This year the end of summer brought a mixture of nostalgia and relief. They have been exhausting months, not only for the heat and for the long working hours spent in the kitchen.
The arrival of Teo, a two-year-old white Spinone dog that we adopted from a rescue house, has upset that routine that we had refined over the years with Noa. We thought it would have been simple, convinced that our gesture of giving him a better life in a loving family would have been immediately recognised. And instead it took weeks to unblock his lack of confidence – and many tears, discouragement, very long walks, patience and deep breaths.
We are still at the beginning of our journey together, but when in the morning, just before the alarm goes off, we hear him frisking on the parquet floor to jump on our bed, to crouch clumsily between us, we feel we have made the right choice. Noa’s quiet breath at the side of our bed is yet another proof of this.
Days slipped away, while we were juggling with our new family of four and with the most intense season of cooking classes since I started, eight years ago.
We got angry at each other, we got discouraged for an organization that stumbled at the first breeze. Setbacks, long chats and lists came in handy to get us back on track.
All this put together meant that summer passed unnoticed in the background.
I ignored it, I chased the mosquitoes away in the evening, I waited for the fall.
At the beginning of September, after three years, we also stopped working with one of our biggest clients. Sometimes a no, said with a bit of recklessness, is just what you need to grow and take a step forward. The initial uncertainty was followed by a sense of freedom, a renewed spirit of initiative and a breath of inspiration as I hadn’t felt in a long time.
After spending an entire week with a group for an intensive cooking course, based on the enthusiasm of our rash decision, I told myself that we deserved a day on the beach, in Maremma.
And so, on Saturday we went to Castiglione della Pescaia, on the Tuscan coast, and I made peace with summer under the maritime pines, breathing in deeply the salty air.
With my feet soaked in a cold, end of season clear water, my fingers tucked in the sand, I decided that I would have enjoyed these last days that remain of summer. I began to wonder if I had eaten enough watermelon, if I had spent enough hours outdoors, dining out with my family under the olive trees. Had I paid enough attention to the singing of crickets in the evening, or of the cicadas in the afternoon?
Have I filled my eyes with enough gold and sunflowers before the countryside changes its outfit in the autumn colour? Is all this fresh basil enough? Will I miss the gesture of inhaling deeply its balsamic aroma every time I pick a few leaves? Will the figs I stole from the tree in the garden be sufficient until next summer? How many ripe tomatoes did I harvest?
Here they come, those mixed feelings of nostalgia and expectation, the same that I felt when I would go back to school. To silence them, I went to the vegetable garden and picked up those green tomatoes that at the end of the season are struggling to ripen on the fragile branches.
There are so many typical recipes of this time of the year that tell of the need of the farmers to put to good use those tomatoes that would not ripen under the end of summer sun.
Here I told you about the Tuscan fried green tomatoes, which become an omelette. More recently, I had learned how to fry them with grapes, garlic and chilli: this has become the most surprising side dish of cooking classes.
Today, together with the green tomatoes, I collected some basil.
I already know that I will miss it in the coming weeks, so I used it generously in the two recipes I cooked, made almost with the same ingredients: first an end of season pesto with green tomatoes, almonds, pine nuts and Parmigiano Reggiano, then a savoury galette with green tomatoes, pine nuts and goat cheese.
Pasta with green tomato pesto
The pesto, the Genoese pesto, is one of the dressing for pasta that I love the most. Often, though, just before eating my pasta, I add a handful of halved cherry tomatoes. One of mum’s friend, now about twenty years ago, prepared it for dinner, and since then it’s something I can’t resist. In this pesto of green tomatoes, basil, almonds and pine nuts I find the same taste, the same freshness.
You make it while the pasta is cooking, using those green tomatoes from your garden that just don’t want to get ripe. If you don’t have a vegetable garden, go to the market: among the ripe ones, now you can spot the green tomatoes, and it is often the farmers themselves who will tell you the best recipes to use them. Listen to them, that’s how I add new recipes to my repertoire!
Pasta with green tomato pesto
- 150 g (5.29 oz) green tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 40 g (1/4 cup) pine nuts
- 30 g (1/4 cups) almonds
- 30 g (1 oz) fresh basil leaves
- 50 ml (1/4 cups) extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 30 g (1/3 cups) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Rinse the tomatoes and cut them in chunks. Collect them in the glass of a blender along with garlic, pine nuts and almonds, and blend until you get a thick and fairly smooth sauce. Now add the basil leaves and an ice cube: this will allow you not to overheat the basil to preserve its bright colour. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil and season with salt, then blend until you get a smooth green pesto.
- Scrape the pesto into a bowl and add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, stirring until completely mixed. Taste and season with salt if needed.
- Cover the pesto with extra virgin olive oil until ready to use, to prevent it from darkening. You can keep it in the fridge for a day if you want to make it in advance.
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, drain it al dente and keep a few tablespoons of cooking water aside.
- Dress the pasta with the green tomato pesto, softening it some water from the pasta if needed. Toss the pasta and serve it immediately. Enjoy!
Serve the green tomato pesto with…
Here’s a nostalgic late summer menu, for these days that are getting shorter by the minute, but are still allowing us to dine out, maybe lighting a few more candles.
- Stuffed squids with bread and pine nuts. Choose the smallest squids and stuff them patiently with a few simple ingredients: stale bread soaked in milk, parsley, stir-fried tentacles and a handful of pine nuts to give flavour and a different texture. The sea taste is persistent, softened by bread and milk. Pine nuts add a surprising resinous taste: everything comes together to remind you the balsamic air of a maritime pine forest, a lunches by the sea in the shade of hundred year old trees.
- Stewed French beans. Now please trust me and forget to look at your watch, cook these French beans (or green, string, snap beans) for about an hour, on the lowest flame, with a bunch of other vegetables and some chopped tomatoes. Control your urge to turn off the heat when the beans are barely crisp and grant them a long soothing cooking. Serve them as a side dish accompanied by a piece of crusty bread to mop the juices. They surprise all my guests during cooking classes, let them marvel you, too.
- Apple and cinnamon pound cake. But now the cake, which is essential in its simplicity, moist inside thank to the soft apples, light and comforting. It is autumn knocking at your door, open and let in a gust of fresh air and yellow leaves. A slice of apple pound cake and a cup orange and cinnamon tea will warm you up.
Green tomato galette with pine nuts, basil and goat cheese
This is a quick pastry dough, my favourite for savoury pies. You can make it in five minutes, and it has only four very common ingredients, which are usually in all the pantries. Moreover, it is puffs up while baking almost by magic.
I made a galette, a pie which does not need a mould, simple and satisfying, and I filled it with fresh goat cheese, green tomatoes, basil leaves and pine nuts.
- We updated the description of our cooking classes, and finally, we added also a three day experience, as you’ve been requesting it a lot!
- Why You Should Eat More Green Tomatoes. Green tomatoes aren’t a specific variety of tomato — any tomato that hasn’t ripened can be a green tomato.
- If you have plenty of green tomatoes, make also the Elise Bauer’s green tomato chutney or have a look at what Nigel Slater did here.