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Islanders master traditional Italian favorites with Loretta Paganini

February 19, 2014
By CAROL ORR HARTMAN ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Loretta Paganini held her weeklong cooking classes for the 17th year in a row at the Jacaranda Restaurant between Jan. 27-31 for those lucky attendees who got to learn firsthand from a master how to cook traditional Italian favorites.

Paganini was born in Bologna, Italy and first learned how to cook from her mother, a renowned chef and television personality in Italy, so she comes by it naturally. She had the opportunity to train under famous chefs, continuing her education at Cordon Bleu in Paris and has been certified by the International Association of Culinary Professions. She maintains membership in the IACP and the American Culinary Federation and is the founder of the Tri State Association of Cooking Schools.

By opening The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking in Chesterland, Ohio, she is able to bring culinary education to hundreds of recreational students. She is also recognized as a local and national television personality, having appeared on shows like "CBS This Morning." She starred in a national video for Weight Watchers to teach new members the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. She has written cookbooks and contributes regularly to cooking articles in local magazines and newspapers.

Attendees had the choice to take a day of classes or the entire week as many chose to do. Each day was a different theme In a Tuscan Kitchen, Mushrooms and Truffles, Tapas, Paella and Sangria, A Burst of Flavor: Cooking with Fresh Herbs, and Deliziioso Dinner.

Each day featured a wide variety of dishes that reflected a topic. For example, Tapas, Paella and Sangria started out with a glass of Sassy Fruit Sangria. The drink was prepared on the stage which featured a mirror so that everyone could see how each was prepared. Following that, Spinach Empanadas, Tortilla di Patata, Chorizo Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers, Shrimp de Ajo, Mushrooms Segovia Style, Tomato Gaspacho with Vegetable Confetti, Mediterranean Salad with Sangria Vinaigrette, Paella Valenciana with Seafood and Chicken, and finished with Coconut Macaroons and Almond Flan Cake with Fresh Strawberries and Ice Cream. Loretta had an attendee come up and assist with each dish, while imparting helpful hints and colorful stories from Italy to accompany the instruction.

Many attendees have been coming for years, including Judy Goldenberg, who has come to all of the 17 Sanibel cooking schools over the years and has travelled with Paganini on three of her tours to Italy.

Fact Box

Artichoke Fritters with Lemon Aioli

Serves 8

1 (16 oz.) pkg. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed & drained

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 scallions, chopped

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 lg. eggs, beaten

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Pour 3 inches of vegetable oil into a heavy bottomed pot and place over medium heat.

Coarsely chop the artichokes and put them in a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic and scallions, buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a separate bowl and quickly mix the dry ingredients into the artichoke ingredients and mix well to incorporate.

Heat the oil to 375F in a deep heavy skillet. If you don't have a deep-fat thermometer, drop a 1 inch cube of bread in the oil. If it turns golden brown within 1 minute, the oil is hot enough. Remove the bread and proceed with the recipe.

Drop the fritters by the heaping tablespoon into the hot oil. Fry a few at a time until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining artichoke batter. Keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve. Serve with sauce.

Lemon Aioli Sauce

2 coddled egg yolks

1 tsp. mustard

1 cup corn oil

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the egg yolks and mustard in a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Slowly add the oil in a thin, steady stream until it comes to a smooth consistency. Stir in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

-Provided by The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking

Paganini's classes are a must do for those who love good food and would like to learn cooking techniques to do at home. It's a party of food and entertainment that is not to be missed if you love Italian food. Paganini graciously shares one of her favorite recipes with readers and hopes you enjoy her Artichoke Fritters with Lemon Aioli.



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