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