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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The Seedy Grapes from our old Vines

Most of the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Until this year, come harvest time, we just find a few bunches of rotten, half-eaten grapes which are sweet but filled with seeds and difficult to swallow.

 

Early this August, as we finished harvesting the almonds, we noticed quite a few nice bunches of grapes hanging from the old, robust vines that engulf the southern fence of our property, behind the lemon trees.  From these vines we mainly gather the tender grape leaves early in May, to stuff and make our trademark dolmades.

 

Usually the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Come harvest time, we just find a few bunches of rotten, half-eaten grapes which are sweet but filled with seeds and difficult to swallow.

 

These vines are probably a remnant of the old vineyards our little valley was famous for; the dark grapes used to produce quite good wine in the old days, as I discovered researching the paper I wrote for the 2017 Oxford Symposium: (more…)

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Fig-thickened Fresh, Creamy Goat’s Cheese

Figs and the milky, sticky sap from the tree were used since antiquity to curdle the milk and produce a fresh cheese. In Greece we call this soft cheese sykomyzithra  and in Turkey teleme. From Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking (Wiley, 2009) we get the ancient as well as the contemporary way of making this cheese, according to Musa Dagdeviren. In Musa’s beautiful video on Netflix we see the shepherds whip-up the fresh cheese in the mountains; and of course Dagdeviren has included the recipe for teleme in his recently published, encyclopedia-like Turkish Cookbook  (Phaidon, 2019)

The recipe for this dessert that lingers between sweet and savory, is from Musa Dagdeviren’s book. Instead of dried figs I once used fresh over-ripe figs and the result was a lighter, exquisite cream. I like to sprinkled the bowls with walnuts toasted with brown sugar, salt, and rosemary.

 

Makes 6-8 servings (more…)

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Mastic Became the Talk of the World!

“We discover references to mastic in such diverse places as the logbooks of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World, and in the account and recipe books of the Sultans of Topkapi and the Seraglio.  We read in the history books that the allure of mastic drew emperors, monarchs, and princes into battles for control of the mastic lands and villages of Chios,” wrote the late Dun Gifford in his introduction to the 1999 Oldways Symposium about the “Healthy Mediterranean Diets and Traditions of Chios and Lesbos islands.”

Last week, some twenty years later, mastic became the talk of the world!

 

“Over my 54 years, I’ve pinned my hopes on my parents, my teachers, my romantic partners, God.

I’m pinning them now on a shrub.

It’s called mastic, it grows in particular abundance on the Greek island of Chios and its resin — the goo exuded when its bark is gashed — has been reputed for millenniums to have powerful curative properties,” wrote Frank Bruni in the New York Times. (more…)

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Tomato-and-cheese-topped Lagana (Flat Bread)

We make this bread all the time, especially when we have guests. The dough is the one I use for my everyday breads, sometimes adding yogurt if I have leftover that is going too sour or any kind of mashed vegetables or greens. In the summer I use a tomato-onion-olive oil mixture, the leftovers from our daily tomato salad, pulsed in the blender, to make my Tomato Salad Bread which can also be topped with cheese and tomato slices.  Tomato Bread S

See also the Smoked Cheese and Kumquat Bread which is basically the winter version of my topped breads. For a more spicy-aromatic topping spread Zaatar mixed with olive oil over the tomatoes.

 

Yields 2 laganes (focaccia-like flat breads), each serving 6-8 people as appetizer

 

(more…)

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