Jackie and Mari making pasta

Italian cooking school

One of the activities that Jackie and I have wanted to partake in is signing up for cooking classes, especially for Italian cooking. We had our chance this week while we are here in Italy to take a cooking class through Le Baccanti, a company that has a wide variety of food and travel activities.

Our instructor was Anna, a native of Sicily, but who has spend most of her life in Tuscany. She was assisted by Mari, who was her translator, because Anna speaks no English. We were joined for lunch by Pepe, Anna’s husband, who restores furniture, so we had a great discussion about furniture building and restoration to go along with Anna’s baby clothes business she used to run.

The class was in Anna’s house in Florence, and Jackie and I were the only students, which was just wonderful. We made biscotti, antipasta, ravioli, tagliatelle, a chicken dish, and a wine reduction, learned about how simple and easy some of the dishes are to make, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The recipes have to be requested from the tour company, but I am certain that many of these dishes will be part of Jackie’s cooking repertoire soon.

Jackie making butter


Jackie and I traveled back to the Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture to further expand the skills we are learning from them with a class on cheesemaking.  On Friday, we took the soft cheese class, and on Saturday, we learned about hard cheese.

Here are the soft cheeses we learned to make:

  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Labneh (a yogurt cream cheese)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Traditional Feta cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Cracker spread

Here are the hard cheese we learned to make:

  • Monterrey Jack
  • Pepper Jack
  • Chipotle cheddar
  • Colby
  • Colby Jack
  • Parmesan
  • Caraway Gouda

Jackie and I had a blast!  We ate more cheese than we have in some time (if ever!).  We especially enjoyed the soft cheese workshop because you can get to the end of process in several hours rather than months later for the hard cheeses.

Of course, we had to purchase some cheesemaking equipment to take home with us.  I know that it is cheaper to purchase cheese from the supermarket, but these days, if we cannot make it more complicated than that and make it ourselves, we seem not to be interested.  Stay tuned!

Brazilian barbecue

Brazilian-style barbecue

Jackie and I invited our fellowship group to come to the house on Saturday night to enjoy some Brazilian-style barbecue with us.  We have learned to prepare this dish from Dr. Flavio Riberio, one of our former grad students in the Department of Animal Science who is from Brazil and who just loves to prepare these wonderful dishes.  Flavio has been coming to the UGST 181 Texas Barbecue class to demonstrate Brazilian barbecue for our students, and his trip and the food he prepares has become the event of the semester.

I have replicated the cinder-block pit in our backyard (to go with our pig pit), and I purchased some Brazilian skewers to hold the meat during cooking.  Preparing the meat for cooking is rather simple:  just use coarse sea salt and salt the meat immediately before cooking and after slicing the cooked portions off and before putting the piece back onto the pit.  It is that simple and it is that good!

I cooked two products:  chuck short ribs and sirloin flap.  I did not have any pichanha, the typical cut used for Brazilian-style barbecuing, but this is not our last go-round with this fun way to cook and serve meat.  Flavio also showed us how to prepare the dipping salsa (I am not sure how to best describe this), which is diced green bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes placed a in bowl with olive oil and a some apple cider vinegar and a little salt.  Slices of the cooked beef are dredged through this salsa so that the oil and vegetable mixture gets on the meat and you eat it immediately.  It is simply wonderful.

I am enclosing photos of the products during cooking so you can see how they changed throughout the evening.  I look forward to many more Brazilian events with our family, friends, and students.