, and summer camp registrations and staffing and business and softball, and track get the idea. It was a week ago from this very moment that we were filled to capacity with fish & emotions. I'm glad I did it, and I'm glad to be home.