Featured Student Blog: If You’re Hungry…

API Student Blogger: Alaina W.
API Program: Florence, Italy: LdM Direct Enrollment, Semester Program…walk away. Just walk away now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy Hump Day to you all! I must say, that while I generally dread Wednesdays because they are the obstacle to the all-downhill-from-here second half of the week, they are possibly my favorite days here in Italy.

If you read my blog at all, you know what Wednesday’s mean: Sergio’s! We have had a standing Wednesday lunch date there since late February I think, and I’ve mentioned before that I think the staff is slowly getting to know us. None of us can really put a finger on what it is about this place that just warms our hearts, whether it’s the ever-changing handwritten-daily menus, the same faces we see every time we go, or the simply incredible food, I have no intentions of ditching this date any time soon.

As soon as Gillian and Sam were ready to go, off we went!

The funny thing is that Sergio’s wasn’t even recommended to us by API, as most of our favorite places thus far have been. Gillian’s professor from home actually knew of Sergio’s when he visited Florence something like 50 years ago! Back then, it was little more than a sandwich shop, but now, it’s a full on trattoria. For the sake of comparison, I ordered the ribollita today. If you have been paying attention in Italian class (a.k.a. my blog), you know that ribollita is a typical Tuscan soup with a black cabbage and bean base. I ordered it once when we first arrived in the city and I was notimpressed at all, but when I decided to try it again at Mario’s last week, I fell completely in love. Today, the two ribollitas competed for my heart: Sergio vs. Mario.

Ignore the fact that the soup looks vaguely disgusting in this photo, and concentrate on the fact that it is delicious. I think I decided that I prefer Mario’s ribollita to Sergio’s, but that Sergio’s other soups (pasta e fagioli, minestra di farina, etc.) totally beat out the bean soup I had the first time we went to Mario’s.After our lunch, Sam and I took our books down to the Piazza Independenza again to soak up some Florentine sunshine. We say that we go to study, but we mostly just watch the dogs play in the park. We have come to recognize many of them, as well as their elderly Italian owners, who seem to gather in the park for little reason other than to cram onto benches with other elderly Italians to watch their dogs have a good time. Interesting people, these Italians.

I went directly from there to my cooking class, where I knew I was in for a seriously delicious dinner. I have literally been waiting for this class, knowing that what we were preparing was going to blow everything else away.

The star of the show today was…pizza napoletana! Neopolitan pizza, just like they famously make in the southern city of Naples. Holy crap, was I excited.

We handmade the dough ourselves, allowing it to rise before rolling it out and then portioning it into three separate pans.One pan became this…

Our teacher essentially just took the dough, made indentations with his fingertips, topped it with fresh rosemary, salt, and olive oil and then stuck it in the oven. Yummmmmm.The other two pans became pizza margherita, which is just the dough and tomato sauce (don’t forget the olive oil!) topped with fresh bufalo mozzarella cheese and basil.

Sound boring? It’s not. I’d just like to inform my parents that when they get here there will be a non-negotiable pit-stop in Naples just for pizza. Thanks!

Now we’re going to play a small game called Name That Entree!

You may not be able to tell, but underneath all of that tomato sauce and cheesy goodness is…aubergines! Yes, we made parmagiana di melanzane, or eggplant parmesan. I’ve never actually tried it, due to my unfounded fear of eggplant, but I can tell you that I will be sampling this again before leaving Italy.

We started by slicing the eggplants very thin and then coating them with salt. While they sat like that, we prepared the tomato sauce the normal way, with peeled tomatoes, olive oil, salt, the works. After the sauce had thickened up, we set it aside and heated up some oil, which we deep-fried the eggplant in, after rinsing the salt off. We then lined a deep pan with the fried eggplants, then a layer of sauce, then a layer of sliced fresh mozzarella, then basil, repeat. Top with grated parmesan cheese, and bake. Then devour.

Then there may or may not have been a little more pizza…

Finally, our teacher let us at the dessert, which I was personally involved in preparing! See that crust? All mine, baby.

Pasticheria napolitana is a dessert normally made at Easter. The crust was prepared the same way we prepared the crusts for the fruit tart and the torta della nonna, with flour, sugar, eggs, and butter, but this time we also added the zest of one lemon. The filling was made by heating milk and boiled wheat (which I had never seen before, and is sold mostly so that people can make this particular pie) until it became creamy. After allowin that to cool, we added it to a sweetened ricotta and egg mixture, which also incuded some vanilla and orange flavoring, as well as more lemon zest. The kicker? We also put in 150 grams of candied fruit.

I singlehandedly rolled out the dough for the crust, and after the teacher had added the filling, a classmate and I did the criss-cross pattern with the dough strings on the top.

I wasn’t entirely sure about how I was going to feel about this dessert, with the candied fruit and all. It turned out to taste pretty similar to the torta della nonna, just more citrus-y and sweeter, thanks to the candy. I certainly wasn’t complaining.Tomorrow, I have class pretty much all day, but then, in the evening, my roommates and I are going on a tour of a gelato factory! Free samples? I sure hope so! Then this weekend we are going on our final excursion with our program to Perugia for a wine tasting and to Siena to experience Italy’s thermal hot baths! Woohoo!

I hope your Hump Day was at least half as good as mine! Ciao!

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