Madame Saisons: Savour And Relish
by Sarah Ugazio
Ever wondered what Italians do for tomatoes in winter? Family traditions are still in common practice across this truss-loving nation to make homemade passata (uncooked tomato purée, strained and bottled), estratto (rich tomato paste), whole peeled tomatoes (canned in jars with lemon and salt), as well as Giardiniera (pickled vegetables in oil or vinegar and herbs) at Summer’s end.
Italian’s love of food shines through the importance given to preserving produce at its seasonal and most flavourful peak. While European seasons are pronounced and defined in their shift, for the southern side of the globe it could be said March has a peculiar personality disorder. Abandoning its Autumn duty to flip the seasonal switch, the month can’t seem to stop parading around as late Summer.
Record breaking heat in recent months has almost lulled us into believing lazy summer days and the colourful abundance of fresh food will never end. Alas change is a-coming, and it’s time to get busy storing sunshine in a jar. Summer fruits and vegetables are at their end-of season peak, ripe for preserving for cooler months ahead.
So while enjoying fresh corn, rockmelon, watermelon and the new arrival of figs, start contemplating homemade batches of sticky stone and berry fruit jams, chutney and relishes. Peaches, apricots and nectarines are coming to an end in March. While plums, blackberries and blueberries will hang around until end of April. March will see tomatoes and fresh peas wrap up their trusses and tendrils; as asparagus disappear from brunch plates with Avocado not too far behind. Zucchinis – another Italian favoured veg – will stretch to April’s end, leaving time to be pickled in a winning concoction of sweet vinegar brine, onions, capsicum, mustard seeds and turmeric.
If pickling, fermenting, canning or jam-making isn’t your thing, savour the flavour of the sun’s ripened harvest with fresh salads and sides as much as you can.
This traditional Italian summer salad originates from the Italian island of Capri.
Ingredients (serves four):
- 3 Medium really, really red vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 Medium green unripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 Buffalo Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbs Sea salt flakes
- 1 Tbs Good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1.5 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbs Basil leaves, picked and torn keeping smaller leaves whole
- 1 Tsp Fresh Oregano leaves (optional), picked
- Cracked black pepper to taste
Spread tomato slices out in a dish and sprinkle the sea salt over the tomatoes and leave covered for two hours. This will draw out lots of the water and concentrate the flavour of the tomatoes.
Drain off the water from the tomatoes.
Layer tomato slices, mozzarella and basil leaves on a platter, ensuring to alternate each of slices.
Sprinkle oregano leaves, drizzle EVO and balsamic vinegar, finishing with an even grind of cracked black pepper over platter.
Serve with crusty ciabatta or lightly grilled sourdough bread.
Follow Sarah on Instagram at @madamesaisons