We interrupt our regular programming with this brief announcement: I can still cook! It’s been more than 10 days since I was left to my own devices in the kitchen, and I was eager to try again. Tonight provided a good opportunity.
I’m staying a lovely small apartment in the Testaccio section of Rome. This morning I took a three-hour tour of the area with Katie Parla as my guide, starting with the old market which is a block and a half from our front door. I specifically searched for bieta (sort of a Roman chard) and the beautiful, tender Roman artichokes, which are nearing the end of their season. I found both, in excellent condition. Sicilian eggplants, Romanesco varietal zucchini, bananas for my breakfasts, and some tomatoes rounded out my larder.
Oh, yes, the tomatoes. As brother Johnny would say, I didn’t say that accurately: it should be s-o-m-e tomatoes. I watched in the market as Katie carried on a seven-minute conversation with the vendor in her best Italian, as he quizzed us on what I was going to prepare and how I would cook the dish before he would render his considered judgement on which of 8-10 varieties he would suggest for the meal. We settled on Pachino tomatoes from Sicily:
This photo is not re-touched. They really are the color shown, perhaps a little darker. So I gathered a few of my Puglia food purchases (orechiette from Bari, dried oregano from Monopoli, olive oil from Ostuni, and went to work in the kitchen at about 7 PM. An hour and a half later, feasted on the pasta with a thick eggplant-tomato sauce, a plate of verdure — braised artichokes, steamed bieta, braised zucchini — a couple of pieces of a farro whole grain bread from Volpetti — toasted crisp — and (using Katie’s sommelier expertise) a local Lazio from a nearby store, a red wine, Tufaliccio 2010 from Marco Carpineti. Altogether, it was very gratifying — tutti bene.
Of course, anyone who has seen me cook, knows about the downside of this adventure: the kitchen is a disaster. But I will clean up. Eventually.