Our second day of cooking school at Awaiting Table followed the same template as the first. Because we are now accomplished residents of Lecce, instead of congregating in the main Piazza, we met instead at the same Caffe from our first day (this has now become our “local”) for espresso or cappuccino before shopping.
We returned to public market and purchased chicken, more vegetables, and ricotta. The chickens here are somewhat scrawnier and their skin is more yellow. This is because they are pastured, so they are not pumped up with stuff to make them plumper. They have yellow skin because it’s suntanned from being out in a pasture, rather than in a factory barn. I remember this from Umbria, and how much more “chickeny” the birds tasted.
A quick walk to the school and we were back in the kitchen and learning to make a new pasta shape, minchiareddhri, which translates as an undersized part of the male anatomy. Using the same recipe (barley flour, semolina and water), we each made our dough and then rolled small pieces around a skewer to shape them into small tubes.
After pasta-making, we prepped for the rest of the meal.
- Primo: the pasta with a velvety tomato sauce, pancetta and lots of grated cheese
- Secondo: Chicken with vin cotto and black olives. We browned the chicken in a large enameled cast iron pot until it was golden, and then added the vin cotto and red wine, and braised it slowly.
- Dolce: crepes stuffed with ricotta sweetened with vanilla sugar.
My jobs were to chop garlic (I think it went into the pasta sauce) and then, after scrubbing my hands, I made the crepes.
We sat down to lunch and Silvestro poured us glasses of Primitivo, a native grape that produces a delicious, fruity red wine.
While we waited for the pasta to cook, we had a short lesson about olive oils, how to taste and what to look for when buying here or when we go back home.
The Salento is olive oil country. There are over 70 million olive trees in this region. We tasted oil that Silvestro makes personally. It was delicious, with a strong peppery finish on the back of the throat.
Lunch went on a long time, and it was almost 4 p.m., when we got back to the apartment. We took a short rest, and then headed to the Caffe Della Lupa, a cute bar/cafe near our apartment. They have great WiFi and don’t mind if you have a drink or a coffee and “hang out”.
At 6 p.m., we met our classmates and Simona, who looks just like the little redheaded woman from “The Incredibles.” Simona is a local historian and guide, who gave us a sunset tour of Lecce’s architecture and historic sites.
The buildings are constructed from a special type of stone and are “decorated” in what’s known as the Leccese Baroque style, stone carvings of fruits, cherubs, animals, and all sorts of doo-dads.
Simona’s tour lasted about two hours, and we returned to the Scuola for dinner. Luckily, our dinners are lighter than our mid-day meals. We started with a cheese course of mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, buratta and fior di latte.
If you want to get technical, mozzarella is cheese made from the milk of buffaloes (water buffalo, as we know them in my country). Fior di latte (flower of the milk) is “mozzarella” from cow’s milk. Buffalo milk has a much higher fat content, so the cheese is richer. It also really should be consumed within 24 hours.
Our second course was a dish I’ve never had before, “fae e fogghie”. It’s fava beans cooked with celery, carrot, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, and then pureed. It was served with grilled cabbage, chicory (gross) and green beans. It was delicious.
To drink, we had a simple red table wine. We hosted friends of Silverstro, Sylvie and Marco, who are sailors. They take clients all over the coast of the Salento, sometimes across the Adriatic to Greece. They brought a lovely bottle of Ouzo, which we sipped on while eating the clementines.
We “stayed after school” quite late that night, drinking more wine and offering Silvestro business advice. To be fair, he asked for some feedback and ideas on how he could market his school and bring more people to Lecce. However, I’m not sure he was ready for the torrent of opinions he received from six women and, of course, Scott.
It was after 1:30 when we returned to our casa. Good thing we didn’t have to be at the Caffe until 11 the next morning.