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Filtering by Tag: Tropea onions

My vegetable garden in July

Rosetta

Since my last garden update in June a lot has happened in my garden. I have enjoyed fresh strawberries, zucchini, cucumbers, romano beans and baby lettuce every day, and lots of wonderful figs. We have a small patch of strawberries that provide us with the best fruit all summer long; we manage to pick a basket every other day!

Look how wonderful they are below, fully ripe and sweet and juicy. Note the shape and size carefully so that you can buy strawberries that look just like them at a farmers' market. Whatever you do, don't buy those giant, perfectly shaped strawberries.

July is also the month when we start harvesting and preserving some of the garden bounty.

We picked our sweet Italian red onions (cipolle di Tropea) and as you see from the picture below we braid them and hang them from my apple tree, which is how we always kept onions in Calabria. This way, they stay in the shade and don't sprout.  Not that I have to worry about their sprouting--they don't last past the summer months, because they make for great eating.

My 14-year-old son harvested his potato patch and was very proud of the results; from just a few cuttings he managed to pick 15 pounds. He has just planted another crop, this time of Yukon gold, to see if he can produce two crops in one year. I will let you know how his experiment turns out.

We also harvested my oregano patch.  Right after it is in full flower we cut it down to the base.

We tie the long stems in bunches with kitchen string and hang the bunches upside down to let it dry in a shady spot in the garden. This is the oregano that I'll use for the rest of the year for dishes that require it dried. But I always keep a small patch of fresh oregano in the yard; luckily here in California I am able to have fresh herbs all year round.

I also harvested lots of basil and made my first batch of pesto. I freeze it and put it away for the winter months.

The tomatoes are growing up their trellis. They are almost at the top of the poles and all the branches are loaded with tomatoes. In about a month I will have the juiciest, sweetest tomatoes.

The Italian eggplants are just starting now...

...as well as the sweet Italian peppers.

For the next update I will have a garden full of eggplants, tomatoes, romano beans, and hot and sweet peppers. August and September are the best time of year, loaded as they are with all my favorite vegetables.

A "wild" day at the farmers' market in Vibo Valentia

Rosetta

I happened to be in Pizzo on Sunday and asked Signora Callipo of Casa Janca where to go for a typical farmers' market to take photos for my book. She suggested the market in Vibo Valentia on Monday, where all the stands are run by little old ladies who bring their bounty to be sold. They bring whatever they themselves grow or forage in the wild. They sell things that we don't often see in America. This picture below shows some of the wild vegetables like wild asparagus, wild chicory, and wild fennel:

Here's a bucket of wild asparagus, which are pencil-thin, tender and wonderful to eat in a frittata:

The little old ladies love to forage for wild chicory. I enjoyed the chicory cooked with potatoes by Signora Callipo:

They even sell freshly harvested camomilla (chamomile) that can be dried for tea. Every Calabrian mamma will give you this tea when you have a tummy ache:

There were fava beans and Tropea red onions everywhere, because they are right at the peak of the season:

The super-sweet Tropea red onions...

...and the gorgeous artichokes:

The seasonal fruit that I saw were strawberries (fragole) and loquats (nespole):

Here are lupini, a soft bean that Calabrians often eat as a snack. My friend Fanny says they are very popular in the ethnic neighborhood feste in Chicago.

And a bucket of cured black olives for antipasti or snack:

They also sell cured salumi and pecorino cheese in the market, all of which are homemade. In the photo below, there are (left to right) capocollisoppressate and salsiccie calabrese.

Look at the crust on these loaves of bread. I had to buy some of this bread because it looked so good:

Right within the market there are several butcher shops. I'll spare you the more grisly photos I have, with the offal and whole dressed animals. This is as good as it gets:

Scarole e Fagioli (Escarole and Beans)

Rosetta

My cooking students always ask me this question. This time of the year is a transition period. I am finishing picking winter vegetables such as escarole, chicory and cabbage.

I also pick borage, which grows wild in my garden. The broccoli rabe is gone.

I had enough escarole last night to make scarole e fagioli, one of my favorite comfort foods, with dried borlotti beans from the garden. You can probably still find escarole at your farmers' market. But the soup is even better with chicory.

The other vegetables not quite ready to be picked are fava beans, peas and sweet red Italian onions from Tropea, a resort town on the west coast of Calabria. (Yes, I actually brought the onion seeds from there.)

And of course my herb garden has beautiful Italian parsley, rosemary, oregano and thyme that thrive all year long.

My dad just started the seeds for the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. I will share some of his gardening secrets when he starts preparing the dirt.

And here is my recipe for scarole e fagioli

Scarole e Fagioli

Escarole and Bean Soup

In Calabria, my mother would make this winter minestra (thick soup) with wild greens, such as the dandelions and various chicories that grew everywhere. Nowadays we make the dish with escarole from our garden.

Typical of Calabrian minestre, this soup is thick, not brothy, with just enough liquid to bathe the beans and vegetables. The escarole should be very soft, offering no resistance. We leave the whole hot peppers in the soup and enjoy them in small bites.

1/2 pound dried cranberry (borlotti) beans, or dried cannellini beans or about 3 cups of cooked beans Kosher salt 2 pounds escarole, both ribs and leaves 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 to 3 small dried hot red peppers, tops removed and slit 3 cloves garlic, halved

Soak the beans 8 to 12 hours in water to cover generously. Drain and place in a large pot with fresh water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, then adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook uncovered until the beans are tender, 45 minutes or more, depending on their age. Season the bean broth with salt, stirring well to dissolve the salt, then let the beans cool in the broth. You should have about 3 cups cooked beans. You can prepare the beans to this point a day or two ahead, cover, and refrigerate.

Stack the escarole leaves and cut crosswise at 2-inch intervals. Fill an 8-quart pot half full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole, pushing it down into the water. Cook until the white ribs are very tender, about 5 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Taste a piece to check for doneness. Drain and return the escarole to a clean pot. Add the olive oil, hot peppers, garlic, 3/4 cup bean broth and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat and simmer briskly for 3 minutes. Add the beans, leaving the bean broth behind, and simmer 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt. Serve hot or warm

Serves 6