Oh, how I’ve missed you! While Mr. Italicano and I were on my west coast food tour we spent most of a month eating out. On one hand I was excited and delighted to try new restaurants :: ristoranti in San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver; on the other hand, I was itching to get back in my kitchen in Italy to create new healthy recipes made from fresh seasonal vegetables from my local farmer’s market.
And, that’s exactly what we did.
The day after we got back to Italy, we headed out to the farmer’s market and loaded up on fresh fish, vegetables and fruit. For our first lunch I made a simple green salad loaded with succulent Sicilian blood oranges, chia seeds, feta and walnuts; this roasted broccoli and cauliflower dish with grated ginger and zested lemon and a big bowl of paccheri pasta with calamaretti :: baby squid, that I seasoned with Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest and some salt and pepper. These vegetarian and pescatarian recipes were so quick and simple to make and were packed with wholesome goodness.One of the biggest problems about eating out in America is that is EXPENSIVE TO EAT WELL! For a fast food meal made with refined flour, sugars and GMO ingredients, you can spend under $15 for two. If you go to a mid-range chain restaurant with even nice decor and great service, commonly you’ll still pretty much get the same quality but spend over $60 for two dishes and drinks (taxes and tip included). Both options left us unsatisfied with the quality of our food, but more importantly put the quality of our health at risk :: rischio! We went to these places a few times out of convenience, and after having eaten both Mr. Italicano and I felt sluggish, not mentally alert, bloated and scandalized on how much we spent. I’m convinced that if we’d had continue to eat this way for a month, we would have even gained a substantial amount of weight. #notcool. So our solution to getting around eating bad while traveling was this: BREAKFAST: we snacked on fruit :: frutta, nuts, protein bars (being sure to find ones with clean labels), dark chocolate, tea and coffee. We did our shopping at a supermarket (I recommend Trader Joe’s) and we ate in our hotel or on the road when we were traveling. We spent $7-8 for two instead of $23-25 and we knew exactly what we were eating. LUNCH: more snacks or leftovers :: avanzi from my cooking shows. DINNER: we almost always went to a nice restaurant with high quality food (ATTENTION: we didn’t just choose a place based on how cute the decor it was but used online reviews specifically for the quality :: qualità). These places were usually quite expensive. A dinner for two with drinks ran from $110-140 (with taxes and tip). It seems like a lot, but if you do the math, we ended up spending the same amount per day as we would have for three mediocre meals eating out, but we ate better quality food and we felt better too.
Now back in my kitchen :: cucina, I’m excited to be developing more recipes to give you more ideas on how to cook healthy and simple recipes that you can feel good about eating, like this roasted broccoli and cauliflower dish. If you have any leftovers just toss them into a salad, add some beans, lentils or tuna for a main coarse or chop them up finely and add them to scrambled eggs.
Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Lemon & Ginger
This recipe for roasted broccoli and cauliflower with lemon and ginger is great to eat as a side dish, tossed into a green salad, mixed with grains, lentils or tuna or cut up finely and mixed into a scrambled egg. It's a healthy dish that is quick to make and loaded with nutrients.
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the broccoli, cauliflower, extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, grated ginger, salt and black pepper until well coated. Evenly distribute the vegetables on the sheet and roast until tender and slightly browned; 20-30 minutes.
Living abroad in Italy is exciting and exhilarating. I met Mr. Italicano here. I have made extraordinary friends here. I started my business while living here. I love the challenges and adventure that each new day brings while living in il bel paese. I am grateful and I am thankful each day, yet…I miss Thanksgiving!
I miss the smells from the kitchen mingling with the sweet candles burning. I miss the chaotic sounds that fill the house: the clinking and clanking in the kitchen, kids laughter in the play room and lively shouts coming from the living room after a touchdown.
The market was alive with commotion as the fruttivendoli :: fruit & vegetable vendors yelled out prices of their fresh produce. I took a paper ticket from the little red machine that orderly tamed the mobs of people that crowded around the plump artichokes, sun kissed oranges and leafy vegetables. As I waited for my number to be called out, my eyes roamed across the multitude of plastic containers piled high with bright colored fruits and vegetables stopping at last on a bunch of green grass.
“Che cos’è?” :: “What is it?” I asked an elderly woman standing next to me while pointing to the grassy vegetable.
“Agretti,” the woman replied. Also known in English as Salsola Soda or Opposite-Leaved Saltwort. (Agretti is pronounced as “Ah, gret, tee”)
The elderly woman continued to recount :: raccontare a simple recipe.
“First you chop of the roots, wash them well then boil them for about five to ten minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to keep the Agretti green then mix with lemon juice and olive oil.”
“Sounds delicious,” I thought to myself. “I have to try it.”
When I returned home, my curiosity :: curiosità got the best of me and at 10:00a.m. I was already in the kitchen cooking up this new and intriguing vegetable.
While some women :: donne get their high off of buying the latest pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, for me, I indulge in exotic produce. Is that lame or cool? I’m really not sure…
Agretti is also known as barba di frate, which can be translated to monks beard in English. What a weird name :: nome. Although when picked, they do resemble a bushy beard and monks typically did have vegetable gardens so I can presume where the name derived from.
In less then 15 minutes the bright green dish was ready. Talk about a great side for entertaining guests. As you may have already noticed :: notato, I speak often about recipes for large groups. One of my favorite things to do is host fuss-free dinner parties with high quality food.
Agretti is great served on a small dish or under a bed of fish like in my Striped Red Mullet recipe to give a dash of elegance :: eleganza.
What does agretti taste like? Certainty not like grass :: erba. I would say it greatly resembles the sharpness of spinach and when mixed with lemon and extra virgin olive oil it is quite refreshing.
If you need help getting your kids :: bambini to eat their vegetables, just add a face to a fork and let them create different hairstyles.
You don’t have to tell them that agretti is a super healthy vegetable that is full of vitamin A, iron and calcium. Who would have thought that eating your vegetables could be so much fun :: divertente!
*If your kids are young, attach the face to the stem of the fork so there is no risk that they eat the paper.
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