Lately, I have been thinking a lot about diet. Lately, I have especially been thinking about meat. Not the kind you find in your American grocery store on a Styrofoam plate and wrapped in plastic. Not chicken, not steak, and not pork. And no, I am not going to tell you you need to become vegetarian. Mostly, I have been thinking about meat because of this.
Of course, the fact that we are eating too much protein and only getting protein from one source isn’t really news. Anytime a fad diet tells you to do something, they are probably telling you the wrong thing. No matter how hard we hope, there will never be one solution for how to eat well. The solution lies in diversity, and (of course) less meat consumption.
Italian-American cuisine can be very different from Italian cuisine. I’m here to tell you, Italy is so much more than pizza and pasta. Their cuisine is so much richer than that. Take one look at the butcher display case and you will understand:
You start with the familiar: a huge hunk of cow ribs, hanging chicken, salted and cured pork legs, or prosciutto, perhaps some salame and speck. As fans of Italian cuisine, I am sure we have all explored these elements. Although foreign, they are not unfamiliar. Then things to get interesting…. Where we might find only chicken and meat, an Italian butcher might display rabbit, pidgeon, quail, pheasant, chicken liver, horse, ground horse, beef brain, veal, sheep, pig head, duck, goose and much more.
What would our world be like if it were economically advantageous for a butcher to actually have this many meats? What would it be like if instead of always knowing we will find chicken, we bought our meat based off of what was in season and available? What would it be like if we shopped at the butcher instead of the one stop shopping that dominates present day America? For me, I have to believe it would be a better place. (Although probably a little more inconvenient.)
I have come to the conclusion that a balanced diet is most importantly a varied diet. This means that we get protein from many sources and that we choose to go beyond our choice of chicken, chicken and more chicken. Italy has learned how to stay avoid falling in love with one type of meat. In fact, in Il cucchiaio, there are as many recipes for pigeon as there are chicken. Not to mention quail, pheasant and other meats that I really only dreamed of.
So here is my challenge to you: next time you have a dinner party, don’t cook chicken. Try something new. I can tell you this much, exploring these two dishes has been absolutely worth the effort. And if nothing else, you look much more impressive when you serve rabbit stew rather than chicken!!
In sum, next time you really want to impress, cook this. You’ll love it
Rice and Zucchini:
600 gr rice/3 cups rice
40 gr butter/3 tbsp butter
a bunch of parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
1 kg Zucchini (about 6 zucchini)
- Peel the zucchini and cut into small wheels. Chop onions into slices.
- Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add onions and simmer over low heat until translucent.
- Add the zucchini, salt and parsley. Lower the heat and let it cook slowly. Stir occasionally for even cooking. Cook until cooked about half-way through.
- Melt 40gr of butter in pot. Add rice and fry for a minute. Add double the amount of water, a little salt and stir once. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat all the way down and cover the pan tightly with a lid.
- When the rice is half cooked, add the sauteed zucchini. Cook until all water is gone.
- Before removing pan from the stove, add grated Parmesan.
1 tbsp butter
1 cup of white wine
1 cup chicken broth
juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Cut the rabbit into pieces. Dip the pieces into flour on both sides. Chop the onion into thin slices.
- Add tbsp of butter on high heat and melt. Add rabbit pieces and fry on both sides. If there is too little butter to fry, add oil as needed. Add salt and pepper for taste.
- Once the pieces have browned on both sides, add the white wine. Decrease the heat and let simmer. Once the white wine has evaporated add the chicken broth.
- Cover the pan and stew over medium heat until the rabbit is cooked through after about an hour.
- Before removing the rabbit from the stove squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon into the sauce.
And as always, ENJOY!