Summer heat of the kind that weighs so heavily, that all activity seems to be part of a slow-motion movie. This is the kind of weather that makes cooking with a stove an indulgence. When the days are sultry and long, I like to create something raw that tastes like I have been a slave to the kitchen. This means salad but of a different sort. My favorite use for lettuce is to tear apart the leaves and to fill them with brightly colored vegetables. A bowl of freshly made yoghurt dip turns this simple twist on salad into a delicious appetizer. After a few minutes of preparation in the kitchen, the only thing I might be tempted to add to the table is a loaf of bread with a golden crust to soak up the salad juices.
Cannellini beans are the most commonly used bean in the region of Tuscany. They are small and chalky-white in color. They are the prized ingredient of vegetable minestrone, and the even more famous ribollita – made of winter vegetables – day-old bread and new olive oil. My favorite way to eat these beans is baked into a thick perfumed jam in tomato, with garlic and rosemary. Warm out of the oven, I smash them and serve them on thick slices of grilled sour dough bread. Just like hummus, they make a crowd-pleasing appetizer and accompany every kind of picnic plan.
Making breakfast on a daily basis is not my greatest quality. Early morning hours seem to pass much too quickly and life’s daily grind often calls long before I can find the inspiration for a weekday morning meal that works. Having been influenced by the bustle of such memorable cities as Verona, Venice, Paris and Rome — I still prefer sitting at a terrace table on the curb watching the world go by accompanied by a latte and a bowl of freshly cut fruit. When my schedule permits, my chosen moment for breakfast is “all-aperto” (literally translated from Italian as “in-the-open”) just around ten in the morning.
The beautiful colors and flavors of the changing seasons never cease to amaze me. In the fall I adore the deep purple of grapes hanging on their vines In the winter every kind of pumpkin is a kitchen obsession. By the time spring arrives all things green and fresh overtake my attention. The grassy smell of celery and the heavy scent of the first leaves of fresh basil bring back memories of wandering through the vineyards behind our neighbor’s house in Caldogno. Spending the evening chasing fire flies between the neatly planted rows of the vegetable garden, I would inevitably ask if I could pick some peas only to eat them raw as dusk turned into darkness. I can still recall the earthy smells of that Italian scene every time I spot some peas in their pods.