Rainbow chard and cavolo nero with garlic and red peppers

Rainbow and cavolo vertical photoSince cooking is my profession, following the seasons is more than a simple guideline. Fresh ingredients are the very tools to my kitchen and vegetables are the tangible instruments of my work. A weekly visit to the farmers market is my moment for inspiration. Those who are capable of farming and cultivating food are fascinating to me because of their connection to the earth.  Although I know what vegetables to buy when and where and why, I know much more about how to cook. Learning how to design and plan a garden patch is high on my priority list.  And for this reason, between cooking, thinking about cooking, and writing about food, I read avidly about garden to table projects.

In order to gain the knowledge and the confidence to dig my own hands into the ground, I make it a habit to visit farms and gardening projects during my travels.  This summer I had the opportunity to visit the Edible Schoolyard Project at the Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California. This illustrative garden created by Alice Waters, chef and owner of the restaurant Chez Panisse, is built around a public school, in a small paradise east of San Francisco. The garden is cultivated by the students and their teachers. They not only design and plan and their own garden, they cook their harvest from the inspiring kitchen bordering on their edible schoolyard as well. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Alice Waters this piece of land has become exemplary of innovative food education in the United States.

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Zucchini soup

Some dishes are not made up of exactly measured ingredients because the recipe is an intuitive part of family history.  Certain foods define a mood or trace memories shared. In my family zucchini soup is the definitive comfort food.  It is not just a simple, thick Italian vegetable soup.  It is the soup served at family get togethers. It’s fragrance serves as an unconscious reminder of the good life in Italy, of camping trips and of the entire family talking at the dinner table. It is one of the foods we always asked my Mom to make.

The following recipe is a guideline and is more about proportions than exact quantities. The key to its comfort lies in the balance between the vegetables and potatoes. The soup can be modified as long as the ingredients stay simple and fresh. It is also interesting to note that even the vegetable peels are used to flavor the soup. Choose vegetables fresh from your own garden or from a local organic farmer if at all possible.

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