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Melanzane Calabre, Calabrian Eggplant

Hot weather and spicy foods go hand-in-hand; here’s a tasty chilled eggplant dish from Calabria that will work nicely as antipasto or vegetable in the summer months:

  • 4 long eggplants, peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch (slightly thinner than 1 cm) slices, and salted for an hour
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 hot peppers, minced
  • Minced fresh oregano to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extravirgin olive oil
  • Salt

Rinse the eggplant slices, boil them 3-4 minutes, and lay them on a towel to dry. Make an emulsion of the vinegar and oil, and stir it into the herbs. Put a layer of eggplant in a dish, season it with the oil, put down another layer of eggplant and continue until all is used up. Chill for 4-6 hours before serving.


Pomodori col Riso, Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice

Rice is one of the most classic fillings for tomatoes; the tomatoes will work well as either an antipasto or a side dish, and can be served wither hot or cool. The recipe is drawn from Caróla Francesconi’s La Cucina Napoletana.

To serve 6 you’ll need:

  • 12 round, large tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) rice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Fresh shredded basil or oregano

Wash and dry the tomatoes, then cut around their caps and scoop the pulp into a bowl with a spoon, catching all the tomato juice as well, and being careful not to puncture the tomatoes. When you are done blend the pulp and juice. Then combine the blended tomato pulp with the remaining ingredients except the wine.

Preheat your oven to 375 F (170 C).

Stuff the tomatoes with the filling without tamping down too hard, replace the caps, and put the tomatoes in a lightly oiled oven proof dish. Pour the wine into the dish and bake the tomatoes until done, about 45 minutes. Serve either hot or cool.


Livio Jannattoni gives a very similar recipe in La Cucina romana e del Lazio, though he increases the cloves of garlic to 3 and the rice to a cup (200 g). He suggests parsley in addition to oregano and basil, and also suggests that you slice some potatoes thinly and bake them with the tomatoes, observing that they become wonderfully tasty as they absorb the pan juices.

He also discusses a closely related Roman dish, tomatoes stuffed with pasta, which calls for a pasta shape known as cannolicchietti (small rings of pasta, of the same sort one puts into thick soups) – a tablespoon or at the most two per tomato.

Empty the tomatoes as you would if you were filling them with rice, reserving the pulp and juice and setting the caps aside. Mince basil, a little garlic and some parsley, and combine the mixture with the cannolicchietti, seasoning everything with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkling some olive oil over it. Fill the tomatoes with the pasta mixture and put them in an oven-proof dish. Put the reserved tomato pulp through a strainer to remove the seeds and sprinkle it around the tomatoes, together with a little more oil; the liquid in the pan should reach half-way up the tomatoes (add more if need be).

Cover the tomatoes with their caps and bake them in a 360 F (180 C) oven for 30-45 minutes. Serve either hot or cold.

Pimmaduori Siccati, Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomatoes

This recipe is Calabrian, and is drawn from Ottavio Cavalcanti’s Il Libro d’Oro della Cucina e dei Vini di Calabria e Basilicata. It calls for ripe tomatoes (plum tomatoes will be best) you should dry yourself; before you begin check the weather forecast because you’ll need several days of hot dry weather with intense sunlight.

You’ll want at least 2 pounds (1 k) of sun-ripened plum tomatoes.

Slice the tomatoes lengthwise, set them on a rack with the cut surfaces up, dust them with salt, put them out early in the morning (if where you live has a lively insect population cover them with fine netting), and bring them inside at night lest dew fall upon them as the temperature falls. Continue setting them out each morning until they are dry. Depending upon the humidity where you live this could take 2 or more days.

You’ll then need:

  • Garlic (SEE NOTE)
  • Oregano
  • Freshly shredded mild or hot pepper to taste
  • Basil
  • Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Rinse your dried tomatoes with water and vinegar. Mince the herbs in the proportion that suits your fancy, and then layer the dried tomatoes in a jar, sprinkling the herbs and some salt over each layer. Press well, then fill the jar with olive oil, shaking repeatedly and tapping the sides of the jar to make sure no air pockets remain. Seal, and let the tomatoes sit in a cool dark place for a few months, at which point they’ll make a fine antipasto, over slices of crusty bread. They will also be quite nice sliced fine in cold pasta dishes or insalata di riso, and as a general flavoring agent in zesty dishes. .

NOTE: recent studies have shown that garlic packed in oil can harbor botulism. Therefore, if you hear a hissing sound as you open the jar discard the contents. Or, to be safe, omit the garlic.

Pinzimonio: A Raw Vegetable Medley

This is more of a suggestion than a recipe; depending upon the occasion pinzimonio can be either a tasty antipasto or a side dish. It’s wonderful either way.

Prepare a big bowl of fresh tasty vegetables, cut into strips or pieces (whatever you prefer that doesn’t sag, e.g. peppers, cauliflower, artichokes, celery, carrots, etc).

Set cruets of olive oil and vinegar on the table, along with salt & pepper. Give your diners small bowls in which to mix up a sauce with the olive oil and vinegar, which they will then season to taste.

Next? They dip their veggies in their sauce and eat.

You could also have other elements handy (mustard, whatnot) for those who want to make richer dipping sauces.

Tomato Sandwiches, Pomodori a Mo di Panini

Italian cooking is anything but static, and these tomato “sandwiches” (for want of a better term) are a new, quick, frightfully easy development that’s perfect when it’s hot out. As a light antipasto you’ll want one panino, two per person will instead work nicely in a light luncheon.

To serve 4 people antipasti you’ll want:

  • 4 large, firm, sun-ripened garden tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, 8 shredded, and 4 whole
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 mozzarella balls (about a half pound, or 200 g, drained), cut into 8 slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Crush the garlic, mix it with the oil and the shredded basil, season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper, and let it rest 10 minutes. While doing this, turn on your broiler.

Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise, drain them, and put them in an oven-proof pan, skin-side up. Run the tomatoes under the broiler for a minute or two, flip them, and broil the other sides as well.

Arrange the slices of mozzarella on four of the tomato halves, cover them with the other halves, and run the tomatoes under the broiler for a few seconds more, until the mozzarella begins to soften.

Arrange the tomatoes on plates, drizzle the pan drippings and the seasoned olive oil over them, garnish with the whole basil leaves, and serve at once.

The wine? A light, crisp white, for example a Galestro.