I normally address the “what’s for dinner” question by perusing the latest restaurant write ups in Tasting Table or Grub Street.  After last night’s Panini and Gelato making class at Alta Cucina, however, I not only know what ingredients make an excellent panini feast, but I know how to put them all together to make quite a delectable semblance of authentic Italian yumminess!

The ingredients on this occasion (though the possibilities are endless) included crusty Italian bread as well as the lesser-known, Piadina, a regional Italian flat bread, heavenly fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, grilled vegetables, and pesto.  The instructor emphasized that the quality and freshness of the ingredients is key to capturing the true essence of authenitc Italian cuisine. Finishing that mix with some top-notch Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and my mouth was singing ciao to this chow!

DeLonghi, the events sponsor, equipped our kitchen classroom with state-of-the-art toaster ovens/panini presses–to ensure that our paninis were perfectly crisp on the outside and bubbly and gooey on the inside.  Similarly, the DeLonghi gelato machines made the gelato creation process ridiculously easy– and I am sad to say that I mostly just gaped in awe (and in anticipation of the food coma to come) as milk, cream, sugar and vanilla were stirred, poured and set on a timer, within the first five minutes of class.  Later, I devoted my focused concentration to the stealthy chef-style cutting of the strawberry into an attractive fan shape.  And then, of course, I ate it.

After all, the main reason one really takes a cooking class is to eat.

Truly, there is a great sense of satisfaction in eating something that is self-produced.  With that in mind, the corks of well-chilled white wine were popped as our paninis grilled, and the class settled itself around the table.  Italian food has always been as much about friends and family coming together to enjoy life as it’s been about the cuisine on the plate.  As the food and wine disappeared the classmate camaraderie replaced it, while we shared stories of visits to Italy, Vespa mishaps, and the gardening of tomatoes.

Though the season is coming to an end, there are still opportunities to sign up for similar classes at Alta Cucina Check their events page for more details.

– Ava Fedorov