by Melinda Gallo

Joy of cooking

On Monday, my friend Simone asked me to assist him with a cooking class at his place because heís not comfortable speaking English. He used to teach at a cooking school in Florence, but since he opened up his new restaurant Artemide in Molino del Piano, he hasnít been teaching as much. Simoneís brother has joined him because he is busy working at the restaurant and tending his orto (vegetable garden).

We walked to Piazza Santa Maria Novella Monday morning to pick up the four participants, a family from the US. We took them through town to Mercato SantíAmbrogio to pick up some things for the dishes he was preparing for the class. Even though I go to the mercato (market) often, I sometimes just go to pick up what I need, chat with my vendors, and leave. By showing the American family around it on Monday, I remembered just how special it is.

After we bought the ingredients for the lesson, we went to his apartment to begin cooking. We started with the ragý di carne (meat sauce) because it needed to cook for at least an hour and a half. Simone instructed them how to chop up the vegetables by hand for the ragý. Sometimes, I get lazy and use my Cuisinart, but he reminded me that itís better to chop vegetables by hand.

He showed us how to make two different doughs: one for the quiche shell and one for the tortelli di patate (potato tortelli). I normally donít make my own pasta, but after the class, I was wondering if I shouldnít try it out at home. Itís not difficult to do, but it is time consuming.

I am certainly not an interpreter, but I helped Simone out as best as I could when he couldnít find the correct word in English. His cooking vocabulary is quite good for someone who has never been exposed to much English. He instructed the participants how to make each dish and even shared a few of his secrets too.

After everything was ready and the secondo (second course) was cooking, we started by eating the crostata di farina di castagne con spinaci e limone (spinach and lemon quiche with a chestnut crust). It was probably the best quiche Iíve ever eaten. I wouldíve loved a second piece, but I knew what was coming next: the tortelli di patate con ragý. These tortelli, which are very common here in Tuscany, were excellent. I loved them so much that I had seconds.

For the secondo, we had saltimbocca alla romana. This veal dish with prosciutto and a piece of salvia (sage) was simple, but very delicious. I loved it so much that I made it last night for my marito (husband).

For dessert, we had tiramisý. Simoneís recipe is a little different from the other ones that Iíve tried: it was creamy and light. I have a great recipe for tiramisý, but I must admit that Simoneís is heavenly.

I am grateful to Simone for rekindling my desire to cook. Lately, Iíve been busy and have been making quicker dishes for lunch and dinner. After buying all the ingredients last night, I made the ragý for us today. It took me longer to make, but it was worth it.

Simone transmits his passion for food in his cooking lessons. Even though heís been a chef for 20 years, he never tires of teaching others and sharing his own recipes. I hope he will do more cooking lessons now that his restaurant is doing well. Iím sure others would enjoy them: not only to learn new dishes, but also to remember what a joy it is.

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