If you spend any amount of time on Pinterest, you can’t help but be be drawn to the dozens, hundreds, and thousands of beautiful images. The food! The weddings and floral displays and parties! The clothes and interiors and exteriors! And lifestyles; wow there are so many fantastic images on Pinterest, it’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of it all, and to dream. The last few weeks I have felt drawn back a little. Have I spent too much time on Pinterest? I set my table for the Fourth of July with lanterns and dozens of votives. We don’t party extravagantly, but this would never happen in France, I told myself. Well, not in most places in France. Unless it’s a special event, a wedding or anniversary or birth, there is usually no need for extravagant decor, it’s all about being together and sharing a meal and a glass, conversation over the very best home-made food. Yes, I’m talking outside of the grand hotels of Paris and Venice….I’m talking about the heart of Italy and France. Where you are more likely to see an image like this, men deep in conversation with unmarked wine carafes, fresh cheese and fresh fava beans on a rustic table~
The image is from a Lorenza de Medici cookbook called Italy the Beautiful, which is full of many home-cooked recipes and images. My friend L reminded me last weekend that the best food in Italy, and France for that matter, is found in the home. And she’s absolutely right. In homes across Italy and France, even in big cities like Paris, the majority of people are eating their favorite home-cooked foods, probably not going out to eat. And foods are served differently, here a whole cake is presented, versus a slice that is found dressed and sauced in a restaurant. Lorenza’s flourless chocolate cake again~
The last two weeks I have been cooking up a storm for my family, the foods they love. Chicken and ribs, five flourless chocolate cakes, three Italian lemon cakes, two of Mom’s cheesecakes and two of Mom’s lemon poundcakes, and that’s just the start of the list. Perhaps in response to image-overload, but also because of the abundance of summer foods and my family favorites, I am going back to my basics. We have had a series of get-togethers, including my brother’s visit last weekend with his kids and 19 of his daughter’s basketball teammates; my brother and his family recently went to Rome, but they didn’t have any burrata there, which I served with a slice of tomato, slice of peach and topped with basil from my little kitchen garden and topped with an edible nasturtium, which they did not venture to eat. I love this combination, and it takes me minutes to prepare~
I also served a slice of roasted beet (cooked just enough to still have some crunch), with fresh ricotta on top. Finished with basil, olive oil and pine nuts (Trader Joe’s)as well as fresh ground pepper and fleur de sel.
Served simply, on glossy camelia leaves from the garden. This made a nice little bite; I could serve this all summer long. In fact, I have served variations of this all week. I never get tired of it and neither have my guests. Buy a small tub of something fresh: goat cheese, ricotta, or use good quality mozzarella. Look at Trader Joe’s or any grocery store for a basic mozzarella. Higher end grocers will have fresh ricotta or burrata; So simple, but so delicious….
Last weekend we had Mom’s cheesecake again; this time I topped it with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries; more appealing visually with those fruits versus the cherries last time. This make my brother smile; we all know the taste immediately; our family comfort food~
And we had a lemon tarte topped with a little meringue. This was my parents’ favorite. No one was allowed to take any of it home; my parents ate the remainder.
Sunday evening we had ahi from the Saturday market, which I seared with a sesame seed crust. The cherry tomatoes were from the pots next to the kitchen, and this made a huge afternoon meal. This is so easy to prepare and everyone loved it~
Just one more bite for me, please….the lettuces and green beans were from Chino Farm; best ever;
As the week continues, I have been on a juice cleanse for breakfast and lunch, and dinner for my parents usually starts with something like toasted sourdough with fresh ricotta and toppings~
Tonight for dinner I made a filet of sole on (Minute) rice, my Dad’s favorite. I admit I served it on a French hotel silver tray with fish knife and fork, but nonetheless, this is basic and not expensive~
We had a spit of rain today, but next I am going to give you some ideas for back to basics party decor. French-inspired, of course~