Traditional Italian Cuisine and Bread
The Italian cook combines various vegetables, fruits, fish, grains, and small amounts of meat, with olive oil. Combining these modest ingredients to create a hearty meal that is pleasing to the senses is the essence of Italian cooking. Italian cuisine is prepared with much care and detail keeping with Italian tradition. Italian cuisine is built upon the fortified foundation of bread and olive oil.
Olive oil and bread are a staple paring in Tuscan cooking. A savory olive oil can bring life to the simplest ingredients. Poured atop cooked vegetables, brushed on various meats and fish, used in salad dressings, and in soups and pasta, olive oil is the marrow of Italian cooking. There are hundreds of varieties of olive trees, each producing olives with a unique taste. Each of the twenty Mediterranean regions had their own varieties, as there are hundreds of varieties around the world. From old-world meals to Italy’s modern dinner tables, olive oil has endured the test of time.
Bread has been one of the staple foods of the European diet since prehistoric times. The daily importance of bread in the Italian diet has been recognized for ages. Italians have uncompromising standards for their bread. Loaves are long and usually leavened with yeast. The typical loaf of Italian bread is up to two feet long and at least six inches thick. The yeast in Italian bread is allowed to fully ferment, which takes several hours. The long fermentation period creates a thin crust in comparison to some European variations of bread. The crumb or center of Italian bread should be soft and moist making it well suited for soaking up olive oil. Frequent trips to the bakery can be quite profitable for bread makers because loaves of Italian bread tend to stale quickly. Though, even stale Italian bread can be enjoyed simply by dipping chunks of the bread into herbed olive oil.
Italian immigrants arrived in North America in the 18th century bringing with them their Italian cooking traditions and ingredients to be shared in the United States. Italian bread consisting of the simple ingredients of flour, yeast, water, and salt quickly gained popularity and was adopted into the American diet. However, Americans were not as quick to bring olive oil to their dinner tables. Americans have become captivated with olive oil in the past couple of decades. This can probably be attributed to the realization of the nutritional value of olive oil. Olive oil has been proven to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart attacks, and contains antioxidants which Americans are now actively seeking as part of their food consumption.
It is no surprise that the same traditions carried on in Europe for thousands of years are now being passed down and embellished upon by Americans today. Italian bread is a favorite for deli sandwiches, served along side a bowl of soup, and served with olive oil for dipping as a tasty snack or appetizer.
[tag] bread in Italian cooking[/tag]