I am now only 23 hours away from a big, fat, delicious month of holiday. I can smell it already and it smells of campari and lemon granita, of caponata and Sicilian beaches, of almonds and pasta con le sarde, of beach worthy books and afternoon naps after long lunches in cool darkened rooms with ceiling fans, of arancini and freckles……
Monthly Archives: July 2009
3 nice things
are even nicer.
We made these last Sunday as part of the antipasti for a the happy, abundant and joy-full lunch in the garden, I think the companionship around the table made them taste even nicer.
I have written about my peculiar relationship with peppers before and nothing has changed really. I still loathe green ones, raw ones of any hue – as my wise and stalwart grandma used to say – just don’t agree with me and I am really funny and fussy about how they are cooked.
I do however (red please, yellow if pushed) like them blistered and blackened in the oven, even better, charred over a wood fire, peeled and them left to wallow in their sticky juices and some olive oil. I am happy to eat them just so, but even more so draped with some salty anchovies, dotted with few dark, salty olives and some bread to sop it all up. I then like the leftovers even more, maybe with some creamy goats cheese and a couple of anhovies squashed between 2 slices of white bread in a doorstop sandwich.
Antipasti, now there is a word I like, it conjures up all sorts of delicious thoughts of tasty morsels which tickle and excite the appetite before the main course arrives. The Italians are masters, a few slices of Prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele, maybe with some figs, a thick slice of salami and a few black olives like the ones from Castellamare, or maybe some young broad beans with salty Pecorino Romano, a spoonful of caponata with warm bread, some white beans spiked with mild onion and loads of nice olive oil, a wedge of nicely made frittata , a few crostini with tapenade or simply a bunch of radishes with butter and salt……
or some of these peppers.
and bread, always bread.
I roasted some more peppers yesterday and had a little nap while they blackened and softened in the oven. My nap drifted into a sleep and anxiety dreams about something I really need to do, being ticked off by the person I need to do it for and burning peppers. I woke up relieved it was just a dream and astounded about how real the scent of burning peppers had been in my dream..
then I remembered there really were peppers in the oven..
they were well, quite black and rather soft…
But 4 seemed worth saving. I burned my sleepy hands while slipping the hot, charred little buggers into a bowl and covering it with clingfilm to create a steamy space which would then make peeling easy. After 10 minute of steaming and thinking I should steam my face while I was at it, peeling was satisfyingly easy. I tore each pepper into pieces which looked manageable, arranged them in a dish, strained over some of the sticky juices at the bottom of the steaming bowl, sloshed over some extra virgin olive oil.
These peppers are delicious with fresh basil and garlic instead of olives and anchovies.
Roasted red peppers with anchovies and olives.
- 5 large red or yellow peppers
- a handful of small black olives
- 12 anchovy fillets (best quality preserved under oil)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- salt (only a little as the anchovies are salty enough)
Heat the oven to 180°/350°f
Line a baking tray with foil put the peppers in the tin and roast for about an hour, turn every now and then until the are soft, blistered, charred and floppy.
Once the peppers are done tip them into a bowl and cover tightly with clingfilm. Leave the hot peppers to steam away under the clingfilm for 10 minutes which makes them beautifully simple to peel. You can also put them in a plastic bag to steam them.
Now the skins should be easy to peel away, discard the seeds, stalk and any membrane.
Cut or tear each pepper into thick strips and arrange in a shallow dish.
Stain (to avoid seeds) a little of the pepper juices from the steaming bowl over the strips. A sprinkle of salt and glug over some olive oil. Criss – cross the peppers with the anchovy fillets and dot with olives.
Allow the peppers to sit for at least an hour a room temperature before serving.
Like this one. Actually should I say a bit like this one.
I seem to remember once (with an air of superiority I cringe to recall) telling (or declaring more-like) someone in a vocal stamping of my feet that I would never read the newspaper on-line, I liked the paper and print too much, I didn’t want yet another part of my life to become dependant on the mac monster I was already far to involved with, the articles somehow didn’t make as much sense read on a screen……blah…me me…. I think…
I had to eat my words…….
I still prefer paper and print but since moving to Rome my persisting and exasperating inability to really understand Italian newspapers and the exorbitant price of my trusted daily has meant that I only get to hold the real thing once a week but the rest of the time, needs must, I have become quite devoted and rather fond of reading the newspaper on – line.
As much as I like reading about food and nosing amongst the recipes, it’s not actually the first place I head too, that will be him or him. But I get there eventually and always find good company; Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Mathew Fort, Allegra MacEvedy, Nigel Slater, Yotam Ottolenghi and various talented others who all – more often than not- inspire, only occasionally irritate and propel me into the kitchen.
Yes lentils again, I know it’s not pork, or a cake, or cookies but lentils, just bear with me.
What the photo is not really illustrating is the pleasing little combination that is;
a pile of braised lentils mixed with roasted and slightly sticky caramelized celery, carrot and tomatoes, plenty of chopped parsley and olive oil….topped with a dollop of creamed smoky (that will be the roasting) aubergine………and a slice of ricotta and more good olive oil and black pepper.
All the components make for a very tasty whole and was a nice change from pasta as the drummer is off drumming.
I know I have said this before but one of the best things I have learned in the last couple of years is boiling lentils with a bay leaf, carrot, celery and onion. The lentils absorb the flavours beautifully and so are, well, beautifully flavoured.
I think there is space for some pancetta in this assembly, next time. By the way, talking of pancetta, I have not- despite appearances- gone vegetarian, only that it’s all been rather quiet on the meat front around here. But I am anticipating that will change in few weeks when we go to meet the rest of my rowdy, carnivorous family including an offal crazed brother in Umbria. Things may well get decidedly fishy when we go to meet Vincenzo’s family in Sicily later in the summer.
last thing….apparently one of my favorite tipples is an old mans drink.
No, this is the last thing, I promise if you haven’t already given up on this chaotic post. I blame today’s chaos on this little rant about overused words in food writing. Even though I don’t agree with all of it and frankly, wish I hadn’t even seen it, it did make me ponder the words I choose a bit more than usual.
Ah, finished, here is the recipe, but first another photo in case you have forgotten what on earth I was talking about, I know I have.
Lentils, aubergine, roasted tomatoes and ricotta.
- 2 medium aubergines
- salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 200g small dark lentils (puy or castelluccio) washed and drained
- 3 small carrots, peeled.
- 2 sticks of celery
- a bay leaf
- a small while onion
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- a tsp brown sugar
- handful of chopped parsley
Put the aubergines on an oven tray lined with foil and place under a very hot grill for 45 minutes, turning them a few times, until the skin cracks and the flesh is cooked through – don’t worry if they burst.
Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle scoop the flesh into a colander, avoiding the black skin. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes, then season and mix in half a tablespoon of vinegar.
Meanwhile, put the lentils in a medium saucepan with one carrot and half a celery stick chopped into rough chunks. Add the bay and onion, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and simmer for up to 25 minutes or when the lentils are tender – skim the froth off the surface from time to time. Drain , discard the carrot, celery, bay, thyme and onion, and transfer to a bowl. Add the rest of the vinegar and two tablespoons of oil and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir and set aside.
Set the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Cut the remaining carrot and celery into 1cm dice and mix with the tomatoes, a tablespoon of oil, some salt and the sugar. Spread in an ovenproof dish and roast for 20 minutes.
Add the cooked vegetables to the lentils, then the chopped parsley, stir. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Spoon on to serving plates. Pile some aubergine in the middle, top with a slice of ricotta and finish with a trickle of oil.