Feb 24, 2012

Springing a suprise, with a sumer vegetable stew from southern Italy

It is going to be an early Spring.

Now, I know that Phil, the groundhog, saw his shadow this February. Meaning, there is going to be a longish winter. But, I don't care what the wise squirrel says. The nip and smell in the air tells me that lady Spring is tiptoeing around the corner. I have a strange feeling that the lady is planning on springing a surprise on us this year. By the way, I also hear there is talk among the weather gods (and goddesses) that for the next few years, they plan on many such surprises. I am afraid, Phil and his technique would need revision :)

Anyways..whether Phil would need to revise his technique or not, there is always a good reason to believe that Spring is around the corner. And when the lady does appear, what better to serve her,  than a aromatic stew of vegetables that bode of summer. Yes, summer :)

You see, I love all seasons. Winter in moderation too. Actually, winter in tropical countries and spring in cold countries are the same. Coming back to seasons and my fondness for them all. 

Fall is rustic. Root vegetables, Cinnamon, apples and cider. Very homey. Fall is all about sharing the rustic flavors together before the harsh winter sets in.

Winter is cozy. Candles, cakes, cookies and a ton of baking. Family time and ohh..food time!

Spring is fragrant and breezy. Hopeful things that the cold days are almost over and time for sunshine galore. 

Summer is bright. Eternally all things beautiful. It should stay forever.

There is another season in India. Monsoon is very fresh-- right after the scorching summer, it brings relief. Tons of local fish, mushroom and greenery. Very restorative.

But all good things start with Spring!

So to welcome spring and all things green and colorful, I made this stew the other night. It is a legit recipe as well. A Calabrian--southern Italian--one. Its called Ciambotta--really a summer vegetable stew. Calabrians really know their eggplants, bell peppers and tomatoes. I made this stew  from a recipe in the book 'My Calabria'. I highly encourage you to get a copy if you are interested in southern Italian cuisine. Exquisite :) This book may make you fall for southern Italy. The region is irresistible to begin with :)
As I said, its still spring. And yet the stew is all things summer. The herbs are still dry. But soon they will be fresh. The veggies have the wonderful sense of flavor that summer will enhance. In my opinion, the stew is also a spring stew. It promises flavors that will soon hit the stands and become even more delectable, in the forthcoming summery goodness.

So friends, here is a recipe of a wonderful summer vegetable stew to herald the lady who may very well spring a surprise on us, sooner than we anticipate :)

Ciambotta-- a summer vegetable stew :)
(From My Calabria)


1 lb of eggplants. You will really like Italian or Chinese or Indian eggplants. But no worries, if you get the regular ones.
1 lb of Zucchini
3 large bell peppers
1 large onion. Sliced.
1 large Yam or potato. Yams are nicer I think. But Potatoes maybe closer to the real deal.
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
2 lbs of good tomatoes.
Herb of your choice. Basil, Oregano, Thyme, marjoram are all good. I liked Thyme. The recipe called for Basil (1 tbsf, if using dried. I do)
Salt and pepper (freshly ground is good)
1.5 cups of warm water or vegetable stock. Water is just as good.
3-4 tbsf olive oil. Good quality please. You may also use vegetable oil. But I do urge you to think of good quality extra virgin olive oil. It makes a lot of difference.

Remember, its not even Spring, so you may be fine with less than the gorgeous summer veggies! Use any good soft veggies and no worries if you don't find exactly the ones listed. Its a stew!!

Okay, here we go. 
Just chop all veggies into coarse (1' thick portions). Batch fry each kind of veggies separately  in a tbsf oil each and set aside. Or easier it is to roast them (each kind in a different baking tray and drizzled with olive oil) at 425F. The potatoes (or yams) would need 30 min. The rest may need no more than 20-25 min. Once you are done with shallow frying or roasting the veggies, time to move on. In a deep pot (you will need to hold all the veggies) heat 1 tbsf olive oil. Mild heat. Add the garlic and onion and soften (don't brown) to make it soft and sweet. Add the tomatoes and herb of choice. Cook for about 2-3 min. Add the veggies carefully and mix together. Add a cup of water, salt and black pepper (fresh is good), lower heat and stew for..oh...maybe 30-40 min on low heat. Let stand for 30 min before serving. Critical!

Serve it by itself in a bowl or with some crusty bread. Delish!! 

Happy eating and healthy living!


ARLENE said...

My mother made ciambotta, but a different version. Her family was from Naples. My dad's family was from Calabria and I have a copy of My Calabria and have made several dishes from it. I love this cookbook.

The Japanese Redneck said...

I've never had it.