A Spring Evening Cooking Class with Italian Cookbook Author, Domenica Marchetti
It’s not every day that an international cookbook author is in your tiny little neck of the woods!
I don’t live in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, Montreal, or even Chicago, Illinois for that matter!
It’s just the opposite!
I blissfully live in a very small town in South Carolina where Southern cuisine reigns supreme (although I wish it was a place that possessed a greater understanding of authentic Italian cuisine besides ‘spaghetti and meatballs’ …. ugh!).
A place that is so REMOTE AND RURAL that our moving van crew said “we didn’t know places like this even existed anymore!”. . . a little spot on the planet where even the sounds of jet planes flying above in the clear blue Carolina sky are never heard . . . only the sounds of birds chirping their sweet songs and of leaves rustling in the wind that disturb, or shall I say, ‘that add to the peace’ of this anonymous spot!
A place that is simply heaven to us, but that would drive a city-person stir-crazy nuts (just ask my son in Chicago who can only stand a few days out here on our acreage! Having watched far too many sci-fi movies, he still thinks that aliens will land on our farmhouse roof and enter our home to devour us — and he’s 30 years old making this scenario even more pitiful!)
When my daughter and her husband held their wedding reception on our acreage, my big city brother lovingly teased me and asked if there were paved roads to get to our acreage. Well hell! Not only are there paved roads here folks, we even have INDOOR PLUMBING (if you get my drift)!
For the last decade (or two) Charleston, S.C. has had a gravitational pull for food lovers everywhere. This beautiful gem of a city, similar in aviance to New Orleans with cobblestone streets, centuries-old homes, and gas-lit street lamps has an amazing array of delicious eateries . . . making it a must-visit destination for any foodie. What adds to the intrigue of the food scene of Charleston is how contradictory it is in terms of what its chefs offer: both old-fashioned “Low Country” specialties prepared alongside contemporary creations that together have energized the culinary world of the city.
The famous Southern Season (a mega-culinary specialty store from Chapel Hill, NC) has selected Charleston, S.C. for its SECOND location . . . demonstrating that Charleston continues to shine it’s brilliant culinary colors with the opening of this culinary nirvana store!
I am just SO JAZZED about this culinary retailer’s recognition of the incredible food scene in South Carolina and for selecting this little awesome state for it’s newest address — Southern Season’s brand name and stamp of approval brings only the BEST inside it’s walls!
For a Southern mega-cooking store to feature an international Italian cookbook author to enhance my (and anyone’s) Italian cooking skills . . . well, you can bet that I asked: “When is the soonest that I could sign up?”
On top of this, for the event to take place during the breathtakingly beautiful days of a Southern spring?
Well, you simply don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve walk amidst flowering white or pink dogwoods, purple redbuds, flowering pink cherry and white pear trees, and multi-colored azaleas under ancient live oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss! All of these beautiful botanicals line the centuries-old streets and rural areas of Charleston with horse and carriages’ clipping and clopping along the lanes of rainbow-colored homes, each with their own seductive private gardens!
It’s SIMPLY MAGICAL in South Carolina in the spring!
But I’ll save the botanical, nature-focused beauty post for the next blog post focusing on this particular trip to Charleston, S.C. This post is not just about the Charleston, S.C. food scene, but more importantly about the visit of Domenica Marchetti, Italian cookbook author extraordinaire!
To entice you, here is the delightful, how-can-you-resist menu and evening program offered by Domenica:
A Glorious Spring Italian Menu in Charleston, South Carolina
risotto with green and white asparagus
‘crispelle’ (crepe) cannelloni stuffed with mushrooms and zucchini
balsamic-honey roasted carrots
lemon-ricotta with mascarpone crostata
The recipe for this delicate, light and lemony crostata is available on Domenica’s web-site: Lemon Ricotta with Mascarpone Crostata
Domenica graciously allowed me to interview her before her cooking class! With her incredibly busy schedule, I was honored to have her take the time to speak to me! Here’s what this amazing chef and cookbook author shared:
- You’ve been cooking recipes from your Italian heritage, what do you believe are the most important keys to success for preparing Italian food at home?
Fresh ingredients and seasonality are the first things that come to mind. So much of Italian cooking depends on the integrity of the ingredients. Also, restraint. There still persists this perception that Italian cooking is heavy, but that’s not true. It is healthful when prepared properly.
- In my family, life is centered around the ‘tavola’ (table). Please share your own personal Italian family experiences in your home’s ‘cucina’ (kitchen):
We try to sit down every night together for dinner. With two teenagers and a husband who works at a newspaper this can be a challenge. We often don’t sit down until after 7:30 or 8 p.m. I know this is considered early according to Italian dining habits but pretty late here in the U.S. But for me it’s important that we all gather at the table at the end of the day and share at least that one meal together. In Italy, we’ve enjoyed many meals that have lasted for hours (and hours). You know the old saying: “A tavola non s’invecchia mai.” (One never grows old at the table.)
- What compelled you to write your latest Italian cookbook focused on vegetables?
It goes back to that misguided perception we have of Italian cooking as being heavy and high in fat and starches. But in fact Italy is a Mediterranean country with a Mediterranean climate and many micro-climates. So many vegetables grow beautifully there, and Italians have countless ways of preparing them. With all of the farmers’ markets that we have now in the U.S. we have access to most of the vegetables that are prominent in Italian cooking (I like to say from artichokes to zucchini) and the time just seemed right to shine a light on this important aspect of Italian cuisine.
