The 7 Rules of the Italian (and Southern) Kitchen

First and foremost, I apologize for the brief lull in activity for the past couple of weeks. Between a wedding weekend in Santa Barbara, a 26th birthday, and a weekend trip to San Francisco for the Outsidelands music festival, I have been one busy girl. Needless to say, I've been eating (but not so much cooking) up a storm. With football season upon us, however, that's about to change. I've got some incredible recipes waiting in the wings, just ready to help you celebrate the South's favorite pastime. So keep coming back here for some guaranteed-to-be-a-hit game day grub!

Until then, here are The 7 Rules of the Italian Kitchen, featured in this month's Bon Appetit. I feel these points apply just as strongly to the Southern kitchen (in mine, atleast), so I thought I would share them with you here.

1. PAY ATTENTION - What foods grow where you live?  When are they in season? In Italy, the kind of cooking that chooses the local over the exotics is faithful to the seasons and wastes nothing.

2. LOVE THE LEFTOVERS - Today's sauteed mushrooms are the beginnings of tomorrow's mushroom risotto. Just about anything can live happily in a frittata. And (of course) don't forget all of the things you can do with a pot of beans.

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE - Let the ingredients speak for themselves. Italians tend to be wary of overly complicated cooking. Almost any fresh seasonal vegetable -- sauteed in olive oil with a bit of garlic -- makes a delicious pasta sauce. If you really want to get fancy, sprinkle in a handful of basil leaves or some grated parmesan. But you don't even have to.

4. TASTE AND SAVOR - Italians love to talk about food (and never, by the way, about business) while they're eating. "Other great meals I have eaten" is a favorite topic of mealtime conversation. Granted, this is a bit like craving ice cream while your eating some, but at least they're treating their time at the table as the joyful activity it is. While you're talking, don't forget to savor what's on your plate.

5. COOK CREATIVELY - There is comfort in working with the most humble ingredients and pleasure in being resourceful with whatever is at hand. What can you do with the half loaf of rock-hard bread? Find a couple of tomatoes and a handful of basil and turn them into a Tuscan pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup).

6. GROW SOMETHING - Give an Italian a few square feet of fertile soil and he or she is more likely to plant some tomatoes plants than a patch of lawn. If you have no garden of your own, look into community gardens, or put a few small terra-cotta pots in a sunny window and fill them with herbs.

7. PRACTICE GENEROSITY - Now, more than ever, we need to eat together. Whatever there is to eat, it's enough to go around. We come together at the table not because of what we do have, but despite what we don't.

Do you follow the same rules in your  kitchen? I would love to hear your examples!