It’s so fun to peruse outdoor markets and I personally love the change of seasons, smelling tasting and exploring the new goodies on the block.
I usually hit up the Sant’Ambrogio market for just about everything. Especially meat from the butchers inside the market and fresh, dirt cheap veggies. It’s also not very touristy thanks to uber-touristy, kitschy Mercato San Lorenzo that keeps Sant’Ambrogio pretty real. I do love San Lorenzo for cheap eats and the foodie oasis within- just not my cup of tea for produce shopping. Although the Sant’Ambrogio market is starting to be inundated with vendors and not farmers, you can still experience a slice of Italian life with a shop through this market. There are some farmers still around (and definitely none at San Lorenzo) and it’s a modest reminder of how Italians live and eat in normal circumstances.
When I ask my veg guy how to prepare something, he usually says steam or bake then salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. I almost take a joy out of the surprise that people have when they wonder where’s all the fancy seasonal veggie dishes, probably expecting them served with something super pretentious like pork belly and hazelnuts on the menus. This modesty you may say, is how Italians eat (somewhat) everyday. Vegetables are meant to be simple- no creams/sauces, no frills. You have your meat then you eat your veggies separately. Unless you are dining at a posh chef-centric restaurant, a special occasion or at an event- your veggies more than likely are gonna be naked. Meats are cooked with minimal seasoning. Pork arista is an exception but even still, there are just some savory herbs and garlic weaved in.
You want to experience the food culture? Go to the un-manicured markets in Italy like Sant’Ambrogio that sell night-gowns and stock kitchen supplies alongside the oranges. Appreciate simplicity and not globs of fat and bouillon cubes. No need to eat over-boiled vegetables and nor should you accept that. But please try to be open-minded to a food culture which is first off, not yours and second of all proven to the rest of the world to be on to something in terms of sustaining health and longevity. You know, the whole Mediterranean diet thing. Shocker, I know! I have become a bit used to the food style and rhythms here, happily take them for granted, that I become a bit taken-aback by comments and surprise by my fellow countrymen. I find myself in gluttonous shame when I either indulge in the mixing of flavors and textures the way Anglo-new world cultures do or indulge in critical confusion when I notice one adding way too many flavors of something which should stand alone.
The point is that we’ve over-burdened our taste buds. I wish there was more of an appreciation of simplicity and not spoiling our senses. Practice some moderation and discipline. I do realize that back home, our vegetables are usually tasteless. Just trust that while you are in Italy, they do have flavor and it’s a matter of retraining/re-calibrating your palate.
Here are some fruits and veggies I saw on a recent shop through my favorite market (next to my hometown’s Pike Place Market, who will always hold a compartment in my multi-love heart)
Recipe Idea: Make Schiacciata con l’uva! Or jam!
Recipe Idea: Cube and bake and top with crispy, fried sage OR make a zucca soup with leeks!
Recipe Idea: If you need a quick divorce, serve these beans raw to your husband/wife! It’s basically fail-proof! Or use them for a Ribollita soup;)
Recipe Idea: Saute with some red chili pepper flakes and serve over fava bean puree’ like one of my favorite food bloggers Aglio, Olio e Pepperoncino.
Recipe idea: That’s a tricky one with whole chestnuts. If you have patience, roast them and make this chestnut and chickpea soup by one of my other favorite food bloggers Emiko Davies.
Recipe Idea: Use them instead of cabbage leaves for involtini, stir-fry with garlic and serve with grilled chicken OR make this low-calorie alkalizing soup via BBC Good Food.
Recipe Idea: There are a few varieties of persimmons, I personally prefer these squidgy types and to cut them in cubes and serve over a nice, artisan crema gelato.
Recipe idea: Make a plum cake tart like this one via Saveur Magazine.
Can you think of any fruits and veggies which I am missing from this list? Leave a comment!
Eating my green heart out,
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