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.