Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ciao Bella! Southern Italian in your kitchen.

When I went to Italy, I probably ate enough food to sustain a small village. But my favorite Italian food experience was visiting a little restaurant in the middle of nowhere. These farm-based restaurants are called Agriturismo - a combination of the words for "agriculture" and "tourism" in Italian.

Starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, small scale farming in Italy became less profitable, and, as one might predict, farmers abandoned many farms to search for work in larger towns. But Italians value highly the traditions and produce of small scale production of food, and by 1985 a law defined Agriturismo, and many abandoned buildings and estates were restored, some for vacation homes, and many for agritourismo. These agritourismi allowed the small farmer to augment the income from the farm, and for vacationers to sample the bounty of a rural life in Italy.

There is rarely a menu, as they typically serve whatever is pulled from the garden that day. It is the freshest culinary experience I have ever had.

Parmesan Chicken Tartine


2 chicken breasts, butterflied
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 egg, beaten
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with chiles
6 ounces tomato paste
1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
1 cup fresh basil
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsps dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 slices of provolone cheese
1 baguette
5 tbsps olive oil

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsps of olive oil. Saute garlic and onion until onion is transparent. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for 15 minutes, until tomatoes break down. Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring ocassionally.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tbsps olive oil on medium high heat. In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Dip chicken in egg and then coat with bread crumb mixture. Place chicken in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides and cooked through.

Slice the baguette and toast it in the oven or a toaster oven. Drizzle the bread with olive oil then place chicken on top of the bread and cover with a slice of provolone cheese. Pour hot tomato sauce over the chicken and top with a sprinkle of cheese and a couple pieces of fresh basil.


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