Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Let me begin by saying that I believe Indian Cuisine is the best. That was how I started yesterday's show and I know it to be true. Indian vegetarian cuisine is best, both in taste as well as nutritionally. But that does not mean we should restrict ourselves to just Indian food all the time. We as in foodies and Indians in general, should explore other cuisines as well. And here in the good ole' USofA we have the oppurtunity to do just that.
So my choice of cuisine for the show was - Italian. One thing I would like to mention here is that restaurant food is not exactly the aunthentic fare that one might experience in the country itself. But even if you visit Italy (r any other country for that matter) these days, most restaurants sport generalised menus that cater to the tastes of tourists. So to taste aunthentic food, you might have to walk off the beaten tourist path. Try going into the hidden alleys and out of the way taverns. That is where one will find a piece of authenticity waiting to be savored by the truly hungry foodie. Some of the recipes I mention here are ones you will not find in any Olive Garden or Johnny Carino's. Hope you try them and like 'em too.

As with any cuisine, Italian was influenced by cultural, political as well as geographical influences. Even though Italy seems to be a small country, it has twenty different regions, each with its own distinct food - dishes and cooking techniques. More significant changes occurred with the discovery of the New World. Italian cuisine as we know it today, was much influenced by the introduction of items like potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize. These are an important part of the cuisine today, but weren't widely used till the 18th century. Ingredients and dishes vary by region and some regional dishes have become national. Many dishes have regional variations across the country. Cheese and wine play an important role in Italian cuisine, as does Coffee, and more specifically Espresso.

Meals in Italy will have at least 3-4 courses. In many Italian homes today, the traditional menu is reserved for special occasions and daily meals are limited to 2 courses, a side dish and coffee. Traditionally the menu would look like this:

Apertivo - Aperitifs enjoyed as appetizers before a heavy meal. These include Campari, Prosecco, Spritz, Vermouth etc.

Antipasto - It means 'before the meal' and consists of hot and/or cold appetizers.

Primo - The first course, usually a hot, filling dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi or soup.

Secondo - The second course, consisting of meat or fish.

Contorno - Means ' side dish' and is salad or cooked vegetables.

Formaggio e Frutta - 'Cheese and Fruits' which is the first dessert. Local cheese makes an appearance here in addition to Antipasto or the side dish.

Dolce - Of course 'Dessert', like cakes and cookies.


Digestivo/Ammazzacaffe - Liquors/liqeurs like Amaro, Limoncello, Sambuca which are sometimes referred to as Ammazzacaffe meaning Coffee killer.

Italians consider meals as a time to spend with family anf friends. As such the lunch or dinner may be longer than in most Western cultures. And it is as it should be. Hard earned food should be savored with much loved family. (Sigh!) I wish that all of us were granted with that bit of happiness. Well tomorrow is Saturday so I can aim for the happiness of making and eating some Italian food with my family. So come back day-after and I promise to post those recipes by then. Ciao and Xin Fu to you !

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