I had the pleasure of traveling to Italy for the first time this summer. This trip exceeded all of my expectations. From the ancient history of Rome, to the rolling hills of Tuscany and finally to the glorious canals of Venice. It was all breathtaking and awe inspiring. Of course, one of my favorite parts of the trip was the food. I am the kind of person who explores a farmer’s market or Italian grocery store with the intensity of an art student studying Michelangelo’s David. For me, everything I want to know about a culture can be observed through their food and eating habits. I was so enamored by the simplicity and freshness of every meal I ate. Artichokes and zuchinni blossoms were in season and appeared in one form or another on almost every menu I saw. Additionally, I just loved the Italian version of “fast food”, which consisted of a cafeteria like line where you pick and choose from beautifully constructed panini, colorful salads and pastas, all of which are served to you on a real plate rather than the ubiquitious American style disposable styrofoam container. What is even better, your wine is poured from a 750ml bottle into the appropriate wine glass. How civilized!

I left Italy with my culinary creative juices flowing and a new found appreciation for simple, fresh food. The recipe below is inspired by one of the salads I had at one of the aformentioned fast food restaurants in Rome. Mangia!

Italian Rice Salad:
3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TSP Crack Black Pepper
3 TSP Turmeric
1 Small Onion, Small Dice
1 1/2 cups of Brown Basmati Rice
2 Cloves of Grated Garlic
Salt to taste
3 cups of water or vegetable broth
1/2 Cup Sliced Thinly, Crosswise Carrots
1 Cup Sliced Thinly, Crosswise Zucchini

Chopped Parsley and Basil for garnish
Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling just before serving
Heat Olive Oil in sauce pan, add black pepper, turmeric and onion. Cook, stiring constantly until transluscent. Add rice, garlic and salt. Stir to coat rice with olive oil, and garlic is softened. Add the water or stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook rice for 20 minutes, adding remaining veggies to pot for last five minutes of cook time. Remember not to stir the rice until it is done cooking. Once the rice is fully cooked, mix the vegetables with cooked rice, add the chopped herbs. Just before serving, drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil.

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