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Cooking With The Professor Series Prepares The Foods Of Bologna, Italy

The traditional Italian cuisine of Bologna was showcased at the Cooking with the Professor event as part of UCI Illuminations’ International Week at the ARC’s Anteater Test Kitchen on Feb. 5. UCI philosophy professor Annalisa Coliva and Chapman visiting professor Marco Panza demonstrated and served Bologna specialties to students.

Students learned some of the cultural history and landmarks of Bologna and were also able to try their hands at preparing peperonata and a salame de chocolate.

“We first started this about four years ago, and the first event was on Chinese food,” Asian American Studies Professor Yong Chen, the creator of Cooking with the Professor said. “I did one Cooking with the Professor event on Chop Suey — for many years chop suey was the most recognized Chinese food in the U.S.”

Coliva started the session with a brief background of the city of Bologna, highlighting sites such as the Two Towers of Bologna, the Piazza Maggiore, the San Petronio, the University of Bologna and Fico, the “Disneyland of food.”

Panza then began his demonstration of peperonata, an appetizer consisting mainly of stewed peppers, onions and tomatoes. A scent of peppers, garlic, fennel and olive oil filled the room as Panza added the ingredients to the pan. Three projectors showed the cooking process, captured by swiveling cameras capturing Panza’s movements. 

 “Less salt, the better it is,” Panza said. Coliva added that she sees “cooking as an art, not following protocol.”

“[Philosophy] really reinforces my idea that cooking is a way of knowing how to do things rather than knowing a series of rules, and that’s certainly something that I carry over from philosophy whenever I cook, and vice versa,” Coliva said.

Panza then switched over to demonstrate how to make salame de chocolate. While mixing his crushed biscuit concoction, Panza said that his hands were dirty from the crumbs but would be clean by the time the mixture was ready. He explained the double boiler technique, a process using a bowl placed over boiling water to melt the chocolate without burning it because the boiling water maintains a constant temperature. Using this method Panza then added the chocolate, flour and whipped egg whites to the biscuit mixture.  

After the demonstration, the professors passed the role of cooking to the students. Four hot plates and cast-iron skillets were placed in front of the room for students to prepare their own peperonata, and those waiting to cook were able to prepare  the salame de chocolate.

“Of the ones we made today, I guess the peppers [peperonata] were good because it was pretty easy to make but it tastes amazing,” third-year business administration student Kate Davidson said.

Once students finished their cooking and sampled their peperonata, Panza gave the final demonstration of the night, Lasagne Alla Bolognese. While Panza was preparing a lasagna for students to observe, ARC staff members served three versions of the lasagna: beef, veal and pork; veal only; and vegetarian.

As students finished their lasagna, projectors screened a video of the UC study abroad program in Bologna.

“The Cooking with the Professor series started because in talking to our colleagues across campus we realized that this would be a great opportunity to facilitate interactions between faculty and students. Usually, students encounter the faculty in the classroom, in the lab or during their office hours. But this is a social culinary setting where people can continue to think about important issues that we care about, academically—but through cooking. And food is something that always unites people,” Chen said.

Ethan Johnson is a Campus News Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. He can be reached at ethanrj1@uci.edu.