Peanut Butter and Purple Onions

Sounds crazy until you try it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Guess Where I've Been?

Here's a clue.



Ahh, Italy. This is a morning view from our hotel room in Portovenere, at the tail end of the Cinque Terre region on the Ligurian Sea. Isn't it amazing?

Don't even get me started on what pesto tastes like in its homeland!

More from me soon -- need to unpack, then start re-packing for the big move to San Francisco. And cooking? Well...that may have to wait for October!

Hope everyone's been well!

Friday, September 01, 2006

La Festa al Fresco: Peachy Caprese

So this is all very frustrating, because just when I made something really pretty, my camera has to go missing. Fie! Blast! PIFFLE!

Perhaps it's suffering from stagefright.

Sigh. If it turns up, I'll add the pictures, but I fear that you'll just have to use your imaginations for this one.

Lis from La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice are hosting an end of summer garden gala -- for which we are all presenting dishes with an Italian flair and showcasing fresh summer ingredients. How could I resist??

Now, I've been ruminating on insalata caprese lately, that jeweled combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fragrant basil. Gorgeous as it is to look at, I've never so much as had a bite. That's because although I worship fervently at the altars of fresh mozzarella and basil, I don't eat raw tomatoes. (And that's sort of putting it lightly.)

But it's such a summery salad that I've always felt a bit put out about shunning it. (I am a creature of inner conflict.) When it comes to raw tomatoes and BNA, never the twain shall meet, but I wanted to make something in the caprese vein nonetheless.

Why not replace the tomatoes with something unexpected (for me at least) -- peaches? A perfectly ripe peach is such a wonderful thing that I never want to meddle with it. And so most of mine are eaten as they are, slurpily, over the kitchen sink. But perhaps I'd been underestimating the power of the fresh summer peach.

I sliced two peaches horizontally (a tricky proposition; don't slice your palm like, ahem, I did) and layered them with thick coins of fresh mozzarella -- the ruddy gold and creamy white were lovely together. I'm not bashful about basil so no shredding or mincing for me -- two whole leaves for each fruit and cheese layer, though I chose tender ones rather than those with thick ribs.

Then I drizzled a thin stream of my best extra-virgin olive oil over the plate and sprinkled on a bit of good balsamic vinegar. (Here you have to imagine a very nice photo. Go on, be kind to my photographic skills.)

The combination is wonderful -- the juiciness of the peach brings out the sweetness of the cheese, and the basil adds a bright splash at the end. Next time I might even try a bit of fresh ground pepper.

Now that's a BNA-approved insalata caprese!

I hope you enjoy Lis and Ivonne's Festa al Fresco! Happy Summer!