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The Month in Food - (July 2018)

I've continued to keep quiet this month and only share on social media once I've published something. Guess what? I've decided that I will keep things this way from now on. Honestly, the only way I've managed to keep up with my writing and photography in this peak season of cooking lessons has been to switch off technological devices as much as possible. And, after reading this wonderful post on looking, slowness and an apple cake inspired by Flemish painters by the remarkably talented Zaira of The Freaky Table, I refuse to feel guilty anymore about taking things slowly and not doing what I 'should' be doing as a blogger. There is only so much one can do at a time, and good things take time and care to create.

This edition of The Month in Food includes my latest blog post about my Nonna Maria and her stuffed eggplants, a link to another seasonal recipe inspired by her from Italy Magazine and my way of making sugo di pomodoro or tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes.

Cucina Conversations: Nonna Maria's Stuffed Eggplants

My beloved Nonna Maria had a stroke almost two years ago. She never recovered. I was on holiday with TP and TT, in the Majella National Park of Abruzzo, when I got the news. My first instinct was to get on the next plane back to Australia just like I had with my maternal grandfather’s passing four years earlier. My parents, however, told me to stay put and continue with our family holiday. I did as they said, but it was hard to appreciate Abruzzo’s many beauties while I silently grieved for the loss of my 81 year old grandmother. Choosing to make a life for myself far away from where I grew up has its drawbacks, particularly in sad circumstances like these.

This month, the Cucina Conversations ladies and I have come back together after a three month hiatus to share regional Italian recipes that are characterised by being ripieni or 'stuffed' in some way. My contribution includes my Nonna Maria's stuffed eggplants or, as she would have called them in her native Calabrese tongue, mulingiane chjine. From now on, we will be posting on a quarterly basis. Our next roundtable is scheduled for October.

Back to basics V: sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce) with fresh tomatoes

The above recipe includes using leftover tomato sauce so I thought I'd share my method for making tomato sauce with fresh, seasonal tomatoes. We've currently got a glut of cuori di bue (ox hearts) growing in the garden of #akitcheninthemonferrato. As you can imagine, I've been making a lot of sauces and other tomato-based preparations lately.

Cut some ripe tomatoes into quarters and place in a a heavy-bottomed saucepan with some coarse sea salt. Cover and cook on low heat until their skins have loosened and their juices exude. Turn off heat and remove tomatoes from the saucepan. Pass tomatoes through food mill until obtaining a puree and set aside.

Now, if you prefer the sweeter notes of an onion, mince a small one. If you prefer the pungency of garlic, mince a clove instead. If you like garlic but don't like its flavour to be too pronounced, keep it whole (but peeled!). However, you may want to remove the green germ or sprout growing inside of it too, especially if it's 'old' garlic (See this lovely post by Sarah of Italy Food Project about this subject). Contrary to popular opinion, Italians actually have ambivalent feelings about garlic and are always looking for ways to tame its punchy odour and offset its side effects (See this post too about bagna cauda and the lengths the Piedmontese go to to keep this pesky allium in its place with their region's defining dish).

Anyway, enough about garlic! Heat enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed non-stick saucepan. If using onion, reduce the heat and leave it simmer gently until it turns a translucent shade, renders and releases its fragrance (about 7 to 10 minutes). Same thing applies for the garlic (i.e. don't let it brown!). With the garlic though you just need to wait for the oil to smell of ummm... well.... garlic and that should take about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from saucepan.

Add the pureed tomato to the garlic-infused oil and leave to simmer uncovered on low to medium heat until thick and saucy. Add some boiling water to loosen the sauce slightly while the puree reduces. Taste for salt and season accordingly. You may want to add some freshly ground pepper, chilli or torn basil leaves too.

Read my latest recipes and food stories on the blog and at Italy Magazine:

- Pipi e patati (Calabrese Fried Peppers and Potatoes)

- Nocino: an Italian Midsummer Liqueur

- Fragole e Vino (Strawberries and Wine)

- Robinia Flower Fritters

Keen to learn more about seasonal home cooking in Turin? Then book one of my hands-on, Market-To-Table Cooking Classes  or Pasta-Making Classes with Bonappetour!

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