Italians are born and bred with at least two special gifts for the discernment of beauty. . . an eye for fashion and a taste for food. Milano is one of the world’s fashion capitals and it’s no wonder because Italians seem to have some gene that produces a natural affinity for color, texture, and style that go into a fashion statement that is classic, bold, and constantly reinvented.
Marco was horrified by my clothes when he met me 21 years ago. I wore pleated Khakis and a short-sleeved button-down shirt. He has a point. Probably only in New England and the U.K. do so many men wear these pleated pants that do a disservice to the male form. The beige color is also a testament to the drab days of winter gloom and fit right in with the clouds and mist and rain. And don’t even get him started on the short-sleeved button down. . .
In terms of food, I don’t even know where to begin. I was raised on tuna noodle casserole. . . he was raised on spaghetti alla carbonara, I was raised on peanut butter and jelly. . . he was raised on Nutella spread on a fresh-baked bread, I was raised on meatloaf. . . he was raised on polpette.
The other day, we were eating this year’s favorite winter soup, the one with butternut squash and chick peas. We each had sprinkled a bit of grated Grana Padano cheese on top and drizzled some extra virgin olive oil. Then, Marco commented that the cheese was “stale”. He has a refined Italian palate honed through years of wonderful Italian home cooked meals. I couldn’t tell the difference. I grew up on grated parmesan from the carton, so this grated cheese was just fine. I stopped and tasted again, trying to put these 21 years of Italian training to the test, and, I have to admit. . . the cheese was not its freshest.
You see, we get the Grana Padano wedges when we visit Cremona and freeze them. Then, we grate the wedge and have it in a sealed container ready to use. This reminded us of that simple Italian rule: cook with the freshest of ingredients for the best tasting food. So, from now on, we will freshly grate the wedge each time we need it!
Ingredients: (4 servings) – click here for recipe in Italian with step by step photos
- 430 g butternut squash, peeled, cubed (the recipe on Giallo Zafferano uses pumpkin, but we prefer the butternut squash)
- 400 g pre-cooked chickpeas
- 100 g kale, cleaned, sliced thin
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 3 juniper berries (double if they are small)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1.5 L water
- we add the “Better Than Bouillon” brand paste for a chicken stock that gives the soup more flavor
- extra virgin olive oil q.b. (quanto basta or as needed)
- black pepper q.b
- sauté the onions and juniper berries in the olive oil over low heat until the onions are soft
- add the squash pieces and brown them, adding a little water to the pan
- add the chickpeas, kale, salt, pepper, bay leaves and the rest of the water
- cook over high heat for 15 minutes
- remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes
- remove the juniper berries and bay leaves
- serve and drizzle with olive oil