Pantelleria - a Summer Food Memoir (Part 1)

I thought that the promised land was an utopistic idea. But then I went to Pantelleria. foto-54

With its perfumed caper bush plantations , its endless lines of tiny tomatoes and its blossoming oregan , I discovered an island full of sunkissed pearled fruits,  where glorious nature meets with the most secular traditions. And time   . Just.    Stops.

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Pantelleria's brown land looked like my morning black espresso coffee, a ritual which I couldn't possibly turn down. The islanders have a great sense of hospitality and sharing. So here I am, turning my car (the island has a surface of around 80 Km., so don't think of exploring it barefoot) at every given corner, usually highlighted by a handwritten sign saying "Da Pierina, prodotti locali" (translated, "Pierina's, local products") . Greatest of wonders, as I stepped out of the car, I would find myself in the informal conviviality of a household keen to food entertain me for not less than a good half hour and I would drive away with my car filled with every possible gastronomical goods the island can provide: capers, dried tomatoes and the most delicious sweet wine, Il Passito di Pantelleria.

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The ultimate joy, which made most of this trip to Pantelleria unforgettable, held in the secret recipes of the most ancient dishes confided to me by those authentic matrons during what should have been my food shopping visits which always turned in somehow unofficial cooking/culture/tradition classes. Manna from heaven.

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For example, have you ever heard of a dish called Chaki Chuka? I hadn't. Before long though, it became familiar to me. It's a delicious mix of vegetables in the season, of which I am going to give you my own twist just below. Try it out during one of these last summer days.

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Chaki Chuka (4 persons)

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 red onion
  • 300 gr. potates
  • 300 gr. yellow peppers
  • 150 gr. eggplants
  • 300 gr. zucchini
  • 20 gr. capers
  • 50 gr. walnuts
  • 30 gr. peanuts
  • 50 gr. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 slices of red hot chilli pepper
  • dried oregan
  • dried tomatoes

First slice the onion and put it in a pan with the extra virgin olive oil and a glass of water. Let it stir until the water will be absorbed. In the meanwhile, cut all of your vegetables in cubes and pour them into the pan. Don't forget to insert the red hot chilli pepper's slices and half of the walnuts at this point. Also add the capers at this stage, it will make for a great substitute of salt and so much more natural!  Cook the whole thing for about 30 minutes at medium flame and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Once cooked, let the vegetable mixture cool down at room temperature for about 20 minutes, then in the fridge for an hour before serving it decorated with a sprinkle of oregan, a few dried tomatoes on the sides, the remaining walnuts and peanuts on top.