by Melinda Gallo

Impromptu cooking class

Tonight Dave and I took my brother, his wife and three kids to my friend (and landlord) Simone's restaurant, Il Canapone. It is my favorite restaurant in Florence because of its diverse menu of Italian fusion cooking. It's a nice variation from the typical Tuscan cooking in most restaurants here in Florence.

Dave and I make a point of going to Il Canapone on Wednesdays for sushi night. But we absolutely love Simone's cooking. Each time we go, the menu is different and delicious. We take all of our guests there to experience Simone's Italian fusion cooking.

I asked Simone if my brother and sister-in-law could watch him in the kitchen. He said that after we ate the complimentary appetizer (which was a melon, tomato, basil, and feta cheese salad) he'd be ready for them to come back.

After we finished the salad, Simone asked me to join them to translate. At first, I thought I would just explain to them what he was doing while he was cooking. But, Simone began to explain how he made the fresh tortelli with fish and ginger earlier and pre-cooked them so that they wouldn't be soggy. He demonstrated how he sliced the zucchini and sauteed them in fresh olive oil.

He explained how he cuts the fresh cherry tomatoes (which are sweeter than other tomatoes), squeezes them to get the seeds out, and sautés them in a pan with the funghi (mushrooms) and olive oil. He explained how the seeds add too much juice to the sauce and make it watery.

He told us how he doesn't use burro (butter) or panna (cream) because he prefers the Tuscan style of cooking that uses olive oil.

He chopped up the prezzemolo (parsley) at the last minute and adds it to the tortelli and zucchini in the pan. He said that the prezzemolo should be chopped up at the last minute. He grated some ginger on a white ceramic utensil (that I have at home too, but didn't know what it was for), took it in his hand and squeezed it over the pan to give it the juice without the pieces of ginger.

He chopped up the basilico (basil) at the last minute and said that he does so to make sure the flavor doesn't get lost. He puts the basilico in at the last minute because it should never be cooked. By cooking basil, it loses all is flavor.

After he completed all of our dishes, we sat down to eat. We savored each bite. I had never asked my friend Simone beforehand if I could watch him in the kitchen, but it was sweet of him to partake so much of his knowledge to us. Not only did we have a fantastic meal, we received a unique cooking lesson.

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