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A Day of Ringing and Cooking

posted Jul 10, 2011, 10:41 PM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Jul 11, 2011, 3:22 PM ]
We woke on Sunday to a warm, sunny day -- almost 75 degrees at 9 am.  Slowly everyone emerged from their rooms, some having slept “like a rock” and others still a bit jetlagged and adjusting to the time change.  A delicious breakfast of assorted pastries, cheeses, prosciutto and other sliced meat, and juices and coffee awaited us.  As we dined in the courtyard under the rising sun and collected ourselves for a full day of rehearsal and cooking class, we noticed a few in our group had a slight case of the sniffles.  Another few were dealing with aches and pains.  And William had managed to rack up an impressive collection of mosquito bites, the rest of us sure to follow close behind.  And so we started our first full day together in Italy with a few of our group taking a quick trip to la farmazia to pick up anti-itch lotion, painkillers, cold medicine, tissues, and Coke (Stacey and Chuck were just thirsty).

Then it was on to a solid two and a half hours of rehearsal.  We’re excited about the pieces we’ve selected for our series of concerts in Italy.  Classical pieces such as Mascagni’s  Intermezzo and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy provide a familiar background to those unfamiliar with the instrument of handbells, as do more modern classics like Con te Partiro and Over the Rainbow.  Original handbell pieces Metanoia and Call to Celebration show off the sound and emotion handbells can achieve, and though it’s hard to choose, are two of our favorites.

As the sun rose so did the heat, and we found ourselves battling the warming air by setting our practice room’s fan to full blast.  This presented a bit of a problem in a room full of sheet music, with pages flying and ringers jumping to catch loose sheets.  Finally we broke for a “light” lunch of bread salad and homemade pasta with almond pesto accompanied by a chilled white wine.

Inspired by this meal prepared by Jacopo, of Let‘s Cook, he led us into the kitchen for a cooking lesson of our own to prepare an astonishing array of food.  The table was piled high with produce, herbs, spices, cheeses, and two impressive pork loins.  Jacopo led us through the menu we would be preparing for the night: eggplant, tomato, and pepper crostinis; a second course of gnocchi in an authentic Tuscan tomato sauce and homemade tagliatelli in a red pepper sauce; a main course of pork loin stuffed with rosemary, sage, and lemon zest cooked in a milk sauce; and finally the famous Italian dessert of tiramisu.  Oh, we were ready to cook up a storm.

We divided into teams to tackle the diverse menu planned.  Team Tagliatelli got straight to it, making little “volcanoes” of flour into which they cracked eggs and slowly mixed the two together.  Then, they went on to the kneading.  William, solely comprising Team Pork Loin, began chopping herbs and making all our mouths water with the scent of rosemary in the air.  Team Tagliatelli kept kneading.  Team gnocchi got to peel and squish some potatoes, into which they mixed one part flour to four parts potato.  Cheese was grated and added by cheese enthusiast Stacey, and the team formed one giant gnoccho with all the dough.  Team Tagliatelli kept kneading.  Team Tiramisu, or the “Tirimisu Crew,” went off to the front room where there was more room and began furiously whipping cream, making coffee, and pouring amaretto.  Team Tagliatelli kept kneading, and Team Gnocchi was told NOT to over-knead their dough.  Instead they began to cut off chunks to roll out, slice, and shape before tossing them immediately into a pot of boiling water.  Team Tagliatelli kept kneading.  Team Pork Loin, AKA William, combined all the chopped herbs to stuff the loin, and learned how to tie meat to keep its shape.  The pork loin went into a hot pan with oil to sear on eight sides, then simmered in milk.  Team Tagliatelli kept kneading, and Susan the newly named Gnocchi Wench hovered over the pot to fish out each gnocchi as it floated to the surface of the water.  We all worked together to chop vegetables for the pasta sauces and crostini, except for Team Tagliatteli.  They were… wrapping up their balls of pasta dough in plastic wrap to sit for a few hours.  We had reached a stopping point as the tirimisu set, the loin simmered, the gnocchi were boiled, and sauces bubbled.  It was time to tear ourselves away for our afternoon rehearsal.