Cooking at the Castle
There are certain things that are constant about cooking at The Awaiting Table school here in Puglia. First, we will make lots of pasta – every day and for just about every meal – and with each day you will feel more confident in the technique.
Perhaps you will make a flat shape like this one.
Or maybe a tubular shape like this one.
There will be Italian parsley, lots of it, used in and on many dishes, and usually finely chopped.
Eggplant will be cooked in a variety of ways – none, in my opinion, as delicious as when it’s cooked in a dry pan until the moisture is gone, then dressed with olive oil, mint, and chile flakes.
Even if you hate cabbage, you will probably love it when cooked until deeply caramelized in olive oil.
The table will be pretty – with lovely linens, many wine glasses, and flowers.
You will learn to crave chile flakes – either served like salt and pepper to dress your dish or steeped in olive oil to spice the oil.
Dishes will be served family style, in large, simple ceramic bowls.
And it will smell too good to wait until all 20 people are served to dig in. You will be so tempted to have seconds, or thirds, knowing it’s a mistake because of the courses to come.
There will be cheese for sure – but maybe in a surprisingly new way like scamorza grilled then drizzled with lemon and olive oil before a sprinkling of parsley.
You might just spend the next three years (as I have) trying to recreate the sandy potatoes, simple potato wedges coated in breadcrumbs and olive oil and roasted until crispy and brown.
Dessert will usually be very simple creations, like these biscotti, twice cooked cookies wth almonds…
…or this very basic almond brittle.
Giuseppe will most certainly be there, guiding, helping, and always smiling.
There will be lots of seasonal vegetables, perhaps thin sweet peppers in the fall.
Or more grilled cabbage. These vegetables will be lifted out of the oil they we’re cooked in, and then dressed with raw olive oil before being served.
You’ll feel relaxed, you’ll laugh…and you’ll share with your new friends just how you finished a certain dish in the kitchen while the rest of the group lingered over wine waiting for the next course.
You will probably be quite amazed that fried pieces of pasta dough added to a soup of chickpeas could mimc the mouth feel and taste of bacon (a hint at the cucina povera of this part of Italy), and you will be surprised that you love this dish so much.
You might just sit back after a vegetarian meal like this and wonder how you can feel so very full on just vegetables. But more than anything, you will thank your lucky stars that you are here, at this castle, in the town of Spongano, with these people, enjoying Italian food and wine the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed – slowly, thoughtfully, fully, with friends and family.
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