Monthly Archives: September 2013

Is it true that Italians only drink hot tea when they are sick?

image source - flickr.com/photos/marcoarment
image source – flickr.com/photos/marcoarment

For the most part, yes.

Italy is definitely a coffee driven country. Enjoying a caffe at the bar is part of a daily routine much like afternoon tea in England. So what about tea in Italy? Not so much. For Italians, hot tea is normally drunk at home when feeling under the weather. That being said, it is not hard to find hot tea at a coffee bar. It is there for the tourists. Iced tea, on the other hand, is popular in Italy and is usually lemon or peach flavored.

Is it really necessary to salt and drain eggplant before cooking it?

image source - flickr.com/photos/nelliemc
image source – flickr.com/photos/nelliemc

No, but it is recommended if frying.

Here is another of the great debates among Italian Americans: to salt or not to salt eggplant before cooking. I am referring to a process of sprinkling coarse salt on sliced eggplant and letting it sit in a colander for up to an hour. There are a couple of reasons for doing this. First, it draws out the bitter flavor that is inherent in eggplant. This is really more applicable to bigger eggplant; the baby variety is much less bitter. Second, is to draw out a lot of the liquid so the eggplant isn’t soggy after cooking. Many will argue that this process is unnecessary, and that there is very little difference afterwards.

Here is a great Los Angeles Times article that attempts to settle the debate with an experiment with eggplants that have been both salted and unsalted in a number of popular preparations. The findings? Other than a smoother texture when frying, there really isn’t a large difference in flavor by salting. Now we know.

Why are pine nuts so expensive right now?

image source - flickr.com/photos/pgoyette
image source – flickr.com/photos/pgoyette

Because pine nut crop yields are at their lowest in the last ten years.

Making a proper pesto with all that basil you’ve been growing this summer is going to be expensive. The price of pine nuts is ridiculous right now. Just last week, my local grocery store was selling an 8-oz. bag for $11.99, and equally extreme prices are being found worldwide.

The global harvest of pine nuts fell a whopping 47 percent last year. So why are crop yields so low? Deforestation and logging are a couple of reasons. The number of pines that produce these nuts are quickly shrinking. Drought, pests, and fire are adding to the shortage. All of these factors caused the crop total in China, where the U.S. gets most of its pine nuts from, to fall 90% last year. There are also some U.S. food retailers that have politically decided not to carry ANY items that come from China, making these nuts not only expensive but hard to find.

To keep costs down, try substituting walnuts or pistachios in your pesto. A batch of pignoli cookies, however, is going to cost you.