I’ve always lived summer as the season when you get ready for winter. If in the mountains, as my friend Vea shared on Instagram, it is a necessity, here in the Tuscan countryside it is more a feeling, a way of living.
Summer is a season to reflect and refocus, to harvest the fruit of a year of work, getting ready for the new start that September ensures every year.
During the summer I read books that help me in my job – books about writing mainly, but also about photography, or cooking -, we take time to revise what we’ve done, and we plan ahead. This year, for example, we’ll be working on our blog, too, to give you a better experience when you’re searching for a recipe, or simply catching up with our stories.
In the kitchen, I preserve the bounty of the season, inspired by what my mum and grandma have always done. Nothing makes me feel happier and safer than a well-stocked pantry. All my preserves will then become the backbone of quick, easy recipes in winter, and a ray of sunshine for my winter breakfasts.
And now, as always, a list of things I’m cooking, listening to, watching, and reading, as this is what is keeping me inspired and connected from our last newsletter. Read it to discover also 10 recipes to cook this month.
What I am cooking
Summer is all about quick meals with seasonal vegetables, as panzanella and caprese, and preserves. At the moment I’m testing and retesting all the seasonal recipes included in our next cookbook, which means I’m going through basketfuls of summer vegetables. I couldn’t be happier.
I’m also preserving with rapture whatever is in season. I made canned peeled tomatoes, tomato passata, garlic tomato sauce. I bottled cherry tomatoes with a leaf of basil, made more than 2 kilos of basil pesto, and made jam with flat peaches (I’m sharing the recipe on below), and with what was left at the bottom of the fruit bowl. In the next weeks, I’ll be making my annual batch of minestrone, blackberry jam, and blueberry jam if we’ll make it to the Tuscan Appennini for a day. Let’s not forget vegetables, too. I’m planning on pickling cucumbers and making a few jars of giardiniera.
What I am reading
Tommaso spotted this book during our trip to Dublin years ago, wrote the down into his secret list of Giulia’s possible gifts (how adorable is this?), and surprised me with it for my birthday. Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing is a collection of food writing that extends from the Old Testament and Latin Horace and Petronius to more recent examples such as Gertrude Stein, Julia Child, Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, and Michael Pollan. I just would love to have days of 48 hours to have the time to delve into this book, an iced tea in one hand a pencil in the other, as when I’m struck by excellent food writing I feel the urge to underline a sentence, and immediately copy it into my little notebook of words and phrases I love.
What I am listening to
Cicadas while I’m writing and ‘80s music while I cook.
But you should be listening to the second season, a special Summer Edition, of Cooking with an Italian Accent. We worked on four special episodes for the summer, with guests from all over Italy engaged in conversation about some of our favourite themes, from food to tourism, from cookbooks to personal memories. Each episode will give you the chance to explore an Italian region and will give you tips on how to travel more sustainably to some of the most iconic Italian destinations.
What I am watching
Why Waste? is the exclusive video series from Fine Dining Lovers, featuring Massimo Bottura and his team of chefs, that teaches us how to cut food waste in delicious and imaginative ways.
Individual households are responsible for the majority of the world’s food waste, around 61% of the total, according to a UN Environment Programme report. It’s a shocking statistic that we can all have a hand in reducing by getting a little creative in the kitchen.
Watching this series, you will learn tips on how to store ingredients such as bread and milk to extend their life and waste less food, how to wrap cheese to make it last longer, and you will also discover new creative, sustainable recipes.
Where I am dreaming to go
Mountains, possibly the Alps. I’m really missing green meadows dotted with cows, forests and hiking trails, polenta with melted cheese, and good local butter slathered on rye bread. I’m so tired I would really need 2 weeks up there in the mountains, exploring local producers, walking, sitting by a lake reading a book, eating alpine food and feeling very, very small in the wild Nature.
Two years ago we went to @pinetahotels in Val di Non to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. It was such a relaxing and inspiring week! I hope we’ll be able to go there with Livia soon.
Flat peach jam
If I had to choose one fruit that will remind me in the future of the summer of 2021, it would be the flat peach, also known as the doughnut peach or Saturn peach. With fuzzy skin, and a firm, juicy, creamy white pulp, they are perfect to be eaten with a few bites, leaving you craving more. This summer Livia has practised her pincer grasp with orecchiette and wedges of white peaches, eating both of them with rapture.
So, I thought I would bottle all the excitement, dripping bites, discoveries, and snacks of this summer, making a flat peach jam for the upcoming winter. When I will miss the cicada afternoon serenades, the morning harvest in the vegetable garden, or the smell of her skin kissed by the sun, I’ll open a jar of this jam, and I’ll be instantly reminded of the summer of 2021.
As you can see from the ingredient list, I kept this jam essential, as I wanted the pure vanilla flavour of white peaches to shine through. If you are inclined to add spices or herbs, try adding rosemary for a balsamic note or just a scant tablespoon of lavender well closed into a cheesecloth. Do not exaggerate with it, as from floral jam to soap is a short step. Add a vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped into the jam to enhance the vanilla flavour.
Flat peach jam
- 6 medium jars
- 1 canning pot
- 1 kg flat peaches
- 250 grams sugar
- 1 organic lemon
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it is boiling, plunge the peaches in the boiling water and blanch them for 2 minutes. Remove the peaches from the boiling water and drop them into a bowl of ice-cold water. Now you should be able to peel them effortlessly.
- Once peeled, cut the peaches into wedges, discard the stones, and collect them in a large, shallow pot.
- Squeeze the lemon over the peaches, then add also the squeezed lemon into the pot. It will release pectin, which will help to have a thick jam.
- Cook the peaches over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until they begin to collapse. Stir often.
- When the peaches are soft, remove the two half lemons, then purée the peaches with an immersion blender.
- Add the sugar and stir well until melted.
- Put the pot back on the stove and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes. If you have a pastry thermometer, the jam will be ready when it reaches 105°C (221°F). The jam will still be very liquid, it will thicken up once cooled down.
- You can also check empirically whether the jam is ready or not with the saucer test. Pour a drop of jam onto a cold saucer from the freezer. If it thickens and does not slip away when you tilt the saucer, the jam is ready to be poured into sterilized jars. Close the lids tightly.
- Now boil the jars placed in a large pot and covered with water for about 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the jars cool down completely before removing them.
- They can be kept in the pantry for more than a year.
Cooking with an Italian Accent
Don’t miss the next episode on Tuesday. We’ll be travelling to the mountains to visit my friend Vea Carpi. She is a cook, a farmer, a sourdough baker, and she is also passionate about wool. She has a maso up in the Trentino mountains and agritourism with her family. We are both from Tuscany, but we met there, in her farmstead, where we were greeted as part of her family. We attended one of her sourdough baking courses and learnt about her life in the mountains.
Here you can listen to the past episodes:
- Episode 2×02 – Liguria e Cinque Terre: in conversation with Enrica Monzani. We also had a live talk on IG delving into Liguria, Cinque Terre, and other Ligurian hidden gems. We talked about recipes and local products, about Genova and its street food. Listen to this conversation to discover the best vegetarian recipes of the Ligurian cuisine, and how to experience Cinque Terre in the most sustainable way. Enrica also gave us a little anticipation about the cookbook she is writing!
Episode 2×01 – Let’s celebrate: Happy (40th) Birthday Giulia! This is the first episode of our second season, a special summer edition, a short collection of 4 episodes. In this episode of Cooking with an Italian Accent, I switched roles and asked our friend Valentina Dainelli, known online as Toomuchtuscany, to be the host of this conversation: I felt it would have been much more interesting for you than listening to a soliloquy.