62&BY CHEF MASSIMO CAPRAIt's a busy time but that makes it all the better when I get back toMistura in Toronto, or home for the holidays with my family inItaly. A few times a year, I make a point of getting back toCremona to see my friends and to revisit the place where my loveof cooking began.Cremona is the breadbasket of Italy. It's in the Po River valley inLombardy, smack dab in the middle of a ring of venerable citieswith food traditions: Bologna, Parma, Genoa, Milan, and not farfrom Venice where I got my start as a professional chef. How couldyou grow up there and not fall in love with the foods of thesurrounding farmland, and the traditions of the agricultural yearin Italy? My home is where some of the most beautiful foods in theworld are produced: Parma ham, Reggiano cheese, the greatdishes of the Bolognese, the seafood delights of theMediterranean and Adriatic seas. Fortunately, I carry these withme in memory, just as though I'd brought them to Canada in mypockets when I landed here as a young chef.These days, I am on the road a lot for my newshow, Gourmet Escapes. Whether we are inReykjavik or La Jolla, my crew and I are alwaysdrawing inspiration from the people we meetand their local foods and wines. Chefs MichaelBonacini, Jason Parsons and I are also gettingaround Canada to promote our new book, 3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men, so there's plentyof exploration and discovery for the three ofus, as well as a lot of fun.WithaSuitcase aSpoon!
63On the farm we raised and grew everything that we ate. It was abig farm, about 3,000 acres, and my parents were agriculturalworkers. I remember my father in the garden picking carrots,radishes, tomatoes, peppers --you name it. He would sit there ona little stool in the garden, wash and rinse them in fresh waterwith a bit of salt. He would have a bun in one hand, a bowl fordipping in olive oil in the other, and eat the freshly pickedvegetables. The food was all around us.My mother cooked a lot. She's over 80 now, and she still makespasta by hand. It was a totally different way of life. When I wasthree or four, my mother would clean a chicken and give me theraw liver to eat. I loved it! I would eat it right there --me andthe cat! Everything I ate until I went away to cooking school wasraised or grown in and around our village, except when my olderbrother joined the army and went away to Genoa. He would bringhome specialties from all over Italy.There was one chef in my town, and he traveled the world. Idecided I wanted to choose a cooking school. This would get meaway from the village, get me money quickly, plus food wassomething I really understood and enjoyed being around. My firstyear at school, at Salsomaggiore in Parma, I boarded. The schoolalways placed me in different hotels, which I liked, even thoughwe had to do a lot of menial work.Icame to Canada in February 1982, in the middle of a hugesnowstorm. My uncle had given me a 25-cent piece two yearsearlier so I could call him when I arrived in Toronto to work athis restaurants. I took a cab to his place on St. Clair AvenueWest and found my way through giant snow banks to the curband his door.When Rosa and I go back to Italy for the holidays, I love to joinmy friends for long and festive meals. Visiting my family is a greatbreak from the hustle and bustle of my life in Toronto. We have afew favourite things we love to eat, and I am pleased to sharethose with you. Not everyone can get to Italy for the holidays, butyou can make these at home, or come to Mistura where some ofthe classics from home are always on the menu. Salute!The saltiness of prosciutto is complementedby the sweetness of the figs, Gorgonzolagives a big flavour boost, and celery rootlends a refreshing zest. This is a classicexample of the Italian tradition that createsbig flavour sensations with very simpleingredients. - MassimoIngredients:3 oz/90 g Gorgonzola cheese1 oz/30 g mascarpone cheese¼ cup/50 mL finely shredded celery rootJuice of ½ lemonSalt and pepper6 ripe figs, cut in half12 small slices prosciutto¼ cup/50 mL honey12 celery leavesMethod:Mix the Gorgonzola with the mascarpone in a bowl until creamy.Season the celery root with lemon juice, salt, and a touch of pepper. Set aside.Place a scoop of the cheese mixture in the middle of each fig half; top witha small amount of shredded celery root.Place each stuffed half on a slice of prosciutto, roll it up, and garnish it witha drizzle of honey and a celery leaf.Makes 12 pieces.prosciutto-wrappedgorgonzolafigsFROM THE KITCHEN OF CHEF MASSIMO CAPRA""