Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Tomorrow morning at 6 am I board the train for Rome! I am so excited to visit such an amazing city. My boyfriend is going to meet me there and we are going to see all the sites together. I tried not to over-plan our trip, but being as OCD as I am I couldn't help but detail every second of our itinerary. We are going to see the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, The Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, Sistine Chapel, etc. If it's in Rome I will see it! Not only am I thrilled about all the touristy sites Rome has to offer, I also can't wait to eat more Italian food! I know I'll come back with tons of material for the blog. Because I will be in vacation mode, I'm taking the week off of Marinating Me and coming back July 4th with tons of mouthwatering pictures and recipes all from ITALIA!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Italian Lunch

Making the family meal before each service is becoming one of my favorite things to do. It gives me the opportunity to play with all sorts of ingredients while also forcing me to be creative. It's not always easy making a delicious and satisfying meal for all of the personnel with the few things we have available, but I take it on as a challenge. Usually we end up throwing a bunch of vegetable scraps or yesterday's soups in a pan and making a pasta sauce. Pasta twice a day seven days a week is acceptable when you're in Italy, but I like to change things up a bit. Yesterday I used the day old bread to make the most delicious paninis. Here is the recipe:

Eggplant Parmesan Paninis

1 Eggplant
1/4 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
3 tblsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup Tomatoes Concasse (Refer to Pomodoro blog)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tblsp butter

8 slices of thin bread

Heat panini press. Thinly slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Cut the rounds in half. In a bowl toss eggplant with breadcrumbs, 2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated. In a sautee pan add 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, once hot add eggplant. Sautee on each side for about 30 seconds. Remove from pan and place on paper towel. Make an assembly for the sandwiches by laying out the bread. Butter each piece of bread. Layer eggplant on one side of the bread, sprinkle all sandwiches equally with cheese (1/8 cup) and also tomatoes (1/8 cup). Then press in panini maker. Serve this with Chianti and you'll feel like you're here with me! Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cooking School at Il Bottaccio

Yesterday, we held a private cooking class for a family from Austin, Texas. Il Bottaccio is known for its Cooking School, where Executive Chef Nino Mosca graciously provides private lessons on Italian cooking. He offers a variety of courses- Italian Classics, The Cuisine of Il Bottaccio, Desserts and Introduction to Wines, Culinary Outings, and More Il Bottaccio Cuisine: “Being the Chef”. Yesterday's class on Italian Classics focused on sauces and pastas. The family eats gluten-free food because the children carry the gene for Coeliac's disease. Chef Nino tailored the menu so that they could eat everything he made. Using gluten-free flour he made fresh pasta. All of the sauces were free of typical flour and other wheat products. He let me demonstrate and teach how we prepare the carrots as well as the concasse tomatoes. Then he taught them the proper way to cook pasta, make an easy tomato and pine nut sauce, and also the rich demi-glace sauce that makes so many of the meat dishes out of this world. The family enjoyed being in the kitchen and getting to discover so many of Chef's secrets. I loved it because I was able to speak with Americans!

Pictured:Wild Boar "Chasseur" with Autumn Vegetables

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bruschetta per due!

One of our popular starters is the bruschetta. We make it according to how many people are at the table so everyone has a chance to sample each variety. To begin, we toast some of our homemade bread until it's nice and crispy, also known as crostini. Then each cracker is covered in butter, except for a few that will be covered in the Colonnata lardo. We make a sampling of toppings that varies service to service, but primarily stays the same. We top some of the crisp toast with aged cheeses, others with smoked salmon, some with salami, and others with the traditional bruschetta Toscana garnish- tomatoes with basil. The plate always comes out looking beautiful, and clients are happy to begin their meal this way.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Favorite Things Friday

Eating American food in Italy

This may sound like a sin, but it's true. I find it rather entertaining being in another country where people are fascinated by American products yet they are so common to me. Yesterday I bought a can of Pringles potato chips. The familiarity of these crisp snacks took me right back home!


