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The Vacation Rental Kitchen Cookbook - Basics

Judith Ayotte Greenwood

Wonderful Italian recipes designed with the Slow Traveler in mind - dishes that use local ingredients that will be easy to find, that don't use any fancy utensils and can be prepared in your vacation rental kitchen.

I play with food. I did before I moved to Italy and I do now. I went to a chef's school for a while and there I learned to make fancy foods to serve discerning eaters. I can't eat that way everyday, nor do I know many people who can.

The result of real life colliding with dreams of lavish Italian meals is the past several months of trying out dishes that are practical, quick, and to me at least, interesting.

What's Italian about that idea? Everything, because it all starts with respect for the ingredients and what they have to offer. These days there are not so many Italians staying at home all morning to do the shopping and then prepare a three-course meal. Most Italians are also saving up for something, because they don't like borrowing money if they can help it. They are picky consumers. On Sunday they may make a huge lunch that contrasts completely to these everyday meals, but day-to-day, most Italians I know could come to my table and eat these meals and leave happy.

The meals we will discover together are all my own recipes, tested many times before writing a final version. There are no impossible-to-find ingredients (except the pecans!) and these dishes include healthy doses of vitamins, minerals and proteins. Of course there are thousands of traditional and published recipes that aren't mine to add to this slim selection.

So, let's go!


It all starts at the market, whether that's a supermarket, a weekly trip to a farmer's market, stopping off at a farm stand, or a greengrocer's.

The first thing I had to learn was not to buy those packets of vegetables and fruits. Some always spoiled before I could finish them, and I would see those hungry children on the TV news and try to eat something brown and wrinkled because I felt guilty. Sometimes in the net bag or neatly sealed plastic box there were items already molding. Or sometimes there were things so under ripe they would never really be good to eat. So, the bulk bins, where you can select what you like and the amount you need, is where you start.

Buy the best you can find

Experiment with unusual things. Better one single perfectly ripe tomato than a package of pink tennis balls, even if the tennis balls cost a lot less per gram. Better a little chunk of the best Parmigiano than a plastic bin of what tastes like soap flakes.

Beautiful is in the mouth

The insistence on gorgeous and blemish-free produce has led industry to use more and more chemicals on and in our food. Organic produce may have freckles and blemishes, but given a chance to mature, that bumpy and battered thing will probably taste a lot better.

Eat in season

Just because you can buy strawberries in November it doesn't mean you should.

In the recipes, I have tried to give you the words in Italian where I think you will need them, and occasionally when I don't think you really have to have the Italian word. You know what garlic looks like, but knowing the word could be helpful in reading labels (aglio), so I included it.


I have figured Italian portions and so a really big guy may to need more. Americans tend eat too much meat. It's just a habit and can be overcome as easily as a heroin addiction or smoking cigarettes.

If you are eating pasta as a one dish (more or less) meal, then 100 grams (3.5 ounces) may be a portion, but if pasta is only part of your meal, then 65 grams is plenty, and for many women, even less is the right amount.


I have avoided using any special equipment or providing any recipes that need special equipment. That's by my standards, so if you think a vegetable peeler is an esoteric tool and not worth the $1.89 you'd have to pay for it, then you figure out how to peel things using your Swiss Army knife.

Yes, you do need big pans and small pans. I have some delightful cookery items, a collection of pretty casseroles and souffl dishes, but there is not one recipe here that requires any of that. When there's a recipe for which you would ordinarily use a blender or something else rarely found in a rental, I'll tell you how to live without it.

Those Multi-Course Meals

Yup, they exist. You don't have to eat an antipasto, a primo, a secondo, and a contorno to feel Italian. If you eat all those courses you generally feel more like the French goose being turned into foie gras, not Italian. They do come in handy though, if you choose among them. If your menu is heavy on the carbohydrates and low on proteins, have a couple of slices of prosciutto crudo as an antipasto, a chunk of cheese or a simple white bean salad.


Measurements by Weight

In Italy almost everything is weighed. It takes some getting used to, but there really isn't an alternative. On the other hand, you can buy many things by weights you need, too, so if you need 100 grams of something, you may find it comes in exactly that increment, or perhaps it comes in 250-gram increments, so you take 2/5ths of it.

The weights you will see on price tags are:

  • Kilo (kg): 2.2 US pounds
  • Etto (gram): 1/10th kilo or 100 grams and occasionally expressed on menus as hg, for which I never understand the reason

If you plan on doing a lot of cooking in Italy, buy yourself a little electronic scale as a souvenir. My latest has a switch for metric and pounds/ounces. This will help you if you are following Italian recipes.

Measurements by Volume

Non-weight measurements include these listed below. If you find a measuring cup in your rental kitchen, these should be the measurements marked on it.

  • Liter: 33.81 US ounces, a bit more than a quart
  • Deciliter (dl): 1/10th of a liter
  • Milliliter (ml): 1/1000th of a liter

Other measurements I used in the recipes:

  • Cucchiaio: The soup or tablespoon from the cutlery drawer. A recipe will normally say it should be raso, or level, or colmo, which means heaped. Cucchiai is the plural.
  • Cucchiaino: The teaspoon from the cutlery drawer, not the tiny espresso spoon, also colmo or raso. Cucchiaini is the plural.
  • Tazza: The little espresso cup provided for your coffee. I figure about 1/4 US cup.
  • Bicchiere: Usually a wineglass, which is presumed to be about 3.5 US ounces.

Many Italian recipes ask for a mancia, or fistful/handful of something. From experimentation, I have found that to mean a not very big fist or hand. If I use more than 3-4 tablespoons, it is too much.

When translating recipes from one system to another I find the free converter from JoshMadison.com absolutely indispensable.

Tutti a tavola! (Everybody to the table!)

Next - Click to read Judith's Vacation Rental Kitchen Cookbook - the recipes.


One Year of the Way I See Italy: Judith's photo album of Italy.

Slow Travel Italy - Instructions - Food Shopping: How to use the small food shops and large supermarkets.

www.joshmadison.com/software: JoshMadison.com, free converter, converts units from one type to another.

I was born in Maine and reared here and there, mostly on the East Coast. I eventually graduated from university with a major in design and minors in Italian and horticulture and then settled down, more or less, to qualify in and practice interior design. In 2000, over the protests of my child, I decided to retire early and live in Italy.

I still live here, and I am content to the point where folks often hold a mirror in front of my mouth to check that I am still breathing. Italy has all my favorite stuff: fashion, dancing, music, history, adorable men, wine and food. And now me.
Think on It: Philosophy from an Umbrian Farmer

© Judith Ayotte Greenwood, 2005

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