Although I write about health and beauty I need to confess that I rarely manage to eat those 5-7 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. I buy them, search for low calorie recipes, cook them up– and then only eat a bit or two. They just didn’t taste that appealing. French recipes add too much butter and cream, while Asian recipes add lethal amounts of salt. However the Mediterranean style of eating in Italy, Greece and Spain is packed with healthy anti-aging ingredients. In fact the Mediterranean diet is packed with olive oil, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. I realized that I really needed to up my skills and learn to cook in this naturally healthy style.
Cooking lessons in Italy has long been an item on my bucket list. I decided I would learn to cook like an Italian at Tuscookany, in a villa in Tuscany about an hour from Florance. For three glorious days I would learn the secrets of a true Italian chef. I had never cooked in a professional kitchen before and I was in heaven with the powerful stoves, giant pots, perfect knives and an ice cream maker that worked in minutes. I felt like a contestant on the Iron Chef as I chopped garlic, sauted onions , and rolled out fresh pasta. Chef Franco cared deeply that each of us in the class master our menus. He shared professional tips like adding a pinch of baking soda to a tomato sauce to neutralize the acidity. I was even more impressed when he showed us how to use soy lecithin granules to thicken up a vingergrette. Perfect!
Tuscookany is based in a 16th century villa with its own orange groves and olive trees. I learned how to clean artichokes, make vegetable broth, debone a whole bird and make ravioli from scratch. For lunch we made pizza from scratch and slid it into a centuries old coal fired oven. Each night I would take a pair of sissors and cut bunches of fresh tyyme, mint and basil from a glorious herb garden.
We worked from the Tuscookany notebook, a 3 ring binder of more than 100 recipes. We ate amazingly well at the Villa. In the morning there were platters of cheese, homemde bread and deep golden eggs from local chickens. At night we consumed multi courses that we had cooked during the day. And here is the best part– I didn’t gain an ounce proving once again the health benefits of eating fresh vegetables and olive oil.
Tuscookany offers 3 day and 7 day programs at three separate villas. I was at the villa Torre del Tartufo. In addition to cooking classes, we went on a tour of local vineyards, olive oil producers and bakers. And true to the name of the villa, we went on a truffle hunt and grated our finds over our completely homemade spinach and cheese ravioli. Best. Meal. Ever. For more information check out their website www.tuscookany.com.