May 27

Memorial Day marks the start of the summer season and is one of the first outdoor celebrations of the year for many of us. The food at these parties usually centers around the grill and typically also includes fresh side dishes and salads. If you are still looking for a Memorial Day recipe, here’s one for a Mediterranean-style chicken salad. It’s healthy, delicious and full of many of summer’s best vegetables – zucchini, bell peppers and tomatoes.

Mediterranean-Style Chicken Salad

1 small zucchini, trimmed, cut in 1⁄2 lengthwise and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and inner white ribbing removed, cubed
1 yellow bell pepper, seeds and inner white ribbing removed, cubed
2 tomatoes, seeds removed, cubed
1 small onion, cut in 1⁄2 lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 ounces pre-cooked chicken breast, shredded
1⁄2 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and halved
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon sugar
51⁄4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 sprigs chives, chopped

In a bowl, combine the zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, chicken and olives. In a separate bowl combine the lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and the sugar and whisk until well combined. Pour over the salad, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add the crumbled feta and the chives. Toss and serve. Serves 4

  • For another great salad to serve this holiday, try this tuna, red onion and cannellini bean salad.
  • You can also find more recipes perfect for Memorial Day or any other occasion on Italian Cooking Forum
  • Do you like to play music at Memorial Day parties? How about other occasions when you’re eating?  and let us know.
May 21

Sit down to dinner with real Tuscan cowboys and see the making of some typical Maremma cuisine. The butteri, which is what these cowboys are called, Parco dell’Uccellina in the south of Maremma, Tuscany, the Etruscan bulls, the Mediterranean Sea, Buffalo Bill, who used to spend the winter in this part of Italy, all of this is like a dream for visitors and sweet memories for me! The cowboys are exceptional men used to the wild and the harsh weather with a very strong sense of camaraderie and simple manners; they are men of few words. The bulls are enormous and the land is full of surprises, beautiful with its strong colors. Live it to believe it! It is a great, unforgettable experience!

May 13

The avocado should not be considered an Italian ingredient, but is being used more and more in everyday cuisine and in many different ways. I often use it as condiment in salads and sauces.

With its rich and creamy texture and nutty flavor, many people think that the avocado is a vegetable, but it’s actually a fruit. It originated between 7000 and 5000 B.C. in southcentral Mexico, where it was first cultivated in 500 B.C. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, they couldn’t pronounce the Aztec word for the fruit, “ahuacatl” and instead called it “aguacate,” which later became avocado in English. Today, there are almost 500 varieties of avocados, with seven varieties grown in California.

When purchasing any avocado, make sure it’s not too hard, but not too soft. Most avocados sold in the supermarket will be unripe. To ripen, leave at room temperature, preferably in a paper bag, until it yields when lightly squeezed. A ripe avocado can be refrigerated for a few days, but once the edible inside is exposed, it will darken quickly. Avocados should never be frozen or cooked.

Although avocados are high in calories and fat, they contain mostly monounsaturated fat, which is considered one of the healthier types; they are also very rich in fiber.

Below is the cover recipe from the May 2010 issue of Cibo, a great spring dish that features avocado.

Spring Appetizer
Antipasto di Primavera

Serves 4-6

4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 bunch mint, julienned, plus extra, minced
1 avocado, pit removed and sliced lengthwise
1 lemon, juice only
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into wedges
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 orange, juice only
salt and freshly ground pepper

Roll each piece of prosciutto up, forming a cigar shape and arrange on a serving platter lined with the julienned mint. Brush the avocado slices with the lemon juice to prevent oxidation and arrange on the serving platter in alternating order between the prosciutto rolls, then arrange the hard-boiled eggs in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice and minced mint. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and continue to whisk until emulsified. Drizzle over the antipasto and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Dry crispy white

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  • Learn about and get recipes for another great piece of produce -peppers. They’re perfect for your upcoming summer parties!
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