Our first full day in Tuscany

This is a page from my personal journal written on Sunday, June 6th, 2010

We awoke at around 10:30am to the sounds of birds chirping.  The simple down comforters and pillow were easily fluffed and pulled over my twin bed as I made my way to my private bathroom longing for the first shower taken since home.  The shower felt warm and lovely.  And when I emerged fresh and dressed from our suite the sun was shining and the air was comfortable with no humidity.  Kelly was approaching, coffee mug in hand. She made a dart to the room as she had had a confrontation with the cappuccino maker and needed to rinse out her white tee.  I took several steps around the perimeter of our building, actually an old stable,  that Barbara told us was constructed in the 15th century, my jaw dropping as I took in for the first time the magnificence of our Tuscan home.  The outer walls are large stone with shuttered windows and floors of slate.  The glass french double doors allow plenty of light.  The interior walls are plaster painted cream white with red brick floors and the ceilings are rustic, made of huge round beams and exposed wood.  It is extremely cool despite the fact there is no air conditioning. The large living room contains a huge fireplace and a kitchen  The spectacular views are amazing and the flowers…roses everywhere.  This place is more than we could ever have imagined.

When a recipe calls for fresh herbs we pick them from the pots just outside the cucina.

There are several separate buildings within close proximity. Near the cucina and cantina, (kitchen and dining area), are about ten very large pots with fresh herbs of basel,parsley,sage, oregano, rosemary and thyme. On the block wall behind them is a cistern and a niche where the statue of The Virgin Mary sits draped with a rosary and between two white pillar candles  Kelly and I noticed a larger pot with greens springing up and agreed it was young lavender a week from bloom.
Laura Guisty is an accomplished chef who owned a restaurant for 18 years as well as a catering business.  She is surprisingly 53 years old and  very beautiful.  She has her own home, but lives at Casa Ombuto during cooking school.  She is warm and friendly and works diligently learning to speak English, while her helper speaks no English whatsoever. She is a patient and excellent teacher.
Lunch was served at noon and consisted of crositini of three types and of course wine.  The first Crostini Neri consisted of chiicken livers, capers, juniper berries anchovies and dry vin santo a wine liquer.  The second red tomato with garlic., the third was artichokes with butter and fresh herbs.  Delightful.  Then the main courier of sausage and cannellini beans in a tomato sauce. Simple and delicious.
For dessewt we had a great custard similar to flan called
We had an hour before we would need to report for our first cooking class. So, we walked the grounds near the pool and took in the magnificent views from every direction.

Kelly, Tom and Eleanor busy at work in the cucina.

When we arrived to the cucina for class at 3pm we were given our apron and cook book.  We gathered around the long stone counter where nine wooden cutting boards and knives were placed. Laura decided on our recipes and we began our individual assigned cooking tasks, as she observed.  Kelly and I were to prepare the zabaglione for the strawberry dessert.  We began by cracking beautiful brown shelled eggs and separating the yolks from the whites.  The eggs were so fresh they actually had feathers still attached to the shell.  The color of the yolks were deep golden yellow like none we had seen.  We then whisked the eggs in the kitchen aid mixer adding sugar until we had a frothy mixture.  Then we add moscato sparking white wine and cooked it over low heat whisking constantly until it thickened. The aroma of the wine as the creamy mixture warmed was fabulous. After cooling in an ice bath we folded in the cream we had freshly whipped and set the bowl in refrigerator. Next we would prepare the dough for our ravioli dish..
The dough was simple to prepare.  We made a well of flour on the table and broke four eggs in the well and added just a small amount of olive oil. We began whisking the eggs with a fork slowly incorporating the flour from the sides of our well. Eventually we had blended all of the ingredients and we began to knead the dough on the smooth table. Laura said we must knead for at least ten minutes. Once we had the correct consistency we rubbed a small amount of oil on our ball of dough and wrapped it in plastic wrap.  Now it must rest for thirty minutes. We left the kitchen and sat at the table just outside where we snacked on a bowl of fresh cherries, small biscotti, peach or pear nectar and of course wine.  We shared our personal recipe dos and don’ts.
The thirty minutes went quickly and we were back in the kitchen once again.  We hand rolled our dough and piped the filling made of cheese and spinach, onto the flattened dough halfway down the circle.  Then we pulled the top half of the dough over the bottom half and with the flat side of our hand we made indentions between the rows of filling.  We then did the same in the vertical direction so we had created little pillows.  Then we took the pastry wheel and cut out the ravioli. We then pinched the sides lightly and placed each one on a large tray dusted with semolina flour. We were finished with our first lesson.  The others had prepared the strawberries for the zabiligone dessert, potatoes, kittle bundles, veal scallopine.
Kelly and I took a half bottle of wine from the kitchen and two glasses and headed for our outdoor table where I cranked up the Mob Hits.  The sun was setting so we decided to watch from the pool area.  It was our first day of cooking and we did not feel the least bit tired.
We dined at 8pm.  The beautiful table was set with roses laid  on a white cloth and candles lit. The food was excellent and we were proud to claim our own creations. We ate cheese and bresaola stuffed rolls, ravioli with butter and sage, and veal escalopes all a pizzaiola, a scaloppine that was magnificent.  It was delicious and once again the bottles appeared and a shot glass for each of us .  One of the ladies, Cassie from Wisconsin, played Danny Boy on the piano near our table as Rosemary from Ireland sang. It was very moving.  The universal language ……music.
We retired to our suite and hoped we could get some sleep as we have two cooking lessons tomorrow and will begin early. Our bodies seem to be on eastern standard time 6:30 at home, while it is 12:30 here in beautiful Tuscany. Better get to sleep.

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