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Ciambotta, a Quick and Delicious Mess #FoodieReads

 

Yesterday I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID. And it was a doozy. I was exhausted, got out of bed for a little while, then went right back. Then I got a fever in the middle of the night and am still wiped out today. But it's nice to know that my body is doing something with that vaccine, right?


While I was resting, I was able to get through two books and half of another one. I'll probably finish that third book today, but I do feel slightly more energetic today already. The first book I read was for an online book group, so I'll get to that one later. But the second book I read was A Villa in Sicily: Olive Oil and Murder by Fiona Grace*...and was just for fun. I honestly don't even know how it ended up in my to-read list other than it takes place in Italy. 

On the Page

Okay, it's not great literature which I probably should have gotten from it being categorized as a  'cats and dogs cozy mystery' - whatever that is! - but it was a quick, breezy read that made me chuckle from time to time. If you have seen those buy-a-house-in-paradise-for-a-dollar ads, and wondered who would do that, this book answers that question.

"She was intrigued. She clicked on the ad. It brought up the same photograph of a  lovely Italian villa, along with the words, Have you ever wanted to live in Italy? Now is your chance, at a very affordable price. Today you can own a piece of beautiful Sambuca, Sicily, for less money than a cup of coffee. Plant your dreams now! See you on this side of your own private Eden!"

Audrey Smart is a veterinarian who doesn't have any of the usual societal markers of success. Though she's a doctor - which none of the pet parents accept because they assume that she is just an assistant to the older male vets in the practice - she's unmarried, has just been evicted from her rented apartment, and is almost two hundred thousand dollars in debt for school. Then she quits her job in a huff. So, single, homeless, and jobless, she puts a bid on the villa and buys it.

During the flight to Italy, she sits next to Gabriele who gives her some quick lessons in the language and bolsters her resolve. "'What does it matter to you, what these people think? They are...how you say...nothing. Right? All that matters is what you think about yourself. Yes?'"

There were some amusing interactions between her and the locals when she arrives. Even more funny interactions between the other people who have also purchased a piece of Italy. She adopts a wild fox and calls him 'Nick'. Then there's the mystery part. Audrey discovers the body of a local contractor who was murdered and sets about to try to solve the murder despite the fact that she has become suspect number one.

So, suspend your disbelief. That's a must with this book.  And just enjoy it for what it is: a nice distraction from whatever ails you. In my case, this kept me entertained while I tried to rest from getting a vaccine that was tiring me out!

On the Plate
Though not a foodie book, per se, it does take place in Italy and as G, the chef and owner of the local caffé, La Mela Verde, says, "'You never turn down food from a Sicilian. We will always try to feed you. Just don’t be stingy with your praise.'" G befriends Audrey and feeds her often. On her first trip to the caffé, he tells her, "'Well, then, good luck to you. I know what you need,' he said, disappearing out of view for a moment, and then returning with a bowl of vegetables swimming in an orange sauce, along with a hunk of crusty bread. He slid it across to her. 'This is my own special recipe ciambotta. People tell me it makes miracles happen. I think you will like it.'"

So, during one of the hours that I was active yesterday I did drag myself out of bed long enough to make my version of ciambotta for dinner. It's akin to a caponata but without the agrodolce (sour-sweet) that comes with the vinegar-sugar syrup in a caponataLike caponata, people eat ciambotta in many different ways. They might eat it with crusty bread or as a contorno with grilled meats or sausages. They might also eat it topped with eggs and grated cheese. Che squisito!

Also like caponata, making ciambotta is more of a process than an actual recipe. Measurements are not crucial as, for instance, one more or fewer zucchini will not dramatically alter the dish. Everything softens and melts into a delicious saucy stew.

Fun Fact: Italian food names are often appropriated as colloquialisms. You know if someone is driving too slowly, another driver might shake a fist at the slow-poke and holler "Polenta!!" Ciambotta is similar. If someone gets confused and tells a story wrong, an Italian might apologize and exclaim that they have made a "grande ciambotta" (a huge mess). This dish is a big, delicious mess.

Ingredients
  • 1 sweet onion (I used 1/2 red onion and 1/2 white onion)
  • 4 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 cup cubed waxy potatoes (I used baby red potatoes)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Procedure

Cut the onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and potatoes into cubes. In a large, flat-bottom pan, cook the onions in a splash of olive oil over medium heat until softened, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. 

Add the eggplant, and potatoes and cook until the eggplants are softened. Add the tomatoes and bell peppers. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender, approximately 30 minutes. Add water if the mixture seems too dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


When the ciambotta is done, remove it from the heat and stir in the basil and parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature. I poached some eggs in the ciambotta for a quick and easy dinner.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Click to see what everyone else read in March 2021: here.

Comments

  1. I'm glad you are feeling better Cam and I'm glad you were able to get the vaccine.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I tend to stray away from "cats and dogs cozy mysteries." :) I love the idea of poaching eggs in this dish. Hope you've recovered. We got ours last week and only had sore arms thank goodness. Glad we got both doses though. Some states are doing MUCH better than others.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great you are done with the doses. The ciambotta dish looks delicious. It's like the quick curries I make to go with roti's. I would love to have it.

    ReplyDelete

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