Italian Food and Wine – Cucina al Fresco I

The Italian Outdoor Kitchen

A friend of mine who shall remain anonymous once stated “Italians don’t know how to grill and they never grill. They don’t cook outside.” My response was, “The only time my cousins in the Apennine Steak and BeansMountains of Italy make pizza is in their outdoor oven which was built when their house was constructed over 100 years ago. In the summer they do as little cooking indoors as possible, and to keep the house cool, they cook just about every meal outside.”

Over the weekends the men take over the wood burning outdoor kitchen,they open a bottle of Ariola Lambrusco Dell’emilia Marcello and start cooking. Pizza is only one item that is prepared outdoors. For all practical purposes we can say that they cook everything outdoors. They may bring a pan outside to sauté whatever may be in season such as asparagus. Or they may cook a medley of vegetables on the grill or in the outdoor oven. My cousin Primo loves his swiss chard with polenta and perfectly grilled veal chops, which pair with  Cavalchina Bardolino Chiaretto Rose 2009. They will also grill pork chops, lamb chops, whatever their taste buds desire. They love to cook a famous Tuscan dish, although they may tell you that it is not Tuscan. It is Bistecca with sautéed homegrown beans, which pairs well with Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino 2007. I never tasted beans like theirs and often tried to duplicate the taste of my cousins sautéed beans. I’ve come close, but let’s face it; my beans are not grown in Farfanaro, Italy.

Whenever we cook we must be careful. Safety practices in outdoor grilling are very important. Many accidents happen with amateurs cooking outdoors and thinking they are acting professionally. When cooking outdoors always keep in mind that fat and oil dripping onto your fire will create flames and should be avoided as much as possible and everyone Tuscan veal Chop Mealincluding children should always be a safe distance from the fire. This may occur with a gas grill or a charcoal grill, which many of us still prefer.

However, most accidents occur when amateur cooks are charcoal grilling and start the fire incorrectly. They often over dose the charcoal with the starter fluid. Then they light the coals with a match or cigarette lighter, and flames burst into the air, up their arm, as if nitrogen was poured over the coals. Another practice that causes injuries is when people squirt the fluid onto hot charcoal to speed up the grill’s fire. What has happen, is that a flame shoots up the stream of starter fluid to the container, and the container explodes in the person’s hand. This practice must be avoided.

The best way to light an outdoor charcoal or wood burning grill, I learned from Ralph Delucia. He is the father of Peter DeLucia who Dr. Oz always refers to and who has appeared on his show as guest, to demonstrate kitchen safety practices. What Ralph does is simple and to some folks may require a little patience. He simply mixes kindling wood with paper and places the coals or wood on top. Then he lights the paper with a match. Within a minute the kindling wood catches fire, the kindling wood quickly ignites the charcoal, and shortly afterwards you are cooking.

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