To start with the rough facts: yes, cooking is work, the kitchen will get dirty and you might ruin your nails, but a good meal requires work. The perfect menu in 30 minutes is an invention of cook-book authors. But it doesn´t have to be a full menu. The Italian kitchen offers lots of these small, but tasty items, called “antipasti” (starters) on the menu.
Salumi and Prosciutto
All over Italy you find all kinds of combinations of salami or ham with seasonal fruits and vegetables, prosciutto di Parma with melon is just the most famous example. People from Florence wouldn´t go for prosciutto di Parma – they buy their own, local Tuscan prosciutto. Here is another tasteful, but simple recipe: scalognie, (a kind of onion like “shallots” in English) with vinegar and olive oil. Since the scalognie are a local specialty from the Emilia Romagna, you won´t get them elsewhere, but you can substitute it with the most tasteful onion you can get at your market. Take the smallest you can find, peel them, put them in salt for 2 days, then in balsamic vinegar for another two days. This process will take away their bite and preserve them at the same time. For making it durable you put them into olive oil and keep the glass firmly closed. All this stuff is healthy, freshly prepared from local ingredients and the small portions enable you to try various types. Allora, do it like the Italians: don´t go for prosciutto di Parma unless you have special access (like an Italian market around the corner), just take the best local salami/prosciutto you can find and combine it with local, seasonal fruits/vegetables, eat small portions and, most important, invite friends over, set the table nicely and eat together!