Italians love meat.
Until a few years ago it was very uncommon to sit to an italian table and eat no less that a primo, secondo e contorno (pasta, carne and veg on the side). Nowadays we’ve learnt that is a not really healty way, so we divided our meals in two.
The right way is carbs for lunch and proteins for dinner: and a lot of vegetables, all the time. And we do have a lot of them!
Of course now we can have anything at any time, but season vegs are always better, way more tasty. Let’s explore when is what!
Summer vegs: you will find fennels (so useful to make a salad!) and zucchini, and – even if you’ll find them all the time – it’s the best time for tomatoes. Try to take some from a local market, wash them and cut them in half, then add just a sparkle of salt and eat them. It’s quite an experience, ain’t it?
Perfect time for Arugula as well, for peppers, red beetroots (ever tried to bake red bread?), chards and spinaches, cucumbers (another salad-must in Italy), “novelle” potatoes – the small ones you bake in the oven just with a bit of salt and oil…
Not to mention the fruit. Apricots, figs, melons and watermelons, pears, plums, you will find anything you need to create a light lunch at the beach: just some ice cream, and a big bowl of macedonia.
Do you know what the strange fruits under the plums (in the figure) are? They are called “Fichi D’India“, but they’re not figs at all. Most similar to a cactus tree, their plant is very common in the south, and their fruits are very tasteful. Just be careful when you peel them: they have small thorns on the skin!
The upcoming season is plenty of nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts (and all the things you can do with chestnuts!…), almonds… so good for the energy!
Chards are now really in their moment, together with a lot of cabbages – right now, the Verza is at its best. We can still find zucchini, even if they will be a bit different than the summer ones, but the very stars of the seasons are pumpkins and potatoes! Risotto, soups, roasted pumpkin, sweet and sour pumpkin, roasted pumpkin, onion and potatoes, gnocchi di patate, and you can just go on until your brain melts down!
We do have a very famous proverb here in Italy: an apple a day, takes the doctor away. Well, now it’s time to start the cure. Apples are mature and fully formed, in short time they will be too soft to eat them other than baked in the oven with a bit of honey and cinnamon! For the moment, just go with your autumn macedonia, or switch to the other september golden highlight: grapes! We would be nothing without it, and that’s not just for the wine – try it with some cheese…
To defend yourself from the cold winter, there’s almost only one way: ZUPPA! Soups are really common right now. Cereals soups, legumes soups, the tuscan Ribollita is only one of the many examples on things you can do with almost only vegetables.
Ever tried raw artichokes with just a hint of pepper and lemon on it? Now it’s the right time. Ever mixed up spinaches and eggs?
While preparing your zuppa, don’t forget to add some sellery in your soffritto: it gives it a unique flavour.
And there’s fruit too! It’s actually very important to eat fruit right now. Since the sun has gone away, we need to replace it – we need vitamins and iron! The latter is provided by vegs, but what about the first? Well, we have our “bonsai” suns, haven’t we?
Ladies and gentlemen, meet oranges! Squeezed in juice, eaten alone, eaten into a salad… Orange is a great fruit, and very very healthy! If you get tired of it, you can still switch to some pears, or a nice macedonia with apples and kiwis (another great vitamin provider!).
Veggies in spring are mostly wild herbs or beans: chicory, rocket, chives, peas, green beans and broad beans, asparagus, salads, turnip, “agretti” (there’s no english name for them)… take the herbs and make them sautés with a bit of oil and nothing more; take the peas and eat them with pasta or by themselves, take the beans and, well, do whatever you want with them!
And what about fruit? You know already… there are strawberries! Cherries! Medlars!
Make yourself all the smoothies you want, that is the perfect season with the perfect flavours: sparkling and happy just like summer is!