Eggplants are  wonderful vegetables and are used a lot in Italian and also in Asian cooking. Also known as aubergine, they belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes.
I grow them in my garden in the Australian summer and with the subtropical climate in Brisbane it is a great plant and you have abundant crops with only one plant.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Eggplants have a lot of fibre, potassiumvitamin C and vitamin B-6 as well as are high in antioxidants.
Here is a great Sicilian recipe below which I was given when I visited the fabulous Aeolian Islands. Give it a try it is simple and tastes fabulous. I love the balance of the sweet and the acidity and the freshness of the mint. We made this recipe in one of my Italian cooking classes earlier this year.

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MELANZANE IN AGRODOLCE:   Sweet and Sour Eggplants with Mint
This is a lovely recipe to make in summer when eggplants and mint are in abundance.
Once made keep this dish at room temperature to serve.
2 eggplants
1/2 onion
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  • Wash the eggplant and dice in walnut size cubes.
  • Place in a dish and salt them generously and leave for 30 mins. This helps remove any bitterness from the eggplant (usually more so if eggplants are large or older).
  • In a non stick frypan, add the oil and the chopped onion – sautée and do not burn the onion, just sweat it down.
  • Drain the salted eggplant and pat dry with clean tea towel or absorbent towel.
  • Add the eggplant and stir until eggplant cooked and browned.
  • In a cup add the vinegar and the sugar, stir to dissolve sugar. Pour this over the eggplant in the frypan.
  • Stir gently until the vinegar evaporates. When done, add half the mint leaves(tear them) and mix through gently.
  • Place on a dish and put the extra mint leaves on top.

VARIATIONS: You can also do this with zucchini. Slice in round slices and salt as above.

                                                                                      Buon Appetito!


Which is your favourite Italian pasta?
When you hear the word pasta you think of Italy. This simple and staple food of mixing flour with water and sometimes, eggs is something so integral to the history of Italian food.If you think about the origins of pasta, it has been found to date back thousands of years to the times of the Etruscans, the ancient people of central Italy who predated the Romans! Archeologists have found ancient paintings in their tombs, depicting the making of the pasta, known then as lagane – which was an oven baked version of pasta rather than boiled.

With the influence of the Arab people in southern Italy especially in Sicily they brought across the knowledge of drying pasta, which was great as it could survive the long journeys and be transportable.

Today Italy’s 20 regions all boast their favourite or traditional pasta from ravioli, gnocchi, spaghetti, fettuccini and others as there are more than 300 varieties of pasta, dried (pasta secca) and fresh (pasta fresca)!

Check out an Introduction to Italian Pasta below and learn more about Italy’s most famous food!

Central & Regional Italian Pasta
When travelling to  Abruzzo you can enjoy the special “spaghetti alla chitarra”   which is pasta cut on a wooden frame with steel strings, so this ensures the pasta to have a square edge to it. It is simply delicious with a lamb and roast capsicum ragu’! In Puglia you cannot go past the fabulous round “orecchiette” pasta – known as ‘little ears’ or a hat shaped pasta and served with greens (like turnip greens) and some chilli.Cooking Classes With Luciana
For those living in Brisbane and the rest of Australia why not join Luciana and cook up many traditional Italian dishes including fresh pasta, vegetable dishes, baking and pastries? The next fun class is scheduled for Saturday April 30 and is held at Moreton Bay College, Wondall Rd, Manly, Brisbane. Places are limited at this stage (maximum of 12 guests only).

Contact Luciana for more details: email luci@touringabruzzo.com or call 0475 885 851

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Home made pasta – fettuccine with sumo al pomodoro e basilico
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Fun cooking Italian together at Moreton Bay College, Manly- Brisbane, Australia

WHY NOT JOIN LUCIANA FOR THE NEXT CLASS ON SATURDAY APRIL 30?
CONTACT LUCIANA HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION


Another great group of wonderful cooks came together over the weekend to cook up a storm. Italian cooking is fun when cooking together especially when making pasta from scratch and making many other traditional dishes.
We made dishes like veal involtini filled with a parsley frittata – a recipe shown to me by by Abruzzese family. Once you fill the veal with the frittata it is rolled up and secured with a toothpick, the meat is browned then it is placed into the tomato sauce for the pasta and gently simmers there for a while. Of course the great flavours soak into the veal rolls. So you have a primo dish of pasta, then the secondo or meat dish is ready also!
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Pasta alla Norma – a great dish from Sicily.
The pasta sauce we made was an eggplant, tomato and basil with ricotta – a great traditional Sicilian dish from the town of Catania. They call it Pasta alla Norma – as legend says that the composer Vincenzo Bellini ordered this dish often and so it was named after his great opera ‘Norma’. 
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Brutti ma Buoni – hazelnut meringues
Here is a biscuit I love to make – these are delicious Hazelnut Meringues, known as Brutti ma Buoni (‘Ugly but Good’!).
They do not look ugly to me, but taste sublime. They originate from the north of Italy from the 1800’s, some say from Lombardia region and others say from the Piemonte region as there are many hazelnuts found there.
Why not try them yourselves? Quite simple to make using basically 3 ingredients! 
BRUTTI MA BUONI – Makes about 20 biscuits
75 gr (2.65 oz) egg whites (about 3 eggs)
150 gr (5.0 oz) roasted ground coarsely hazelnuts
140 gr (about 5oz) (or less) caster sugar
vanilla bean scraped or paste

* Preheat oven 150 deg.
* In a bowl, whisk the egg whites with about half the sugar to form stiff meringue, add the vanilla.
* Blend the other half of the sugar with the whole hazelnuts.
* Place the meringue mixture and add the hazelnuts into a saucepan and stir until the mixture starts to thicken (about 10 mins or so). You will need to stir as it will stick. 
* Remove from heat and cool. Place spoonfuls of mixture onto tray lined with baking paper.
* Bake for at least 15-20 mins until golden brown.
VARIATION – add 2 tbsp dark cocoa to the meringue mix to make chocolate hazelnut biscuits, a great combination.

