Italy is one of the most awesome places to visit. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Italy and visit the Amalfi coast. It was such an amazing experience. The scenery is unreal. The mountains slope straight into the see, with rocky cliffs meeting the crashing waves. Every so often, there is a tiny beach and that’s where the little towns are clustered. The towns themselves are a wonder. The houses are built on the cliffs, and there are multiple levels down, from the road. The houses are so quaint and colorful which adds to the romantic look of the region.
Wandering through the winding narrow cobblestone allies, where little shops and restaurants are bordering, is an experience on its own. Every time a vehicle needs to pass, you literally need to jump in to one of the arched doorways of the shops to avoid being hit! There are staircases between the houses and streets, and you need to climb them to reach some homes. It feels like a trip back in time. The little villages clustered among the sharp winding roads, spring up literally inches away from the side of the road. We rented a villa in Praiano on the Amalfi coast, close to Positano, on a cliff overlooking the sea. The décor was really quaint, full of artful mosaics and natural rock walls carved out of the mountain. We had a full kitchen where we were able to cook our meals. Our hosts had their own chickens and grew some fruits and vegetables in their own garden. They brought us fresh eggs every day, which the chicken had laid. We used about 4 eggs every day, so one day, I asked her to bring me more eggs, she said, “ I can only bring you 2 eggs, my chicken only laid 2 eggs today!!” that was really funny. She also brought me lemons and oranges that grew in their garden. The lemons were so big, I’ve never seen such big ones in New York.
When I was browsing for villas on the Amalfi coast, in the Positano area, online, and reading the reviews, I saw some people were writing about taking a cooking class with a professional chef from the region. I thought that was a great idea. I asked my host to find out if she can get me a chef for my stay there. I was in luck! She found the nicest chef, his name is Baldaserra. Since I only eat kosher food, I had some special requirements. I contacted the chef and explained that I can’t use all kinds of ingredients, so we would be limited somewhat. But he accepted the challenge, and told me not to worry, we will figure it out. We planned on buying fresh fish, produce and some basic ingredients like olive oil, salt, and sugar. He told us that they cook with very simple ingredients, no processed or manufactured products, so that would be ideal for us.
The evening we arrived to Praiano, on the Amalfi coast, was a rainy and foggy day, and the winds, caused the waves to be quite choppy. We had to drive through the foggy mountain roads, to get to our villa. It was terrifying at times, driving through dense fog, barely able to see anything. When we finally arrived to our villa early evening, we just went straight to sleep. The next morning we contacted Baldaserra and we made up to meet in the center of town, which was just a few minutes’ drive up the main road. The road goes straight through the village, and the stores are right on the side. We just parked our car on the side of the road, and hopped out to meet him. He spotted me right away and came over to greet us. He explained to us, that all the fish in the local store, is usually locally caught fish, and since the waves were choppy last night, the boats did not go out to catch any fish, so there are basically no fish in the fish store! Talk about being primitive! So we decided to cook a vegetarian meal. We walked over to the little grocery and selected some produce from the crates outside. Chef pulled out some green leaves, that looked similar to spinach or kale, and he told us that it’s called broccoli, after inspecting it closely, I did see some tiny little broccoli like buds on the stems. I had no idea what it tasted like but I decided to try it. We bought some locally grown cherry tomatoes which were in season, some artichokes, which are very popular there, onions, and 2 kinds of pasta. He produces his own olive oil, so he brought that along. We had brought our own kosher wine, and cheese from London, where we had stopped over before we came to Italy. We bid ciao, and we parted ways, to enjoy the rest of the day, agreeing on a time to meet at our villa to cook our dinner.
We enjoyed wandering through the town of positano, and perusing the few shops which were open this season, since it was February which is the low season, and there are hardly any tourists, which was great for us. The downside was, that some days were rainy and quite cool, and the water is cold, so there’s no swimming in the ocean.
After an enjoyable day, we went back to our villa and the chef came over to start cooking our meal. Baldaserra was so friendly and easygoing and explained everything to us as we prepared our meal together. It was really nice to get to know a local guy and hear what life is like in this region on the Amalfi coast.
In no time at all he whipped up a few dishes and we dug in hungrily thoroughly enjoying our authentic Italian food.
He cooked for us 3 nights, and we tried many different dishes. I wrote a few blogs each covering another recipe, since it’s too much to cover in one post.
Click through the links to see the delicious recipes we tried!