Appetizers on the Italian Riviera

Seems like only yesterday but it’s been more than two months since Hubby D and I returned from our latest visit to Northern Italy. Although we spent most of our time in the Piemonte Region, we also took a road trip with Cousins E and L, one that D got to enjoy as a passenger instead of his usual position behind the wheel. The four-hour drive via the Autostrada took us through seventy-two tunnels before reaching the Ligurian Coast where our cousins’ recently married daughter S lives with her husband M.

The Ligurian Coast you may ask, where’s that? Well, it’s the Italian Riviera portion of the Mediterranean Sea, from Le Spezia and Cinque Terre to Genoa, San Remo, and Ventimiglia. West of Ventimiglia, Italy becomes France and the Italian Riviera becomes the French Riviera which also includes the sovereign state of Monaco.

Liguria boasts a resort climate and high above the sea terraced cliffs which support a thriving flower industry supplying not only Italy but other countries as well. But it’s the local wine and olive oil that captivated me. Both were an integral part of the wonderful Ligurian meals we ate in the home of our gracious hosts, M and S. Their kitchen was as modern as most in America. Talk about dispensers, this kitchen dispensed just about anything, from typical espresso to carbonated water derived from a tank stored in a drawer. There was also an American-type fridge that dispensed endless supplies of ice cubes which made D very happy since he was experiencing a meltdown from lack of icy beverages. On top of the fridge sat a large metal container with a spigot that dispensed olive oil beaucoup. Pardon my French but we were so close to the border.

I can still hear the collage of mixed languages in that comfortable Ligurian home. Having lived in America for seven years, M spoke very good English so communicating with him didn’t require the usual hand gesturing. However, M did not speak the Piemonte dialect that D used with E and L and S since he cannot speak the formal Italian the others naturally spoke. I, on the other hand, sort of understood the conversations but couldn’t compose a sentence fast enough to respond before everyone else had moved on to another topic. As for N, he had no problem making himself understood in any language and had the run of the house as well as the garden area overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Such is the way of a dog who doesn’t realize he’s a dog.

“My mother taught me to cook,” M said on the day we arrived. “And now I am teaching S.”

Well, I was certainly impressed with what S had learned so far. On Day 2 of our visit she prepared a terrific appetizer/antipasto. Although the Italians probably have a name for this delicious dish, I didn’t catch it. Nor did I observe S during her preparations but she did tell me the ingredients. From there, figuring out the process was simple enough. So, for the sake of expediency, I’ll call it …

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Roll-ups

Spread out a sheet of “unwrap and roll fresh mozzarella”
Brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil
Slice a small zucchini into thin vertical strips
Place zucchini strips in one layer over mozzarella sheet, sprinkle with salt
Finely chop some olives and a bunch of parsley, add extra virgin olive oil to bind
Spread parsley mixture over layered zucchini
Roll filled mozzarella sheet into a tight log
Tie mozzarella log with the green stems of chives or onions, spacing around 1.5 inches apart.
Cut mozzarella log into serving pieces and arrange on a platter. Enjoy!

Of course, any number of fillings would work—roasted red peppers, fresh spinach, prosciutto, ham, thinly sliced roast beef. Use your imagination!


About Loretta Giacoletto

Loretta Giacoletto is an American writer of family sagas, mysteries, and contemporary fiction, all of which contain elements of crime. She divides her time between the St. Louis Metropolitan area and Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks where she writes fiction, essays, and her bi-monthly blog, Loretta on Life, while her husband Dominic cruises the waters for bass and crappie. Their five children have left the once chaotic nest but occasionally return for her to-die-for ravioli and roasted peppers topped with garlic-laden bagna càuda. An avid traveler, she has visited numerous countries in Europe and Asia but Italy remains her favorite, especially the area from where her family originates: the Piedmont region near the Italian Alps. - See more at:
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