Mezze: summer vegetables with a new twist for your picnics
What are summer vegetables for us are year-long vegetables for the Lebanese and Syrians.
Choosing your aubergine or eggplant
Aubergine or eggplant caviar is a perfect accompaniment to any summer picnic. Although we don’t really have enough days of hot sun in Switzerland to produce many non-hothouse aubergines, we still manage to produce some pretty good ones. If you can’t find local ones, try and get ones from Sicily, or at least Italy, countries that have a lot of sun. Spanish ones are sometimes available too.
Sicilian eggplants are round, and they do not have to be perfect and waxy to taste good. In fact, they are often tastiest when they look a little tired. You can find these in farmers markets, good Italian shops, and some large supermarkets.
The variety we usually grow is Switzerland, i.e. the elongated ones, are best when long and thin. Choose one that is firm and heavy, because they can often be rather hollow inside, and for making this dish, you need as much flesh as possible.
According to Gwen James, the male varieties tend to be the most dense and tastiest. Males have neat, round “bellybuttons,” and females have elongated ones, which means they have more seeds and less flesh.
Preparation of eggplants for aubergine caviar or caviar d’aubergine
Wash 2 kg of eggplants. Grill in oven or on a charcoal grill. If you grill them over a charcoal fire, they will have that smoky taste you find in Syria and Lebanon.
When the skins are charred, remove from heat. Put them in a paper bag to cool, or plunge them into cold water and dry carefully.
Crush flesh with a large fork, or purée in a moulinette or food processor. Careful not to overdo it in the food processor. Flesh should be smooth, without lumps, but not liquid.
Make sauce in a separate bowl. Mix 8 tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste, available in foreign food section of large supermarkets or in Oriental food stores) or sesame oil with 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add 6 to 8 cloves of crushed or extra finely chopped garlic, depending on how garlicy you want it. Salt to taste. About a teaspoon is usually fine.
Mix puréed aubergines and sauce.
Put in serving dish. Drizzle a little olive oil over it.
Just before serving, decorate with mint leaves or chopped parsley.
Photos courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net.
The Indelicato fine food and wine shop is a Geneva institution. Everyone in Pâquis knows Marguerite and Rosario, and the locals affectionately refer to Marguerite as “Mama”.
The attraction is not only Marguerite’s endearing personality, however. The shop offers high quality Italian fare that prompts many wealthy, loyal customers like kings and ambassadors to send their chauffeurs to pick up pasta delivered fresh from Italy twice a week, as well as top quality fruit and vegetables. When Sicilian tomatoes are in season (for instance, now), this is about the only place in Geneva you can get the non-greenhouse type. Several varieties are available for different uses – salads, cooking, etc. When you taste these tomatoes you understand why tomatoes are classified as fruit, because they are as intense and sweet as a ripe red strawberry right off the vine. The Sicilian eggplants are also worth a try; they take on a sweet, almost confit, taste when cooked, and it is not necessary to salt them before cooking.
An ever-changing cornucopia of pasta is on offer – always between 30 and 40 varieties from regions all over Italy. If you’re out to discover something new, try the Trofie alle Castagne, made with chestnut flour, and one of the oldest and most typical pastas from the Liguria region, or the Croxetti, from the historic mountain town of Varese Ligure in the same region, which look rather like large coins with their patterned stamps, a great accompaniment to roasted meat au jus (pour a little of the jus over the pasta).
For olive oil connoisseurs, a wide range from all producing regions is to be had. Balsamic vinegars are not lacking, ranging from simpler, less expensive ones for cooking to exquisite aged ones, such as the 40-year-old Pier Luigi Sereni, tasted by the drop on a ripe red strawberry or a crostini. High-quality condiments and sauces – including a large assortment of pestos and tomato-based sauces, onion jam, Balsamic jelly, red bell pepper jam, just to name a few – make it easy to whip up a quick but delicious pasta dish, or prepare simple but tasty starters or aperitif accompaniments. The jams and confits can also be added to consommés or served with one of the fine Italian cheeses on offer, and to make original crostini and antipasti using the fine selection of ham and sausages.
The wine cellar will transport you immediately from Geneva to Italy. Its traditional Italian-style construction and perfect temperature and humidity control allow Rosario to offer a full range of Italian wine stored under optimal conditions, from affordable, good-quality wines to top-of-the-line wines cherished by collectors.
White wines, such as the Canus Friulano or Pinot Grigio, or the Villa Raiano Greco di Tufo, will provide a pleasant change from French or Swiss varietal wines when served with fish or chicken dishes. Red wines, such as Fontodi‘s rich Vigna del Sorbo, characterful thanks to its 100% Sangiovese varietal composition, or their less intense Chianti Classico, with only 85% Sangiovese and 15 % Cabernet Sauvignon, both go well with grilled meat or pesto dishes, and offer highly affordable options.
In the mid-price range, treat yourself to a Flaccianello della Pieve 2005, with endless layers of fruit and long in the mouth. If your taste buds really pine for more and your pocket allows, try the 1995 Conterno Giacomo Barolo, a classic, or Giuseppe Quintarelli‘s 1993 Amarone della Valpolicella, full of character and intense flavors, somewhat resembling a Madeira or Port yet still characterized as a dry wine, and which can stand up to strong flavors like wild boar or dark chocolate.
Italian gourmet food, wine and catering; delivery for large orders
12, rue des Pâquis
Tel./Fax +41 22 732 4591 E-mail email@example.com
Recipe of the Week:
Trofie alle Castagne pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans
Serves 4 people
2 jars of Genoese pesto for 500 g of Trofie
3 potatoes, cut into thin Julienne strips
75 g of French-style green beans, ends cut off and cut in half
Fresh Parmesan cheese to taste
Boil 3 liters of water, adding salt. Add potato strips and Trofie pasta. Cook for 10 minutes. Add green beans. In a separate pan (I use a wok), heat pesto sauce on very low heat. Cook pasta/vegetable mixture until all is al dente. Drain. Add mixture to warm pesto sauce. Continue to heat on very low heat, turning gently, for 2 minutes. Serve immediately. Season to taste with freshly grated Parmesan.
Wine suggestion: Canus Pinot Grigio or Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo, depending on whether you prefer red or white