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The Flavors of Liguria Italy

by M. Caruso and Wendy Leopold
Travel Writers, Locations, Etc. Inc.

I've come a long way from my middle-America mid-western roots
and so too have my culinary skills. Minnesota is famous for its hot dishes - canned soups mixed with macaroni - so that was the closest thing to Italian food in my parent's house.

Fortunately I married an Italian 25 years ago - so over the years I have expanded my culinary skills. So I was delighted to accept an invitation to attend a cooking class on The Flavors of Liguria.

Class at Eataly, New York

The class was co-sponsored by the La Spezia Chamber of Commerce, and two local producers of wine from the La Spezia province - the Cooperative Cantina Cinque Terre and Cantina Lunae Bosoni- and both offer fabulous tours to their vineyards during a stay in the Cinque Terre.

Manarola Cinque Terre
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La Spezia province is an eastern region of Liguria and includes the Cinque Terre - or “Five Towns”. If you spend a few days in this region, you have a choice of charming hotels in La Spezia and easy day trips by boat or train or a hike to visit these five glorious towns, four of which are on top of dramatic cliffs.

The Four Provinces of Liguria, Italy
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The Cinque Terre and La Spezia
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Vernazza Cinque Terre
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Main Street in La Spezia
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A Cinque Terre Hiking Path
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The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) are situated along a dramatic coastline overlooking the Ligurian Sea. It's part of the Italian Riviera and as famous as the scenery is the regional cooking. Our 2 hour cooking class focused on these specialties.

Our first course was a famous Ligurian dish - Pasta with potatoes, string beans and pesto. Pesto originates in Liguria and it's taste is like nowhere else on the planet. Ask any Italian where the best basil is grown and they will tell you from the area of Pra', on the hills west of Genoa.

Ligurian Pasta with Pesto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Farinara . . . ..
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The Chef answered questions not only about what he was preparing, but also cooking questions in general. Tradition has one using a mortar and pestle, but when using a blender our Chef suggests slightly chopping the basil before tossing in the blender--perhaps this summer I will not have to bury another blender.

We also watched a demonstration of another Ligurian specialty- Farinara- or Chickpea cake. Seeing the consistency of the batter used for the farinata motivates me to try this at home. Our fish course recipe called for roasting the vegetables in the oven, but our Chef did things on the stovetop with terrific results.

Terrace vineyard in La Spezia
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Our courses were prepared in front of us and served with different Ligurian wine pairings. A description from Eataly's sommelier illustrated for us the particular methods and natural elements that result in the wines produced in this region. The vineyards are centuries-old man-made terraces with protective stone walls and soil rich in sea air. Harvesting is done manually because the slopes are so steep - and late in the year due to the mild climate.

Dessert was an olive oil ice cream drizzled with a perfectly intense oil. While it was delicious I'm forced to stick to the frozen food section as I have limited space for an ice cream machine in my tiny Manhattan kitchen!

So until I return to Italy - here's to my next dinner party and recreating the flavors of Liguria.

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