The TJ Maxx of Italy in combination with a Wal-Mart supercenter. Not only is there a grocery store connected to a clothing/homegoods store, they also have several locations in the small town of Massa. I found great deals on wine and shoes (2 of the most luxurious items sold here). I have to say it's been one of the best things I've discovered since I arrived!

The Weather

Hello clear blue skies and no humidity. I am in love with the climate here. Although I've heard the winters can be harsh, the summer weather has been amazing. Every morning I wake up and it is bright blue sky with only a few clouds if any. It makes for perfect beach weather that I have made sure I take full advantage of!

Just a few interesting facts...

  • Italians don't always refrigerate their eggs. Keeping them out on the counter makes them the perfect temperature for baking.
  • We make fresh bread at each shift. The same dough is used to make several different kinds. One is stuffed with walnuts, another with cheese, another with olives, and a plain one. All incredibly delicious and baked each day.
  • The lard we use to wrap the filet comes from Colonatta, a nearby area that is the only place in the world that produces this kind of meat.
  • Placemats are incredibly important here. We set them out at the family meal before each shift.
  • Going green is no trend here. They are serious about keeping our planet going strong. So we separate the trash into organic, paper, and plastic in the kitchen.
  • To keep the food warm after it's been plated, we dip the plates in boiling water before it is served.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Entrée

Clients begin each meal at Il Bottaccio with the entrée course. This entrance dish is served soon after they are seated. It changes fairly regularly according to the chef's choice or what we have in stock. Usually we serve a vegetable soup topped with a variety of garnishes. Sometimes it's pan seared shrimp in a tomato sauce, other times it is sauteed mushrooms, or even fois gras. We've also done an avocado cream with deep fried fish medallions on top. Unlike the American association with the term entrée, this is a small complimentary dish that precedes the main courses.

The other night we run out of the vegetable puree we use to make the vegetable soup. Chef Nino got incredibly creative and came up with a salad unlike any I've ever seen. He combined avocado with pear and parmesan tossed in a light lemony dressing and then finished with balsamic reduction. I was shocked as to how beautifully these flavors came together. It's always interesting to see what we will come up with for this course. Because it is not ordered by the clients there is a huge range for creative ideas to flow!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Once the kitchen is set up, I begin prep work for the service. Being in Italy, tomatoes obviously play an important role with the cuisine. They make up sauces for pasta, fish, and even bruschetta. Plump with juiciness and bright red in colorful helps liven any dish. Thus, why it is so important for them to be prepped every single day in numerous ways.

I begin with your typical pomodoras, the big ones. We cut these concasse. This French term describes how the tomatoes are peeled, seeded, and chopped. We have to boil them for 30 seconds and then shock them with cold water to make peeling the skins easier. Then we cut out the seeds and dice them into little cubes. One of my favorite dishes we use these for is the red mullet appetizer with a tomato pine nut sauce.

The next kind of tomato I work with is the Roma. These we cut into eights or quarters depending on the size. These are mainly used in pastas but are also perfect for pizza. Similiar to the ones in America, but these have a much deeper red color.

The final tomato I work with is the cherry tomato. We use these as garnish on all of our plates. By boiling them in water for only 20 seconds we peel the skins upward to make a flower shape. Then sprinkle with salt and sugar and roast in the oven for a few minutes. They really are beautiful for such little work.

With the skins and seeds from the pomodoras and also with a few whole tomatoes cut up we blend together and then emulsify through a chinoise to make fresh tomato juice. This is the secret to so many amazing pastas and pizzas. We need this more in the USA!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Finger Food

A 50th birthday, with 50 guests calls for 50 hors d'ourvres of course! Well maybe not 50, but almost. Last night we served an amazing variety of finger foods. There were oysters on the half shell, brusschetta Toscana, mini hamburgers, tempura fried shrimp, fish soup, ahi tuna with marinated onions, shrimp carpaccio, mini pizzas, the list goes on and on. Canapes with sauteed vegetables, an array of crostini with lardo, smoked salmon, and salami tartare, and fruit salad with yogurt also made an appearance. After guests enjoyed the buffet they were seated for a seafood risotto followed by a fish course. The evening concluded with cantaloupe and strawberry sorbet and birthday cake. Lizzy May the Ashanti Strings performed, and guests stayed to celebrate until 2 a.m. I'd say that was a good birthday!


