So simple, and so obvious, yet somehow many of us hesitate to pare things down to basic elements and quietly allow the flavors to merge. Summer is a time for outdoor entertaining at Casa Levitt and I am always searching for salads with a different twist that will complement our pizza (more about that in a later post). Of course, there are an endless variety of greens and vegetables available in northern California to star in that role, but there is something about the crunch of farm fresh thinly sliced celery combined with deep green parsley leaves, adorned with the most wonderful pecorino romana (thank you Katie Parla) and ultimately drizzled with a fruity olive oil and a dash of fresh lemon juice. I’ll let you decide……..
I so enjoy preparing my summer vegetable garden even though my modest crop is limited to herbs, a variety of tomatoes, and zucchini. Why zucchini you ask, I mean don’t you live in California where this is readily available? Of course I do but two zucchini plants per year provide me with a healthy production of delicate zucchini blossoms. Every so often I seem to miss the precise moment to harvest, and magically zucchini seem to appear in abundance. I beg you, please do not suggest that I begin large scale production of zucchini bread as this, in my humble opinion, is generally a gummy tasteless substance, primarily an unnecessary caloric blunder….
Growing up in an Italian American family in New Jersey, the granddaughter of immigrants, I was well acquainted with a vegetable garden and fruit trees. My maternal grandfather, being a man of few words, had a somewhat intimidating aura about him; being a child I never considered that it was possibly because his English language skills were somewhat limited. In an attempt to replicate what he left behind in Calabria, he planted the fruits and vegetables of his childhood, including a fig tree. Now, there is nothing unusual about that is there? Certainly not, however the eerie part of his fig cultivation ritual included an annual late fall removal of the fig tree from the ground, followed by an earthen burial to protect this native Mediterranean species from the harsh New Jersey winters. Somehow, looking out of my bedroom window during the bleak days of winter and gazing at the fig burial site, I felt a bit uneasy….
Emilia Romagna always seems to draw us back, from the porticos of Bologna to the vast plains of it’s countryside. The diversity of the region offers a true slice of Italy. As you follow the ancient Via Emilia, now SS9, westward from Rimini on the Adriatic coast to Piacenza along the Po River, each city one passes is rich in Jewish history. Ferrara, in particular has a compelling Jewish history, one certainly worthy of a stay when next you travel to Italy.