September is harvest season in Italy, and this month is a great time to take advantage of the late summer bounty. In a typical Italian meal, a main course consisting of fish, meat, or poultry would be accompanied by a green vegetable or two and perhaps a root vegetable or carrots. The contorni are always served alongside the main course and are therefore a part of the Secondo course and need to be planned accordingly.
It’s important to use seasonal produce in Italian side dishes, not only because eating local food is good for the environment, but also because it is better for us. Our bodies naturally crave the nutrients in produce that is in season in the area that we live in. So, for example, in the fall when broccoli and squash are plentiful, it does our body better to eat them at that time than it would to eat them in June.
The Mediterranean diet, which has deep roots in Italy, promotes basing our meals around plant-based foods. The USDA recommends getting 5-9 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, and by planning accordingly with the contorni at each meal, you are guaranteed of getting at least four servings during your main course at lunch and dinner. Add in a serving as an appetizer, a few with the first course, and a few more with your salad and you get nine servings a day just by following a delectable Italian meal plan, and without any fad diets Leftover grilled vegetables are perfect for topping pizza and tossing into salads, soups, dips, and purees.
Grilled Mixed Vegetables
PREP TIME: 20 MIN
COOK TIME: 10 MIN
YIELD: 6 SERVINGS
* f1/4 cup Amy Riolo Selections White Balsamic Dressing or your favorite balsamic vinegar
* 1/2 cup Amy Riolo Selections or other good-quality extra virgin olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra, to taste
* 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
* 2 large red bell peppers
* 1 small, firm eggplant, cut into @@bf1/2-inch-thick slices
* 4 small zucchini, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
* 1 pint cherry tomatoes
* 1 bulb fennel, cored and quartered
* Unrefined sea salt
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