by Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Spring is my favorite season. I love to wander through the olive tree fields and lie down on the fresh grass to look at clouds and fall asleep with the birds singing. I used to do it when I was a child, and I still do it with the same joy.
Our countryside is glorious during this time of year. Wildflowers blossom everywhere, and all around you, you can smell the perfume of fresh herbs and flowers. Irises, daffodils, daisies, and little wild orchids color our hills. Everything looks like Botticelli’s “Primavera.”
Firenze is full of flowers. Every terrace and little balcony is festooned with potted flowers and plants. Going to the street market is a feast for the eyes. The farmers arrange fresh vegetables in such an artistic way, and the market is a triumph of color and freshness. I always come home with heavy bags full of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Most of the time when I shop, I don't have a particular recipe in mind. I just buy what inspires me and believe that with such beautiful vegetables, every recipe I improvise will turn into a success.
To kick off the season, I thought it would be a good idea to share some simple, delicious starters:
This is a pretty improvisational way to turn a boring salad into a triumph of color and freshness . . . in a nice daisy shape.
1 Belgian endive 1 cup mascarpone cheese Marjoram 1 can sweet corn
Wash the endive and separate the leaves. Combine cheese and herbs. Dollop a spoonful of the mixture on every endive leaf. Pour the sweet corn in the center of a large, round serving platter. Circle the corn with the endive leaves to make a lovely daisy shape.
Albicocche e Parmigiano
(Parmesan with Dried Apricots)
We are so proud of our Parmesan cheese. We love it with everything, and not only on top of pasta. This sassy version is with dried fruit and champagne.
1 cup aged Parmesan cheese, cut into irregular slices 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
Scatter Parmesan slices on a serving platter. Garnish with apricots. Serve with champagne.
Rose di Prosciutto
(Roses of Prosciutto with Goat Cheese)
We have many kinds of ham in Italy, and they are different in every region—cooked, raw, aged, salted. My favorite is Parma ham, prosciutto di Parma, which is perfect for this recipe.
1 pound prosciutto di Parma 1 cup fresh goat cheese 1 tablespoon snipped chives
Combine cheese, chives, and salt and pepper in a bowl. First, roll the cheese into little balls, and then lightly roll the balls through the chives. Wrap the balls in roses of prosciutto, placing overlapped slices all around.
Crostini con la Rucola
(Crostini with Arugula)
A very typical Italian way to taste arugola. These crostini are perfect for dinner parties. You won’t have any left over!
10 thin slices of baguette
Bunch of arugula, chopped 1 cup cream cheese
3 slices prosciutto di Parma Salt and pepper
Combine arugula, cheese, and salt and pepper. Spread on toasted bread slices. Garnish each piece with a little strip of prosciutto.