The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

February 26, 2014

Amanda Stone: Bring Italy home, in the kitchen and garden

JOPLIN, Mo. — Time seems to move slower in Italy. The air smells like lemons and freshly baked bread; the locals are loud and affectionate; and the food is amazing. It's exactly like what you would expect -- movies and postcards do it justice.

A dear friend had a milestone birthday recently. She dreamed of spending "the big one" in Italy, but life got in the way and it didn't happen. When you're given lemons, make lemonade -- or limoncello -- as the case may be.

I started thinking of ways to bring Italy to Missouri, for my friend, for myself and for everyone else. Because who wouldn't want to experience Italy?

When serving an Italian-style lunch, you'll need the rest of the day to digest. Serve pasta, chicken or beef, bread, cheeses and a veggie platter loaded with color and flavor. Request that guests bring an authentic Italian dish or wine. Savor the lengthy meal and conversation, then wrap it up with espresso or strong coffee and palate-cleansing fresh fruit. After sipping a digestivo, such as ice-cold limoncello, you will have pulled off an authentic Italian-style lunch. Feel free to send me an invitation.

Bringing Italy to Missouri doesn't have to end at your dinner table. Plan your garden with Italian inspiration. Now is the time to start Roma and San Marzano tomato seeds; they're ideal for making sauces. Plant a variety of peppers and leafy greens, along with zucchini and eggplant. Grape vines planted along a fence will be lovely and fruitful. And a lemon tree is essential -- you'll have to lug it inside during winter, but your trouble will pay off when you see your first lemon. So exciting.

Herbs play a fundamental part in Italian cooking. Luckily, growing herbs in our neck of the woods is pretty effortless. Italian basics such as oregano, thyme, fennel, marjoram and sage are perennial, so plant them soon and enjoy them for years. Basil, rosemary and lemon verbena are crucial, but they will need to be planted each year. They are definitely worth the little bit of effort.

Italian cooking doesn't have to be heavy and unhealthy. Try these recipes that lean toward the lighter side.

 

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