When the table is set with your assorted favorite ingredients such as cheese, pasta, wine and olive oil, and if you wait long enough, you will be served Italian food and that too all free, because this is the Italian food festival presented by ‘European Art of Taste’ and you are their special guest.
When I got the invitation to attend the rich and savory cooking demonstration of Italian Food at ‘Nature Basket’, Bandra, I jumped to this opportunity, arriving 30 minutes before the demonstration was to begin. The Chef, Angelo Francini, a friendly young man was only too pleased to share his art, educating me about this program that is supported by the European Union and the Italian Government that aims to promote their products like pasta, cheese, sauces and wine into the Indian market with the promise that it guarantees quality, authenticity and the safety of the products.
The stage for demonstration was set in the inner area of the store, with one table laden with all the products like pasta of ‘Barilla’, extra virgin olive oil of brand ‘Monini’, Provolone cheese of certified origin (Valpadana) and assorted wine and pasta sauces. The main demonstration table was laden with all the ingredients that he would need, plus electric stove and microwave.
Within half an hour, the room was full of curious chefs/housewives/regular shoppers/photographers, all eager to pick up some culinary tips and give in their expert comments.
The demonstration started with what I would call it an ‘Italian salad’. (The Chef called it ‘Panzanella di verdure con bruschetta all’olio extra vergine di olive).
In a big plastic bowl, he mixed all the freshly chopped vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, fresh red tomatoes, rocket leaves. He roasted the chopped cubes of bread and added to the mixture. Added salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar and it was now our turn to taste. The rich taste of olive into the mixture of veggies gave it a buttery sweet and sour taste and I was hungry for more.
The next dish was (Penne all’arrabbiata) he cooked on the electric twin-stove, boiling pasta on one stove and cooking the tomato sauce on the other. He added garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to the hot olive oil, mixed it and added tomato puree. After cooking for seven minutes, he added boiled pasta, and tossed them, mixing it well. Then added grated provolone valpadana cheese and then came the best part……Yes!!....You guessed it right….tasting! The tangy taste of tomato blended well with pastas, but I found pasta a wee bit hard, I normally prefer pastas to be softer and slippery.(so slippery that the minute they touch my lips, they go sliding down my throat, leaving behind the tangy taste)
The heat was slowly building up as vapors escaped from the pots and the sweet aroma of garlic and tomatoes flooded the room. Smacking our lips, we looked hungrily as he prepared the chicken dish; the small chunks of chicken breast, previously marinated with dry herbs for more than seven hours. He cooked the marinated chicken chunks in olive oil, seasoning it with salt and pepper and added eggplant (that was previously cooked with garlic and parsley), cooked them till chicken was tender and later garnished it with the cheese. The cooked eggplant, the melted stringy cheese and the chicken was good combination and was quite delightful to taste. The chicken was very tender and tasty although there were no chilies at all. (now, being an Indian, chilies is must for me otherwise I call this ‘phika’)
While he cooked on electric stove, his assistant baked in micro-oven some more dishes, there was toast (pancetta) with cheese topping, soaking in olive oil, and chicken topped with cooked eggplant and cheese too. And yes, one more thing, the finger food (they had forgotten to give as a welcome warm-up) made of baby-tomatoes, basil leaves and cheese on a tooth pick was the sudden but pleasant intrusion.
It was a grand feast, all in succession, one after the other; I was finding it difficult to concentrate on his cooking, so busy was I in eating (I mean ….tasting). I would have appreciated an additional glass of wine or a cup of coffee ….maybe that thought did not cross their mind....or…maybe….er…. wine is expensive? Ah well!!! But never mind
It was a fun evening and fully satiated, I walked down the narrow corridors of ‘Nature Basket' super market to pick up some of those Italian delicacies to be able to try few for my guests, who would appreciate this light meal with their evening cup of tea..
Oh yeah! One more thing!! I was happy because each one of us received one complimentary gift that contained apron, one badge, one booklet on ‘Guide to tasting and understanding ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’, and two chapbooks of Italian recipes.
*Look, can you see me boasting now?