A couple of nights ago I got home after a busy day with no food prepared. It’s cold, winter is setting in and soup seemed like the best fast idea. To put together a good Italian minestrone took just a half an hour and then some cooking time – brown some onions and add all the vegetables you like, being sure to include a can of kidney beans to make it a meal and with some good vegetable stock (chicken works too) an serve with some freshly grated Parmesan and a chunk of good bread and a glass of red wine – heaven!
‘Cibo’ is Italian for food. Lucky for me, I married an Italian. My Italian mother in law always said that you can make good or bad food with the same ingredients, and it’s so true. Perfectly ripe tomatoes with creamy mozzarella, add some basil and you have an effortless and delicious lunch. I am taking about well-prepared simple ingredients. Each region of Italy has its own traditions and style of cooking that changes with seasons to reflect what is fresh. In summer, you can make a meal of antipasti at room temperature and in winter there’s osso bucco, scaloppini Milanese and melanzane parmigiana (eggplant), all with easy to find recipes on line. I am a big fan of online recipes for cooking, so that I can look at the ingredients, the method and then change it to suit my larder. Don’t try that with baking, though, where the quantities on the recipe need to followed exactly to turn out a good treat.
In Florence, there is probably my favourite restaurant anywhere, Il Latini. The beautiful old building houses communal tables with wine that you pour yourself from a carafe and are charged on an honor system ; a delicious array of food that just keeps coming until you tell the waiter to stop; the excellent surprise when you get the bill and it’s way less than you thought it would be. The wine and produce comes from their own farm, fresh and perfect. I just tell the waiter to bring you food (I say no pork for me, so you can specify your tastes) and then eat until you are satiated. I have never made it past the pasta course, but see people eating large cuts of meat with gusto. To describe the food and the experience – first, antipasti which vary each night but include a barley salad with olive oil, cherry tomatoes and oregano that I have tried to recreate at home with some success, then pasta served family style and if you want, fried zucchini blossoms – beyond delicious. They have a good website, so if you get to Tuscany, make the effort to get there. There are 2 sittings each night at 6 and 9 and be sure to reserve. I am now dreaming about that food! http://www.illatini.com/
Italian food conjures up visions of families and friends eating together, delicious fresh food that’s made with care. It makes me feel content and as if I belong, notwithstanding the fact that I usually eat more than I should. Food should of course be about what we are eating, the taste and the presentation, but also about the way it makes us feel – like we are home.