My very good friend Lynn asked me if I would have a cooking class/ luncheon at her home. Without hesitation, I said yes! Her home is located in the Historic district of Orlando. This was the perfect place for Lynn and her friends, Marian, Jean, Diane, Gloria, and Sandy to spend some quality time together. I thought it would be a great idea to put a menu together and show the girls some tips, and cooking techniques that they could take home and use when cooking for their families.
Earlier in the week, Lynn and I met to iron out all the details. We came up with a plan and set it in motion. Gifts for the girls, a tablescape that would compliment the Italian theme, and then of course the menu. The day before the luncheon, I went shopping and found some great seasonal ingredients at the local farmers market in town. I wanted the centerpiece for the table to also echo a few of the ingredients I was using. A large rustic bowl filled with pink grapefruits, lemons, fennel fronds, and fresh bay leaves.
Cheese Board, Parmesan, Parmigiano- Reggiano, and Grana Padano
Fennel Salad With Grapefruit, Red Onion, and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, garnished with edible flowers
Kale And White Bean Soup
Homemade croutons (menu category -breads and muffins)
Eton Mess By Way Of Italy (menu category -desserts)
Peach And Fresh Mint Iced Tea
I set up a small cheese board filled with shards of different types of Parmesan cheeses. The saltiness of the cheeses paired really well with the cocktail I made. I chose to serve Peach Bellinis Fresh peach puree mixed with Prosecco sparkling wine, garnished with a strawberry. A traditional cocktail that originated in Venice, Italy.
I went through the steps for each coarse step by step. The ladies were taking notes which made me feel pretty special. They asked great questions and I think they went away realizing that when you use fresh and seasonal ingredients, cooking can be fun as well as delicious. I want to say that these were some of the sweetest ladies and I hope that we will be able to get together again in the near future. Lynn, I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to help you with this amazing luncheon.
Yields: 6 servings
2 heavy bottom soup pots
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time 35-40 minutes
Recipe For Kale And White Bean Soup:
All ingredients divided evenly into two 6 quart heavy bottom pots
2 bunches of fresh kale, stems and center rib removed coarsely chopped
4-15 ounce cans of white Cannellini beans -drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 stalks of celery diced halved and coarsely chopped
2 large onions coarsely chopped
8 carrots peeled and 1/2 inch diced
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of grated fresh nutmeg
2 Fresno chilis seeded and minced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
8 cups of water (amount of water may vary slightly)
2-2 inch pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
2 fresh bay leaves ( dried are fine)
2 teaspoons of fresh chopped rosemary leaves
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
E.V.O.O drizzle on top of soup
Accompaniment: homemade croutons
Note: smoked sausage is an option to add to this soup (slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick pieces)
Turn the burners on to a moderate heat allowing the two heavy bottom pot to heat up. Remember that all the ingredients will be evenly divided into the two pots. Once the pots have come up to temperature, adjust the temperature to medium heat. Add in the olive oil, diced onions, minced Fresno chili, celery, diced carrots, and tomato paste. Stir all the ingredients together and allow to start softening. Make sure to season as you go by adding a sprinkling of Kosher salt, black pepper.
Add the minced garlic, bay leaves, and fresh chopped rosemary leaves. Continue to stir. About 3-5 minutes in, add in the unsalted chicken stock, cheese rinds. Slowly add in the half of the chopped kale leaves to each pot. Using a spoon, start to submerge the leaves into the liquid. Next, slowly add in the water and the rest of the chopped kale. This is the point is where you’ll be able to see if you have enough liquid, ( refer to the pictures above) allowing 3 inches of space at the top of each pot.
The kale will wilt as it cooks, and most of the ingredients will also release their water. Not to worry, (cooking soup uncovered) as the soup comes up to a boil, water will also evaporate as the soup cooks. Now, add in the drained Cannellini beans. Now is the time to add the 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and the fresh grated nutmeg to each pot. Stir all the ingredients together Bring the soup up to a boil, reduce the temperature and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until the kale and carrots are tender. Once finished, cover the soup pots until ready to serve.
Serve in big soup bowls with grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, and a drizzle of good E.V.O.O.