Lifestyle

A taste of Italy with Chef Longo

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Chef Biagio Longo, of Italy, prepares a meal in the kitchen of Ed and Patty Volk on Mercer Island.  -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Chef Biagio Longo, of Italy, prepares a meal in the kitchen of Ed and Patty Volk on Mercer Island.
— image credit:

Eileen Mintz
On Food

When I was in high school and studied European geography, I daydreamed of touring the Italian countryside. I imagined being on a Vespa with my hair flowing in the wind, skirting around the hills and valleys of this romantic location. Today, it’s a different story. I no longer want to own a Vespa, my hair is short and won’t flow in the wind, and I would rather take a cooking class in Tuscany than do anything else.

I really want to visit the Tuscan countryside as it was romanticized in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.” The closest I have gotten was to attend a dinner called “Under the Alki Moon” with Italian Villa owner Roberto Russo last month. He unveiled the cookbook, “Good Ciao,” that he wrote with collaborator Kathryn Hilger Kingen, co-owner of Salty’s Restaurant and Salty’s chefs. Russo owns Parco Fiorito in Cortona, the villa and farm that was used in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

Islander Patty Volk has done even better. She has managed to bring Italy to Mercer Island by inviting Chef Biagio Longo to cook in her home for a series of Italian cooking classes. “My daughter, Tracy Bradley of Bellevue, her friend, Mozelle Spencer of Mercer Island, and I coordinated all the classes last year,” said Volk. “We had so much fun that we all wanted to do it again. So far this year, we sold out with approximately eight in attendance at every class.”

The idea was sparked when Bradley and her mother- in-law went to Chef Longo’s cooking school two years after seeing an article in the Los Angles Times about him. He told Bradley that he would love to come to Seattle to give cooking classes. “I invited him to our home for the classes as well as accommodations,” said Volk. “He taught 10 nights of classes last year and 11 this year.”

Just last May, Volk and her husband spent four days at Mami Camilla’a Cooking School and Bed and Breakfast, operated by the Longo family in Sorrento, Italy, located between Naples and the Amalfi coast. “Compared to other schools, Mami Camilla seems to offer more intensive training, flexibility in classes and more for my money,” said Los Angles writer, Marjorie Mauriello. That testimonial was proof that this was the place to be.

Chef Longo hails from Italy’s southern province of Pugila. He developed his love of cooking from his mother’s kitchen, where he learned family recipes that had been passed down from generations. Longo attended the Culinary School in Piano e Sorrento and continued his education at the prestigious Hotels City School, which took him to Brussels, Dusseldorf and London.

With a longing to return to Italy, Longo opened the first of his three restaurants in 1981. In 2002, at the urging of his wife, Camilla, he left the restaurant business to open a cooking school that he named in her honor. With 30 years of experience, Chef Longo continues to pursue his passion for Neapolitan cooking with his students in Italy and, these past few weeks, on Mercer Island. To learn more about Mami Camilla’s Cooking School, check out their Web site at www.mamicamilla.com. For information on Roberto Russo’s Tuscan villa Parco Fiorito, visit www.parcofiorito.it, and for “Good Ciao Cookbook, Recipes Embracing the Flavors of Tuscany, Umbria and the Pacific Northwest,” book orders can be taken at www.saltys.com/good_ciao.

This colorful book has photos of every dish in color as well as having all the recipes written in both English and Italian. Will cause daydreaming!

CHEF LONGO’S GAMBERI CON SALSA di PEPPERONI (Shrimp in a bell pepper sauce) Serves 6.

10-12 peeled large de-veined shrimp

Salt and pepper

1 cup of flour

1 pkg of dry yeast

2 cups of lukewarm water

(You can use 1 bottle of beer if you do not have yeast. Do not add the water if you use the beer.)

2 cups of vegetable, canola, sunflower oil for frying

1/2 cup olive oil

2-3 peppers

1/2 cup water

Mescalin salad (mixed salad greens)

In a small bowl, mix together the package of yeast and add 2 cups of lukewarm water.

Whisk the ingredients well so that all of the yeast is incorporated. If you do not have dry yeast, you can add 1 bottle of beer to the flour and mix well. Let rest for about half an hour so that the batter rises.

In a small saut/ pot, add the olive oil and let it become hot. Cut the peppers into a small size. Add to the hot oil and begin to saut/. Season with salt and pepper. Saut/ the peppers until they become soft — when they have reached this stage, add the 1/2 cup of water and let the water reduce. After all of the water has evaporated, take the saut/ pot off the heat. Use a hand-held blender and blend the peppers until they are a nice creamy consistency.

You will need to fry the shrimp in a deep shallow frying pan. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, and then dredge them into the batter and lay them on a plate. When the vegetable oil has become very hot, add the shrimp to the hot oil. Fry on each side for about a minute until golden brown.

On a plate, place the mescalin salad but leave the center open. Spoon some of the pepper sauce on the center of the plate, place 2 shrimp on top of each other and serve.

CHEF LONGO’S RAVIOLI CON BURRO E SALVIA (Ravioli in a butter and sage sauce)

Serve 6 to 7 ravioli per person. Served 6 at the cooking class.

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup boiling hot water

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup mozzarella cheese

2 TBS. of oregano

2 egg yolks

Salt and pepper

Egg wash (water and egg)

1 stick of butter

Fresh sage leaves

In a bowl, mix together the flour and the boiling hot water with a wooden spoon. Mix together until a dough is formed. Then use your hands to work the dough with a little flour. Using a pasta machine, begin to roll out long sheets of pasta. (Directions should be on a pasta machine.)

In a bowl, combine all of the cheeses together and mix. Season with salt and pepper, and add the dried oregano and egg yolks. Mix together well.

