Lizzy did a week long culinary program with me this summer, and it was just delightful. Apart from the fact that she’s a bright and charming young woman in and of herself, she’s at the perfect age to do a cooking program: still young and curious enough to be open to trying and doing anything new, and at the same time fully an adult and capable of carrying out any kitchen cooking task. She loves all food, and has no resistance to, say, eviscerating and beheading sardines to make Sarde Beccafico.
She’s a deliberate and quick study: during the week she learned to make pasta with many different flours (some she might be hard pressed to find back in the U.S.), in all different shapes, with many sauces. She learned to make about forty different dishes during the week, from appetizers to entrees to desserts, and each night we thoroughly enjoy them on the terrace, accompanied by a crisp white wine. When the week was almost at an end, I asked Lizzy to be my guest on the blog and write up her favorite, most memorable dish. And with that preamble I turn it over to Lizzy…
Anchovies? The little things that I haven’t actually ever tried, but that I always ask waiters to take off my caesar salad?
On my second day of cooking classes, Wendy told me that we would be making fresh sardines stuffed with pine nuts, raisins, breadcrumbs, and one other secret ingredient…anchovies.
She led me over to the sink where there was a tiny pile of fish. Not only have I never tasted sardines or anchovies, but I have also never de-boned a fish (is that even the correct terminology?). Wendy patiently showed me how to take off the head, the backbone, the fins, and to gently feel the fish for anything else that feels like it wouldn’t be fun to eat. Once I started de-boning them myself, it got really fun! The steady stream of water washed away everything before I even had the chance to feel squeamish, and I felt a sense of accomplishment after completing a task that I would never have attempted before. In the past, when restaurants brought a whole fish over to the table, I would gently pass the plate over to my mom or dad and ask them to please help me! After cleaning upwards of ten sardines, however, I felt like I had learned a skill that would be useful not only in the kitchen, but also in fancy restaurants.”
To make the filling, we combined pine nuts (yum!), raisins, bread crumbs, and anchovies in a little blender. Wendy showed me how to stuff the fish so that all the filling would stay in, and then we put them in the oven to bake.
Later that night, after two gnocchi courses, the stuffed sardines were brought to the table. I would be lying if I said that I was not a little nervous about this dish. The only exposure to sardines I had ever had before were slimy little things that were canned and that no one seemed to like. Yes, the fish in the kitchen had looked amazing, but I still wasn’t convinced. I cautiously took a couple tiny stuffed fish off the platter, and I slowly raised a bite to my mouth. Despite all my preconceived notions about the fish and the anchovies, what I tasted that night was absolutely amazing! I knew that the anchovies were in the stuffing because I had put them in there, but this stuffing was delicious! Had my tastebuds changed over night, or were anchovies (like Wendy had said) really and truly the perfect secret ingredient? I immediately started brainstorming how I could find fresh sardines in the states so that I could make this dish for my family.
Did you know that just 10 almonds a day gives you your full days worth of calcium? As someone who never drinks milk plain, calcium intake is something that I should definitely pay much more attention to, so when Wendy mentioned this fact, I turned my attention over to the dish that she was referring to.
Flourless Chocolate Cake….YUM!
I’ve seen this dish on practically every restaurant menu, but I haven’t ever actually made it. The cool thing about this recipe is that instead of using all purpose flour, you get to kind of make your own flour by grinding up a bunch of almonds. Calcium, deliciousness, dense chocolate flavor—it’s all there!
When this cake came out of the oven, I was not disappointed. It held up to every ounce of high praise that Wendy had given it, and it took every fiber in my being to stop me from eating the whole pan. This flourless chocolate cake was almondy, chocolatey, rich, and all around wonderful. I’m a chocolaholic through and through, so this cake will definitely make many appearances in my kitchen when I get home.”