Discover more from Buona Domenica
The View From Here
Plus nine recipes to make right now; and what I'm reading while lying down
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Greetings from the state of forced indolence. There’s something about being (mostly) flat on your back with an elevated boot-encased leg that isn’t conducive to writing—or anything, really, except reading and daydreaming.
I do get up, several times a day, and hop on crutches over to a rented wheelchair that I sit in for meals and for short breaks. I wheel myself from the living room to the kitchen and back (it’s a small place) or position myself in front of the doorway leading to the terrace (which I can’t access because…steps), and gaze out over the patchwork quilt of cultivated hills down to the Adriatic, the church bells of Penne chiming in periodically. It’s a tranquil landscape, at least from where I sit, zoomed out, though I can easily conjure the life between me and the blue coastline, the buzz of farm tractors, of families sitting down to Sunday lunch, the animals calling, the dusty hill towns and pitted country roads, construction and demolition, shops and markets, the lively seaside cities, beach traffic and crowds, the air that tastes of salt and smells of exhaust and oleander and pine.
It’s the height of summer, and as I stare up at the ceiling or out over the hills I’ve also been daydreaming about what I would be making if I were up and about: plates starring eggplant and zucchini, my aunt Gilda’s rice salad, a cake laden with peaches, gelato with figs. The most I’ve been able to do is to top and tail a couple of pounds of beautiful flat romano beans that my husband picked up at the market and which he then stewed to meaty doneness in tomato sauce, along with a little chopped onion and peperoncino. These, along with a really good fried farm egg (runny yolk, crispy edges) were last night’s dinner. I’m being well looked after, that’s for sure.
There are a lot of new subscribers here—welcome!—and so I thought I would take the opportunity, while I continue to convalesce, to share some favorite recipes for summer. Below you’ll find the recipe for Prosciutto and Quick-Pickled Melon (from my book Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian), plus links to other summer recipes that I’ve published over the years on my website, in books, and elsewhere. These are dishes and desserts that make an appearance at my table at least once during the season, usually more. I hope you’ll give some of them a try. (And be sure to have a scroll through the Buona Domenica archives here on Substack for more recipes.)
Not food-related, but I thought I’d also share a list of books I’ve consumed in the last few weeks, since reading is what I spend most of my waking hours doing. My taste in books is nothing if not eclectic.
And seeing as I am spending so much time reading and dreaming about what I’ll make when I do get back to cooking, I hope you’ll indulge me by leaving a comment telling me what you’ve been reading and cooking/eating lately.
RECIPE: Prosciutto with Quick-Pickled Melon
Marinating ripe melon balls in a sweet and sour brine spiked with chile pepper turns the classic combination of prosciutto and melon into something fresh and new. This is especially welcomed on a sweltering afternoon or evening in July. Here’s how to make it:
1. First, quick-pickle the melon. Start with a ripe melon, either cantoloupe, honeydew, crenshaw, or whichever you prefer. Use a melon baller to scoop out spheres of flesh, collecting them in one bowl and the juice from the fruit into another.
2. Pour the juice (1/4 cup/60 ml) into a saucepan and add 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mince a chile pepper and add it to the pan. Cook on medium to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer on medium-high and cook until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes.
3. Pour the syrup over the melon balls, cover, and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours to give the fruit enough time to drink up the brine.
4. Arrange thin slices of prosciutto onto a plate and cluster the melon balls on top. Garnish with fresh mint or basil and serve.
MORE MIDSUMMER RECIPES
Torta di Pesche (Peach Cake)
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING
Sagittarius, by Natalia Ginzburg: an absorbing tale of mother-daughter relationships, misplaced confidence, and bad luck. By one of Italy’s best 20th century novelists. I can’t wait to read more by her.
The Marriage Portrait, by Maggie O’Farrell: poetically written fictionalized account of the life of Lucrezia de Medici and her (unhappy) marriage to the Duke of Ferrara.
Chain Gang All-Stars, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Bernyah: Dystopian satire (but honestly not that far-fetched) about the horrors of the U.S. carceral system. Thrilling, devastating, difficult to read at times, funny at others. Here’s a just-published interview with the author published in The Guardian. He’s a fantastic writer—sharp, searing, compassionate, entertaining. (I also loved his debut book of short stories, Friday Black.)
Night Will Find You, by Julia Heaberlin: I’ve read all of Heaberlin’s thrillers, and this one, starring a psychic trying to help solve the murder of a young girl, doesn’t disappoint! A page-turner in the best sense of the term, and a great summer read. And, I would like to note here that Julia was once my super talented boss in the features department at The Detroit News and I am thrilled to see her thrive as an author of fiction.
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh: For me, this book is, of course, inextricably tied to the 1980s series starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews that aired on PBS in the U.S. This was my second (possibly third) time reading it, and I wasn’t expecting to respond so emotionally. I loved it.
Severance, by Ling Ma: Unrelated to the popular TV series of the same name. A young woman who works in publishing watches New York collapse around her as a pandemic rages. Apocalyptic satire and astute social commentary, but with a genuinely moving family story at its heart.
Lev’s Violin: An Italian Adventure, by Helena Attlee: The author’s search for the origins of a violin she is drawn to after hearing it in concert turns into a deeper journey into the history of Italian violin making. I’ve only just started this book, but am loving it already. Attlee is also the author of one of my favorite food-related books, The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit.
PICTURE ITALY: Atri, 2023
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