life in a small town 2: gifted fruit, zucchini and tents

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I remember long summer breaks at Jamieson that involved endless swims in the river, shorts with gumboots and lots of stamping through long grass in the aforementioned boots to ward off snakes.   There were cubbies and fetes, blackberry picking and jam making, and walks into town with 20c burning holes in our pockets for a bag of mixed sweets.  By the time we were teenagers we were dying to be somewhere cooler and working hard on our tans down by the river ready for the annual week on the Mornington Peninsula with our olive skinned cousins.  Time turns and the strongest memories are those you took for granted.

Between afternoons under the willows at Lake Bolsena and waiting for our tomatoes to ripen, we are four weeks in to the long summer break here in Lubriano.  Alberto and Emma’s holiday highlights include the partial adoption of a local cat and the erection of a dome tent in the garden.  I continue with my zeal for a smaller footprint with the soaking of beans and jam making and walks to the water fountain for acqua minerale at 5 c a bottle.

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While we while away our time wondering where the Italian sun has gone, other peoples orti – vegetable gardens – are brimming with zucchini and small crisp cucumbers and bags of produce are being handed over the fence and left on the door step.  I’ve already posted about pasta con zucchini which I had for lunch again today – this time with sausages because I couldn’t find pancetta in the fridge.  I pushed the sausages out of their casing and into the garlic scented oil, squashing them down with a wooden spoon and breaking them down just like my father does for his legendary pasta with Italian sausages.  Then I scattered grated zucchini into the pan to cook in the oil and the fat from the sausages before adding some of the pasta cooking water to further reduce the by now sauce.

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Perhaps the most delicious way to eat zucchini is grilled and then marinated, importantly in this order.  As a rule of thumb I don’t think zucchini needs salting and draining in the way that eggplant certainly does.  Nice 0.75cm disks can also handle a little oil brushed onto them and a sprinkle of salt before placing on the griddle pan or bbq.  Turning often is the best way to ensure they don’t burn.  The flame should not be too high.

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After they have been grilled and cooled, place the zucchini (or eggplant or peppers) in a ceramic dish and layer with finely chopped garlic, chopped parsley and thyme or oregano.  Salt probably isn’t necessary of you have used it in the cooking process, lots of extra virgin olive oil is.  Cover a rest in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors develop.  Great served as part of an antipasto-into dinner summer affair.  Last weekend I served alongside bruschette, tomato with basil salad, boiled potatoes with dried wild fennel flowers and great bbq’d pork chops with thyme.

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