Summer Stew with Fried Capers
Summer bounty in a bowl. It’s all about the Summer veggies, but because of some pesky varmints:
there have only been some Cherry tomatoes – no Romas at all! Despite the noted absence of the larger tomatoes, it wouldn’t be summer if I didn’t make Ciambotta just once. I remember eating Ciambotta, an Italian, tomato-based vegetable stew, every Summer growing up. Family, friends and neighbors had massive gardens and once everything was ripe for picking, there was a constant supply of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, green beans and the like. My mother made this every Summer and we usually just ate it in bowls, sometimes with bread. My twist is to add fried capers on top.
The simplicity and earthiness of this stew is so satisfying and homey. I love the big chunks of tomato with their vibrant flavor and the crunch of the other vegetables running through the stew. Since the critters destroyed the crop, I used canned whole tomatoes,but honestly, while I did want to use all fresh veggies (everything is but the tomatoes), the integrity and flavor of the dish was not compromised in the least.
Since it’s Saturday and my morning is a bit more leisurely, I picked some Cherry tomatoes, cut them in half and sauteed them in a pan with salt and pepper and then added a few beaten eggs. I swirled them around the pan together and once the eggs were scrambled (not too dry!), tipped them onto a plate and sprinkled with salt, pepper and a liberal grating of parmesan cheese. What a perfect Summer breakfast in tomato heaven and it’s not over yet.
Ciambotta (Italian Summer Stew) with Fried Capers
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 (28-ounces) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved and tomatoes chopped, or 1 3/4 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- salt and pepper
- 4-6 leaves of fresh basil
Get a large pot, medium saucepan and large bowl ready.
Bring the medium saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil.
Heat oil in the large, 7-to 8-quart, heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 10 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes with juice and bell peppers, then reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook green beans in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the large bowl. Add zucchini to boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to bowl with green beans. Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and add to beans and zucchini.
Add boiled vegetables to stew and simmer, stirring, until all vegetables are tender, but still have a bit of crunch, about 10 minutes or to your taste. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the fresh basil leaves.
For Fried Capers:
Drain 1/2 cup of capers and pat dry on paper towels. Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat in a small saute pan and add the capers. Saute for 45-60 seconds until the capers release their aroma and start to open. There will be a lot of sizzling and popping in the pan so have a lid ready to hold just over the top! Watch carefully – they go from perfect to burned in the blink of an eye! Drizzle some of the oil from the pan over individual servings of Ciambotta and sprinkle fried capers on top.
Inspired by my Mom’s recipe.