There were many food related advantages to growing up in northern Italy including a varied cuisine, with Austrian, Italian, German and French influences, lots of fresh meats and cheeses, and delicious baked goods, but one of the best things about food in Südtirol was that it was fresh. It was made in the moment, for the meal we were sitting down to eat, and this was not only cultural, but also by necessity as we did not, and still do not, have fast food establishments in our town.
Another thing is, we always had vegetable gardens and orchards growing up, which meant that every fruit or vegetable we ate was just picked, and ripe for the season, in that moment. In fact, my mom does not visit a fruit and vegetable store from May through October, growing all her tomatoes, onions, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage (turned into home-made Sauerkraut), apricots, apples, figs, grapes, and plums, as well as every kind of berry that will grow at our altitude: red, white and black currants, strawberries and plenty of raspberries. So, the chief way that I have tried to transfer this northern Italian freshness to my family is through serving fresh fruits and vegetables in the height of the season. And right now, there’s no better fruit to eat than raspberries.
Who doesn’t think of summer when tasting fresh raspberries. Your super-market probably offers them year-round, but it is really the locally-grown, in-season ones that I am talking about. First, they don’t cost you an arm and a leg, second these plump but delicate little fruits literally melt in your mouth, and third they herald the beginning of the warm, long days and nights of summer. The USDA ranks raspberries eighth in total antioxidant capacity out of more than 100 common foods. Their combination of vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber make them super heart healthy.
My kids eat raspberries with pretty much anything: with natural yoghurt, bircher muesli, or spread on top of toast instead of jam. I include them in smoothies, fruit salads, even banana breads or the occasional apple puff pancake.
One of my favorite raspberry recipes, South Tyrolean Hot Love!, works well with fresh or frozen berries, making it a year-round great-tasting dessert (though in the summer it is truly spectacular). Raspberries fall apart when heated as their skins dissolve into sweet nothings, creating a very thick, dark-red, great-tasting sauce that you can use for dressing this dessert. It is a little bit of summer from my home town that I’d like to share with you. Check it out and remember it on that cold winter night when your dinner guests crave a little taste of sun…