- As one of the most beloved ethnic cuisines around the world, Italian food is also considered by some to be fattening. Knowing that 3 of the world’s top 10 places for the highest longevity of life are in Italy, how do you respond to this notion that Italian food is fattening?
Italian food itself isn’t necessarily fattening. I think it’s more Italian-American food that is richer. Also, any food will be fattening if you overdo it on portions, and that’s what we Americans tend to do. In Italy the plates of pasta aren’t piled so high and we don’t drown the pasta in sauce. People eat much more judiciously. I will say that there is a growing weight problem in Italy. Unfortunately this seem to be due to the fact that Italians are picking up bad American habits of eating more fast food and snacks.
- My family came from the Italian provence of Emilia-Romagna where today, many of my relatives still live, also known as the gastronomical center of Italy. Because I share travel experience with my readers, what places are on your ‘must-visit’ list for foodies when traveling in Italy . . . please feel free to discuss more than one area and why you recommend these places.
Emilia-Romagna is beautiful but my heart belongs to Abruzzo, where my mom was born and raised and where I spent my summers growing up. It is one of Italy’s most diverse and spectacular regions. For those who are not familiar with Abruzzo, it is due east of Rome and stretches from the Apennine mountain range out to the Adriatic coast. The cuisine reflects the region’s dramatic landscape. There is the hearty cuisine of the mountains ~ arrosticini (lamb skewers), porchetta, sheep’s milk cheeses, a variety of pastas ~ and the cuisine of the Adriatic coast, including many variations of fish and shellfish stews. Great wine and olive oil is also produced in Abruzzo, and some of the best commercial pasta comes from the region (including Cocco, De Cecco, Del Verde, and Rustichella d’Abruzzo).
The most appealing feature of Abruzzo is that, unlike other Italian regions, it is not overrun by tourists. It has three national parks within it borders and remains largely unspoiled. I have organized two very small, intimate culinary tours of the region, in which we’ll meet some wonderful food artisans and explore mountain villages, vineyards, and the countryside. I’ll be teaching hands-on cooking classes, too, so it’s going to be lots of fun. If any of your readers are interested, they can read more about it on my site: http://www.domenicacooks.com/tours/
- Is there anything else that you would like to add to help my readers traveling to Italy?
If you travel to Italy, be sure to get off the beaten path. Some of the best cooking and exploration can be found in the small hilltop towns and mountain villages that aren’t in all the tourist brochures.
- As I did, you also grew up in an Italian family and had the same experiences at an Italian home’s family table where time was spent slowing down, spending time socializing with family while your sister and you made home-made ravioli or gnocchi while you were still youngsters. Later, your Italian-Americn family would have you spend summers in Italy. How did these experiences influence you to get to this present moment in your culinary career?
Well I’m sure it has all influenced me ~ after all I ended up writing Italian cookbooks!
And now . . . (DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!) . . . here is the amazing and GENEROUS Italian/South Carolina giveaway straight from Domenica herself and from me in South Carolina:
Domenica is giving away one copy of her beautiful new cookbook, “The Glorious Vegetables of Italy” to one of my fortunate readers! This beautiful cookbook is rated 5-stars by the clientele of Barnes and Noble . . . yes, it’s that great of a cookbook!
I am also giving two additional “made in Charleston, SC” food items as part of this giveaway:
From one of the only remaining rice plantations in the entire United States, one lucky reader will also receive a 1-pound sack of the most delicious rice, “Carolina Gold” that rivals the flavor of both Italian Arborio and Asian Basmati rice . . . perfect for making Italian risotto!
Please note that this rice is not actually gold in color, but rather is creamy white and given it’s name from the golden color that the rice stalks have growing in the fields of South Carolina (as seen in the photos below):
For more detailed information about this incredible American rice, I recommend that you read more about it’s background in a previous post that I wrote about the background of Carolina Gold Rice and how I used it in a delicious Italian risotto with porcini mushroom recipe: Click here –> Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Mascarpone Cheese.
I am also personally adding into this delicious giveaway a box of “Charleston Tea Plantation’s ‘Island Green'” tea, the one and ONLY tea produced in America today! If you are a tea lover, you don’t want to miss this opportunity! I chose a ‘green tea’ because of it’s health benefits, but there are several other flavors offered on it’s web-site or if you visit South Carolina’s specialty food stores.
This very special giveaway celebrates both Italian and South Carolinian food traditions (an extremely unlikely combination, I might add!):
- “The Glorious Vegetables of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti (a $30.00 gift from Domenica)
- 1-lb. sack of melt-in-your-mouth Carolina Gold Premium Rice (an $18.00 gift from me)
- 1 box of delicious Charleston Tea Plantation “Island Green” tea (a $10.00 gift from me)
- plus the inclusion of taxes, shipping and packaging paid by myself . . . this unique, Italian/South Carolinian GIVEAWAY value equals $70.00
This Italian/South Carolinian giveaway from “La Bella Vita Cucina” begins Sunday, April 6th and lasts for two weeks in April until Sunday, 4/20 at 8:00 PM EST.
CONTEST RULES: Answer the question “What is your favorite Italian recipe that I can help you with in your own kitchen?” in a comment below and then follow the numerous Rafflecopter entry options!
Buona Fortuna (good luck) to everyone who enters several chances to win this delightful giveaway!!!!
You may find Domenica Marchetti on her web-site, Domenica Cooks, where you will find many of her delicious recipes, information about her cookbooks, and upcoming events!
Please do stop by her lovely site! (PS: Tell her that Roz recommended her; I’d appreciate that so much and would do the same for any of you!)