Michelle Rago, Ltd.—Blog

Cooking up the Perfect Vacation!

April 30th, 2013 · No Comments


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Tropea, Italy. Water Seeks it’s own Level.

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What is continuing education for someone like me who is committed to her craft and always seeking enriching experiences to bring to the table? Do I… audit a college course… LAWD HAVE MERCY…no-I couldn’t work that out back in the day! Do I return to cooking school for a refresher… or do I put myself right into the thick of it?

By way of my dear friend Jennifer Learmonth, Executive Chef at The Rock House in Harbour Island www.rockhousebahamas.com, with whom I have shared many a fine meal, I discovered In Italy Tours based out of Tropea, Calabria. Jenny wanted to go back to Italy … I am obsessed with Italy…Jenny wanted to eat good food…I love good food. Good fit.

So we put our precious vacation into the hands of the owner of In Italy Tours  www.initalytours.com, Tania Pascuzzi. She has done something terribly delicious and very intimate in “one” of native homelands (Hawaii is the other). As Tania quotes on her website, “There’s nothing I love more than to share my passion for authentic cuisine and culture with you as my guests by finding and creating bona fide, authentic experiences in Italy’s southern region of Calabria that you won’t find anywhere else and you certainly won’t forget.”

True to her commitment, Tania has done something “terribly delicious.” She has combined her love of teaching and holiday. It was well worth the long travel. Jenny and I cooked in the farm houses of 2 families. It was just the 2 of us and we were knee deep in making pasta, veggie dishes and baking bread. Remember… aside from the hospitality of the people, Calabria yields ingredients that are not possible to find in America. Southern Italy yields the freshest most divine fruits of the earth.

Okay, so enough gushing… lets get down to business and highlight some dishes I will never forget.

There was the clever use of a slice of raw cippola onion, sweet and juicy, used as THE SPOON for fire roasted beans shown below. Yummy, yummy, yummy.

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Then below are the pictures from the day of bread baking in a huge stone oven. Of course there is homemade wine in a jug and jars of delicious marinated things for dipping.

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One of my personal favorites was the pan of sauteed Frisee with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese that you slice like a pie! It takes not time at all and it honestly melts in your mouth. I think I ate the whole thing.

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In southern Italy they call eggplant “the poor mans caviar.” It is one of my favorite foods and so versatile. Although you have seen this dish many times, it the farm to table freshness and the cross slicing that allows so much flavor to permeate the vegetable to it’s core. Note the knife secured with electrical tape…classic.

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After our time in Tropea, we headed further south to go sailing in the Aeolian Islands. Truly heaven on earth. There grand finale was a lemon almond pesto from the island of Alicudi in Sicily, let me say it again….lemon…almond…pesto… to accompany a local fish. It was a dreamy pale yellow. I think a chef could honestly build his entire career on this dish. I sadly don’t have an image… but trust when I tell you. It blew my mind.

 Here is a quick link right to the Calabria tour I took www.initalytours.com/italian-vacation-tropea-tour-cooking-with-peppe.htm and although my gracious hosts and I did not speak the same language… we shared the universal language of our love of fresh food, and a beautifully set table.

Make sure you check out In Italy Tours. I promise you will have a ball and Tania is an absolute delight. Tell her I sent you!



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