Out of office: we’re in Salento
We’re on holidays | Where we are and what we’ve been doing | Summer cooking and summer recipes
I am sitting at the table in the living room, the shutters are closed to to keep out the sultry air, everyone is asleep. I’m writing in a hurry, my fingers typing away on a portable keyboard, as I have to finish this letter before Livia wakes up from her afternoon nap. As always, before we leave for the holidays we have many well-orchestrated plans and good intentions, but when we get there... well, we'll take things as they come.
A few days ago, we had our last cooking class of this first stretch of the season. As I sipped my coffee, I was already imagining it cold, with the sound of ice cubes clinking in the glass, and the aftertaste of hazelnut. Yes, hazelnut, because my friend Nina Gigante told me a few days ago that at Cotognata Leccese - a favorite café in Lecce - they started making caffe Leccese (espresso, ice, and almond syrup) with hazelnut syrup. I couldn't wait.
As soon as we loaded the last dishwasher (well, to be honest, Tommy loaded the dishwasher, he has his technique and I’m not allowed to scramble up his organization. I am happy to comply), we rushed upstairs to pack. When we travel, whether for a day or a week, we always travel 'fully loaded' carrying more than we need. This year, also due to our smaller hybrid car, we decided we would be carrying only the bare essentials, 'just what will fit in the boot' he told me. To our surprise, we succeeded. Or maybe we forgot something? We will find it out in the next few days. Tell me I am not alone in moving hose every time I leave for a short holiday!
As I told you a few weeks ago, we are back in Salento to spend some time with Tommaso's aunt and uncle and, we hope, to relax on the beach, too.
This is the small guide we’ve written last year after our trip to Salento.
Since the journey is long, we stopped halfway, in Montesilvano, near Pescara. We chose to stop here to eat at ALT La Stazione del Gusto, Niko Romito's restaurant inspired to the American diner concept. But I will tell you more about this experience in the coming days.
So now we are on holidays. Will I cook or not? If when I was thinking about these days I was picturing myself in a dark kitchen pitting local cherries to make jam, now I have reduced my expectations. The ongoing heatwave, the accumulated tiredness of many hard-working months, and the time Livia will need to feel at home in a new house with new routines, will probably keep me as far as possible from the stove. Every now and then it is good to take a break and then come back to my kitchen with more curiosity and enthusiasm. The many cooking classes that await us in July, once we will be back home, and the many ideas that are already spinning around in my mind are a promise of many new recipes that I will share with you here and on the blog.
Lately, even though we remain omnivores, to make our cuisine more sustainable we opt for a vegetarian diet, choosing meat only on rare occasions, when we know where it comes from and how it was raised. Combine this with the umpteenth heat wave we will be experiencing in Salento, and I already know that our cooking will focus mainly on vegetables. Speaking of that, did you know that on the blog there is a tag to search for vegetarian recipes? Traditional Tuscan cuisine is not only meat-based: this is an idea I try to dismantle with panzanella and colourful salads during every cooking class.
If you find yourself in the same situation, overwhelmed by the heat and looking for Italian-inspired summer recipes, here are some dishes to prepare in the next few days that will keep you busy while you wait for the next new recipes (and start looking around for squash blossoms, you'll need them).
Do you have any refreshing summer recipes to share? I'm not afraid of the oven, as long as I can be in another room. Let me know in the comments below!
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Panzanella represents the quintessential Tuscan summer cooking. The base ingredient is unsalted Tuscan bread that has gone stale by a few days, which is then soaked in water, wrung out and combined with tomato, cucumber, onion, oil, salt, red wine vinegar and basil. As often happens, however, every cook ends up creating a version wholly theirs, by adding or leaving out ingredients according to individual preference. Read the recipe on the blog
Tomato and mozzarella lasagne: a fresh, summery, vegetarian lasagne, layered with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano, with the refreshing aroma of basil. I made them countless times during cooking classes and for family gatherings, as they are quick, simple, and made with fresh summer ingredients. Read the recipe on the blog
Grilled Eggplant Rolls: this is a quintessential Mediterranean dish that showcases some of the best summer ingredients: fresh ricotta, eggplants, tomatoes, balsamic, fresh basil, dried oregano, all brought together by a generous drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil.
Green bean and potato salad: a cross between a green bean salad and a potato salad, this is my go-to dish for the summer, perfumed with fresh basil and dressed peppery olive oil. Cook this in large quantities because it has everything you want in a summer side dish. Read the recipe on the blog
Strawberry biancomangiare: Sicilian pudding, its short ingredient list gives away its uncomplicated nature. Top with fresh fruit for a pudding that will suit all the seasons.