Taste of Summer in the Winter Months

We have all enjoyed the warm summer months: the sandy beaches, the the joy of living in shorts and tank tops, BBQ & cook-outs, and all the wonderfully fresh flavors of fruits and vegetables of the summer months.  As the weather starts to cool off, I know I shall be in denial for a while, and will be doing everything I can in my power to hold on to anything that reminds me of summer.  My summer shorts and sandals are not yet packed away, people.  Neither are my white trousers.  Just a little bit longer, please. Pretty please! 

As I extend my summer wardrobe strategy in place, I started to wonder …. now what about the amazing flavors of summertime?  How do I enjoy them for just a little bit longer? Those fresh and succulent peaches, luscious strawberries, juicy tomatoes, the beets, the summer squash, the …..

How perfect that Chef Pietro Scotti was scheduled to teach a class, at Clarke Culinary Center in South Norwalk – on Preserving your Garden.  In this class he was to share his expertise on canning and preserving all those delicious flavors of summer.  It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss the do’s and dont’s of canning and preserving – with a highly experienced chef. Yeah!  I signed up for that class.  🙂

Cooking class with Pietro Scotti of Da Pietro Westport

Chef Scotti is such a lively, lovable guy.  His pure joy of cooking and eating is downright infectious.  If I am ever around him, I cant help but catch the bug.  And this class was no different.  I felt so inspired and totally charged to set up my personal canning workshop in my own kitchen!

Chef Scotti made a delicious Eggplant Caponata and canned it right before our eyes.  I for one was really excited about the idea of canning freshly made caponata.  Picture me wowing my guests at the Thanksgiving table with a caponata that tastes exactly of summer past.  😉

The recipes were simple, but the flavors bold and amazing.  We learned how to store fresh roasted peppers.  Did you know that during the process of removing the charred skin from the peppers, if your hands come in contact with water – the peppers wont be able to last for more than a couple of days?  Who knew?!!!

We made this dynamite tomato sauce – ready to be tossed with any kind of pasta.  It was made with oven roasted tomatoes.  With just a drizzle of olive oil, roasting sliced tomatoes at 500 degrees for 35-40 minutes compacts so much flavor into them. I could have never imagined it.  The flavors were as deep as you would find in sun-dried tomatoes, except unlike sun-dried tomatoes, these tomatoes were juicy and moist.  Mmm….  And then Chef Scotti tossed them in freshly cooked pasta with a touch of fresh basil and parmesan cheese.  Thats all he needed to create a dish that I just could not get enough of.  I am so going to make cans and cans of this sauce for the winter months.

Cooking class with Pietro Scotti of Da Pietro Westport

Chef Scotti showed us a simple trick to marinate thinly sliced eggplant by soaking it in vinegar and water mixture with some salt and sugar.  After 20 minutes or so he drained the eggplant and squeezed all the liquid out of it.  He finished it with fresh garlic, oregano and olive oil … and voila!  what we had was a delicious, tangy eggplant that could sit proudly on any slice of toasted bread, or served on your next antipasto platter!

As for all the summer fruits, chef made a vibrant compote by cooking all sorts of sliced juicy fruits with cinnamon stick and cloves.  Plums, peaches, mangoes, pears, strawberries – you could pretty much use any citrusy fruit. The idea is the same.  And the colors are bound to be bold.  I can just picture it….   its Christmas eve and I finish serving my guests a delightful holiday meal.  For a grand finale, and a taste of summer, I bring out this delectable fruit compote next to a dollop of some homemade vanilla ice cream.  How divine!

And the best part?  We got to take cans of all the fruits and vegetables he cooked and canned.  Yes!!!

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