An Italian Affair ... with tomatoes
When it comes to la dolce vita and the small pleasures of life, no one would dare question Italy’s expertise in doing it right. However
convinced we might be in our understanding of the cuisine of the land of shoes and boots, their ways are so peculiar that a lifetime isn’t enough to learn to cook like a true Italian. Traditions are passed on from a mother to a son (yes, we aren’t kidding) and long phone instruction sessions are a must for those who have left mamma’s nest. Heavy packs full of jars with suspicious ingredients take long cross-country trips (usually with Calabria as a starting point).
Eating is a holy ritual, and every departure from the unwritten rules is seen as blasphemy. We cannot stress enough that if an Italian sees you using ketchup on pizza (or even worse – pasta), he will never take you seriously. But you already knew that, didn’t you!
We might believe we know pizza from what we’ve tried at home, but when it comes to eating, you cannot claim to know the Italian ways until you’ve spent quite some time with them. You might be surprised, but cooking an actual meal is usually left for lunch only – at dinner, Italians prefer just a salad with sliced formaggi and some bread (that would be panini). Pasta is a must at lunch, and every enthusiastic granny has her own style.
One cannot help but wonder how Italians keep fit with all those carbohydrates, but this is where genes come into play. Just in case you are interested in what brings Bulgarian and Italian cuisine together, we dare to claim it is the tomato. Both cultures share a love for the fruit/vegetable (the all-time controversy) in all its possible uses. You can find canned sauce in every supermarket, but homemade with fresh tomatoes always tastes better. Here is how to cook two similar, yet very different meals, where the tomato plays the most important role.
Summer Pepper Stew
5-6 roasted peppers
1 big tomato
Cheese from Chiflitsite Farm
2 red peppers
A pinch of summer savory
Fresh parsley and celery
2 tbsp. flour
This recipe is way faster than its Italian alternative, yet it tastes just as good! Steam the chopped onions and pepper in a little bit of oil until they soften. Add the grated tomato and the spices. Let it boil for 15-20 minutes, add a liter of water and after a few more minutes add the flour mixed with one table spoon of water. Add the pre-peeled roasted peppers and take it off the fire. Serve hot and feel free to add some cheese from Chiflicite.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana
500 gr. tomatoes (fresh or canned)
2 cloves of garlic
100 gr. Parmiggiano cheese
500 gr. Mozzarella cheese
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
Basil, oregano and salt
This favorite Italian meal takes a little longer, but the waiting is rewarded. After slicing the eggplant, let it rest for at least 15 minutes, so that it loses the water and its bitter taste. Rinse, dry, fry and leave it on some baking sheet while you prepare the rest of the products. Dice the tomatoes and boil for 10 minutes with the olive oil, garlic, a few leaves of basil and salt. Slice the drained mozzarella and grind the parmiggiano. Take turns layering eggplant, sauce and mozzarella, add parmiggiano, basil and oregano. Finish with a layer of mozzarella, pour a little olive oil on it, and bake for 40 minutes on high heat.