Last night, J & I took her parents to a class at the Institute of Culinary Education for their 30th anniversary--"Dining with Platina, Michaelangelo, and Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Cooking," ably and fascinatingly taught by Cathy Kaufman, the food historian for ICE. (I got the impression she does other things as well, but I'm not sure what.)
The evening began with a brief lecture from Chef Cathy about eating in the Renaissance--humoural medicine, how class distinctions play out in eating habits, the history of the first Italian cookbooks, etc. Some of the class seemed to be nodding off during her talk, but Jenny & I, nerds that we are, were listening attentively.
Next, she passed around some of the more obscure ingredients we'd be using: verjuice and malaguetta pepper, which figured strongly in one of the dishes J & I made--but more on that in a minute.
At this stage, we started to realize that at the table with us were several people with a great sense of humor and adventure, some shell-shocked and shy folks, and a couple of right duds. By the luck of the draw, we ended up at a cooking table with the dud couple, who were extremely snarky. Oh, well--we wound up just ignoring them anyway, which was easy enough, especially since we outnumbered them 2 to 1.
Our table's job was to complete six items: Marzipan Torta, Fava Beans, Roasted Game Hens with Sweet and Sour Orange Sauce, Cuttlefish in Black Sauce, Tomacelli (herbed calves' liver), and Frozen Wine. Jenny & I began on the wine (a granita sort of thing), and her parents set to the game hens, while the Snarks started measuring for the torta. Seeing what was next on the list (the calves' liver), I asked the Snarks (kindly, I thought) if they would mind switching off with me, so that I would do the rest of the torta so as not to be elbow-deep in things I'm allergic to. They agreed, however begrudingly, and so making the pizzelle (?) wafers on which the marzipan sits occupied me for the next while.
I won't go through a whole play-by-play here, but will cut to the meal's highlights. Of course I couldn't eat everything, but of what I ate, the standouts were the Salad of Mixed Lettuces and Herbs, the Bolognese Torte (mainly chard and cheese, with a sweetish crust), fish (not sure what) with Lombard Sauce, and the Frozen Wine. Sweet Rice Fritters were probably lovely when they were hot, but by the time we ate them they were cold and stodgy--ditto the game hens. My torta was likewise adversely affected by the delay in eating--what should have been crispy was densely chewy, although still very tasty with the marzipan itself, and the rose water I put in it. I am inspired to tweak that recipe for home use, for something that will be able to bear a delay in eating.
Of these, the standouts were the salad and the fish, and later I'll post the recipes to these. But now I'm hungry....