L’insalata di pomodoro perfetta – the perfect tomato salad

tomato salad

 

The perfect tomato salad does not exist, of course. It is one of those highly personal things even if there are a few unbreakable rules. However, I thought it would be a nice idea to share with you what the great Neapolitan food writer Jeanne Carola Francesconi, the author of one of the grandest Italian cookery books La Cucina Napoletana (1963), says about tomato salad.This is my translation.

“Fresh, dewy, savoury, tomato salad is the symbol of summer. One likes it at first sight, with its warm colours that speak of the sun and with its juices that speak of the richness of the earth.

You must know how to make it properly though: the tomatoes will be more or less green, according to taste, or almost as ripe as those used to make tomato sauce. And, again according to taste, they will be large and round, with or without seeds, or pear shaped. They will always be delicious, but they must be dressed judiciously: plenty of salt,  a lot of oil and no vinegar, god forbid – you would spoil them.

From this fresh base, you will always be able to vary flavours, starting from garlic, almost de rigueur, onion and parsley (only if you do not have other herbs). Basil will add freshness, with its tender, young leaves; origano will accentuate the flavour; a few celery stalks, with their leaves, will make a nice contrast. Black olives from Gaeta,  capers and anchovies will make it piquant, tuna preserved in oil will marry with it beautifully and freselle (hard rusks) from a dark country bread will absorb the juices and will make it more substantial. You can add one, two or three of these ingredients or even all of them – the salad will become a real meal, nourishing and tantalising.

On summer evenings, when the heat is oppressive and you are happily tired, drunk from a day of sea and sun, still immersed in that magic enchantment to where nature has transported you, a tomato salad, with its ingenuity, its juices, its fragrance, will be the natural quiet epilogue to those most recent sensations.”

 

Mulignane a fungetiello – fried and stewed aubergines from Napoli

melanzane a funghetto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mulignane a fungetiello” is Neapolitan dialect for the Italian “melanzane a funghetto”, which means “aubergines mushroom-style” and it is one of the most popular, traditional and best ways of cooking aubergines: the aubergines are either shallow or deep fried and are then stewed with garlic (never onion) and either parsley or basil or oregano or mint; one could also make the dish a little richer by adding tomatoes, capers and black olives, but I prefer the basic version where the aubergine is allowed to shine. The aubergines are called “a funghetto/mushroom-style” because they are cooked in the way mushrooms are commonly prepared in Italy (quickly fried in oil, garlic and, generally, parsley) and also because they indeed end up resembling cooked mushrooms – little bronzed morsels glistening with oil and  speckled with green, herbal flakes. Continue reading

Pomodori ripieni con pangrattato, capperi e acciughe – roasted tomatoes stuffed with breadcrumbs, capers and anchovies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another classic way for stuffing tomatoes. I only marginally adapted this recipes from one by Ada Boni’s Il Talismano della Felicità (1929) Again, as in the previous post, a long and  slow roast is recommended.
Now that is super hot even in London, I tend to cook this sort of dishes early morning, to be then eaten in the evening. The nutmeg is not a personal touch, but, surprisingly, recommended in the original recipe. Continue reading