Monday, September 03, 2007

Tomatoes in Agrodolce - A Tuscan Experience

Tomatoes in Agrodolce (03) by MeetaK

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


Reminder!

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!



Ingredients

Tomatoes in Agrodolce (05) by MeetaK


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)




Method

Tomatoes in Agrodolce (04) by MeetaK


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.


Verdict

Tomatoes in Agrodolce (02) by MeetaK


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!



All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

26 comments :

  1. Such a wonderful story! Isn't it amazing that because of our love for food - we have stories and adventures that mean so much to us?

    I've never been to Italy - perhaps next year we'll take a big trip. Actually, I'm hoping that I can go with some girlfriends and make it a cooking/food vacation.

    btw - I'd like to participate int he Monthly Mingles. Does the recipe have to be a new post or can it be from a past post?

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  2. Hey i am the only one awake and free to be on the blog world, well it is after lunch time here.
    Meeta a good article.
    While reading the post i was imagining how both you and tom and the rest of the ppl there enjoying the food and each others company.

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  3. Awww what fabulous memories, Meeta! I'm so happy you had such a memorable night. =)

    These tomatoes look more than wonderful and I might have to hide a jar for midnight snacking after the Festa! heeee

    Thank you so much for joining us at the Festa table!

    xoxo

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  4. I must be over emotional today, this made we well up! This has to be my most favourite post of yours Meeta...

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  5. What a lovely story! We have a friend, an American woman who now lives in Italy, who told us that when she was pregnant, women in the market would come up to her and rub her belly -- for good luck! And she has two beautiful children, so the luck must have worked! I'm so glad to have your recipe for agrodolce, too; another great thing to do with all of the tomatoes at the farmers' market now.

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  6. Meeta, this sounds just so delicious. Another wonderful thing to make with tomatoes. And I agree, Florence is the most amazing place. I want to go there again someday.

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  7. Meeta,

    My sweetie! First of all, I hope you enjoy every single bitty thing in that package. Your card was such a lovely surprise and it made me feel so good that I just had to do something for you in return. I hope that when/if you make the apple crisp you'll post it!

    As for the tomatoes, I am absolutely jumping up and down with joy! We have so many tomatoes at this time of year so it's always a joy to find a new recipe.

    Don't tell anyone, but so far your dish is my favourite at the party!

    Thanks for coming ...

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  8. This sounds so wonderful! I just love the foods of Italy - all its many regional cuisines and wonderful bounty! Such delicious stuff!

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  9. Meeta,
    I was really touched by your story and enjoyed reading it. And the tomatoes in agrodolce appeal to my every sense and foodie desire! I have never made these nor tasted them, can you believe it? As soon as it stops pouring rain I'm going to bike to the vegetable store for the best tomatoes I can find.

    Beautifully done. Thank you!

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  10. That's such a beautiful, story-memory and what a fitting way to honour that friendship.

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  11. Touching story Meeta and a lovely recipe :-)

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  12. Charming story Meeta! With that wonderful writing, you'll make even those who haven't been to Italy fall in love with that place!:)

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  13. Jaden, yes that is so true. If you have room for one more girlie I'd love to join you! Regarding the MM you are welcome to send something from an older post. YOu just will need to link it to the Liquid Dreams page - but why don't you make a great new drink - especially for me ;-)

    HC, Thanks for being awake LOL! Glad you liked the post!

    Lis, I'll bring an extra jar or two just for you dearie. Thanks for the party!

    Amanda, you and I are just sentimental gals. I am glad you liked it!

    Laydia, Italians are so emotional when it comes to bambinos or bambinas. It's wonderful! Cool story about your friend.

    Kalyn, if you ever need a tour guide I'd love to volunteer!! Hope you enjoy these!

    Ivonne, my dearest! I will. The apple crisp will be made and posted I promise. But I am drooling over the cookbook! I thank you so much for your kindness. It's really been a great pleasure knowing you! Ssshhh! I won't tell anyone but thanks!

    Jenn, you and me both. I love everythign about Italy.

    Mia, thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoy making these.

    Retno, thanks!

    Cynthia, Raaga, thanks!

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  14. Jyo! LOL! I hope so. Because it truly is heaven on earth!

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  15. Hey Meeta, touching story indeed... it took me back to our expirience on burano island off the coast of venice... thats just unforgettble for me... the way they served us food, afterwards we went for a walk on the island and old ladies sitting outside their homes smiled and called us in...but we were to shy to intrude... just relived the whole expirience when i read yur story....

    love the agrodolce... will def try it...and the pics are just great!

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  16. How wonderful! and I like the idea of mixing white and dark balsamic vinegars, I'm never sure what to do with the white one...

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  17. Lovely story. Thank you for sharing.

    Remember, we receive what we give, and you give a lot ......

    Hugs

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  18. This looks so good, I love to find a good recipe mostly cuz I love love love to cook.
    Thank you
    Thank you!

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  19. I loved this story! What an amazing memory. And the tomatoes look so good!

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  20. Great story! As always reading you is like reading a great book. Thanks for the homey feeling.

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  21. that is indeed a sweet ,sweet story.I can just imagine taking a bite into one of those and feel the juices bursting in my mouth. Wow!

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  22. That was a beautiful story Meeta! I was captivated from start to finish :) These moments are the best in life, to be treasured always!

    Those tomatoes sound great and I can think of lots of things they would be perfect with...straight up from the bottle included!

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  23. Memories...sweet memories...isn't it wonderful to revive them now and then!

    As for the tomatoes, they're fit for a feast indeed!

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  24. What a wonderful story. And I too love Florence. We visited it some years ago on a holiday in tuscany. I´ll definitely try your recipe!!
    And I bookmark it to study your photos!! :))

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  25. Thank you all for your comments. So glad you were able to share this special story and memory with me!

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta