Summer is well and truly cooking in Italy, with temperatures temperatures of 28-38°C roasting the Italian people and anyone else brave enough to enter the Mediterranean kitchen. Now is the time to take advantage of the amazing variety of produce that the hot weather brings as well as to eat lighter, more refreshing meals as the weather suppresses your appetite. Here at La Madera we’re doing a lot of al fresco dining to take advantage of the evening breezes which roll down the mountainside after the sun has set. Here’s a little taste of what we’ve been eating.
Friggitelli is the Tuscan name for a kind of chilli pepper (Capiscum annuum). They are long, green and mild and are very common throughout the summer, thriving as they do in the Tuscan climate. I had a small plant last year that kept on giving right through to the end of the season in such abundance that I ended up freezing bag fulls. You can eat friggitelli raw in salads, but a very common way to eat them is oven roasted for about 15 minutes covered in olive oil, breadcrumbs and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese. Delicious!
Another classic Italian summer combination is melon and cured ham. My favourite version is the musk melon (cucumis melo) paired with prosciutto San Daniele. Less famous outside Italy than its cousin prosciutto di Parma, within Italy San Daniele is considered to be of the highest quality with a price to match. Produced in the north-eastern region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, it’s had protected DOP status since 1970. In fact, it’s named for the town of San Daniele di Friuli in the province of Udine. San Daniele ham is cured with sea salt alone and then dried using the unique micro-climate of the region. The ham itself can come from any of the northern Italian regions, but the processing must take place in the San Daniele. The result is a reddish-pink ham with sweet taste and a soft texture. Indeed it’s often cut with a knife rather than a slicing machine to take advantage of this.
What are your favourite summer evening dishes?