The pantry of our grandmothers was the most simple and healthy that could exist; a magic chest from which they pulled out the best that nature put at their disposal.
Every season had its flavors and our grandmothers were the best nutritionists.
Modern food is beautiful and inviting but much less healthy and tasty than it once. But we are not powerless in the face of a certain type of market. We can make a difference. We can choose whether to buy this or that product, but to do so we need to know. Knowledge is the only means by which we consumers can affect the laws of the market. Emphasis should be placed not only on ‘healthy recipes’ but also on organic unrefined ingredients.
Waiting for the arrival of a new season, with the colors and scents of its products, is one of those simple emotions that must be safe-guarded. Until a few decades ago, eating only seasonal ingredients was the norm, while today, often, is the exception. We can have everything at any time.
The primary aim of contemporary industries is to satisfy every desire of the consumer. This has made us lazy, spoilt and, above all, impatient. The beauty of fruit and vegetables lies in being cultivated, and as far as possible, respecting the health of human beings and our planet. We let ourselves be seduced by appearances –ignoring the quality of a seasonal fruit that maybe a bit bruised, is a weakness that doesn’t help our well-being or even our wallets.
Preferring seasonal fruit and vegetables means to pander to the rhythms of nature, you can also enjoy fresh sustainable food that tastes real at a cheaper price.
The next step, when possible, is to choose organic fruit and vegetables. This allows you to enjoy all their flavor and, above all, to get your fill of all the vitamins contained in the skin of many fruits such as apples, pears, peaches and apricots.
Nowadays, organic fruits and vegetables are available in traditional supermarkets at good value for money. An essential rule is to read the label of everything we buy to verify the origin of the product, method of cultivation, production date and expiration date. Of course, buying directly from the farmer, when possible, is the best choice and enables you to learn more about the product.
Many vegetables used for my recipes are from my family garden. When the garden is not enough I buy from farmers. The list of vegetables below is not exhaustive, of course, but it refers to many of the products used in the preparation of my recipes that are easily available. You can integrate them, depending on your country of origin, with local vegetables.
If consumed daily, the precious beneficial properties of fruit and vegetables are ideal allies for your wellness. To make the most of these benefits, you should retain them properly, as I suggest below.
To keep them in the freezer, you have to remove the harsh outer leaves. Holding them vertically, squash them gently between the palms of your hands, so as to open them a little which will allow the water to better penetrate them. Soak them in water and lemon juice for at least half an hour so that they don’t oxidize. Boil a large pot of water and lemon juice and let the artichokes cook for two minutes. Drain and place them on a plate, upside down, to dry and cool completely. Once cold and dry, put the preserved artichokes in a container and freeze. Artichokes prepared like this are ready to be cooked without being thawed.
They should be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp cloth.
Broccoli and cauliflower:
Raw and unwashed, broccoli and cauliflower can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days, but once cooked you can keep them for a maximum of two days. Being delicate vegetables, and therefore perishable, both should be used fresh, this also allows you to benefit fully from their properties. Before freezing, steam the florets of broccoli and cauliflower for three minutes.
Carrots should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. If purchased with the tops, cut the carrots off before storing in the refrigerator, otherwise the leaves deteriorating will contribute to the deterioration of the carrots themselves.
It can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with holes and must be consumed in the short term. It can also be frozen, after cutting it into pieces and blanching for 4–5 minutes. Let cool before freezing in the water it was blanched in.
As with potatoes, the ideal storage temperature to avoid sprouts is 10°C (50°F). The garlic should be stored protected from light and, once opened, can be sliced (or crushed) and kept in the freezer for several months inside a container or a freezer bag for food.
For storage in the freezer it is advisable to check the two ends, blanch for two minutes, cool and then freeze. At the moment of their use, cook in boiling water for seven minutes. To keep their bright green color, cook in plenty of water and salt in an uncovered pot, at a fast boil, for a few minutes. Leaving the pot uncovered is essential to make sure that the acids present in beans evaporate before attacking the chlorophyll.
To preserve the leek for longer, after cleaning, just blanch it for a few minutes (avoid cutting it and storing raw because it tends to oxidize) and store in appropriate freezer bags.
Once purchased, place the lettuce in a container covered with a damp cloth and place in a drawer of the refrigerator where the air can circulate. Lettuce can be kept for a maximum of 3–4 days.
The proper storage of onions is crucial to avoid sprouting. It is advisable to keep the onions in a wicker basket, covered with sheets of paper, inside a cardboard box or a paper bag. If you have picked the onions from your vegetable garden, leave them to stand in the air but away from direct sunlight, placing them on sheets of newspaper. Once you open an onion, the remaining part can be sliced or diced and frozen for future use. The onion can also be kept open for two or three days in the refrigerator inside the fruit and vegetable tray.
When you buy fresh peas (always preferable to frozen ones) the shell should appear bright and not yellow. Once purchased, you can keep them in the fridge for a few days, they should be peeled
When purchasing, the pumpkin should be heavy, the skin should be clean and free from bruises. A whole pumpkin, can be stored all winter in a dark, cool and dry environment. Pieces of pumpkin, should be preserved in the refrigerator, wrapped in transparent paper (in this case it should also be eaten within a few days). If, instead, you want to keep in the freezer, you must first remove the peel, cut the pumpkin into cubes and blanch it for a few minutes.
Raw spinach will keep for a few days wrapped in a clean, damp cloth. Once cooked, on the contrary, it must be consumed immediately. Fresh spinach should be washed thoroughly just before cooking (if left to soak it loses many of its nutrients), with many changes of water and the addition of bicarbonate. Stir the leaves, drain and change the water until it is completely free of any dirt. The juice of a lemon, added into the cooking, increases the availability of iron content in spinach.
When buying, tomatoes must be free of spots or bruises and have a firm texture. They must be stored at room temperature and consumed within a few days.
If not eaten immediately, zucchini can be frozen. Cut them, removing the ends and slice the zucchini, as desired, into rings or strips. Place them in a plastic bag in the freezer and freeze.