By Lizzie Powell—Student, School of Culinary Arts & Culinary Management

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been an adventurous eater. I don’t know exactly how this developed—whether due to my parents’ “eat it or go to bed hungry” policy or my Southern roots (my dad often brought home venison, quail or other wild game)—but I do know that my childhood had a major impact on my interest in a culinary career path.

Lizzie Powell - Quail Hunt - Southern - Culinary Student

Here I am, with my brother, dad and a few quail when I was about three or four years old.

Aside from being exposed to foods that would prompt most children to wrinkle their noses, I was fortunate enough to travel a good bit throughout my childhood. My family has always organized vacations around food, and the resulting meals are some of my fondest memories. I’ll never forget the first time I tried pâté in France, tested out fried catfish and grits in my great grandmother’s small Georgia town or discovered my love for oysters at a seafood shack (covered in dollar bills) on the Gulf of Mexico.

Though I had the opportunity to explore many cuisines growing up, I had never really known much about the history of certain dishes or how regional cuisines are impacted by elements like climate and the availability of certain ingredients. Sure, I’ve taught myself to make many traditional Italian dishes or stir up a few Asian ingredients, but it wasn’t until Module 3 at ICE that I took a deeper look into iconic dishes from across the world.

Lizzie Powell - Pasta - Handmade - Artisanal - Culinary School - Culinary Student

Learning to make handmade pasta in our Italian cuisine classes.

While it would be ideal to travel to as many foreign regions as possible to learn first-hand about global cuisine, the curriculum at ICE prepares students with a knowledge of the core techniques and ingredients that form the foundation of various international styles of cooking. Over several weeks, my class dove into the flavor profiles of France, Italy and Asia through articles and texts, as well as hands-on experiences in the kitchen. For many of us, it was an introduction to ingredients we’ve never seen before and techniques that go beyond “traditional” kitchen training.

Asian ingredients - Lizzie Powell - Culinary School

Changing the flavor profile with Asian ingredients

It’s an exciting turning point as, at this stage in the program, we’ve learned almost all of the classic culinary techniques— knife skills, butchery and various dry or wet cooking methods—and are moving on to specialized skills like crafting handmade pasta, rolling sushi or whipping up duck confit. People frequently ask about my favorite thing I’ve learned at ICE, but the truth is that diversity is the best part of this training—whether that means learning about the iconic flavors of different regions in France or applying new techniques to produce a traditional Asian dish. After completing this culinary world tour, it’s safe to say I’ve expanded my horizons and that I not only feel prepared, but also excited to work in such a creative, international industry.

Click here to learn more about ICE’s unique recipe for culinary training.

By Chef Ted Siegel, ICE Culinary Arts Instructor

In 2005 the New York Times published an article by Frank Bruni (then restaurant critic and editor of the “Dining In/Dining Out” section) about Roman cuisine. The article’s overall message was: “nothing new is going on in Roman cuisine!”.  After a recent trip to Rome my wife, Cheryl, I am happy to report that this is still true.

This might be a slight overgeneralization; there are a handful of Roman restaurants doing “modernist cuisine-molecular gastronomic” spins on traditional Roman cooking. However, most Romans find the modernist trend oxymoronic, referring to this type of cooking as “all smoke and no roast!”.

Fortunately, Roman cooking and the culinary traditions of Lazio (best described as a rustic and pastoral cuisine based on meat and vegetables) has not changed too much since Etruscan sheep herders occupied the banks and mud flats of the Tiber river, as far back as 800-750 B.C. Hallelujah for that!

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Seafood risotto

During our trip to Rome, Cheryl and I thoroughly immersed ourselves in its cuisine, enjoying the glories of traditional “cucina alla Romana. Below is an recount of some of our more noteworthy meals, as well as a list of restaurants that one should not miss if traveling to the “Eternal City”:

HOSTERIA da FORTUNATO (12 Via Pellegrino): A very tiny neighborhood trattoria serving traditional Roman home cooking that is popular with locals. If you go, you will likely see a group of women sitting at a corner table hand-rolling, cutting and shaping all the sublime house made pastas.

Their iconic Roman fritti misti of vegetables and meatballs in a delicate batter is a must-have dish. As for the pasta, try any number of the variations of strangolapreti (“priest stranglers”), a very traditional hand rolled pasta dumpling that is particular to the central Italian regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. The story of how this pasta got its name goes back to the middle ages. Roman catholic prelates would gorge themselves on this simple pasta made water and durham flour until they choked, hence the name.

