Summer Fun and Staying Out of the Heat

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This is one of the few times I am happy to be near the Pacific Ocean rather than the seas around Italy.  The current heat wave in Italy has been devastating in so many ways.  It is unbelievable to hear of tornadoes in Venice, or people dying at the beach from the heat, or just this week, 140 people in Piemonte dying from the heat, but that’s been the news for the last few weeks in Italy.  Well, of course, that and continuing chaos that the fire in May at Fiumicino has created.  No, the airport is still operating at only 60 percent of normal and no finish date for the repairs from fire damage in sight.

So, what’s the good news about summer?  If you are traveling to Italy in the next month or two, put L’Aquila on your itinerary.  It’s in Abruzzo, and the altitude means less heat and less humidity.  While it is still recovering from the tragic earthquake years ago, it is a beautiful, peaceful town.  To the north west there is also Aosta in Piemonte,in the east, Bolzano and Cortina D’Ampezzo.   In other words, if you are in Italy, enjoy the mountains.  No snow, but much cooler weather than the southern parts of the country.

All kinds of records are being set this year besides the heat.

 The tower, which was built at the city’s Fabbrica del Vapore, took five-days to construct and the process involved more than half a million coloured bricks and 18,000 volunteer workers, including many families.

Highlighting the significance of the project a Lego spokesperson told La Repubblica, “Each small brick was important in reaching the record, in the same way that all our daily actions are important in building a better future.”    I think that’s a pretty uplifting analogy for plastic blocks.

And, I understand, that even with Milan’s heat, that the Expo Milano 2015 is having staggering crowds. Some of the pavilions are experiencing wait lines of up to two hours.   I am certainly glad I went in May.  I still believe the opportunity to see this event is worth the many hassles.

And, whether you are here, there or anyplace in the world, it is a time to be thinking of light, fresh and easy to prepare food.  Especially those dishes that do not require heating up your home.  So salads are great, grilling is second nature to California and the combination of the two is heavenly.

The best summer salad?  Panzanella is the perfect salad for summer.  There are so many recipes you can put almost anything in as long as you use stale bread and the best ripe tomatoes you can find.   The recipe below  is one I have used a number of times, it is simple and really great.

Panzanella Toscana                                                                                                                  Serves 6

about 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks or small wedges; about 3/4 pound bread (at least 1 day old), that you cut into cubes; about 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and a dozen basil leaves, roughly torn and about 1 cup or so of arugula.   In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, bread, arugula, basil, and onions.

In a small bowl, vigorously whisk together 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 2 cloves of finely minced garlic drizzle dressing over salad. Season generously with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and let sit for at least 15  minutes before serving.  (This allows the flavors to blend and the juices of the tomatoes to soften the bread).

It always amazes me how truly fantastic tasting this simple combination is and how everyone seems to love it.panzanellaGive yourself a summer cooking break and try it yourself.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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2 thoughts on “Summer Fun and Staying Out of the Heat

    timelessitaly said:
    August 5, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Wise advice to head up into the mountains of Abruzzo to escape the heat. Your recipe for Panzanella Toscana sounds very refreshing. Garden ripe tomatoes and basil are always a delight.

    expresslyitalian responded:
    August 5, 2015 at 5:37 am

    I love L’Aquila. I only hope the next time I am there they have repaired more of the center. Santo Stefano di Sassanio is also a real treasure if you haven’t visited you should. Thanks for your interest.

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