Curry, tumeric, and ginger powders sat open on the counter. Basmati rice cooked on the stove next to a lamb stew perfuming a variety of spices throughout the kitchen. The Indian themed party was spectacular. The menu included samosas filled with curried chicken and vegetables, fish over basmati rice, a soup with apples and chicken, fish marinated in a tandoori sauce, lamb stew with yogurt, and sweet fritters soaked in cardamom rose water. Everything was delicious (we got to eat the leftovers!). Although I don't tend to love Indian cuisine, this menu was a hit. The night included a live performance from Lizzy May & Ashanti strings. They were amazing! Even though I am in Italy, I felt like I was transported to India for a fantastic evening.

Pictured is the Apple and Chicken Soup with Parsley Cream.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


This weekend is crazy busy with large parties. Friday night we had a party of 15 and 6, then tonight we have a party of 50, and Sunday another party of 50. We've been prepping up a storm, all of us working diligently to pull these events off perfectly. Yesterday I was put in charge of the contorni, or side dishes. We also call this the decoration. It includes carrots, zucchini, and potatoes au gratin. I started with the carrots. Peeling and slicing until they were perfect parallelograms. We then sautee the carrots in honey and vanilla oil or sometimes honey, butter, and lavender. Making the carrot contorni does not use the entire carrot, there's actually a lot left over. It doesn't make any sense to throw out all the scraps, so I decided to make a carrot soup for the personnel. I may be slightly tired of this orange vegetable, but I do have another recipe to add to the collection!

Carrot Ginger Soup

6 large carrots
3 cups water

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup cream

Boil the carrots in the water on high heat for 30 minutes, or until carrots are very tender. Strain the carrots but reserve liquid. Puree carrots. In a different soup pot combine puree, ginger, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Add in 2/3 of the reserved liquid and cream. Once comes to a boil it's ready to serve! Garnish this with tempura fried julienned carrots.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Favorite Things Friday


I'm not talking about the mass-produced, highly artificial maraschino cherries. I'm talking about fresh cherries right off the tree (which we have in the yard of the hotel). The fruit is tart and sweet, but oh so fresh. No need to make a Shirley Temple or cherry pie. I eat these plain for breakfast or a snack!


Once again, my only experience with this ingredient in the past has been artificial. I love Coffee-mate's hazelnut creamer in my coffee, there certainly is nothing like it. But in Italy I am overwhelmed by how much they use hazelnut. Primarily with sweets like brioche, cookies, and cake but also paired with fish. How original!


It's good to finally know this herb has a more important purpose than garnish on a plate. Parsley is used in almost every pasta dish we make. We freshly chop it every day, then ring out all the liquid so it is dried. The amazing thing is that adding this to a dish really brings out the flavor. It's not overwhelming, but adds a subtle freshness and bit of color.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cinque Terre

Blog Post #100

I cook. I eat. I sleep. Food is my life. And I love it. It's hard to believe Marinating Me already has 100 blog posts. Working in upscale restaurants, assisting a cookbook author, and traveling to Italy have given me ample material for the blog. I am always learning something about food. Sometimes it's an ingredient, a new recipe, or even a simple technique. While discovering new information is important, creativity and trying new things are also essential. And lucky for me I get to do it all! In one year I'll graduate college. What a scary thought! I'm not entirely positive what kind of career I'll take on, but it will have something to do with food. I can't help it, I'm obsessed.