The variations on strangolapreti that we found deeply satisfying were caccio e peppe, carciofi e gunaciale (artichokes and  smoked pork cheeks- both basic staples of the Roman kitchen) and alla carbonnara. The house-made sheep’s milk ricotta ravioli in a luscious butter and sage sauce (“burro e salvia”) is also a must-try.

HOSTARIA COSTANZA (63 Piazza del Paradiso): This beautiful restaurant is actually built into the cellar of an ancient Roman amphitheater that dates back to the height of the “glory days” of the Roman Empire. The walls of the restaurant are still the original brick work from this archeological masterpiece.

Our dinner began with a perfectly-executed classic: carciofi alla Romana (large globe artichokes simmered in a broth of white wine, olive oil and herbs). The pastas were also fabulous. Worth a return visit were the tonnarelle con bottarga e seppie (square-cut spaghetti made on-premises served in a sauce of baby calamari indigenous to the Mediterranean and bottarga, which is the salt-cured roe of grey mullet); a simple grilled branzino (Mediterranean sea bass); and finally, trippa alla Romana (tripe braised in tomatoes and mint with pecorino alla Romana, a dish that pays homage to the marcelleria – the butchers of the Roman slaughterhouses whose cuisine has dominated the Roman culinary landscape since ancient times. They cooked with a strong emphasis on offal, because that was all they could afford).

Fortunately for us, we arrived in Rome just as puntarelle – a variety of wild dandelion greens – started appearing in the Roman vegetable markets (puntarelle has a very short season from late winter to early spring). Puntarelle is traditionally served with a dressing of red onions, anchovies, lemon and olive oil. Needless to say, we enjoyed the version we had at Costanza.

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RISTORANTE La SCALA (58-61 Piazza della ‘Scala): Ristorante la Scala is located in Trastavere, a very quiet, residential neighborhood southeast of Vatican city. We stumbled into La Scala serendipitously after a day of touring the Vatican. We were so fond of this local restaurant that we dined there twice. Weather permitting, sitting outside in the outdoor dining area affords one an authentic experience with a view of the beautiful church of Santa Maria della ‘Scala.

Being in Rome at the height of truffle season gave us an opportunity to indulge in the truffle menu of La Scala: burrata di bufala with black truffles and rughetta (wild arugula); light as air potato gnocchi with scarmorza (smoked mozzarella) and black truffles; fried artichokes with black truffles, fonduta and guanciale; and finally, sheep’s milk ricotta ravioli in an unctuous butter sauce showered with truffles.

Other dishes worth not missing are the tonnarelle pasta with zucchini flowers and cherry tomatoes, as well as the carciofi alla guidea (artichokes simmered and fried in olive oil), one of the truly great dishes born out of Rome’s Jewish “ghetto”, dating back 2500 years. For dessert, try the crema di zabaglione con fragola (sabayon cream with wild strawberries).

HOSTERIA GRAPPOLO d’ORO (80-84 Piazza Cancelleria): This is another favorite where we had two wonderful meals. This restaurant has a clientele of largely local regulars and would fit right in in a New York City neighborhood. While the décor is modern, the cooking is in keeping with traditional Roman gastronomy.

The delicious house antipasti tasting plate features a modern take on a molded panzanella salad, mille-foglia con burrata e alici (a very light pastry layered with buffalo milk burrata and marinaded white anchovies), pan fried oxtail meatballs with salsa verde, a croquette of baccala and potatoes and an eggplant-ricotta polpette.

The orechiette pasta with broccoli and potatoes was not the usual mess of broccoli flowers and potatoes swimming in olive oil. The vegetables had been cooked down to form an incredibly light, yet slightly coarse puree, bound by a light broth emulsified with a little olive oil. The execution of this dish showed the true skill of the kitchen. Further, d’Oro’s rigatoni all’ amatriciana with a copious garnish of crisp guanciale was one of the better versions of this classic Roman pasta preparation we had during our trip (pasta all’ amatriciana, carbonara and caccio e pepe make up the “holy trinity” of Roman pasta preparations).

For the second course, we sampled stinco di maiale (pork shank braised with chestnuts and beer), guancia di bue brasato (beef cheeks braised in red wine and carrots) and abacchio scottadito alla griglia (the Roman classic of grilled baby lamb marinated with herbs, garlic and olive oil—whose title implies that when you pick up the grilled cuts of lamb, you burn your fingers while eating them!).

CENTRALISSMO “WINE BAR” (15-17 Via Santa Maria in Via): This wine bar and restaurant near the Pantheon gets mixed reviews. However, we had an excellent platter of fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella, as well as a memorable plate of fried olives. For the primi we enjoyed a very creditable spaghetti caccio e pepe and bucatini all ‘amatriciana. Given the fact that Centralismo is a wine bar, we drank one of the more unusual wines on our trip: Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine from the Emilia Romagna region.

