food. family. life.

{summer}: trio of green vegetables

I love green vegetables. Green vegetables can be sweet, savory, bitter or buttery in texture and flavor.

My famiglia’s table was always filled with two to three green vegetable choices in all seasons of the year.

In summer, we had the luxury of fresh farmer’s markets and our own home-cultivated garden green vegetables that we would prepare very simply to keep their fresh-picked flavor and texture.

I am going to share with you three of my personal favorite green vegetable dishes that use a small amount of ingredients to create something beautiful and memorable.

Do take advantage of your local area green vegetables (from a wide variety of salad greens to fresh picked green beans and broccoli rabe.) Try something you have never had before and see if you and your famiglia can come up with ways to prepare them that you love and can enjoy many times over.

Fresh grown spinach.

One of the most versatile and naturally sweet flavored green leaf vegetables that summer offers us in abundance. This dish is something I learned to prepare with the influence of famiglia from the southern coast of Italia where the olive oils and lemons are kissed by the sun and by the Italian food gods above.

giardino fresco spinaci saltati insalada con limone a la amalfitana: {garden-fresh sautéed spinach salad with lemon & olive oil a la amalfitana}


2 to 3 bunches of freshly picked spinach leaves & stems (ends trimmed and washed well to remove all dirt & sand)

very good quality extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

1 large fresh lemon

toasted rustic bread slices or chunks

Wash and drain the spinach leaves and stems well (if the leaves are on the larger side, tear them into slightly smaller pieces.) In a medium skillet, add the spinach leaves and add about two to three tablespoons of water. Drizzle very lightly with some olive oil.

Place on medium to low heat and sauté lightly just until the leaves wilt and the liquid is very warm and slightly bubbly. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

When ready to serve; place the sautéed spinach and all the remaining liquid into a serving bowl. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle a healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil and mix the spinach well, gently so as not to smash the leaves.

Cut the fresh lemon in half and squeeze some of the fresh lemon juice into the spinach and mix well to coat. Grate some lemon zest over the top and serve immediately with plenty of crunchy, toasted rustic bread to sop up the juices.

Note: This spinach dish is wonderful served with fresh grilled fish & seafood as well as with poultry and grilled meats. We add this to sandwiches too, but be sure to eat the whole amount as this dish does not keep (the lemon juice will turn the leaves brown and bitter overnight, so only dress the amount you wish to serve and store the remainder for another day.)cucinadimammina_summer green vegetables_06

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giardino freschi saltati piselli dolci con spagnolo cipolla rossa{garden-fresh sauteed sweet peas with spanish red onion}


large bowl of freshly-picked and shelled sweet peas (you can use a good quality frozen brand of peas in the off-season)

1 small to medium spanish red onion, peeled and chopped (use only about half the onion if it is on the large side)

very good quality extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

In a deep medium size skillet, drizzle a healthy dose of olive oil and add the chopped red onion.

Place on medium heat and sauté the onion until it begins to soften and become fragrant.

Once the onion is softened, add in the fresh-picked peas and about a half glass of water and stir well (if using frozen peas instead, use less water as they will contain a bit of water already from the frozen process.)

Allow the peas to slowly cook over medium-low heat stirring often so they cook evenly.

Place a pan lid tilted on the top of the sauce pan to allow a bit of steam to occur during this cooking process. Test the doneness of the peas, they will be ready when they are no longer hard, but soft and sweet in taste and texture.

Note: Fresh peas will take longer to cook; watch and test the peas often so as NOT to overcook and lose their beautiful green color and flavor.

Remove from the heat once completely cooked through and add additional seasonings at this time as needed. Serve immediately with your choice of fish or protein and a wonderful garden fresh salad.cucinadimammina_summber green vegetables_04


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giardino fresco carpaccio di zucchine con formaggio, limone e basilico{garden-fresh carpaccio of zucchini with cheese, lemon & basil}


3 to 4 small to medium young & tender garden-fresh zucchini, skin on (washed well and ends trimmed)

fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

1 large fresh lemon

very good quality extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

1 wedge of imported grana padano parmigiano cheese (you can also use a wedge of imported manchego cheese)

Dry the zucchini well and using a vegetable peeler, carefully slice the zucchini into thin beautiful strips, continue this until all the zucchini has been cut and place them into a very large deep bowl.

In a small plate, using a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler, create paper thin pieces of the hard cheese of your choice, enough to please your taste level.

Right before serving your meal, drizzle a good dose of olive oil and add some sea salt and pepper to the zucchini strips. Mix gently until well coated. Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice from the lemon, and blend well.

Taste for any more seasoning needed and lastly, chop some of the basil leaves and add these as well as a small dash of lemon zest to the top.

Finish with a good handful of the thinly sliced cheese and serve immediately with grilled meats, fish and toasted crostini bread.cucinadimammina_summer green vegetables_02

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Note: Photography by Annette Venditti

Buon Appetito!

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