Dinner Tonight

Lately, I have been in charge of preparing the family meal. Every lunch and dinner shift the entire staff eats together before we begin the service. We always have a good time enjoying one another's company. It's also a time where we (the interns) get an opportunity to try new recipes. I do my best to be creative, as pasta with vegetable scraps can get old fast. The other night I made two types of paninis- one with salami and cheese the other with sauteed eggplant, tomatoes, and cheese. We are only allowed to use certain ingredients which sometimes makes it feel like an episode of Chopped. I also made a yummy lemon pepper pasta using very few ingredients. Here's the recipe:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic
2 bell peppers (use one yellow, one red- cut into strips)
1 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tblsp chopped Italian parsley
2 tblsp butter
1/2 cup cream
Pasta (any kind will do)

Cook noodles according to package. While they are boiling make sauce. Coat a large pan generously with olive oil. Turn on medium high heat. Add garlic (whole). Once the garlic is singing (or sizzling) add the peppers, saute for about 3 minutes or until somewhat tender. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Melt in the butter and finish with the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Remove garlic clove, toss pasta into sauce. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Prosecco Party

Terrie and I spent the afternoon at a local cafe in Montignoso. We enjoyed a few refreshing glasses of Prossecco. The bartender, Michella, who provided us with a large sampling of snacks (including gelato!), soon became our best friend. Bon Appetit magazines describes it as "the archetypal Italian summer vino: light-bodied, low-octane, and priced to be purchased in quantity. It's effortlessly stylish." They could not be more right. It's my new obsession.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Serata al Bottaccio

We've spent the last two days in Forte dei Marmi promoting an upcoming party. We handed out fliers at luxurious hotels and elegant shops. We gave them to tourists and locals to invite people to the event. The Bollywood themed party features a six course prix fixe menu of Indian inspired cuisine. There will also be a live concert by Lizzy May and Ashanti Strings. The event will be held June 18. We are expecting a big turnout because of all the publicity, and why not it will be an incredible night of food and fun you won't want to miss!

Insalata Mista

One of the clients last night was a vegetarian. We prepared a gorgeous meal for them including the Square Spaghetti with Zucchini Blossoms and Tomato. I was given what I originally thought was a simple task to make a salad. I was told which ingredients to use, and chopped them thinly as we do for another salad and the garnish. I quickly learned I was not making the Insalata Mista the way it is suppose to be. Chef Nino corrected me and taught me the right way to make a beautiful, fresh salad that even people who hate vegetables will enjoy. He constructs the salad on a platter before plating it, making sure each element is absolutely perfect. Using iceberg lettuce, raddichio (red cabbage), carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and fennel he contrasts flavors while also highlighting their innate flavors. He varies the textures, colors, and flavors. Each vegetable is distinct yet works with the others to highlight taste. All you need for dressing is salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. I'm a die hard fan of balsamic vinegar, but here it is unnecessary. Still a simple job, but done with so much sophistication you forget you are only eating a simple salad.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

La Ribollita

After spending the morning in Forte dei Marmi, we returned to Il Bottaccio to enjoy a delicious lunch. It's a cool and rainy day here in Italy. Having a big bowl of ribollita was exactly what I needed to warm and fill me up. La ribollita is a thick bean soup made made in Tuscany. It can also be made with bread. People here make all sorts of variations. Some have more vegetables than others, but it is typically always served with bread (either in it or on the side). The soup we had today was made with a base that comes from pureed vegetables we strain out of the vegetable stock. Then a mixture of cream, cheeses, and seasonings were all tossed in. To make it a true Ribollita, a can of cannellini beans was thrown in as well. We mopped up every bite with some of the freshly baked walnut bread. Even though the weather is gross, the food is still spectacular.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A is for Apricot

My whole life I've had the misconception that the only way to consume an apricot is if it's been dried, lives in a plastic baggy, and tastes like rubber. How could I be so naive! The apricots here are as beautiful as the peaches in Georgia, they're sweet but also sour. A delicious combination. I've started eating them for breakfast. The produce is so fresh here, they taste like they were picked yesterday (and they probably were!). So, if you've only had the unfortunate experience of consuming these precious fruits dried, I recommend picking up some fresh ones.

I might not come home...

Last night, Marco invited me to a dinner party with some friends from school. They were celebrating the end of the year before they take their final exams at the end of the month. I had a great time meeting new people, speaking broken English and Italian, and enjoying amazing wine and food. I ordered a pizza with Colonnatta lardo (a delicacy found only in this region-it's the pure fat from the pig), zucchini blossoms, rosemary, and tomatoes. It was a amazing, paired with a Sicilian wine Marco chose for us it was delightful.