After you have the pasta sheet rolled out, fold it together in half. Brush half of the dough with the egg wash. This is done so that when the other half of the dough is folded over, it will stick to itself. Add a spoonful of the cheese mixture on the dough every 2 inches. Fold the dried dough over the top of the other half. Press the dough so that it will stick to the other half — you want a good seal.

Using a pasta cutter or a glass, begin to cut out the forms of the ravioli. Place them on a floured tray so that they do not stick to the tray or each other.

In boiling salted water, add the ravioli. They will cook in about 2 to 3 minutes; if you are not sure if they are done, simply take one out and try it. If the ravioli is cooked to the consistency that you like, then strain them. If not, let them cook a little bit longer.

In a saut/ pan, add the butter and sage. Once the butter is almost melted, turn off the stove top. Add the pasta to the liquid, and coat each of the ravioli. Serve 6 or 7 ravioli to each person and garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese and some more sage. Enjoy.

CHEF LONGO’S FILETTO CON SALSA di GORGONZOLA (Medallion of pork tenderloin in a gorgonzola sauce)

1 pork tenderloin, cleaned

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

Gorgonzola cheese (8.8 oz)

Crushed pistachios

Butter

Olive oil

1/4 cup of brandy

Cut the pork tenderloin to the desired portion that you would like to serve, usually about 8 to 10 ounces. In a saut/ pan, add the oil and butter, and let become hot. Season the fillet of pork tenderloin with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the hot pan and begin to brown. Let it cook on each side for about two to three minutes. Take out and deglaze the pan with the brandy. Turn off the stove top and let rest.

In another pan, add just a little bit of butter and all of the Gorgonzola cheese. Once the cheese starts to melt, add the cream. Season with salt and pepper, let it reduce to a creamy consistency, turn off the heat.

On a plate, place the tenderloin in the middle. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and garnish with the crushed pistachios. Serve with your favorite side dish and enjoy.

CHEF LONGO’S DELITZIA al LIMONE (Lemon Delight)

Serves 10.

6 egg yolks

6 egg whites

75 g sugar (2.6 oz)

140 g flour (4.9 oz)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

100 g flour (3.5 oz)

100 g sugar (3.5 oz)

4 egg yolks

2 cups milk

2 lemons zested

1 cup milk

Lemon leaves if available

Lemon zest

In a Mixmaster, add the sugar and egg yolks, and begin to beat. You need to beat them together for approximately 15 minutes until they are very light and fluffy. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to hard peaks (until the tips of the whites are very firm, and you can turn the bowl upside down and the whites will not fall). In a mixing bowl, combine the yolks and sugar, the whites and flour, and begin to fold the mixture gently. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and create little domes, about 2 inches high and long. Bake in the oven at the convection setting at 360 degrees for about 30 minutes.

In a separate pot, add 2 cups of milk with zest from 2 lemons. Begin to heat. In another pot, add the flour and sugar, and mix very well. Once combined, add the 4 eggs and mix together. When the milk and lemon zest have almost started to boil, remove from the heat and strain the liquid into the sugar, flour, egg mixture. Place this pot on the heat and begin to stir this liquid constantly. As it becomes a custard, stir even more constantly. As the liquid starts to form into a thicker consistency, stir faster so that you “whip” the lumps out. When it is nice and thick, turn off the stove and let the cream cool.

After the half hour has passed and the little almost-like-sponge cakes are done, spoon the lemon custard onto one side of the cakes and cover with another cake, almost like a sandwich. After you have filled all of the cakes with the custard, save the rest of the custard. Slowly beat 1 cup of milk into remaining custard mixture until a lighter liquid has come together. You will want a consistency similar to syrup. When you have reached the desired stage, place one of the cakes into the liquid and cover all sides of the cake.

Place one of the cakes onto a plate. Sprinkle some of the lemon zest on top of the cake and place one lemon leaf underneath its end. Serve and enjoy.

ROBERTO RUSSO’S “UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN” SOUP

“Among all of the Tuscan soups, this one by far is the most famous,” says villa owner Chef Russo. This recipe is from the “Good Ciao Cookbook.” Serves 4.

6 cups vegetable stock

9 ounces dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight

2 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil

1 leek, white part only, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 head, savoy cabbage

1 head, green cabbage

1 head, Tuscan kale or swiss chard

1 potato, scrubbed and diced

1 zucchini, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

4 tomatoes, peeled and seeded

4 slices of day-old bread

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the beans and cook until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking water.

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks, onions and beans, and saut/ until the onions are translucent. Add the cabbages plus all the remaining ingredients except cooking water. Cook, stirring for 4 to 5 minutes. Now add the reserved bean cooking water to the skillet and simmer over low heat for about 2 hours.

ROBERTO RUSSO’S CHICKEN WITH PRUNES AND APRICOTS

“This is a seemingly unusual combination of flavors and colors,” says Russo. “Accompany it with rice.” Serves 4.

1 large chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 TBS. saffron

4 TBS. turmeric

1 tsp. cinnamon, divided

2 large onions, peeled and chopped

7 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

7 ounces of dried prunes, pitted

7 ounces of dried apricots

1 TBS. honey

3 ounces almonds, blanched and chopped

In a large, deep skillet, arrange the chicken and season it with salt and pepper. Add the saffron, turmeric, 1/2 of the cinnamon and onions to the skillet. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and add 3 cups of hot water. Cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Add the dried fruit, the remaining cinnamon, honey and 1 more cup of water if the chicken is too dry. Continue to cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-high heat, warm the remaining olive oil. Add the almonds and cook until browned. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

When the chicken is nearly finished cooking, add the roasted almonds to the large skillet. Season with salt.

Contact Eileen Mintz at 232-1984, eileenmintz@comcast.net.

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