Pomodorini scattarisciati – crackling cherry tomatoes (Puglia)

Update: summer 2022, Lucca: with top Italian pomodorini this dish is even more spectacular. I noticed they improve after a good rest, i.e. the day after they were even better.

Original version:
It is now summer, or at least this is what the calendar says; it has been raining for days here in London and the sky is grey, an elegant pearly shade of grey, but grey nonetheless. Not fun. To raise my endorphins, I decided to make this Apulian tomato sauce, pomodorini scattarisciati, literally crackling tomatoes (in the local dialect) — vibrant, intensely tomatoey and uplifting.

The cherry tomatoes are fried in a rather indecent amount of oil, on high heat,  uncovered until they start bursting. Continue reading “Pomodorini scattarisciati – crackling cherry tomatoes (Puglia)”

Asparagi in fricassea (Asparagus in an egg and lemon sauce, fricassea-style)

In Italian cookery terms, when you cook something “in fricassea”, it means that you add egg yolks that you have already mixed with lemon juice to a hot, cooked dish, at the very end, generally off the heat. The yolks thicken and become a velvety, lemony sauce that enrobe the other ingredients. The trick, obviously, is not to scramble them.It is a Northern Italian cookery technique that always delivers a subtle elegance to the final dish.
Typically, it is rabbit, veal, chicken and lamb, that are cooked “in fricassea” , the meat first being braised “in bianco”, without tomatoes. 
Some vegetables too can be cooked “in fricassea”: artichokes, peas, mushrooms, carrots, courgettes, broad beans and asparagus.

Continue reading “Asparagi in fricassea (Asparagus in an egg and lemon sauce, fricassea-style)”

Scarpaccia viareggina (sweet and custardy courgette cake from Viareggio, in Tuscany)

Update May 2022: it is that time of the year again – courgette bonanza. Time to make scarpaccia, both as a dessert and as a savoury tart.
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It took a leap of faith and my avid curiosity to try this cake: could a basic sweet batter and some grated courgettes make a good cake? No nuts, no sultanas, no spices…really? A resolute “yes!” is the answer.
This is a most unusual and excellent cake come dessert: delicate, plain and light, but not at all boring, with a delicious custardy quality. Burnished golden outside, yellow with specks of green inside, it is also pretty.
Scarpaccia  means “nasty/old shoe” and no one really knows why such an uninspiring name; it is possibly something to do with the appearance of this dessert: a genuine scarpaccia should be a fairly thin and crusty affair – like an old, over-worn shoe. It is the contrast between the sugary and crusty exterior (due to a good drizzle of olive oil) and the custardy, vanilla scented interior that make this unposessing looking dessert sing.

It is a Tuscan speciality and you will not find anywhere else in Italy – Continue reading “Scarpaccia viareggina (sweet and custardy courgette cake from Viareggio, in Tuscany)”

Pesche ripiene (Roasted peaches Piedmontese style)

One of the most classic and classiest desserts of the Italian repertoire, from Piemonte: peaches, stuffed with amaretti biscuits mixed with liqueur, then roasted. I prefer not to include the customary cocoa powder in the filling, because I feel it overpowers the delicate peach flavour, but if you like the idea, just add a tablespoon to the mix. I also prefer to roast the peaches before stuffing them – this makes them creamy tender, the way I like it. Eat it warm.
This lovely dessert works well also with the lustreless peaches we often get here in the UK and it is the loveliest farewell to summer.

Continue reading “Pesche ripiene (Roasted peaches Piedmontese style)”