Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grilled Italian Vegetables

Before coming to Italy, I actually wasn't a huge fan of vegetables, especially eggplant. But I have been converted! Something about the simplicity of how they prepare their vegetables but also the quality of the vegetables and the amazing, pure olive oil that is used for them as well. You can definitely smell and taste the difference in the quality of the olive oil. This is a very easy dish to make, healthy, and also very tasteful. It goes great on a sandwich, if you want to make a vege panini (just add some arugula and voila!), or even with your choice of deli meat, or with rustic bread as a side dish.

Grilled Italian Vegetables (Verdure Grigliata)

1 red bell pepper
1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 clove garlic minced
olive oil
white wine vinegar (optional)
capers (optional)
oregano (optional)

1. Place a grill pan on the stove and let it heat up.
2. Drizzle on some olive oil and then place the vegetables on the pan.
3. Once one side is cooked and has nice grill marks, flip them over to cook the other side.
4. Once they are done cooking, place on a plate in layers.
5. For each layer drizzle a little more olive oil, salt to taste and some minced garlic.
6. Repeat this for however many layers you have.

Then you can stop right there and have a delicious and healthy meal. However, to spruce up the flavors a little more, and if you like a little sour kick to your dishes, do the following:

7. For the red bell peppers, drizzle a little bit of white wine vinegar, throw on a small spoonful of capers and oregano. (If you do decide to put capers, no need to put salt since the capers are salty). Then mix.
8. For the eggplant and zucchini, you can also drizzle on a little bit of white wine vinegar for a little kick.

And there you have it! Very simple. Of course, it is always best to make this dish when the vegetables are in season as you will get the best taste out of them. And if you prefer one vege over another, you can just choose one of your favorites to make. Hope you like! =)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Traditions to Trends

One of the most interesting differences I have found between Italy and the U.S. is the division and movement from traditions to trends. In Italy, at least in Southern Italy, Italians still stay very true to traditions. Traditions in relation to special occasions, foods, and even names. This first came to mind because, by tradition, a father's son must name his first son after the grandfather. So in other words, two names are passed on from generation to generation. My husband was named after her grandfather and now our son will be named after his grandfather, my father-in-law.

It's a great tradition and a great joy for the grandfather but not as common now in other parts of Italy or the U.S. There are still families that do this but not the majority. I believe that for any city or country who chooses to move forward in technology and times also lose traditions in the process. For instance, Milan is completely trying to move forward and it has also come to my attention that they don't pass on names as much anymore either. They have also accepted new ethnic foods into their diet like sushi which has become a new trend there. Coincidence or direct correlation? I have yet to find any southern Italian willing to try sushi.

Nowadays in the U.S., it is more about choosing a unique name that no one else has, or a trendy name that is hot right now. Even with food... if you come to Italy, you will see that the authentic Italian recipes are very simple and delicious because they concentrate on a few flavorful ingredients. When you go into an Italian restaurant in the U.S., there's a million ingredients to make the dish more "trendy" and unique. Having less than five ingredients would just be unacceptable and not restaurant worthy. So what's better? Is it possible to move forward in times and yet still keep the traditions being passed on generation to generation. It is sad to think that we lose very special and meaningful traditions from our ancestors who have shaped the people we are today and our cultures but it seems quite inevitable at the rate we are going.

I often find myself criticizing Italy for not being diverse enough and not being open to other cultures - whether it be in foods or other commercial products, but I have now realized that has allowed them to stay true to their own culture and stay "traditional". I can't say which way is better and I know where you live and the people you are around will determine this balance for you, but I think it is very important to pass on traditions but not be skeptical to new trends (for the moment). As long as you remember that trends are just trends and don't last forever.