All in Contorni

Zucca Grigliata (Grilled Pumpkin)

And it’s a good thing Thanksgiving is still several weeks off because I have all the more time to play with pumpkin--- savory style and in the Italian manner.  Pumpkin risotto, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin with borlotti beans and my favorite ----simple grilled pumpkin.  So get out your machetes basic bitches, because we’re about to get carving

Insalata di Rinforzo

Consisting of cornichon, red peppers, capers, olives and cauliflower, insalata di rinforzo is made for Christmas Eve dinner and then served again for the New Years feast, as Neapolitan believe the flavors become “reinforced” the longer they marinate.  Baccalà (cod) is a classic Christmas dish because as we know, Neapolitans have a bit of a thing for fish around the Christmas season.

Fagiolini Pugliesi (Green Beans Apulia Style)

This week I have decided to become a paragon of efficiency.  Usually these bouts of manic organization last roughly 24 hours and then I burn out in the bathtub where I can be found reading gossip magazines and drinking crappy chardonnay. It has thusly come as a shock to me that I am now on day three.  If there were a Container Store nearby, I would have visited no less than 67 times by now.  Alas, all I have is some crackpot everything store off our main piazza that sells things like clothes pins and canning jars when what I really want is an overpriced, aspirational closet organization system that makes me feel as if I have FINALLY MADE IT IN LIFE!  Then I remember—I don’t even have a walk-in closet. #whitegirlproblems

Zucchine alla Scapece

The law of diminishing marginal returns reigns supreme every year around the time of zucchini season in my little nook of Italia.  We all start out thrilled by the endless possibilities.  We make zucchini and baby shrimp scialatielli pasta, parmigiana of eggplant, stuffed eggplant, marinated eggplant.  Then around mid-July, we want nothing more to do with the offensive little squash. 

The zucchini started arriving in my garden about  a week ago, which means that the next few weeks will likely feature a rush to pickle, preserve and EAT as many zucchini as I can possibly stomach before they all start turning into massive gourds unfit to feed even the family pig.  I usually start off the season with a rush of excitement, and this year is no different.  The units of pleasure I derive from picking zucchini from my very own garden will continue to grow for approximately the next 17 days, and thusly I rather jauntily scurry from my garden to my kitchen to my table, a veritable if not slightly sanctimonious Alice Waters.  

Favetta (Fava Bean Purée)

It goes with out saying that I have taken a year hiatus from writing about food. While I have been away from the kitchen, I managed to get married, renovate a house, curse the day I moved to Italy and swear I was becoming a vegan, just to piss off the nutty people in the even nuttier town that I currently call home.  Yet here I am, still in Agerola, Napoli, Italia.  I battle it out with the locals, lament the lack of infrastructure and on my worst days, just wish I could go to the Whole Foods and freebase a sample tub guacamole chased with an overpriced bottle of asparagus water.  But then there are days like today, when I look outside at my garden and realize, whatever, I might as well go pick some fava beans.

Carciofi Ripieni

Sometimes when we are out in public, Giuseppe pretends not to know me. Such occasions have occurred in public busses, ferries to Capri, airports, shopping malls and most recently, the misleadingly named electronics store, Expert, in Castellammare di Stabia.  These events usually follow the same arc: I sense general Neapolitan chaos is about to erupt; Giuseppe tells me to calm the f*ck down; I develop an imperious American attitude; Giuseppe walks away and whistles ‘o sole mio; I loose all grip on reality and respond to said chaos in much the same way Joan Crawford responds to the Pepsi Boardroom in Mommie Dearest…’Don't fuck with me fellas. This ain't my first time at the rodeo.’

Braised Tardivo (Braised Radicchio)

Tardivo is the king of radicchio.  Heads of it resemble curly purple witch fingers.  It is expensive and nearly impossible to find in America.  But if you chance upon it, don’t be intimidated by its vaguely pernicious looks. Generally when you buy radicchio in America it is a slightly browned ball (which we call Radicchio Rosso or Radicchio di Verona in Italy) that has inexpertly traveled from the Veneto (or the Salinas Valley) to your local supermarket. 

“This was right around the time that arugula was discovered, which was followed by endive, which was followed by radicchio, which was followed by frisée, which was followed by the three M's -- mesclun, mâche, and microgreens -- and that, in a nutshell, is the history of the past forty years from the point of view of lettuce. ” – Nora Ephron

Not long ago, in an age before the internets, many of us in America were also living in the dark ages of iceberg lettuce. Fortunately, our palates have evolved and Whole Foods arrived to set us straight (though whether or not that development is fortunate is still debatable).  Regardless, I will take this moment to declare my earnest love of arugula.  It grows wild outside of our home in Naples, and while I am there, no meal is complete without a simple arugula salad.  I don’t mean to get all Go Ask Alice Waters on you.  Even if I did not have access to wild arugula, I would happily purchase it from the local grocery, and hence this recipe.