Italian Fast Food…


The makings of a five minute lunch

There is slow food going on in my house today in preparation for fast food down the road. I am roasting, canning and freezing bell peppers…more on that another day.  I was raised with the Slow Food Philosophy even if the organization didn’t yet exist. The Slow Food international headquarters are located in Bra, Italy – the town in Piedmont where the movement was born in 1986. It is not too far from where I live and at its core, represents the food values that my family already did and does practice daily.   As a kid, my mom would work all day, often 10-12 hour days, and would still whip up a meal from scratch.
My take on slow food is that food should be good, not necessarily complicated or pretentious. Eating locally sourced, ethically grown/raised, and seasonal food is ideal whenever possible and food should also be affordable.  Splurging is fine and dandy if you can swing it but we should all have access to good basic ingredients at a reasonable price. I am often shocked at the price of fruits and veggies when I go back to my native Seattle for a visit.  Last August when I was there, red bell peppers were selling for $4.99/lb. Peppers are a summer veggie.  Here they currently cost $2.20/kg at the supermarket. The 10 kilograms that I just bought directly from the farmer cost $1.60/kg. One kilo is 2.2 lbs, you do the math!
Enough about economics though, let’s get back to lunch.
I have provided links to products I think will help you recreate this recipe as I make it.  One of the things that makes Italian food so good is the quality of ingredients that are staples here.  Tuna is a great example: most of the tuna on the shelves of a supermarket in the states will be packed in water or vegetable oil.  Most of the tuna on the shelves here in Italy is packed in olive oil.  I can find water packed tuna but I have never seen tuna packed in vegetable oil.  I always buy line caught, dolphin safe tuna.  Sometimes it comes in a can and sometimes in a jar, either is fine for this recipe.  A few weeks ago I accidentally bought water packed tuna…I will not make that mistake again.  Not only was it flavorless, my husband was aghast.  Why would anyone try to save calories by compromising taste?
I have two growing boys to feed and it is a rare day in our home that I don’t make a proper lunch…my boys are home nearly every day for lunch even during the school year and that hasn’t started yet.  When I am away on tour (I spend roughly four months of the year on the road as a guide for Rick Steves’ Europe) my friend Francesca babysits for me and deals with lunch. I suspect my kids feel deprived by me as she always feeds them a multi course lunch…I am much lazier.
So what’s cooking today?
A very easy Cannellini Bean, Tuna and Tomato Salad with fresh Basil.
Canned beans work beautifully just be sure to rinse them well. Here’s what I used to make enough for 4 people:
Tuna Cannellini Bean and Tomato Salad
One 15.5 oz. can of Cannellini beans (also known as White Kidney Beans)
5 oz. Olive oil packed tuna, drained
1 Medium sized tomato chopped or 10 cherry tomatoes quartered or halved depending on the size.
1 Sprig of fresh basil chopped
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Salt and pepper
Lightly warm the rinsed beans in a pot so they are lukewarm. Make sure you stir them once or twice so they don’t stick and all the beans are warmed, not just the ones on the bottom of the pan. Mix all of the solid ingredients together in a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and add just a touch of Balsamic vinegar if you like.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.
I made this in five minutes and it disappeared just as quickly…Buon Appetito!

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