Skip to main content

Under the Tuscan Sun

There are tourists and there are wanderers. And then there are people who make another country their own. Like Frances Mayes did when, after years of spending summers in Italy as a tourist, she bought an abandoned villa in Tuscany. Under the Tuscan Sun, our book club's read for February, is her funny account of a tourist who decided to stay and discover the country's little quibbles.

The contractors, the workers who come to repair the villa, the first olives and the struggle to get them crushed into a golden olive oil - Frances Mayes adaptation to her adopted country is slow, her American surprise at how things work very real. Mayes' writing is a genre of her own, only surpassed by a similar account of Provence by Peter Mayles.

If it's Tuscany, can food be far behind. Accounts of food shopped from local markets and accumulated from Mayes' own gardens flow through the book. Then she very thoughtfully provides two sections of recipes - one for summer and tomatoes and peaches; the other for the hearty winter food. My first impulse was to cook one of her recipes. But then, I ended up making another Italian dish on my wishlist - the caponata.



Caponata is typically made with eggplants and capers. But I have so far not been able to convince myself to the use of eggplants in a dish so it ended up being a zucchini caponata. Heat a tbsp of olive oil and fry a finely chopped onion until it begins to brown. Add a zucchini, cut into thin slices and stir fry until it's golden but not mushy. Add 1/2 cup tomato pasta sauce, 8-10 sliced black olives and a tbsp of capers. Stir well, then cook at a low heat for 5-7 minutes. Check for seasoning and add some salt and pepper if you think you need it.

I served this caponata on toasted bread, but I have leftovers that are going into a pasta dish.

Here's what the other Tuscany inspired book clubbers came up with:
- Sweatha made Basil Mint Sorbet.
- Ann made a pizza with onion confit, grilled sausage and peppers.
- Aqua made Pears in Red Wine.
- Aparna is back after a long hiatus with Schiacciata Con L'Uva, a grape stuffed focaccia.
- Rachel made pappa al pomodoro.
- Srimathi, another member back after a long break, made eggplant rolls.

This month, we are switching tracks and reading a chic lit. If you would like to read Sophie Kinsella's "Can You Keep A Secret" with us, please leave a comment here and I will get back to you with details.

Comments

Ann said…
Mmmm..caponata, I need to wait till eggplants come back into season. Its been bookmarked for me for a long time. Interesting that you are going to put that into pasta too.
Aparna said…
This looks good. I'd go with zucchini rather than eggplant myself. That's what has been keeping me from trying caponata despite the rave reviews! :)
aquadaze said…
Yeah, it does sound good with zucchini! Been meaning to make caponata for what seems like ages, somehow put it off because of the eggplant.
Yum!Caponata seems very interesting recipe. Will give it a try with eggplant. I am yet to post mine today. The books really captures a foodie's delight.
Jayasri said…
Hi, I came to your blog through aparna's, I love reading books, these reading books is become a dream, but I try my best and am crazy about my library I pick at least one book and try to read it through by a month, when I saw this blog doing something really very interesting, I decided that I want to join your club, First time here, you have a very interesting blog, I haven't gone through all your recipes still, will come back again!!, The caponata looks very nice, Am I allowed to join your club?, and how can I join your club, what should I do ? thanks Jayasri
ooh...I have read this book and I enjoyed it thoroughly even though the story line is quite obvious, it's still a funny book. I would love to join your club as it would force me to read open up my mind to other types of books. Can I join your club?
Oriana said…
I love caponata, it's typically sicilian and as all sicilian it's creative, it's got the sweet and the sour it's got the colors and it's got the amazing flavor! oriana of tuscanycious.com
What a lovely blog! I'm so glad I found it. I agree, there really is nothing lovelier that a cup of tea, especially if it's made with love. I'm also keen to join your book club, please.
Curry Leaf said…
I will try caponata next time with zucchini as well.Looks great Simran.I prefer caponata with pasta than Love your review of the book.It was nice of you to include my sorbet in the mail.I was in a hurry and could not send the mail to all in bookclub except you.THANKS.

Popular posts from this blog

A Bowlful of Comfort

I have a friend who is quite the globetrotter. Lunches at her place, often right after her trips, are a treasure trove of global flavours. But the last time we met, she was just back from Tamil Nadu and out she brought a bowl of curd rice. I love curd rice and have eaten a lot of it over the years but my friend's version was so full of flavours and textures, it was a revelation. Obviously, I asked for the recipe.

The genius of this curd rice lies in adding the tempering or the tadka twice, once to mix in the rice so it absorbs all the flavours. Then you make a second batch to top the rice with just before you serve, so it adds crunch to the usually mushy dish. The recipe also has a few other elements added in for texture, freshness and flavour.

I over-ate at lunch at my friend's and I over-ate again when I made this for myself for lunch. Plus, all the ingredients you need are likely in your kitchen already so you may as well go make it now.

Ingredients
1/2 cup rice
1 cup plain…

Fruits of the Forest

I know there hasn't been a new recipe on these pages for a while. But worry not, I'm back with a real zinger. Earthy, creamy, crunchy - this is an appetizer that ticks all the right boxes. And if you happen to be a mushroom lover like me, this is the best way to eat mushrooms I've found so far. I present to you, for all your year end parties and appetizer cravings - creamy mushroom pate on toast.

Its mushroom pate two way - just on its own and panko-crumbed and fried. Both go on a crisp garlic baguette with watercress and some kewpie mayonnaise. Here's the recipe.

Ingredients
Crunchy garlic butter toasts (I buy them as is, but you can also slice and toast baguettes)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
kewpie mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)
watercress or micro herbs
salt and black pepper to taste
oil for deep frying

First, make mushroom pate. Y…

Summer Garden

Think of healthy food in Mumbai and Bandra immediately comes to mind. When these Bandra hipsters are done hanging out at Yoga House and head to work to Lower Parel, there are the likes of 212 All Good to lunch at. But try eating healthy food outside of these two neighbourhoods and your choices are a couple of sad salads tucked in the corner of restaurant menus.

Summer Garden is changing that for Powai. Set a tiny bit away from the busy Central Avenue, the outdoor cafe is right next to Hakone entertainment centre. It twinkles with fairy lights at night and pets are welcome all day (they even get their own treats!). We sit down with our freshly squeezed juices to chat with the young and bubbly chef Suchin on her food philisophy.

Cute handwritten menus aside, there is much to love about how they cook at Summer Garden. Nothing comes our of a jar or a bottle. There is no refined flour or white sugar or refined oil in any dish. They soak their whole grains and bake their own bread and jui…