The entire evening was so much fun. It was a nice change in pace being served and not being the one in the kitchen slaving away to serve others. There were a few things about the restaurant I absolutely adored, things you can't find in the U.S.A that make dining here such a treat.

First, they bring an entire bottle of Chianti for the whole table. Well, maybe not just a bottle it's a large jug. No questions asked, it's yours. The delicious Tuscan wine will go with anything you order, that's just how good it is. This place also provided water (not always the norm in European cities).

The variety of focaccia and famous unsalted Tuscan bread was the perfect way to start the meal. Then as they brought salads extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar were placed on the table, that's your only choice for dressing, brilliant! As the entrees arrived white truffle was provided as a condiment. Did I mention I was only paying 8 euros for my pizza? And white truffle oil was on the table, amazing!

Even though conversation was difficult for me, I had the best time last night. New friends, food, and great wine will always make for a good time.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Favorite Things Friday

Free Coca-Cola

At the beach today, there was a promo for Coca-Cola. All of a sudden I witnessed a stampede of Italians running towards the cart full of free 1 liter bottles. The promoters eventually made their way through the entire beach making sure we each had received our sample of Coca-Cola classic.

Chips and Drinks

When you order drinks at the pubs (not bars- that's where coffee is served) you automatically are given a basket of chips. I don't know if they are making sure you don't drink on an empty stomach, providing something for the drunk munchies, or if they are just being friendly. But, I like it, I think it's a great tradition.

The Yellow Chair

It might not look like much, but this is my morning sanctuary. I come here every morning to enjoy my breakfast. The sun directly hits the chair when I am sipping on my cappuccino. It's delightful and so comfortable.

On your mark, get set, go!

Each shift we have certain tasks we must accomplish. There is no set "to-do" list, but we follow a general guideline. After changing into our chef clothes we must light the stove. Then we set up Nino's station with a cutting board, towels, and a trash bin. We also set out all of the herbs by his station.

Then we make sure we have enough of "the essentials". This includes chopped parsley, knots of butter, grated Parmesan cheese, tomatoes (cut two different ways), julienned green onion, and whole garlic cloves. We also have to check that we have enough fresh tomato juice, canned tomato sauce, vegetable stock, fish stock, mussel juice, and clam juice.

After all "the essentials" are good to go, we must prep the contorni, or garnish for the dishes. Zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, and scalloped potatoes must all be prepped.
Once we have all of that complete, we move on to other specialized dishes. If we are having a dinner party more prep will be required that shift.

When service begins, the interns are on-call. If Nino needs more panna (cream) we run to the walk-in. If he needs more gamberoni (shrimp) we run to the fish fridge. It changes day to day but the beginning procedures are always the same.

We also close the kitchen the same way each day; putting everything away, wiping the counters, and sweeping the floor. It's a good system that keeps me focused yet also challenged.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fois Gras

Fois gras is one of the most popular Antipasti di Carne (meat appetizers) at the restaurant. The dish consists is of several different elements. A quail egg is gently fried and served on a piece of toast, fresh fois gras, or goose liver, is also served on small toast. We also have a scalloped fois gras that is lightly sauteed. Served with a shallot caramelized in a red wine reduction, this appetizer is sure to please the palate.

Vocabulary Lesson

Surprisingly, I'm finding myself primarily surrounded by familiar items. I know the produce, the meats, the cheese, even though it's nothing like what we have back home. The eggplants are larger, the zucchini still have blossoms, and tomatoes redder than the lipstick I just bought. There is a larger variety of dried meats and cheeses I'm still trying to get acquainted with, but primarily it is the techniques and terms I'm really starting to learn. Some I've seen on my beloved Food Network shows, but have not had the experience myself. For the shrimp carpaccio we serve a quenelle of branzino. The term quenelle refers to food formed into an oval or egg shape using two spoons. I've been practicing but this is no easy task. I'm trying with Nutella at home so I can get it right in the kitchen!