October is Italian Month and we at Monte Bene couldn’t be more excited! As we’re sure you know, Italians are all about family and spending quality time together, especially around the table with good food. The Campania region of Southern Italy - where Chef Neil Fusco and his family are from - was once called by the ancient Romans Campania Felix (Happy Valley) probably because the food there makes everyone happy! The ancient volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, gives the soil incredible fertility, the tomatoes their sweetness, and provides a bounty of fresh produce.
Italians also know that a true meal should stretch for several hours, lingering into the night with drinks and lively conversation. The volcano in the distance is a reminder not to speed up or rush, but to slow down and enjoy the moments we do have to share and to partake in the food of the earth. So especially this month of October, live like an Italian and slow down each evening to enjoy a good meal with your family and friends!
Want more "Italian tips" from the Fusco family? Keep reading!
Uses of Olive Oil
Chef Neil Fusco uses Extra Virgin Olive Oil in just about every recipe that calls for oil. It is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, making it a healthier choice than most vegetable oils. When cooking with extra-virgin olive oil, it’s best to keep the heat low since it is an unrefined oil, meaning it hasn’t been treated with heat or chemicals, which gives it a lower smoking point. In general, go for pure or light olive oils or a blend of vegetable and olive oil for cooking, because they are already refined and have higher burning points. Save the high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil for dipping, drizzling, and dressing. It has a light flavor and a recognizable, peppery aftertaste that tends to stand out more when heated. When you buy olive oil, look for the labels that say “cold pressed.” This means that heat was not applied during the crushing process, preventing chemical changes and defects in the olives. Finally, store your olive oils away from light exposure, either in the pantry or cupboard. This prevents them from going rancid.
Olive oil even has uses outside of the kitchen! Many people say it makes a great hair conditioner, probably because its main chemical elements are emollients – elements that have softening qualities. Some claim that it makes their hair softer, more resilient, and shinier!
Italians and Veggies
Italian food doesn’t just mean pasta – veggies are another staple of Southern Italian food! The people of Southern Italy used to be called “Mangiafoglie” or “leaf-eaters,” because their main source of food came from the earth. Growing up in Southern Italy, vegetables were a big part of our everyday lives. This is partly due to the fact that vegetables are cheaper – especially when you grow them yourself! It is also because the land is so fertile and productive that fresh, seasonal vegetables are the food of choice for almost every meal. Why wouldn’t you want a fresh escarole salad when the leaves are crisp and pungent, freshly picked from the field?
What is your favorite Italian food or part of Italian culture? Let us know in the comments below!