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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

03.24.2003

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authentic italian
by Jordana Aamalia
1 2 3

The best Italian meals I have ever eaten are those that closely resemble that which was cooked in the home of my paternal Grandmother -- pared-down and thoroughly comforting. This is not to say that I wish to deny haute cuisine its place in the collective culinary consciousness, but I firmly believe that, in the context of Italian food, overwrought variants of old classics are simply redundant. I like to think of the way my Nona taught me to cook as the culinary equivalent of the Little Black Dress: simple and always in good taste.

Italian food relies on few ingredients, with the emphasis on quality. The most fragrant Ligurian olive oil, the ruddiest tomatoes, the sweetest basil leaves these are what constitute good Italian dishes. Generally, individual portions are never very large, but there will always be a selection of dishes from which to choose, from platters of antipasti to hearty mains.

antipasto ideas
Most often seen as toasted bread piled high with all manner of foodstuffs, from the basic combination of tomato, cheese and Spanish onion to artichoke, roasted red peppers and capers, the homespun version of bruschetta I grew up with consisted of a crusty loaf (perhaps toasted), drizzled with a good quantity of olive oil. A raw clove of garlic and then half a tomato were then rubbed over the bread, followed by a liberal salting and a little pepper.

A simple insalata comprised of sliced tomatoes and bocconcini cheese (also called buffalo mozzarella), arranged on a plate strewn with some roughly-torn fresh basil leaves (I was taught to never, ever chop basil), dressed with olive oil, perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, often makes for a lovely start (or accompaniment) to a meal, as does prosciutto or Parma ham (sliced wafer-thin, of course), which is delicious when paired with cantaloupe or figs. When making up an antipasto platter, I would suggest the bare minimum; olives, perhaps a salami or mortadella, or a decent portion of cheese. Grissini (Italian breadsticks) are always a good idea too; no Italian meal is complete without bread products of some kind.

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