The Ultimate Cuisine - Italian Food for the Masses
Fresh and Fantastico!
By now we have all heard of the Mediterranean Diet - one that includes fresh produce, meat and fish and lots of extra-virgin olive oil. That describes Italian Cuisine to the max.
I lived in Italy for five years in my 20s and had the time of my life. Previous to that I was a vegetarian and cooked for a small restaurant called Mahayana in southern California. I was good at combining vegetables in many dishes, but nothing compared to what I learned while living in Milano, in the north, and then Sardegna, an island off the coast near Genoa.
It's no secret that Italian people LOVE to eat, and drink wine with every meal except breakfast. Breakfast for many is a big cup of espresso coffee mixed with steamed milk; not exactly a caffe latte but close, plus some fresh hot bread or biscotti which is dipped in the steaming coffee. The bakeries open early in the cities and the women do their shopping early picking up the delicious hot rolls or baguettes or big round loaves. Bread and pasta are staples in any Italian diet.
As you see from the map, there are many distinct regions in Italy. The country is united by the mother tongue, a Florentine Italian, but all the regions have their own dialect and their own style of cooking. The northern cities are influenced by France and Germany whereas the southern cities have more African and Morrocan influence.
All regions share a great love for freshness and flavor.
This dish uses big ripe juicy tomatoes. Home grown are the best of course, in my opinion best eaten right off the vine like an apple, no salt, no nothin’, red and delicious slurpin’ goodness. There is a way to enhance a perfect tomato and that’s to put it in one of my favorite summer recipes, a simple “salad” called “Insalata Caprese,” an Italian dish named for the small island of Capri that boasts the luscious tomato.The other main ingredient is found in Campania, Italy, another southern region that makes the best buffalo-milk mozzarella in the world. Combined with a little extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil leaves and a quick shake of salt and pepper, they make this famous versatile dish. Buffalo-milk mozzarella is nothing like the fairly tasteless, rubbery cows’ milk version of the cheese you melt over pizza. When it is made by the artisans in Campania the result is a juicy and porcelain white cheese with a clean, fresh flavor and milky aroma that is sweetly salted and slightly acidic. It is a rare delicacy in this part of the world but it can be found. Here’s the “recipe” although it is more just an arrangement, it is so simple. Serve it as an antipasto or light lunch.Serves FourChoose only fresh mozzarella and ripe, tasty tomatoes for best results. Serve with some good crusty bread to sop up the juices. 4 Ripe Tomatoes 2 Balls of Fresh Mozzarella (Buffalo Preferred) Salt And Pepper Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fresh BasilSlice the tomato and mozzarella into round pieces and arrange attractively on each plate. Garnish with fresh basil, drizzle over each plate some good extra-virgin olive oil, season and serve.