The summer has been scorching already, and forecasters predict more of the same for weeks. When it’s this hot, let someone else do the cooking and keep your kitchen cool. Italian food is a natural choice for keeping cool on the sultriest of summer days because the cuisine evolved under the powerful Mediterranean sun. Italian cooks didn’t want to heat their kitchens either, so they devised plenty of light recipes that taste as refreshing as that first crisp day of fall.
The quintessential light summer dish is the antipasto course. The term literally means “before the meal,” but this selection of cured meats, cheeses, relishes and pickled delicacies easily fills in as a light, refreshing lunch by itself. Served hot or cold, antipasto plates satisfy you without leaving you feeling stuffed. Briny olives, cured salami and marinated artichoke hearts pack plenty of flavor into small packages. Antipasti are also a good choice if you’re not quite sure what you want; with so much variety on the plate, you’ll always find something to love.
Steamy weather can leave you feeling a little wilted, but eating a salad with crisp, cool leaves and chilled dressing is a good way to beat back summer’s heat. Salads can take center stage rather than playing a supporting role to your entree, especially when they’re big and loaded with toppings. If you love the classics, go for iceberg lettuce and slices of fresh tomato in a light Italian dressing. For a more adventurous plate, mix sweet and savory flavors by topping your salad with diced apples and orange sections, then tossing it with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Carlino’s house special fruit salad also includes slivered pears and curls of Romano cheese to add piquancy to the dish.
You may not think of a slice of pizza as summer fare, but it’s commonly served for easy summer dinners in Italy. Because its thin crust cooks so quickly, pizza doesn’t heat a home the way a slow-cooking dish like lasagna or a slow-simmered Bolognese sauce might. Italian cooks also love to take advantage of what’s fresh in the market, and the tomatoes that go into freshly made sauce are at their best in the summer. Another trick to beat the heat: Sprinkle a few red pepper flakes on your pizza. The spiciness of the pepper actually helps you cool off, which is one reason that spicy foods are so popular in hot climates.
Anything you eat instantly becomes more refreshing with the right drink beside it. Italian white wines are typically more bracing and crisp than their French counterparts, so they’re an excellent choice to pair with a slice of cheese pizza or a salad. Lemonade’s blend of tartness and sweetness makes it especially good on a hot summer day. Get the same lip-puckering effect with a little bit of a kick from a lemon drop cocktail made with the Italian liqueur limoncello.
Don’t let summer win; keep your cool with dishes and drinks that grew up under hot Mediterranean skies. Enjoy the lighter side of Italian cooking and beat the heat.
Sincerely, Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet