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Five Summer Recipes for Relaxed Dining

July 12, 2016

Italians have mastered the art of dining alfresco with incredible simplicity, but yet sophistication.  It comes down to having the freshest and best ingredients available.  You don't need more food, you need better food that will leave your taste buds singing and your body fueled for all the fun things you want to do this summer!  In the summer we want to be on vacation, after all, the weather is better, kids are out of school, a bevy of entertainment options beckon and then there is the visibility of people ... not working.  You know, those folks who really are on vacation!  Instead of looking at them with envy, make your own down time as easy as possible and for many of us, that means simplifying the daily meal.  Easy summer dining takes advantage of whole foods, like fresh produce and fruit at its peak.  Delicious menus await without any complications whatsoever with the benefits of the summer season. Coupled with a well stocked pantry of high quality extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and sea salt ... the sky is the limit!   Whether you're solo or a big family, I have found that meals can be deconstructed to simplicity.  Thinking this way leaves you less stressed and happier.  So if you can't break away from work, try treating yourself as if you are on holiday by making some changes in your routine.  Whip up a few special staples as your "go to" flavors for the summer.  As long as I have fresh produce, herbs and fruit on hand, I can make full meals to please my household from the youngest to the oldest.

Pictured here is actually breakfast, but it could be lunch or even a light dinner: Tumeric eggs with peperonata, marinated mozzarella and fresh lettuce. Here are my five homemade staples I have at the ready in our home this summer that can be used for pasta, rice, beans, sandwiches, burgers, eggs, salad .... you get the idea .... almost anything! The Summer Essentials: Pesto, Peperonata, Vinaigrette, Marinated Mozzarella, Aioli/Fresh Mayonnaise.  For brevity, below are the recipes for Pesto and Peperonata.  To receive the other recipes please sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page.

Pesto -- ingredients -- 4+ cups fresh basil leaves, 1 Tblsp. pine nuts (almonds or walnuts also add a nice flavor), 3/4 cup or more of CCEVOO, sea salt, squeeze of 1/2 lemon.  Butter and parmigiano reggiano cheese is used in traditional Genoese pesto, but for me, its optional and I don't use when I make it as an "at the ready" condiment.  Put basil leaves and nuts in a food processor, start to blend, adding olive oil in a steady stream.  Half way through, stop the processor, scrap down sides and restart, adding the rest of the olive oil, finishing with a squeeze of fresh lemon and about a half a teaspoon of fine sea salt.  Pour into a jar, top off with more olive oil, seal it with a lid, and refrigerate to use later in the day or week.

Peperonata -- ingredients -- 1/4 cup CCEVOO + more for finishing, 6-8 cups of sliced bell peppers, 2 large or 4 medium tomatoes. 1 large golden onion. 1 small red onion. Some recipes call for eggplant, but we opt out of this ingredient.  When I learned this recipe from my friend Monia, she said, "che tu vuoi".  Which means, put what you like in this recipe when it comes to the type of pepper, how much tomato and whether you use eggplant, or not.  So this recipe is the one that I make and like!  To get started, slice off the tops of the peppers and slice into quarters, discarding the seeds inside. Peel the onions and roughly chop into quarters.  Add 1 Tablespoon of CCEVOO to a large saute pan and as it just starts to warm up (NOT smoking!), add the onion quarters.  Saute onions for a few minutes on a medium heat.  The intention is NOT to fry, but saute, so keep the onions moving in the pan and turn down the heat if necessary.  Once they start to cook down a bit and they have that partial translucent look, add all the peppers, tomatoes, and salt.  Add a cup of water, put the lid on the saute pan, turn down heat to low and let slowly cook.  Periodically check on the sauce, it should be chunky with liquid, add more water if necessary so it won't scorch or turn into paste.  The peperonata is done when all the peppers are soft and thoroughly cooked. This will take about an hour on low heat.  Turn off heat, leave in the pan to cool and put into a large jar, seal and refrigerate to use for later.  But like a lot of us, we want to eat it right away! So grab a large loaf of rustic bread and dip into the peperonata for a simple meal or snack.  If you have a few special homemade condiments on hand, you will eat well, with less fuss and hopefully with more enjoyment. You can find our olive oil on our website www.casalcristiana.com and also at selected Oregon locations such as The Dundee Bistro Wine and Bubble Bar.  So kick back and relax!  Summer dining is on the table!  Buon appetito!





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