ICI Days 51-55 – Gelato Week!

Is there such a thing as too much gelato?

The week began with the promise of a weeklong sugar rush. So many flavors, so little time.

Starting the week with the science and math of gelato and ending it with our own unique flavors, all of us are ready for a little break from gelato. The only problem is that the serving case is still full!

Let’s see. Chef John introduced us to the primary formulas and showed us how we could spin off many flavors from these- a cream base, swirled in flavors, infused flavors, a fruit cream, syrups, chocolate, and sorbetto.

Let’s make a list – first Chef John’s demos:

  • Three different hazelnut – light roast, dark roast and Piemonte
  • Two pistachio: one smooth with paste and one savory using ground nuts.
  • Two Fior di latte (cream), plain and with strawberry coulis swiped in.
  • Amaretto
  • Yogurt
  • Pina Colada (fior di latte base with coconut and a pineapple and rum syrup swipe)
  • Blood Orange
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • PBJ (Grape gelato with a peanut butter swipe)
  • Melon Sorbetto
  • Lemon Sorbetto
  • Chocolate Sorbetto
  • Caramello
  • Mint with chocolate chips
  • Orange Prosecco sorbetto
  • Parmigiano gelato
  • Sweet Corn gelato
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Caffe
  • Red Wine

And then all of the students had to come up with our own flavors. I played it a bit safe and made a blood orange gelato infused with vanilla and rose petals. It was pretty yummy. Some of the other students’ flavors were quite unique and some more traditional:

  • Ginger and vanilla
  • Roasted Black olive
  • Porcini mushroom and port wine
  • Banana with a chocolate swipe
  • Scotch infused
  • Buttered Toast
  • Strawberry and Peperocino
  • Caramel with salted caramel swirl
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Butterscotch

It was a fun week and now I’m going to see about getting a gelato machine when I return home :0



ICI Day 50 – Gelato Week Intro and Coloring Party

What a start to gelato week. First we had an introduction to gelato with a discussion on ingredients and technique.

Then we visited two gelato shops. Tasting, comparing flavor and texture, making notes. Then back home for lunch and a free afternoon.

It was a rainy afternoon, so a bunch of us decided to have a coloring party. It’s a little funny that so many of us had taken up coloring and either brought our books and pencils with us or got supplies soon after we arrived. We even got a couple of the guys in on the fun. But I think it was mostly the OBan scotch that drew them in. And the laughter and merriment and music… maybe.

We colored and sipped scotch and red wine and listened to wonderful music and danced the afternoon away. It was pure bliss.

Here’s what I colored…




ICI Day 49 – Free Day

Today we a free day and the weather this morning was finally sunny and warm.

Katherine, Leo, and I set out after breakfast for a walk into the nearest town, Montepaone. It’s about a 30 minute walk along the beach – such a lovely view of the sea and abundant sunshine this morning.

When we got into town, we first stopped for gelato and coffee. Then we made our way to the grocery store and a family run produce store across the street. Still craving soup, I found lovely fresh peas and green beans to make minestrone later in the day.

Then we stopped a a local bar and had a beer and some ships before walking back to the hotel to be there in time for lunch. The only drawback to our lovely walk was the power walk back up the hill to the hotel.  I really need to go up and down that hill more ofter! Chef Andreas had a wonderful lunch prepared for us and I was ravenous after the almost 6 miles of walking we just logged.

Caught up on some personal stuff after lunch and then got back to the kitchen to get my potato leek soup ready to serve for dinner and start my minestrone. It feels really good to be back in the kitchen and doing one of the the things that i love the most.

ICI Day 48 – Market and Afternoon Off

The night before we had a strong storm move through with high winds, heavy rain and hail. The next morning started out with a bit of sun, but a blustery wind.

We had our weekly trip this morning to Severato and I spent the morning with Linda. Braving the cold wind, we visited the restaurant supply store, then went to the post office so I could mail some things out.

We then went to the bookstore to get her a coloring book and then to the office supply to get colored pencils. We also stopped at the oriental store (much like the old five and dime stores in the US) where we found candles, cards, and pencil sharpeners.

Then we walked through the outdoor market – I was searching for leeks. For the last couple of days, the weather had me craving potato leek soup. No one in the market had leeks! Thankfully we stopped at a supermarket on the way home and I found them.

So sometime this weekend, we will all eat potato leek soup together and it will be warming and comforting.

ICIDay 47 – Taste Test Challenge

Today we had a new challenge – taste and smell a dish blindfolded then write down the ingredients we believed were in the dish.  We had one minute to taste and 5 minutes to write down everything we thought we tasted.

The challenge? Recreate the dish using only the ingredients we wrote down after tasting. Six of us participated and two were eliminated because they would not come close to recreating the dish with their list of ingredients. The other four of us were sent out of the kitchen while the chefs prepared our boxes of ingredients.

