Monday, August 31, 2009

Italy and the Summer Bounty

Summertime produce is the perfect bounty for cooking the most flavorful Italian food. When most of us think of Italian food we think of daylong cooked sauces and slow cooked meatballs, and an all night cooked Osso Bucco. But Italian food also brings to mind slow and hot summer days and very warm summer nights spent grazing on freshly picked tomatoes drenched in olive oil and sea salt, platters of very thinly sliced prosciutto, burratta and a chilled bottle of wine.

The reason our summer produce reminds me so much of Italian food is because the taste of simply, freshly prepared food with seasonal ingredients cant be beat. Wherever you are in Italy you will be served foods of that region. In southern Italy you will eat mostly vegetable based dishes with many that include fish. There are beef based dishes but the area is better known for its seafood, lamb and pork. The growing season is much longer in the south because it is much hotter for a longer period of time. Tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash and peppers are the most popular vegetables grown. Very similar too our hot Southern California climate, which produces bounties of the same types vegetables. Mount Vesuvius brings San Marzano plum tomatoes, which are so incredibly rich and flavorful (this is what their red sauces are generally made from), Sorrento has superb walnuts, and the Gargano Peninsula brings fruity olive oils. The following recipes are inspired by thoughts of Italy and the beautiful summer bounty that we have.

Zucchini in Padella

This is great for anti pasta platters, in a pasta dish, on grilled baguette or as a side dish.

You can substitute the anchovy filets for thinly cliced prosciutto.

Yield: 3-4 as a side dish

2-4 zucchini

1/2-cup olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup diced shallots

1 red chili, sliced

1/2 cup Purple Cherry Tomatoes or diced Brandy Wine Tomatoes

4 sprigs fresh marjoram

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

3 anchovy filets, in olive oil

Zest and juice of 1/2 of a lemon

Cut zucchini in 1/2-inch pieces.

Put 1/2-cup olive oil into a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic, shallots and red chili. Sauté for 30 seconds then add tomatoes and sauté for about 1 minute. Add zucchini, marjoram, salt and pepper and sauté about 5 more minutes. When zucchini is tender add the anchovy fillets and the lemon. Stir for 1 minute until the anchovies are melted and broken up. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

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