Eat your food.
It is not even 8 o’clock in the morning and my oven is already turned on. Yesterday we got a huge basketful of apples from our neighbor’s tree, big round faulty apples, which will need some work to recuperate the good parts, and discard the faulty, brown parts. It will surely take longer, but it’s certainly going to be worth it since these are all natural, fresh, local apples with no pesticides and also because they represent life: in good there is always a little bit of bad and in bad there is always a little bit of good, sort of like the Tao.
In my previous post, I talked about grapes, so common, juicy and exquisite in Tuscany during this time of the year. This is the time of Harvest, of giving thanks to Mother Earth for presenting us with so much beauty and plenitude. The least we can do to facilitate such perfection is to honor the process and honor our precious planet. When I was a child, here in Tuscany ,we got accustomed to the rhythm of the year from our early on in our lives, and Autumn was always a time of celebration, preparing the food from the garden to be stored and preserved for the cold months of Winter. One of the things I remember most fondly is the “Vendemmia” which is the celebration of the grapes and its transformation into wine. All of us, children of the neighborhood, would help haul the big, round grapes from the vines to huge barrels where the men would throw all of them in, and then, us children, would take our shoes off, wash our feet with the hose and jump right inside the bucket and start stomping on the grapes to help it release its juice. The tangy smell of the grapes, the sound of laughter and the feeling of that joyful freedom will be forever stuck in my mind.
Eat well, and savor the wisdom.
Certainly, back in the days when I was a child, eating local was the way they did it, nowadays many things have changed, with progress, with the radical change of the economical system, just to mention two things, and even though very often it doesn’t seem so, I am convinced that humanity is always going forward to improve its living conditions. Therefore, I am a strong believer that the best thing we can do, as post-modern humans, is to learn from the past, keeping the best of it, but also look forward and apply all the new that has been discovered. Looking back for the wisdom, while looking forward with a new consciousness.
Eat local. Think global.
Food is a very important topic, since it is the way that allows us to be nourished and be healthy and consequently, be and feel at our best. Choosing wisely what we eat has become more and more a priority among certain circles and choosing foods that are free from poisons and pesticides has become more and more popular. Eating organic is not only better for you but it is also better for the planet. I invite anyone to shop at local farmer’s markets to support local farmers and local artists, this is hopefully the future, a time in which people will more and more start to eat locally and think globally. We are in this all together, all children of the same amazing planet. It is our honor and responsibility to take care of it. Fall is the perfect time to realize how truly amazing it is and how blessed we are to be surrounded by such plenitude. Going to the grocery shop or better yet to a market is a feast of colors tastes and smells. How could anyone consider it a chore or a drudgery? Let’s take any chance we get to celebrate our blessings and show gratitude. We get so accustomed to take things for granted that we forget how lucky we truly are in our every day life. Living conscientiously is a way to show respect and gratitude. Trying to observe the wheel of the year and try to live by it is a sign of understanding of our real necessities.
Eat in season. Feel better.
What are the many reasons to eat food that is organic and in season? Seasonal food is mostly fresh and not processed. It encourages creativity and home cooking, Seasonal food is not only more affordable, it is also grown locally and it does not spoil as fast. It does not lose its nutrients. When you eat seasonally you have a very wide variety of foods since each season has its own typical produce. Seasonal produce supports seasonal needs: in Winter, for instance, citrus fruits are just what the body needs for the prevention of the flu and colds. Winter vegetables are suitable for stews. Summer fruits provide extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that protect us against sun damage. I am going to write up a quick list to help us recognize what is in season during the different times of the year. When the season slides from the hot Summer months toward a cooler weather look for more warming, Autumn harvest foods, including carrots, onions, radishes, and garlic. Also, emphasize the more warming spices and seasonings including ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds. In Winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods. Remember the principle that foods taking longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. All the animal foods fall into the warming category including fish, chicken, beef, and lamb. So do most of the root vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic. Eggs also fit in here, as do corn and nuts. In Summer, during the hottest months, stick with light cooling foods in the light of traditional Chinese medicine. These foods include fruits like plums, peaches, apricots, and vegetables like beets, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and spices and seasonings like peppermint and cilantro. In Spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of the season. The greening that occurs in nature during this period should be represented by greens on your on your plate, including Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, parsley and basil. Everything being said, I would just like to exhort you to be creative and trust nature, since on our planet we can naturally find everything we need to be healthy and also to heal ourselves. Let us look forward to a world in which food will be seen as the new medicine, but we will be talking about this more in depth later on. For now I will just delight myself sharing an all time favorite recipe: “Peperonata” or Pepper stew. I use only peppers from my garden and they look and taste so delicious. Check out the photo!
Peperonata (Pepper Stew)
I am always amazed when I walk in my garden on those lovely warm autumn days and I find my pepper plants still happy and prosperous. When I bend down and amongst the leaves I discover a red ripe pepper I feel like a child who finds her present under the tree on Christmas morning.
Peperonata is a typical recipe in Tuscan cuisine, but I usually prefer to give it a Hungarian twist.
My mother, being from Budapest, has introduced me to the delights of some Hungarian dishes. The most well known flavor is perhaps paprika, used in sausages, stews, and soups. Paprika literally means pepper in Hungarian and it is no wonder the peppers from there are famous, their flavor is hard to describe with words and because of it I could not resist the temptation to offer here the recipe for this treat of peppers!
1 Big red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Sausage (Gyulai, Hungarian sausage)
5 Tbsp mild paprika
5 peppers, red, yellow, green
Dice the onion and add to olive oil in the pot over medium low heat. When onion starts to soften add the cumin seeds and the sausage cut up in thick slices. Stir occasionally until onions are translucent. Add wine and turn heat up to medium high. When wine is almost all evaporated turn down the heat to low and add 3 Tbsp of paprika Stir and incorporate the peppers previously cut in squares. With the heat on medium low let simmer for 10 minutes with lid on the pot, stirring occasionally. Incorporate remaining 2 Tbsp of paprika. Continue cook for 10 more minutes with the lid on the pot in order to keep the juice of the pepper (add some water if needed). Cook until peppers are soft and juicy. Serve with sour cream on the side.
Peperonata (The Tuscan version)
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsps of thyme (optional)
1 big onion (red or yellow)
2 medium seized tomatoes
4 peppers (yellow and green)
Sautee the onion in olive oil. Meanwhile, cut the peppers and potatoes in cubes. When the onion is tender add to it the peppers and the potatoes along with half a cup of water. Cook covered for thirty minutes, stirring often.