The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm
The days of summer are dwindling down, so don’t forget to enjoy every last minute of this sun filled season. Eating ‘al fresco’ is one of our favorite things to do at home in the mountains of Abruzzo.Eating on our terazzo or bringing a picnic to eat in the mountains after a hike or even bringing our mid-afternoon meal to the beach. Eating outside in the Italian sun….well…. gives you an understanding of the old Italian folk song :
O Sole Mio
Each and every word becomes so meaningful….
The Italians know that they own this strangely beautiful sun and it is most evident in the summer. It is hard to explain why it is so beautiful and why it feels like a different sun.. And they miss it when they are not in the light of their own sun- in the Italian countryside…to experience the Italian sun while in the hills of Tuscany or in an olive grove in Umbria or even on the streets of Rome or the mountains of Abruzzo is an experience unto itself..a beautiful experience ..not easily put into words…
But anyway before I digress….. to experience ‘O Sole Mio’-here is an idea to enjoy a meal anywhere in the world but makes sure it is outside in the summertime-‘al fresco’.
A picnic basket complete with a bottle of wine, a blanket, and a finger-friendly meal is a not so costly way to “go out” to eat after a hot day at the office without having to worry about getting a seat in a crowded outdoor restaurant or factoring in a tip, ( all you have to do is thank your chef and dust the grass off of your blanket). Or this is what we call dining ‘al fresco’. The ideal meal for an outdoor spread is easily transferable and preferably does not require silverware. Also, it has to be something that can be eaten at room temperature, because an unpleasantly cold lunch will make the ambiance of the trees less enjoyable.
Focaccia, like pizza, is doughy bread with yummies sprinkled on top. However, focaccia places more of a focus on the bread, which is fluffy in the middle with a crunch at the very edge of the crust, than the toppings. Focaccia is a perfect outdoor meal; it can be easily moved, does not need to be eaten with a fork and knife or need to be piping hot to be mouth watering. It is also super easy to make and to change up to tantalize varying taste buds. My favorite focaccia has broccoli, red peppers, all of which has been sautéed in garlic and olive oil before being baked onto the bread. You can even make it with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste on top..
Whether your favorite toppings are sun-dried tomatoes or sliced black olives and pesto or even a cut up, left-over chicken you can have a delicious meal in under an hour that can be taken to even a local park to be eaten at a shady bench or enjoyed from the bleachers at a little league game. And for a real treat instead of topping the bread with cheese, make a sandwich or pannini with fresh mozzarella using the focaccia bread.
Pizza dough (just ask the guys behind the counter in your local pizza parlor for a hunk of dough, it’s easier and quicker than making your own)
2 red bell peppers
1 head of broccoli
1 clove garlic
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1 small onion
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a non-stick skillet and coat the bottom with olive oil. Chop up the garlic and onion. Once the oil is hot allow the garlic and onion to brown slightly.
Dice veggies and add to mixture in the skillet.
Liberally oil a baking sheet and roll out the dough to fit the sheet. Dimple the dough with your fingers to make it stick and to create an outline for a crust.
Once the veggies are cooked, spread everything out on top of the dough, making sure that the dough is adequately covered in oil.
Take the fresh sliced mozzarella cheese and place it over the veggies.
(Using smaller handfuls of cheese or using a low-fat cheese is a good way to make this meal more diet friendly.)
Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Once the focaccia has cooled, cut into finger friendly squares or slices and enjoy!