Saturday, February 18, 2012

Italian Cuisine

I realized that doing a blog on Italian Cuisine and Food culture is long overdue as we’ve been living here for over a year and a half and I haven’t said too much about it.  Italian food is necessary to the life force of the entire  world, I’m absolutely certain.  Without a doubt!  I should mention that as I’m typing this, hubby is in the kitchen cooking pasta with butter and garlic, our favorite “what to eat when we can’t think of anything else to eat” and it’s starting to smell fabulous.  
Italians, in my book put the world to shame with how they can take something so simple as pasta and make it a masterpiece of a  dish.  (I do give a little credit to the Japanese and their sushi, which I dearly, sorely miss being located where we are and having moved away from a neighborhood where there were about 6 sushi places within twenty minutes of driving.)  Italian food, basically put, is so simple, and so perfect.  I asked my husband what his favorite thing about it was and he came back with “the purity of flavor the simplicity, the amazing taste,” and I couldn’t have come up with a better notion other than to say it’s heartwarming.  Italians who love to cook show it with their food.  Most restaurants around us have the same things, a few select pasta dishes, pizza with every topping combination you can think of, a dish or two with steak or chicken and the classic caprese or Caesar salads.  The five-star rated, if you go to a worthy one, has some of the most amazing dishes I’ve ever tasted.  
I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had at a little place in a few towns away from us where the chef is five-star and usually you have to make a reservation to get in, but during lunchtime, he employs an all local handi-capable staff to serve and wait tables and handle the bar and I don’t think we’ve seen much better service in all the time that we’ve been here.  We picked the menu of the day, the “piatto del giorno.”  It was my first fish entree in a long time and I’m going to have to take the risk and try it more often based on my experience there.  Not to mention, Italians work with foods that as a child I swore I’d never like as an adult, but that I know try and am amazed by.  Don’t tell my mother that I’ve willingly eaten eggplant.  Willingly!  I’ve had it several times and am soon going to attempt to cook it for myself.  And just a few weeks ago, I had a starter salad with beets that was sectioned off like all the other toppings, shredded carrots and such, but because of the simple, tangy vinaigrette, I ended up eating every last bite.  They make pasta sauces that you clean the last traces of off your plate with the table bread even though you swore you were so full you couldn’t handle dessert, a habit my hubby has long since been a fan of but that I’ve now adopted as well.  (I’m absolutely serious about not telling my mother.  She swears I’m somehow not her child because I refuse to eat coconut, anything with cranberries in it, sweet pickle relish, tuna from a can, or pumpkin pie.  I’m learning to appreciate pumpkin thanks to a recipe I found for a creamy soup involving chicken broth, evaporated milk and curry, but really, I implore you.  Don’t tell her.   She’ll be too proud and she’ll try to convince me to come other to the dark side and accept coconut into my heart and I just couldn’t handle that.)
A few of the comparisons?  Pasta sauce.  Bolognase, in particular.  In the states we know it as Ragu and it comes in a jar with a yellow lid and most of the ingredients are unidentifiable.  Here, it’s savory and aromatic, sometimes well blended, sometimes chunky but amazing.  Pizza?  Ahh, pizza is fantastic.  I don’t know what you people are eating back home if it’s not made by an old Italian family but it’s not pizza.  Here, we’ve had a variety of toppings and we have our favorites that the same combo in the states doesn’t even compare to!  We’ve even had the most simple, basic pizza made on a huge piece of flat-bread, pre-sectioned and then baked with caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese.  Seems ridiculously easy, right?  But it tastes so amazingly wonderful.  Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that I’ve done more happy-food dances in the last year and a half than I’ve done since he’s known me.  Yes, I said happy-food dances. I eat something so incredibly good and I literally dance in my chair and clap my hands like a 5 year old who just had a gigantic banana split set down in front of them and the reins to a Shetland pony handed to them.  I can’t help it.  Great food just makes me ecstatic from head to toe.  And the Italians know how to make good food.

Happy Eating (and Drooling!)

Allie H.

P.S. For all you fellow pumpkin nay-sayers out there, even if you're not a huge fan of curry (I wasn't before I tried this), you should definitely try this soup. You can find the recipe in the link below. There's a few variations out there but this is the closest to the one I've made a few times.

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