I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Italian job and fresh mozzarella and tomato salad

By popular demand, a few photos and memories of my vacation in Italy. I'm almost loath to post these because it's like reviewing your favorite local restaurant: you want to spread the word because it's amazing, but it's partly amazing because nobody goes there, and if you spread the word you'll never be able to get a table again. But Italy is less easy to get to, so I'm not as worried.

My "discovery" was the little island of Procida, a tiny neighbor of Capri. An archetypal Mediterranean fishing village, the only tourists there were other Italians, or day-trippers from Naples. Nobody spoke English, which resulted in me buying an entire box of nectarines for 2 Euros rather than 2 nectarines as I had tried to communicate.

This serene retreat is bounded on all sides by beautiful, dark, volcanic sand beaches that dip in to the bathwater-warm Mediterranean. We spent a day lying on some lounges, under an umbrella decorated like a giant hula skirt, watching the extremely tanned Italians walk past. I think when Italian women die, they don't go to heaven, they go to Louis Vuitton to be made into luggage.

But ah, the food. from the thin and crispy crackly pizza crust up north (did I mention I also got to go to Tuscany?) to the more robust crust of the famous pizzas of Naples, the perfectly brewed cappucino and the characteristic local (as in, grown the next hill over) wine, the tomatoes reeking of sunshine, the fish so fresh it's practically still swimming. And the paintbox palette of gelato in each cafe's freezer case: pistachio, melon, frutti di bosco, deep dark chocolate, and stracciatella (is there a more fun way to say chocolate chip?). I relax my rule about not having dessert twice in one day because I feel that if I'm not having gelato after lunch and dinner I'm wasting my time.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Now back home, trying to recapture my sojourn on this island, I tried to cook up something quintessentially Italian. Nothing says "Italy" to me like a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad. I know this is hardly a recipe, and more like a collection of ingredients arranged on a plate, but it is so evocative of Italy that I had to post it. In Italy, we were buying tomatoes of all colors because they are sold when still green, even though the flavor has fully developed in the hot sun. Here, to get that snazzy look, I had to buy some different varieties for the color contrast. Red, yellow, orange and purple: how could you not like this? It is almost worth coming home for.

Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad

Fresh mozzarella, torn into chunks
Ripest tomatoes possible, sliced any which way
Handful of basil scattered over top
A drizzle of herbacious olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Gina said...

What an amazing trip! I am so very jealous. I would love to go to Italy one day. My father's parents were both from Northern Italy so I need to go sometime before I die.

Thanks for commenting on my blog. Yours looks great! And, I'm glad your dad has made the same beet mistake :)

VeggieGirl said...

Ahh, such BREATHTAKING photos!! I miss Italy so much - haven't been there since 2003.

girlichef said...

You are killin' me here!! I want to be there so badly...ahhhh...wistful sigh. Photos are amazing. Salad is mouthwatering. Thank you for sharing these with us! Did you change up a couple of items in your header?? Love that lunch pail :D

the ungourmet said...

This combo is the best on earth!!

Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

Velva said...

The Italy photos are beautiful. I have Italy on my list of places to visit. Someday soon, I hope! The salad of tomatoes and mozzarella looks tasty, fresh and healthy.

I am really enjoying your blog.

Anonymous said...

What a great trip, wonderful memories and gorgeous pictures! I would love to visit Italy sometime soon!

Astra Libris said...

Ohhhhh, so beautiful! Your photos are amazing!!! I long to visit Italy someday - in the meantime, thank you so much for taking us on the virtual journey! :-)

Your salad is completely, utterly, totally, the perfect celebration of Italy - and summer!!

Resh said...

amazing pictures!!!! makes me wish to take my next vacay to italy!!!
delicious dish as an added bonus :)

Cucinista said...

Gina - clearly you need to go there. At once!

VeggieGirl - Same as Gina: get the to Napoli!

Girlichef - yeah, I won't gloat :) Actually, I didn't change the header, but maybe I should. I'll leave the tiffin boxes if I do...

Ungourmet - I love sharing with an appreciative audience.

Velva - Thanks and thank you very much! So nice to hear people enjoy reading my writing.

5 Star Foodie - Oh, you have to go, and you will LOVE it.

Astra Libris - amazingly, I could have chosen any one of so many photos. Italy is totally beautiful even to an amateur photographer.

Resh - yep, Italy is the ultimate vacation destination.

Cinnamon Girl aka Reeni♥ said...

What a great trip - gorgeous pictures and scrumptious food! Such a simple salad but so yummmmmmy!

Claudia said...

How beautiful. I am drinking in the photos and dreaming. I love the salad and make it constantly ... it's required when the tomatoes are fresh.

Palidor said...

The pictures are so beautiful! And your narration so witty! What on earth did you do with 2 whole boxes of nectarines? Looks like you perfectly recaptured the taste of Italy in that wonderful salad.

A Year on the Grill said...

A beautiful story, thanks for the pictures... tell us more

Chef Fresco said...

Awesome trip! Your salad looks very Italian :)

Kim (@ Paper Apron) said...

This brings back so many good memories. "Paintbox palette of gelato" - love it! I've never heard of Procida, but would love to go there. I've been to Capri once and missed being able to see the grotto, so I know I want to go back. But as touristy as it is, I'm sure I'd rather take a boat over to this little neighbor. I love places where no one speaks English! And this is my all-time favorite lunch. Simple. And if you get the freshest and best ingredients you can find, it's like eating a mouthful of the Mediterranean itself.

I have a group of friends that have been joking about our "Italian Job" for years. We always say we want to go there as a group of IT developers and designers and live in a villa and all work on a contract for a few months-- Our "Italian Job." Of course, coming from SC, we should be so lucky to get to visit London, as well!

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