To the Italians, food is their history. Food represents more than satisfying hunger. Food is what their life is centered around; it is their existence, so to speak. Meals are not rushed through. They are an event. They are not drive thru's. Meals are a passion. They tell a story, a tradition, a culture.
They celebrate nature and the seasons. They eat based upon this cycle. Food at it's peak is eaten. They look at color, the smell of the earth, the region it comes from.They know the health properties of food and eat not to excess but to fulfillment. They celebrate food. They write about food like it was their child. I want to be an Italian. I want to go there and stay for a good while. I want to eat everything there is to eat in Italy.
For now, I will just keep reading and learning from those wise Italians. Someday, I will walk among them. I am sure of it. Someday.
If you find a good Italian cookbook, a real authentic cookbook, it won't just tell you to add some cheese or some beans; it will describe when to buy them, what variety and to smell the earth. It will tell you things like buying ricotta in spring when the sheep get fresh, green grass to eat; they will tell you the cheese will be at it's peak during this time. It will instruct you to eat fennel and marjoram at the end of meals for digestion. It will tell you what region will give you the best potatoes and why. I eat it all up.
America doesn't really get food, in general. If we did, we wouldn't have all the movies being made about us right now about how we are destroying food in our country. It is sad. We are buying it, however. We are letting it happen. Food is what keeps us alive. We should have deep gratitude for it and show a respect.
Really this post was only going to be about a recipe I made tonight and somehow, I went all Italian on you. I really only wanted to talk about Parmesan cheese.
I love it. I always have a fresh wedge of it in my fridge. Good, quality Parmesan. It makes all the difference.
Why Parmesan? It is packed with calcium. In Italy (see, there I go again), they eat lots of it. Their percentage of Osteoporosis is almost non existent. Parmesan is aged so the proteins that are hard to digest in milk and broken down. The body can use the nutrients and even those intolerant to milk can often handle Parmesan. It has intense flavor and makes a dish. It is my staple in any Italian dish.
Tonight I had a couple zucchini's to use and some marinara sauce on its' way out. I made some Zucchini Parmesan that is simply delicious and fools everyone that there is not any pasta in it. It's all about the way the vegetables are prepared. Keep veggies firm and in small pieces. Kids won't even notice.
3 1/2 cups zucchini, coarsely grated
2 large eggs
2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 C. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/3 C. Flour
1 T. olive oil
1 C. marinara sauce
1 t. dried oregano
1/8 t. crushed red pepper flakes
Press grated zucchini between paper towels or cheese cloth to remove moisture. Combine zucchini, eggs, 1 cup mozzarella , Parmesan and flour in a bowl. Stir well. Spread in a greased 9X13 pan. Bake uncovered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with oil and broil 5 inches from heat for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven, spread on sauce and top with remaining mozzarella, oregano and red pepper.
Bake uncovered at 350 for additional 20 minutes, lowering rack back down to the center of the oven.
Serve with an Italian salad and a big chunk or rustic Artisan bread, just like the Italians!