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Lunch for the Ballooners and Artists

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Tuesday, we decided to prepare a hearty lunch for the returning ballooners, and those who had stayed at the villa for Liz's watercolor painting class (more on that tomorrow).
I made a ton of a meat ragu when in Rome, and brought it to the villa frozen in two large disposable tupperware containers, with a two huge ziplocks full of the meat from the sauce (pork, beef, and sausage).

There were two main challenges around preparing meals: fridge space, and bowls.
There were two small (by US standards) refrigerators in the kitchen. I had "do not touch" and "keep out signs" on mine. Gail's contained yogurt, juice, cream for coffee, and wine (and some of my overflow items). Mine overflowed with whatever ingredients were needed for the next meal we were cooking. Let us not forget the 10 kilos of cheese I brought from Rome, lots of coldcuts, salad ingredients, lots of butter and cream for baking and desserts I had planned, and for two days, 26 wine glasses full of panna cotta and a bowl of strawberry sauce. The small freezer was full! The huge styrofoam ice chest was full. (Think 16-20 people per meal)

I learned that everything I refrigerate at home does NOT have to go in the fridge. I had to keep veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes) on the counter. The onions, lemons, stayed in a bag on the floor. Eggs weren't refrigerated in the grocery store, so they also went on the counter, and none of us died. It was a constant balancing act/scavenger hunt in the fridge.

Bowls: The kitchen was well-equipped with good quality cookware, sharp knives, pasta pots, and large skillets. There were three serving bowls, 4 platters, and a stack of white 9x13 baking pans. What was missing for me was BOWLS for prep. There were 2 glass mixing bowls, in a medium and small size. There was one huge metal mixing bowl that would not fit in the fridge. The medium was filled with strawberry sauce for panna cotta for dinner. The small was the size of a cereal or ice cream bowl, perfect for beating two eggs. Hmmmm.

Did I mention, this was Italy so, there was no mixer, no food processor (except Brad), no disposal (I cleaned out the sink drain 100 times a day), and no microwave. SO to melt 2 T of butter, I had the choice of leaving the small mixing bowl in the sun for a couple of hours, or using a 14" skillet! At one point, I considered the hair dryer. It is amazing the things we take for granted. Sometimes, ok often, I thought of reheating what was left in the coffee pot, but that would have entailed washing ANOTHER large pot, so it was easier to run across the street for an 80 cent espresso! I actually kissed
my two garbage disposals when I got home, and need to go hug my trash compactor right now!

I never washed so many dishes in my life. I might wash the one bowl 4-5 times just to complete one recipe. Now think of dinner for 18 with a salad course, a pasta bowl, an entree, a dessert plate, and a couple of glasses per person. One dishwasher was "out of service", and the other one was still completing its 2.5 hour cycle from everyone's lunch dishes. Thank God for my good friends Jerry, Paul, Sandi and Holly, who never hesitated to grab a dishtowel, or who voluntarily cleared dishes as Brad and I were plating the next course! They were truly our guardian angels!

Back to lunch. I heated the ragu, cooked some pancetta, and added cream and vodka.
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We served a simple salad, and the meat in ragu on the side.
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The guests were happy and full, and quite appreciative!
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Lunch was a great learning experience, and we happily cooked the rest of the afternoon in preparation of the evening's "big dinner".

Comments (8)

Sheena :

What a HUGE amount of work! I thought you were just cooking two or three dinners - it sounds as though you became a full time "chief cook and bottle washer".

Cooking for that many people is a big enough job in your own kitchen, I can't imagine the challenge in a strange kitchen however well equipped it was.

Did you have any time to enjoy Tuscany?

We had three and a half days of no cooking (ok, maybe a little bit of prep or grocery shopping), so we really enjoyed our week in Tuscany! I was up at 6 every morning, and Brad was a fabulous sidekick! We had fun cooking together, and he basically did everything I didn't want to do! He is also a great scullery guy, and scrubbed ALL the pots and pans (like he does at home.)
I enjoyed being served meals the 4 nights we went out to dinner!

What a challenge! It is amazing what we take for granted. Thanks for the description. Did you buy ziploc bags in Italy or bring them from home? The food looks so delicious! Glad you were able to be served also a few nights.

BYO Ziplocks!

nancyhol:

I can hardly wait to see how much work the "big dinner" was.

Knowing Palma, I know all of those guests ate really well!

Kim:

Palma, maybe Brad should change his member name to #1 Sous Chef?

Sound delish - going to catch up on the other entries.

Barb Cabot:

You work your magic in the kitchen anywhere, under any conditions! Brad is a wonder as well. The food and presentation GREAT!

Sheena, please know that she and Brad were only there to cook three dinners....but you all know Palma. Cooking is her thing. It was ALL appreciated and their choice to do as much as they did!

We were the lucky recipients.

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