I brought zucchini directly from the farm. I had even picked it. Sunshine yellow, striped, and deep emerald. Too abundant in some places I’d lived, too expensive in others.
I sliced them lovingly. We discussed the oven, settled on a skillet. I preemptively sloshed it with the good olive oil, then left him to induction jockey and turned to set the table.
I appreciate home grown chilis, however hot. And I eat herbs like salad. But the bit of chili and the shower of cannistered herbes de provence displaced the delicate zucchini.
My friend Nigel once deconstructed an unconvincing dinner party by explaining that our friends bought the cheapest ingredients they could find and then spent all day trying to add flavor to them.
When I serve preposterously simple things to Italians I explain to them what “nouvelle” and “California” cuisine thinks it learned from the Mediterranean: to let the garden define cuisine, and do less to it in the kitchen.
I can’t imagine anything more luxurious than eating within walking distance of a tomato patch. A bowl, a knife, balsamico, basil, oil, salt – all are nice, but not required. More than that strikes me as completely unnecessary. I find most Italian food overcuisinated. There is a sense that you must do a lot to it in order to transform it into cuisine. The cooking overshadows the food.
To me, every authentic ingredient stands on its own. It’s not necessary to get your ego involved, you can just eat it.