ENJOY!

FUN – FOOD – FRIENDS
2016 Classes: February 13; March 12; April 30; May 7
Luciana is excited to announce her 2016 dates for Italian Cooking Classes in Brisbane, Australia.
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ITALIAN COOKING CLASSES with LUCIANA MASCI
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Italian Cooking Classes with Luciana
FUN – FOOD – FRIENDS
2016 Classes: February 13; March 12; April 30; May 7

Cook with Luciana and create this layered savoury spinach brioche tart
Luciana is presenting another Italian Hands on Cooking Class in Brisbane to share traditional Italian recipes and teach how to create mouth‐watering treats.
Hosted by accomplished Abruzzese cook Luciana Masci, guests will experience the traditional culture of Italy’s regions – including Abruzzo, Sicily and Sardinia.
This class is a real pleaser and just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day – share you love of Italy and passion for food with Luciana. 
Be sure not to miss this delightful class making 4 dishes such as:
antipasti – An amazing savoury brioche tart filled with spinach and ricotta
Eggplant and zucchini with mint and sweet and sour dressing (from SICILY)
primo – Pasta e ceci (soup with hand made pasta strips with chickpeas from ABRUZZO)
dolce – Ricotta, orange and saffron baked cheesecake (from SARDINIA) DETAILS:
Date: Saturday February 13, 2016
Time: 10:00 am – 2.30 pm
VenueMoreton Bay College, 450 Wondall Road, Manly West, Brisbane Qld
Cost: $155 per person
(Past Cooking Class Guests only $135)   

Includes: Recipes, apron, ingredients, tuition, morning coffee with cake, sit down lunch with wines

Easter Class March 12 – let’s make Panettone filled with figs and walnuts and much more…

Classes are limited to 12 guests only so please reserve your places early
NEXT CLASSES COMING UP: March 12, April 30, May 7.
– making pasta and saffron risotto, baking, great antipasti and much more…
Register your interest now: luci@touringabruzzo.com
Tel: 0475 885 851


Copyright © *|2016|* *|TOURING ABRUZZO WITH LUCIANA Pty Ltd|*, All rights reserved.
www.touringabruzzo.comOur mailing address is:
PO Box 3280 Norman Park, Qld 4170

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Hosted by accomplished Abruzzese cook Luciana Masci, guests will experience the traditional culture of Italy’s regions – including Abruzzo, Sicily and Sardinia.
This class is a real pleaser and just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day – share you love of Italy and passion for food with Luciana.
Be sure not to miss this delightful class making 4 dishes such as:
antipasti – An amazing savoury brioche tart filled with spinach and ricotta
– Eggplant and zucchini with mint and sweet and sour dressing (from SICILY)
primo – Pasta e ceci (soup with hand made pasta strips with chickpeas from ABRUZZO)
dolce – Ricotta, orange and saffron baked cheesecake (from SARDINIA)DETAILS:
Date: Saturday February 13, 2016 (class full) ASK ABOUT THE OTHER UPCOMING CLASSES
Time: 10:00 am – 2.30 pm
VenueMoreton Bay College, 450 Wondall Road, Manly West, Brisbane Qld
Cost: $155 per person
(Past Cooking Class Guests only $135)
Includes: Recipes, apron, ingredients, tuition, morning coffee with cake, sit down lunch with wines
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IN THIS SECTION, I will write about the glorious TASTES of ABRUZZO which can be simple and also sophisticated, tastes which vary within the region itself and tastes which reflect the passion of its people and true artisans.
Here are a couple – Antonella and Dino, the most generous people and Dino is an artisan breadmaker.
How about the taste of freshly baked focaccia filled with grilled capsicum
(peppers) with egg and cheese – ‘peperone con cace’ e ove’ ?
You will find recipes archived or file in the relevant sections.In my first cooking class for the 2014 season in Brisbane, Australia we will explore and have fun making these Abruzzese treats – baked and fried. You will see that olive oil (especially extravirgin olive oil) is used in all cooking. Butter is not a traditional ingredient in Abruzzo, unlike the northern regions of Italy so you will see how the flavour is fabulous and not to mention the health qualities!

Here is what we will be making in our Italian Bake off class:
Sbrisolonaa ricotta crumble cake with almonds and chocolate as well as an Italian crema and sour cherry version,
Pizzelle – crispy thin traditional Italian olive oil waffles, easy to make but so impressive. We will make 2 versions, both sweet and savoury. The sweet version has liqueur as a secret ingredient and the savoury version we will use saffron or poppy seeds and pepper!
Biscotti –
 rolled with fig jam and cocoa, Luciana’s very own flavour combination…so perfect to serve with any afternoon coffee
Crespelle –
 for a festive touch to celebrate the summer season we create these scrumptious sweet fritters made with a soft dough where we can add sultanas or aniseeds and sprinkle with sugar!