Now You’re Talkin’ My Language
Our First Cooking Class at Healthy Italia
“Eat with Italians, I do”
Take a ride out to the NYC burbs and enjoy some of this beautiful fall foliage before getting into Madison, NJ. Healthy Italia is nestled on the Main Street of the Rose City. Here, they teach you authentic techniques and a very new and different approach to cooking schools in America.
Upon arrival, you walk through their beautiful storefront, complete with cheeses, artisan pastas, rich oils and balsamics and stunning emerald-green cookware all imported from Italy. We were warmly welcomed by Laura, one of the owners, who got us seated to a wonderful spread of antipasti misto. She had worked hard to prepare for us a veggie frittata, speck (smoked prosciutto), a cheese plate with two yummy marmalades, chicken skewers, asparagus, zucchini, a fresh and simple salad and these flavor-packed homemade crackers.
About a group of 8 of us were able to sit down, enjoy, and hear a little bit more about Laura and the rest of Healthy Italia’s passion and approach. Laura did a bravo job of telling us about her culture and why they decided to open Healthy Italia. She weaved into her story things she noticed that are here in America that are different in Italy like sizes and colors of eggs, fresh produce without preservatives or modification, and more. She shared with us the all too real reality of obesity in America being an uncontrollable problem. Laura was happy to share her passion for health, simplicity, and quality ingredients. Next, we learned about the way we would be cooking. One rule above all for cooking the Italian way: “Tutto ad occhio!” which means doing everything by eye. While many cooking schools in America focus on giving precise instruction and an inside look at professional culinary approaches, it was amazing to see Laura beautifully articulate lots of knowledge alongside passion to dispel some myths about great cooking and allow people to learn to have fun and love the kitchen again.
On the menu for the evening was butternut squash risotto and chocolate hazelnut biscotti. Both of these offerings have seemed daunting in the past and I usually enjoy them made by someone else: either from the market or my local favorite restaurants. For making the risotto, it was so refreshing to see how simple making a homemade vegetable broth can be. It was also wonderful to try cooking risotto a different way than whatever a boxed version has previously told us. We used high quality imported Italian ingredients and added broth into the rice every so often in a very mindful and alluring way. When the risotto was al dente, we garnished with crushed hazelnuts and balsamic dollops around the plate. Mixing the ingredients for the biscotti was fun and shaping it was even more fun.
While it was clear we were learning new ways of doing things, Laura was excellent at encouraging people to get out of their comfort zones in a charmingly sweet way. At points, there were comments of doing things differently than before or expected but Laura did a great job of leading with grace and passion -- and a fun disposition.
Coming from a Sicilian kitchen myself, it was amazing to relate and bond about different family recipes and the type of love and connection associated with those traditions. Often times during the night, I thought to myself, “now you’re talkin my language” because I was vibing with what Laura was talking about. Above all, the overall message was: Keep it simple but do it with love - and we loved it. Thank you so much to Healthy Italia in Madison NJ for sharing their passion for food and cooking with the world and doing it all with great love.
See what classes and events are available at Healthy Italia: