June 21, 2014
My buddy Roberta and I welcomed the season with a luscious summertime lunch whipped up by the chefs-in-training at the Nosco Cooking School at Antico Convento Ibla in Ragusa Ibla. Talk about “Farm to Table” fresh! The chefs were out in the school’s garden picking our lunch a mere 30 minutes before we scarfed it down. Their assignment was to find something in the garden that inspired their creative fancy.
The squash blossoms were out in full glory. (Can you guess what ended up in one of the dishes?)
This chef threatened to stab me if I didn’t stop taking his picture.
The wizard behind the magic is Peppe Barone, below, a chef who has inspired and trained many top chefs in Southeast Sicily. (He also owns the restaurant Fattoria delle Torri in Modica.) You can watch him on TV here.
An illicit aside:
Right under that rock wall is a deep black hole. Peppe explains: “It is the tunnel that the monks dug. It leads all the way to the nunnery.” He was not kidding. (The convent and nunnery were vacated sometime in the 1950s.)
Goodies in hand, the chefs traipse back to the kitchen and get to work.
Steam steam steam. Chop chop chop.
Roberta and I went down to the dining room in high anticipation, studying the skulls, scrolls, and other frescoes, wondering why there were no more monks. Is gastronomy the new religion?
And then the moment arrived. We were poured a local bubbly rose. And then these marvels–and many others–were placed before us, like benedictions.
Eggplant and tomato torte
Tomato pasta with local cheese–and do you see it?–the squash blossom! Stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried.
Pasta with great big green leaves picked in the garden. That’s all I know. Divine.
Pasta with a leek, onion & potato broth. Shoestring potato garnish.
A “convent cannolo” with sweet ricotta cream. Cute and amazing taste.
A big GRAZIE!!!!! Chef Peppe, to you and all your fine sous chefs!
The Nosco Cooking School at Antico Convento Ibla can arrange custom cooking classes for you You’d need to find nine friends, to make a minimum group of ten. Or visit Ristorante Cenobio to taste the student chefs’ creations. The convent is at the back of the Ibla Gardens.