Virtual Cooking Class: Italian Summer Recipes from Essex Resort & Spa

3 Aug

What foodie wouldn’t love a spa retreat at the Essex Resort and Spa?  A Vermont culinary destination renowned for acclaimed dining at Butler’s (with a wine list named one of the top by Wine Spectator magazine), it also boasts a myriad of cooking classes. Just look at the August schedule.

One of my favorite is the World Specialty series, which recently featured Italy. The resort was kind enough to share the recipes from this amazing class for ourcooking (and eating) pleasure. Mange!  Don’t forget to pay a visit to the spa – you’ll have earned it after prepping this gourmet feast – try the Muscle Melt Massage.

Italian Summer Menu:

Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Parmasan Cheese, Lemon Juice and Basil

Ricotta Gnocchi with grilled Shrimp served in a Lemon Caper Sauce

Summer Peach Tart with Almond Crust

Panzanella Salad                     Serves 4-6

2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, seeded, and diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt, preferably gray salt
Several grinds black pepper
Panzanella Croutons, recipe follows
2 cups trimmed arugula
Wedge Parmesan, for shaving

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper. Add the croutons and toss well. Divide tomato mixture among 4 plates. Top each serving with an equal amount of greens. Using  a vegetable peeler, shave some Parmesan cheese on top of the salad.

Panzanella Croutons:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 cups crustless cubed day-old bread (1/2-inch cubes)
Sea salt, preferably gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and preheat a cookie sheet in it.

Add the bread cubes to a large bowl and toss to coat with the olive oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 8 or 9 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

Ricotta Gnocchi

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
12 ounces whole milk Ricotta
3 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
2 teaspoons Sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper

To make the gnocchi:

Combine the eggs, yolks, and ricotta in a large mixing bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Add parmesan cheese and fold with a spatula. Sift together flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then fold into egg mixture until just combined. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a log.

Divide log into quarters with a pastry cutter or knife. Cover with a dry towel. Clear excess flour from the work surface. Working with one quarter at a time, roll the dough into long thin logs. Cut logs into bite-size pieces. Dust with flour and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and dusted with flour.

Refrigerate gnocchi to use the same day or freeze in a single layer then store in a ziplock bag in the freezer for up to two months.

To cook the gnocchi:

Bring slated water to a boil in a large pot. Add gnocchi and return to the boil. Cook gnocchi at a rolling boil for two minutes. They should be floating. Check for doneness by removing a gnocchi and cutting it in half. The texture should be uniform and cooked through the center. Remove the rest of the gnocchi and serve with tomato sauce.

Summer Peach Tart with Almond Crust            Makes one 9-12” tart

Preheat: 375 degrees

Pastry Cream

1 ½ cups milk
½ vanilla bean, split
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter


½ cup red currant or apricot jelly
1 recipe tart dough
3 ripe peaches sliced


Lightly dust a clean surface with flour and roll out pie dough to about 1/8” thick, being certain to lift and turn the dough occasionally to ensure it does not stick. Roll dough onto rolling pin, lift, and place in 12” circular tart pan. Gently push dough to fit pan, lifting the edges to allow dough to settle downward without tearing. Chill for 10-15 minutes to rest dough.

Trim excess at the edge of the pan using a rolling pin. Prick bottom of the tart shell several times with a fork. Line entire tart shell, bottom and sides, with a sheet of parchment paper. Add beans or pie weights to the shell. Bake until light golden brown around the edges 15-20 minutes, remove weights and parchment and bake until center is light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

Pastry Cream

Combine milk and vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan and heat over a medium flame until barely steaming.

Beat together yolks, cornstarch, flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Pour hot milk into egg mixture gradually while whisking constantly. Scrape mixture back into saucepan. Heat over a medium flame, whisking constantly, until thick and boiling. Whisk for one more minute, remove from heat and strain mixture. Add butter, allow to melt and whisk to combine thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap touching the cream and place in refrigerator to cool.


Place jelly in a small saucepan, heat until jelly liquefies and remove from heat. Spoon pastry cream into cooled tart shell and even out. Arrange peaches decoratively on top of pastry cream. Brush fruit with jelly until glistening. Chill about 10 minutes to set jelly and serve.

Almond Crust Make 1 tart

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon almond flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar until well combined. Add egg and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

In a medium bowl, combine both flours and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add flours all at once; mix until well combined.

Turn dough out onto work surface and form into disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to overnight

Spa wishes, Candy


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