It’s pepper based, bell pepper, and you can make it as you like it adding or removing according to taste and according to what you’ll be eating it with. (You could give me the bowl and a bib and I could, in theory, slide my head in and eat the whole thing, leaving the container clean, even shiny, when I finally take myself out, smack my lips and reach for a glass of wine.) Lately I make it two ways depending, sweeter for white polenta or richer for crusty bread.
And it’s really simple. Take 2 bell peppers, same or different colors doesn’t actually matter, peel them one way or another – I’ve discovered that tomato peelers, for how much they don’t actually work on tomatoes, work wonderfully with peppers, or charring the skin or sweating the peppers, take out the seeds and insides and slice them into strips, you decide the width, quarter inch or so and no more than an inch and half in length. 1 sweet onion (or yellow, or white….), diced or cut into thick wedges, 1 (or 2) normal sized clove of red garlic – avoid the chinese crappy imports – good e.v. olive oil (a lot, maybe 3 tablespoons) – sea salt, one hot pepper (or not) not jalapeno but pepperoncino or Thai, a dash of brown sugar or something sweet to balance to flavor as necessary, honey, etc., , a pinch of pure – pure, not alka selzer, no plop-plopping fizz-fizzing – bicarbonate of soda, a lot of fresh sweet basil – not the large-leafed african stuff. You want light green and smallish leaves. Grow some in your garden or in a pot if you can or smell the stuff you buy: many kinds of basil but for this you want one that has a lovely sweet scent, no metallic bitterness to it.
And tomatoes, 3 kinds if it’s summer: ‘regular’ vine ripened but smell them, to, before buying: they should make you taste to soil, and they should be supple but firm, not baseballs. Any variety will do really, round, Picadilly…. They’re for the bulk, an evenness of flavor. 6 of those at least if each fits in the palm of your hand, depends on how tomatoey you like the ciabotta. Then another kind of tomato for roundness, either 3-4 pear tomatoes or 1 beefsteak. Both of those kinds have to be pealed and seeded. Then if you’re in the southern EU, real sicilian date tomatoes, cherry or some other fruity-flavored variety if elsewhere, maybe a dozen, which, if you don’t mind them, can keep their peels. If not, on those you’ll have to use the hot water – cold water combo to remove (boil a big pot of water, plunk in the tomatoes, immediately turn off the heat, wait for the skins to just begin to crack but as soon as they do, remove all of them into a big pot of ice water, then slide off the skins.) And finally… a secret ingredient: either a few drops of good maple syrup or honey. (Optional, of course. Some Abruzzesans would scoff… because they haven’t tried it.)
That’s it. First the oil, a good bit, say 2-3 table spoons, medium-high heat, pan or pot, then the pepper shreds until they soften, 4-6 minutes or so depending on their size, some salt, then the onion till it starts to become translucent, 2 minutes more or less, then the garlic minced – now adjust the temperature lower – you don’t want the garlic to burn – and when that, to, has softened, start adding the tomatoes sliced or crunched by hand into cubes-chunks, salt the bunch then add another bit, then the rest, tossing everything together. After the tomatoes have softened enough you can start mushing them with your wooden spoon or a bit later, stir it up, and once the whole is liquid enough add a dash of brown sugar and a pinch-pinch of the bicarbonate to remove acidity, stir it in, taste again and adjust for salt,sweetness and flavor, add what needs to be added, whatever fits, even a bit of milk can go in, or nothing, lower the heat and let it stew, covering partially if you want. The house will become intoxicatingly filled with scents of, well, Abruzzo. I add one small hot diced pepper, quite optional though. If the tomatoes and pepper pieces are still too large, use the spoon to break them down even more while it cooks. Stir once in awhile but it doesn’t take long, maybe 30 minutes or so, add the syrup or honey when it’s almost done and always taste for salt and flavor ’till it’s just right. When it’s red-juicy-glistening ready, turn off the heat and rain down basil leaves as your hands shreds them into the sauce, stir… and wait. It keeps getting better as the flavors and oils are released and blend, it’s better still the day after but as a ‘chic’ rustic entree serve it lukewarm with white polenta.
You won’t have leftovers because anything left over and put it the fridge will mysteriously disappear during the night, along with half, or all, the loaf of bread you didn’t use that day. Really.
to sum up:
2 bell peppers
1 sweet onion
1 red garlic clove
5-6 vine tomatoes
2-3 pear tomatoes
10-12 date tomatoes
3-4 table spoon of ev olive oil
a pinch of bicarbonate of soda
a pinch or two of sugar
1 hot pepper (thai or pepperoncino)
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
a handful of sweet basil leaves
…medium pot, medium-high heat, first the cleaned, skinned and sliced pepper strips until they soften, then the onion, lower heat, then the garlic, then the tomatoes, then the salt, sugar, bicarbonate and hot pepper, then let it go, stir, squish, taste, adjust for salt and sweetness, let it go, repeat, near the end add the honey or syrup, turn off the heat and shred in the basil, serve lukewarm with crusty bread or white polenta.
(story excerpt on ciabotta:)
Andy leaned his torso over and wrote on his notepad. < Ciabotta. Every time we make it and eat it, it has a different flavor. Only a little, but different. And at the same time it gives you, carries, every ciabotta you’ve ever tasted, even every ciab. you ever imagined tasting. So every mouthful changes us. A little. >
Silvio nodded as he looked at the speckled marble pavement of the living room. “Ok. But for them it’s always the same, right? It never changes, so it can never change them. Is that what you’re saying?”
Andy smiled. < We talk to the past all the time, even if we don’t know it. But the Trump kind don’t. They’re always here. They want it all, every fucking piece, nothing left for the past or anyone else.>
Robert tore away another hunk of bread and reached across the blanket from the other end of the couch to dip it into the bowl. “They do that, there won’t be any future either.” He scooped a mound of glistening tomatoes and peppers and dropped the whole thing into his wide open mouth, paused and inhaled deeply before starting to chew, rolled his eyes back, smiled and lightly shook his head. After swallowing, a garbled “For them to,” came form his delighted tongue.
< Like, they care? When you destroy the past by extending the present backwards, you take away the future, to. It tumbles apart like a pile of sand. Like Alzheimers. No memory, but you can’t see it.>
Robert paused his munching. “That’s crazy.”
< We live in a crazy time. would you get some more bread? >
link to the Wiki entry on traditional ciambotta. (The original video link no longer exists.)