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Potato gnocchi with scamorza (smoked mozzarella) and black truffles

 PIAZZA CAMPO di FIORE

I would be remiss not to mention the Piazza Campo di Fiore, which is one of the truly great food markets in Europe with a wonderful salumeria. Worth visiting is Antica Norcineria Viola. If you are passionate about Italian salume – such as cured hams, salami and anything else that pays homage to pigs – this establishment is a must visit. If you find yourself fortunate enough to wander in there, try the testa, which has a beautifully silky and refined texture.

WINE

The wines we drank were too numerous to mention, but a few were truly memorable:

  • Barolo chinato: A late harvest Barolo made from the Nebbiolo grape in the region of Piedmonte.
  • Merlino: A wine from Trentino-Alto Adige which is produced from the Lagrein grape variety that is grown in the region’s Vigneti delle Dolomiti wine district and is classified as a fortified wine
  • Viscola Querciantica: A wine from the Marchese region in Southern Italy that is pressed from the juice of sour cherries.

GENERAL TIPS

As far as Roman hospitality, we found the service in all the restaurants mentioned above to be warm and welcoming. Most of the Italians we met spoke English as a second language (some more fluent than others) or at least made an attempt to communicate in English.

Be aware that unlike in other places, restaurants in Rome will charge extra for bread, which is automatically brought to the table and is generally of poor quality. (You will not be asked if you want it or not, so don’t be surprised by the surcharge when you get the bill. If you decide not to have bread, inform the wait staff when they bring it to the table.)

Thinking of traveling to Italy? Consider a hands-on cooking experience in the picturesque heart of Umbria, led by ICE Chef-Instructor Gerri Sarnataro. Click here to learn more. 

 

 

 

By Chef Sabrina Sexton

One of my favorite things to teach students is to make mozzarella from scratch. This milky, soft, stretched-curd cheese from Campania is best when super fresh, ideally eaten the same day its made.

Fortunately, it’s easier to make than most people think. You start by making the curd, which is the basis of the cheese, then warm and stretch it to develop mozzarella’s unique texture. Most restaurants buy prepared curd and simply do the stretching themselves, but if you don’t need a large amount, making the curd is easy, too.

 

cheese

Mozzarella Curd

*I get most of my cheese-making supplies from either http://www.thecheesemaker.com or http://www.leeners.com

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place the milk in a large saucepan or small stock pot. Heat the milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. When the temperature reaches 55º F, add the citric acid and mix thoroughly. Continue to heat the milk until the temperature reaches 87º to 89º F. Remove from the heat.
  2. Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion. Allow the milk to stand until the curds form, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut the curds.
  3. Once the curds form, reheat the milk slowly to 108º F. Turn the heat off and let the curds stand for 20 minutes while the whey is dispelled. The whey should be clear and the curd should be slice-able.
  4. Scoop out the curds and gently press to release the excess whey.

Mozzarella Cheese

Yield: Makes about 1½ pounds

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon (16 cups) water
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 pounds (about 4 cups) mozzarella curd , cut into small pieces*

Instructions

  1. Prepare the water: Place the water and salt in a large saucepan. Heat the water until bubbles begin to appear on the surface, or an instant read thermometer registers 180º F. Turn off the heat.
  2. Heat the cheese curd: While the water is heating, place the cubes of cheese in a large bowl. When the water is ready, carefully pour the hot water over the cheese. Let the cheese cubes sit in the water for about 1 minute without stirring them. After 1 minute, gently stir them with a wooden spoon and look at the curd. If the cheese is heated through the curd will look smooth (like melted mozzarella) and is ready to be stretched. If the cheese curd is not completely heated through it will look grainy and still have some of the cubes. If so, it needs to sit in the hot water for another few minutes until soft.
  3. Stretch the curd: Working quickly, before the cheese cools down too much, stretch the curd with the wooden spoon until the cheese is smooth and elastic. Lift and stretch the curd to develop a stringy texture. Be careful not to overwork the curd: this will make you cheese heavy and too chewy. As the cheese cools it will begin to stiffen and become harder to stretch. The cheese is ready to be shaped before it cools completely.
  4. Shape the cheese: Divide the cheese into two or three pieces and wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap to help the cheese form a round shape. Place the cheese in an ice bath, if desired, to help hold its shape.
  5. Serve the cheese immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

Sabrina is a lead instructor in the Culinary Arts Program at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.
To learn more about cheesemaking, check out her recreational class on April 9th at ICE.