Pasta with Raw Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Sauce: ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’

There is no better way to showcase the succulent, end-of-summer tomatoes than using them to flavor this simple, yet delicious dish.

 

 

Throughout Italy there are many versions of raw tomato sauces: a similar dish I had published in my Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.  It was more spicy, based in Crudaiola the name used for the sauce in Puglia –the heal of the Italian boot.

Similar sauces are whipped-up all over the Italian south and probably more famous is pesto Trapanese, from the eponymous Sicilian city, which combines almonds, tomatoes, and cheese. I recently came accross this other Sicilian peasant version in Serious Eats: ‘Spaghetti Alla Carrettiera’ which I consider by far the best of the raw tomato sauces; and also the simplest.

 

 

As we read in the recipe’s intro “In the olden days, wandering cart drivers would crisscross the Italian countryside, selling goods, wares, and basic cooking ingredients to the townspeople along the way. When they were hungry, they’d quickly whip up a sauce like this using just the basic ingredients they had on their cart.” One can add cheese, but I found that it is not really needed. I suggest you try it first without.

 

Following the Greek and Eastern Mediterranean tradition I do not blanch and skin, or seed the tomatoes, but simply cut in half and grate them to get their pulp. I always felt that the greenish jelly around the tomato’s seeds is especially delicious, so I don’t want to lose it. (more…)

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Eggplants Stuffed With Onions, Peppers, Cheese and Nuts

This is my tweak on a dish my mother used to make often in the summer. I usually bake the eggplants and make the sauce a day before, then sauté the onions and peppers and finish the dish the next day. It can also be baked 1-2 days before you plan to serve it; refrigerate it then gently reheat. I would say that it tastes better the next day.

 

 

Serves 4-8 (more…)

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Stuffed Summer Vegetables with Rice, Farro and Pine Nuts

The stuffing is simply a mixture of chopped vegetables, the bits and pieces removed to make room for the stuffing – this dish wastes nothing. Together they create an unexpectedly tasty combination. Eggplants, peppers, onions and tomatoes, with herbs, grains, pine nuts and raisins cook slowly in the oven inside the vegetables for an hour or more. Once cooled completely their flavors meld together and make the perfect summer lunch.

 

 

Some people think that the idea of stuffed vegetables came to Continental Europe from Sicily, where it was introduced by Arab Moors. But I have my doubts. Italian stuffed tomatoes and zucchini are quite different from those of the Near East. They are usually rich with parmesan and other cheeses, as well as with prosciutto.  In the Eastern Mediterranean cooks had to be frugal, making the most with the scraps from their hallowed and hollowed vegetables and rice or other grains.

 

 

 

Start by choosing a pan and that will hold, somewhat snugly, the vegetables you plan to stuff. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon rice for each vegetable you stuff, plus 3-4 tablespoons ‘for the pan’. But don’t worry; if you have leftover stuffing transfer to a saucepan, add some water and simmer, stirring every now and then, to make a delicious risotto.

 

 

This dish is time-consuming but worthwhile, and you can prepare it in stages. We often cook it together with our guest at Kea Artisanal. Tomatoes take longer to hollow than peppers or eggplant, so you can start them a day in advance. Once emptied, keep the tomatoes upside down over kitchen paper in the refrigerator and complete the preparation the next day.

 

Serves 6       (more…)

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Roasted Summer Vegetables with Garlic and Herbs

I bake all or some of the vegetables on the ingredient list, depending on what my garden produces. For example, I omit the eggplants and increase the amount of zucchini in June, when I harvest more zucchini than I could otherwise cook. Needless to mention, again, that simple dishes like this one depend on the quality of the vegetables. 

 

Choose the freshest vegetables from your local farmer’s market and your summer roast will always be spectacular, no matter what vegetables you choose. Sometimes we bake the vegetables in the wood-fired oven and, of course they are even more delicious!

Leftovers are great as a topping for polenta or grain pilaf.  You can also spoon them on toasted pita or bread to make a bruschetta, topping them with crumbled feta; They also make a great base for omelet or frittata.

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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Baked Fish with Lemon, Potatoes, and Thyme

I first made it with striped bass –absolutely delicious—then with some small hake, and also with pelagisia tsipoura —wild gilt-head sea bream, called Orata in Italy, and Dorade in France– the exquisite, and most expensive Mediterranean fish. All three versions were great, especially with the thick-skinned, almost sweet lemons from the old lemon trees in our garden, which are of the vintage kind grown also  in Amalfi.

You basically need no recipe if you would like to make it. Bear in mind, though, that using head-on fish is really important as it flavors the sauce and the potatoes beautifully.  Read more HERE.

 

 

Serves 4 (more…)

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