My house may have been in Connecticut but my backyard was in Italy. You see, it connected to a courtyard were many Italian immigrants lived including a cousin and my grandmother. The older Italians would congregate around a picnic table, play cards and share the bounty of their gardens in the summer. They taught me not only how to grow, but how to cook the staple vegetables of the Mediterranean diet: tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
Most of these old timers were from Southern Italy so the tomato rich in Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, was the centerpiece of their diet. In the summer the simple method of chopping fresh ripe tomatoes up into a salad called Brushetta was a favorite way to enjoy this king crop of the Mediterranean.
Eggplant which is low in calories and high in fiber were a much awaited vegetable for our summertime picnics. My mom would fry or bake them, usually she would make our favorite dish Eggplant Parmesan; which is as commonly found at an Italian picnic as coleslaw and potato salad is found at an American one. We would grab some Italian bread or even hamburger buns to make eggplant Parmesan sandwiches. They are great hot or cold.
|Red Pepper and Onion Frittata|
Coming from a sausage making family my father couldn't wait until the peppers, a super source of vitamin C, were ripe in the garden so he could grill up a big ring of spicy Italian sausage and smoother it with sautéed peppers and onions. My mom who wasn't as big of a meat eater, preferred making a simple Red Pepper and Onion Frittata with this vegetable.
I hope you will consider adding some of these wonderful and healthful vegetables from my heritage into your diet. The latest study of the Mediterranean diet is still raving about it's benefits. I can tell you from living around people who eat this way; they grow young, not old. Most have sharp minds and maintain agile bodies. Weight is not a problem when your diet is so rich in vegetables. So trade a few hamburgers this summer for some eggplant... mangia.
Weekly Menu Plan:
Sunday: Giambotta Italian Vegetable Stew
Meatless Monday: Escarole and Beans over pasta
Tuesday: Hot Dogs, Baked Beans and Saute Potatoes
Wednesday: Battered Halibut (Trader Joe's) rice and asparagus
Thursday: Moussaka Eggplant Casserole
Friday: Shrimp, Corn and Salsa with Avocado Salad