It's that time of year again when the gorgeous Ivonne and the lovely Lisa drum up the blog world to join them at their wonderful Festa. But these girls keep forgetting the food and always have an empty table ;-) So, they ask us to come over and help them fill their tables with wonderful delicacies.
And we do - because we all cannot resist a good party and we know both these girls really do know how to throw the most awesome parties.
The turn out last year was fantastic and we all had a great time. I had brought along a creamy Italian dessert. The panna cotta was topped with blackberries and I was thrilled to learn that it happens to be one of Ivonne's favorite desserts.
This year I decided to keep my dish Italian. Not only because of my passion for the Italian cuisine but also because I know Lisa too shares the same passion and Ivonne - well because I simply adore the incredible recipes and stories she shares from her nonna.
I love the beautiful and plush Tuscany region in Italy. Florence is my favorite city and ever since my dad took me on that first Italian trip I fell in love with it.
It was on a trip in June of the year I turned 30 and Soeren was due in a few months that I first tried this dish. It was Tom's birthday present to me and he was also fulfilling a wish I had had since I was 16, to celebrate my 30th in Florence.
After re-discovering Florence we were sipping on fruity chianti and lemonade (I was sipping on the lemonade while Tom was enjoying the chianti ;-)), in a quaint trattoria on the outskirts of the city, taking in the most gorgeous sunset one can imagine. As the skies blazed orange and red I mentally and emotionally clicked a snapshot of the moment. Burned in my memory and placed in the section of the brain where happy and fulfilling moments are stored. Never forgotten but always remembered and fondly reminisced upon.
Like I am today.
The Italians are a warm and generous folk and being 6 months pregnant I was always smiled upon whenever I walked into a store or a restaurant. People even put out their cigarettes when we took a table next to them in any of the eateries we visited. The older nonnas, usually sitting on benches enjoying watching their grandchildren playing, would nod their heads, almost in approval. All in all it was an exhilarating experience for me.
The family that owned the trattoria were incredible. The news that an Indian pregnant woman had taken seat in their restaurant must have spread like wildfire in the kitchen, because soon I was greeted by the several generations of women who obviously were responsible for cooking, while the men in the family served. The fact that many of them could not speak English and our Italian is below basic did not seem to matter - we chatted with hands and feet, giggled and laughed talked about food and wine and all things fine - until late in the night.
During the whole evening we were spoilt in terms of food. I cannot remember that we even ordered anything - the food just kept appearing on our table and we were told to try out every delicacy. What a feast! We had everything from antipasti, risotto, fish to sweets and dessert. I have never been so full in my life. It was in this lovely night that I also discovered the tangy and zesty agrodolce. Fresh vegetables like tomatoes were pickled in this sweet-sour fluid giving an extraordinary flavor.
At the end of the evening - or rather late night - we were touched by their hospitality and left speechless by the fact that we were not allowed to pay for all the food we ate. How does one thank such people?
After Soeren arrived I took a picture of the three of us and sent this to them with an open invitation to visit us. Everything else just did not seem appropriate enough to me. It's been 5 years now and we are in touch with each other via mail, postcards and pictures. Each time I get a postcard I am always reminded of that evening. Apparently the first picture I sent them, of us, is hanging in the kitchen of the trattoria and the story is re-told several times.
It seems appropriate to me to pay respect to this family by giving them their own place on my blog. By re-telling the story and sharing the recipe of my favorite item that evening - tomatoes in agrodolce - I'd like to show my readers how much this evening meant to us and hope that you too will be reminded of equally beautiful moments in your life that you will always cherish.
Agrodolce literally means soursweet and comes from the Sicilian agru e duci. An Italian sweet and sour sauce made from sugar, citrus juices, vinegar, and dried fruits.
Tutti a tavola
Don't forget to send me your favorite liquid creations for this month's Monthly Mingle. I am looking forward to parting with you and your cocktails, milkshakes, lassis, drinks on the rocks, hot or cold drinks. Liquid Dreams is all about mixing up some of the most delicious drinks and bringing it to this months mingle.
Deadline: September 10th!
1 kg mini Roma tomatoes - washed and dried
1 bunch fresh basil leaves - washed and dried
1/4l white balsamic vinegar
1/4l dark balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons mixed peppercorns - white, black and red
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 packet Dr. Oetker preserve help (optional)
In a saucepan pour the vinegar, 1/4l water and add the peppercorns, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil then, if using, add the preserve help.
Place the tomatoes in the boiling liquid for a minute. Using a slotted spoon remove them from the liquid.
In sterilized jars layer the tomatoes with the basil leaves and then pour the liquid until everything is covered. Allow to cool to room temperature and then screw on the lids.
This makes about 2 large 750 ml jars full and will keep for about a month. Store in the refrigerator. The tomatoes agrodolce can be enjoyed as antipasti with warm ciabatta or foccacia bread, but it also tasted fantastic with grilled meat and fish.
Almost everyone who visited us this summer for a barbecue had the true pleasure of experiencing the flavor of these tomatoes. We shared the story of that special evening in Tuscany, with all of our friends and savored new fond moments created for us to remember.
Isn't is just fascinating how friends and feasts harmonize perfectly with each other to give some of the best memories we'll ever have?
With this one last thought in my mind I'd like to thank Ivonne for the gorgeous parcel she sent me. Ivonne you got me this time - it was unexpected and a pleasant surprise. I share the exact same sentiments as you wrote in your beautiful card. I am so looking forward to cooking up a few of the oven specialties from the cookbook "al forno" by Maxine Clark. Here's to friends, friendship and feasts! Agli amici, all'amicizia ed alle festività!
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