The Second Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen

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Faith Willinger


What's the second most important ingredient in my kitchen? The first, of course, is the best extra virgin I can get my hands on—expensive, but less costly and far more fun than medication or skin cream. The second is leftovers, which my Tuscan husband accents on the second syllable, left-OH-vers, which sounds much more entertaining.

My refrigerator is always filled with little containers and plastic bags of cooked vegetables, meat, or fish. The challenge is to transform them into an entirely new dish. These were my leftovers—cleaned salad greens, hard-boiled eggs, tomato, cucumber and onion salad, a few pieces of roast guinea hen, sliced beets. I chopped a stalk of celery and some basil. Picked the meat off the guinea hen and mixed it with the celery. I quartered the hard-boiled eggs. Placed a layer of salad greens on a large platter and arranged all my leftovers on top. And drizzled everything with lots of Castello di Ama extra virgin, some Villa Manodori balsamico, crisp sautéed breadcrumbs (I always have a bagful made from stale bread—think mini-croutons), and basil. Lunch was ready. The Tuscan was pleased.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.
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