Farm to Fork Italian Style

By: Kimberly Reed   Date: 2/22/10

Buon giorno!  Greetings from Florence, Italy, where I am attending a conference focused on my favorite topic: food.

Much of the discussion has been centered on healthful foods that can make a positive addition to your diet, including foods made from whole soy and almonds.  (Happy Almond Day on February 16!)  We also are focusing on the total food system-"Farm to Fork."

With the growing attention on eating more local, I want to share my Italian "Farm to Fork" experience with you.

Fattoria di Castiglionchio is a farm in the Florentine hills with a rich history dating back to the 12th century. The owner and employees are dedicated to "Farm to Fork" principles, and shared a fantastic glimpse of what farming was like many years ago.

The country life museum had an extensive collection of antique farm tools and kitchen equipment. The ancient olive press with its massive stone had to be cranked by hand to produce olive oil.  Rinds of cheese were stored in containers of grain in a cool place to retain the moisture.  Salami and ham were stored in tubs of ash before drying.

But, my favorite experience was seeing an evening meal being made in the old kitchen, which is still functional. The chef, in his not so perfect English but in a most perfect way, reminded me that "what you eat and put inside yourself is what you express on the outside." 

He also had a basic food message to share: simple and seasonal.   Italians enjoy the simplicity of foods -- where you do not have a competition of tastes in a dish -- and use foods that are in season.

I was then introduced to a most hearty and delicious "Farm to Table"  Tuscan country dish: Ribollita.  As we now endure a cold and record- breaking snowy winter back home, I want to share this healthful recipe with you.

As you can see from the below picture, this simple and seasonal
meal was delicioso!

Left to Right: Esther Myers, Director of Research and Scientific Affairs, American Dietetic
Association, and Kimberly Reed, Executive Director, International Food Information Council Foundation)




1 head of black-leaf kale (cabbage/cavolo nero)
1/4 head of Savoy cabbage
1 bunch of Swiss chard
1 leek
1 onion
2 potatoes
2 carrots
2 zucchini
2 celery stalks
300 grams (approx. 10.6 ounces) of cannellini beans (white beans)
2 peeled plum tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
250 grams (approx. 8.8 ounces) of stale homemade white Italian bread

Pre-soak the beans for about 8 hours. Boil them in two quarts of water.  In another pot, sauté the sliced onions in olive oil.  Slowl y add all of the other vegetables, chopped into large chunks. Let them slowly soften for about 10 minutes. Then add the water leftover  from cooking the beans and half of the beans.  Add the other half a fter pureeing them.  Add salt and pepper. Cook over love heat for a bout two hours.  Now add the sliced bread, stir well and let it boil for ten more minutes.  Let it stand. Serve in earthenware bowls. Pour in a little genuine Tuscan extra virgin olive oil with a full, fruity flavor.