When we first moved here to Washington, I told my old friend that I wanted to learn to cook delicious vegetables (kale and chard I had in mind) without referring to a recipe (she certainly could). Italy inspired me more toward that goal.
At first I ordered pasta – and then noticed the meat-eaters with giant beefsteaks had sides of interesting vegetables. I discovered these sides to be perfect for me when combined with roasted potatoes – another menu staple – and an insalata mista of course.
Once I ordered a gratin – eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, maybe fennel (roasted fennel was often included). I think it was my favorite meal – but hard to say. Night after night I had beautiful plates of cooked vegetables, another favorite held roasted eggplant, red and yellow peppers, endive, green beans and a little pile of greens – maybe sorrel.
By the time I ordered faglioli al fiasco (beans cooked in a flask!) and verdure bolitte (boiled vegetables), my trust in and desire for Italian vegetables had grown so extreme that I didn’t care how the menu listed the preparation – grilled, baked, roasted, boiled – the vegetables were always flavorful and good (and faglioli an extra treat).
People in Tuscany (and Umbria – and most of my family) like meat when they dine out, so when the waiter brought my beans and boiled vegetables meal, he looked puzzled and glanced for guidance at the waiter who took our order. He rolled his eyes and indicated la signora with a shrug of his shoulders.
I loved the variety in those inspiring gatherings of vegetables. We have beautiful vegetables in Washington – and I’ve been trying to cook them without a lot of fuss or stalling. Turnip greens or chard, so fresh and huge, they won’t fit in the fridge? Grab an onion and the olive oil – and cook!
Summer – molte verdure – happy!