Launching the culinary column for the “North End News”

Welcome to my “Little Kitchen”

Americans are crazy about Italian food! For years the western world was seduced by not only its appetizing medley of aromas, tastes, colors and textures but also by the “dolce vita” life style that it suggested. Now as the trend toward eating the Mediterranean diet escalates, Italian food is doubly appealing for its healthful use of olive oil, vegetables, grains, fish, cheese, fruit and wine. But Italy doesn’t have a stereotyped national cuisine. It is instead a very diversified, delightful cuisine reflecting the ever-changing landscape that varies from region to region and town to town. Italian food is also about using the freshest natural ingredients, prepared in a simple fashion to be shared with friends and family.

In this column I will share with you information about food staples and ingredients from the Italian pantry that are the fundamental building blocks of Italian cuisine along with some simple basic recipes. While preparing these dishes, I hope that you can relive memories of growing up in an Italian household or you might just feel like an Italian as you bring the aromas, tastes and spirit of Italy as close to your own kitchen. Along the way I also look forward to bringing you some brief essays on Italian food traditions, the ins-and-outs of Italian eating habits, and the role mealtimes play in the Italian life. There’s also certainly sure to be some musing about my individual pursuit of good honest Italian food.

The kitchen is the soul of the Italian home, welcome to my “little kitchen”.

This nutritive barley soup is always on hand in the northeast region of Alto-Adige, where German is spoken as often as Italian.

2 Qts. cold water
5 1/2 oz. (3/4 C.) pearl barley
3 1/2 oz. speck (Italian smoked prosciutto) or lean smoked bacon
3/4 lb. potatoes, peeled
2 ribs celery
2 carrots, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
1 large or 2 small leeks, white part only, washed carefully under running cold water
2 cloves garlic, peeled
handful of parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
dadi brodo (cubes of broth)– bouillon cubes are often used to flavor soups
(I recommend Star brand beef flavored cubes) add to taste
S & P

Soak the barley in cold water for 3-4 hrs., drain and place in a soup pot containing 2 Qts. of cold water.

Cut the speck into small sticks, the potatoes into small chunks and all the other vegetables into thin slices. Put them all into the soup pot with the garlic, parsley and bay leaf. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Add the beef bouillon cubes to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer over a med-low flame for about 1 1/2 hr. Season to taste with S & P. Remove and discard the bay leaf when the soup is done. Serve hot.

OPTIONAL: use vegetable or chicken brodo instead of beef
stir in light cream and Parmesan cheese before serving

First published in The North End News- March 5, 2007

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