As much as we love Spain, I think Italy is our spiritual home. When we were ‘in the life’, we’d holiday there all the time, in an apartment by an old water mill in the mountains about an hour from Pisa (mountains, rural, farming, sound familiar??). We would try to sneak away for a week a couple of times a year – we would seldom do much, as we are not committed sightseers, but we would sometimes take a trip into Florence for the day.
Ah, that week. So relaxing, so quiet. The nearest village was a couple of kilometres away, and had only a couple of restaurants and shops, perfect for us. Our favourite restaurant was run by a local family. We liked to go there for Sunday lunch, when it would be packed with noisy families enjoying the terrific, always-fresh food. There wasn’t a menu; the waitress would read from a list of items that were ‘on’ for the day, and you’d pick – the surprise was when you received each course, to see if you had actually ordered what you thought (we didn’t speak Italian)!
So what is it about Italy? The food comes to mind first. It’s hard to get a bad meal, unless you eat at one of the touristy squares in, say, Florence. We are passionate about our food, and so are the Italians! The food in Spain is also wonderful, but I really swoon over the pastas, polentas and sauces of Italy.
I like the irreverence, too – a trait shared by Spaniards, or at least in our own Andalucia. Rules are there, laws are there, and they are good and necessary – but it is, of course, necessary to bend them! Very little is sacred, from the paying of tax to the speed limit.
So in honour of our love for Italy, here is our own take on Italian food, perfect for a light summer dinner. Enjoy!
Polenta with eggs
For the polenta: Use 1 cup polenta to 3 cups fresh chicken broth. Slowly add the polenta to the boiling broth, then add 2 T chopped fresh sage, and cook until thick. Pour into a greased loaf pan and cool.
Note: polenta meal is hard to find in our area, so I use regular cornmeal.
- Slice the polenta, and fry in olive oil until the outside is slightly crisp. Arrange overlapping slices on a plate.
- Fry a free range egg or two until desired ‘doneness’, arrange on the polenta slices.
- If desired, sprinkle with some fried, chopped bacon, but this is optional.
- Slice some fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, and arrange on the plate; top with fresh basil and a bit of olive oil.
- Grate fresh Parmesan over the top and serve.