Once we came back into the kitchen, we had 30 minutes to prepare our dish.

My friend Amanda and I were the top two dishes and she won this one. Way to go Amanda!

The dish was potatoes and carrots cut brunoise, then cooked like risotto with butter and seasoned with mint. Then a layer of flaked tuna, topped with a layer of sweet and sour cabbage.

All I remembered about  my taste was creamy potatoes, tuna, and cabbage. I did not pick up on the texture of the potatoes and carrots – it all tasted creamy together with the tuna. And I missed the sweet component all together. So my dish had creamed potatoes and mostly sour cabbage, but it still tasted pretty good. Amanda got the potato and carrot texture and the sweet, so she added mayonnaise to her dish. Overall, hers was the closest and clearly the winning dish. I was happy to place second in this challenge. Now I see that I need to work on my tasting skills.


ICI Day 46 – Mystery Box Challenge

Thanks to Amanda and Chef Andreas for taking pictures for me. Amanda snapped this one of my finished dish before the chefs tasted it.
Today and the rest of the week are technically a break for us. About half the class left for travels throughout Italy. The rest of us decided to stay in and rest a bit and get some more time in the kitchen.
And Chef is always full of surprises, so we had a mystery box challenge today – in the spirit of Copped or Master Chef. We first split into two groups of 3 and 2. We all got the same box and were instructed to use everything in the box. We could also ask for anything in the pantry. The box contained a fresh mackerel, a lemon, an orange, five cherry tomatoes, a red onion and fregola (a round grain similar to farro) and we had 35 minutes to prepare our dishes.
I poached the fish in orange and lemon water, and sautéed the cooked fregola with butter, onion, scorched tomatoes and finely ground orange and lemon peels with parsley and white wine. Then I reduced some of the poaching liquid and added some white wine. To finish the dish, I plated the fregola added the poached fish on top, then thinly sliced lemons and diced orange with the reduced sauce on top. To my surprise, my dish won the first heat. Wow!
I’ll update with pics as soon as I get them from my friend. Thank goodness Amanda was taking pictures because the chefs started tasting before I could grab my camera!
In the next heat, Paddy won the heat and so the two of us had another mystery box for a cook-off. I was very nervous. Paddy is young, but very experienced and talented, and he cooks amazingly delicious food.
The second mystery box had different rules – we had to use everything in the box (not all the quantity, but all the ingredients) and we could only use what was in the box and what is normally on the cooking line – salt, pepper and oil. And we were given 30 minutes to finish the dish.
Ok then – what was in the box? A quail, potatoes, strawberries, balsamic vinegar, red wine, garlic, rosemary, lemon thyme, and butter.
I decided right away to use the quail breast because they cook quickly. I sliced the potatoes and garlic and browned them nicely for the base. Then I made a strawberry-balsamic reduction sauce with a couple of sprigs of rosemary. After the quail finished cooking, I deglazed the pan with red wine and added butter to finish the sauce.
While the quail was cooking I prepared the garnish – strawberry slices, a strawberry cap + end, and the lemon thyme.
Now time to plate the dish. Potatoes in a circular fan. Quail breasts on top. Spoon over the strawberry-balsamic reduction. Spoon over the deglazed wine sauce. Add the strawberry slices, cap and lemon thyme garnish. Amazingly, the dish was done in 20 minutes.
And even more amazing – the dish won the competition!
How did that happen? Is my kitchen mojo finally returning? Yes. I think it is and it feels wonderful.

ICI Day 45 – Pasta Party

Today was Pasta Party day. Everyone had to make their own pasta dish. I chose a dessert pasta: chocolate ravioli with chocolate hazelnut praline stuffing, served over strawberry coulis with a dollop of chocolate ganache, fresh strawberry slice, and a chocolate dipped candied orange peel strip. It turned out better than I expected. And it’s yummy.

Here’s some more pics of me and my classmates working on our pasta dishes.


ICI Day 44 – In the Kitchen with Chef Nicola – Patisserie

Chef Nicola was with us again today.  This time we were learning patisserie – pasty doughs both sweet and savory to use as aperitivo or on buffets. This is all of us with his finished creations. And this is what it looked like after we finally got to eat it! Yummy. I know I say yummy a lot, but it is just the best word to use.

I’m sure that many of these items will be a part of our final buffet menu to close out our course.

Here’s some more pics from the day.


ICI Day 43 – Creative Cuisine Continued

Another day of amazing dishes and a lot of tasting. Chef John made delicious food an Chef Kevo made beautifully plated dishes.  The image above is a stuffed pasta packet called saccottino (which means a sack or bag), tied with a parsley stem and garnished with burrata, tomato-olive-balsamic salad, caper fruit, fresh basil and some of the chlorophyll we extracted from the spinach yesterday. Such a stunning dish.

Today we tasted the tripe started yesterday. Not really all that tasty to me, but others in the class loved it. I think it’s the texture I didn’t enjoy very much.

Then we tasted the Calamari rings we started yesterday with Black Tagliolini pasta. This was yummy.

Next on the tasting menu was Coniglo al Pepperoni G’alli (Stewed Rabbit with Roasted Yellow Pepper Sauce). With this dish we finally used up the rest of the rabbit we got during pig week. Chef had seared the rabbit pieces and stored them in the freezer.  Chef Kevo arranged this beautiful plating for the photo.

Chef Kevo then demonstrated a dish of Tartare di Mare (raw sea bass tartare). Served with pickled vegetables and crispy sea bass skin. Beautiful and delicious.

Next Chef Kevo plated an Oxtail Cannelloni. But this was not a pasta cannelloni – he used blanched and thinly sliced celeriac for the cannelloni and filled it with a stuffing made from shredded oxtail that Amanda cooked yesterday. After rolling the oxtail stuffing in the celeriac shell, Chef Kevo finished the plate with grilled spring onions, a puree of celeriac, roasted potatoes and carrots, and a demi sauce reduced from the oxtail cooking jus. Chef Kevo’s creativity never ceases to amaze us.

Apparently we had not eaten enough yet for the day, so the next item for demo and tasting was Risotto d’ Orzo con Coda di Bue Barollo. Or barley (with and orzo shape) cooked like risotto except using a very fine and primo Barollo red wine. The risotto was topped with the braised oxtails started yesterday, fresh green peas, then finished with a smooth velouté made from the reduced cooking stock and wine, and a drizzle of onion balsamic. I really didn’t have much more room for food until I tasted it – and well, you know the rest. Chef also poured us all a tasting of the Barollo to go with our risotto. This is one of those wines that are silky and smooth and just the right body, fruitiness, and tanin – yes, more please.

Next up for demonstration and tasting was the Baccala Monte Cato that Chef John prepared yesterday (and needed to refrigerate overnight). We tasted it just on a crostini and it was delicious. Chef Kevo prepared a pretty plate for the photo.

The next dish we tasted was Tallegio (cheese) Fonduta. The fonduta was poured over a polenta cube with an egg yolk in it, served over pureed black truffles in olive oil, sautéed porcini mushrooms and topped with crispy fired leeks. Yummy.

Chef John wanted us to taste the onions that had been cooking to make a new batch of onion balsamic. But they are a bit strong to taste alone. And so since we still had not had enough to eat this day, chef sliced and pan grilled the beautiful tenderloin we got the other day so we could try the onion together with the beef. Sorry, no pic for this dish, but it was divine.

Here are some more pics from the day.



ICI Day 42 – Creative Cuisine

Today Chef John demonstrated so many dishes it was hard to keep notes going on everything. Chef Kevo also demonstrated a molecular gastronomy technique to make beet juice “caviar” and then used it later in a tris with beef three ways (shown above). Here it is used on the tenderloin tartare portion of the dish.

We started the morning learning how to extract chlorophyll from spinach. This will be frozen into small cubes and used later as a natural food coloring. Except for the molecular gastronomy, everything in Chef’s kitchen is made – no processed foods anywhere to be seen.

Chef Kevo smoked some yellowfin tuna and also seared a slice for a very beautiful tuna dish served with warm fregola  (a grain similar to faro) salad. Chef Kevo is a very talented young chef with a highly refined talent for making delicious food and beautiful plates.

One of Chef Kevo’s most interesting dishes was the presentation of beef carpaccio from a beautiful tenderloin he cleaned yesterday. His plate included a cigar infused cream (the little pearls on the plate) and the beef slices were washed in a reduced scotch. Before serving, he lit the remainder of the cigar and covered the dish so that it would take on the smoky cigar flavor a bit. This dish was inspired from the atmosphere of a sitting in a cigar bar drinking scotch – definitely a male thing.

Chef John made us a delicious dishes throughout the day: a pasta dish with monk fish, stuffed calamari served with potato puree, seared calamaretti (baby calamari) with tagalini fritta (fired pasta), and very yummy osso bucco. By the end of the day, we were all very full of wonderful food.

We also learned to make Gnocchi Napoli that became our dinner last night, pickled onions, pickled potatoes (very yummy), and prepared neonati (baby sardines) three ways, two to cure and one to use tomorrow. Chef also started several other dishes that he will finish tomorrow.

My friend Amanda volunteered to start the oxtails that will be finished tomorrow as well. Here she is spreading tomato paste on the browned meat. It then goes in the oven for a bit and then into a pot with wine, water and mirepoix to simmer. Can’t wait to eat them tomorrow. Thanks Amanda!