13 August 2014

The Heart of Sicily

We like to read cookbooks, but we also like to know what cookbook our favorite chefs read.  So we were elated to read a fine post by one of favorites, David Lebovitz, about Casa Vecchie, Anna Tasca Lanza's cooking school.  Lanza passed away several years ago, but her daughter now runs the school. 

Lebovitz related the long and laborious process Lanza used to make her tomato paste or estratto di pomodoro. The process is fully recounted in her book, The Heart of Sicily.  Since we didn't own this book, of course we needed it.

I was drawn to this because it reminded me of my great-aunt, Mamie.  She was in charge of drying apples in the family.  I would watch her sit for hours, peeling and cutting up tiny crab apples.  Often the amount of peel and core far outweighed the little sliver of apple it produced. Then she would lay the apples on large metal sheet trays and leave them in the sun to day.  Well into her nineties, she would climb a rickety ladder to slide and retrieve the pans from the roof a of the carport. Long after her death, I found a jar of blackened apple bits and tossed them out.  Now I regret that action as I am sure they would still make excellent pies.

The though of Lanza, cutting and removing the seeds and drying the tomatoes brought back many a memory. 
since I don't have 400 pounds of tomatoes to turn into paste, I thought I would take a few tomatoes and make this as I do have about 40 pounds of zucchini.

Minestra di Tennerumi e Cucuzze


1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small zucchini, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups washed tennerumi, roughly cut, or spinach or chard, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
3 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Salt
Black pepper
6 cups water
1 beef bouillon cube
1/4 pound spaghetti, broken into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan, for garnish
Olive oil, for garnish

 
Saute the onions in the olive oil in a saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes, until just golden.  Add zucchini and tennerumi and stir to blend.  Stir in half the basil, the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough of the 6 cups of water to cover, reduce the heat and cook partly covered for 15 minutes.

 
Add the rest of the water and the bouillon cube and ring soup to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Pour the soup into a tureen and set it in a cold water bath to cool it rapidly.

 
Sprinkle the rest of basil on top of the soup.  Serve with grated pecorino and oil for drizzling.
Thanks, David, for the recommendation.


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