Italian menus, both in restaurants and in Italian homes, are strongly linked to the seasons. They are regularly changed to incorporate the freshest and tastiest fruits and vegetables of the month. These are some of the delicious dishes that arrive on the table in the summer months.
A typical staple Tuscan bread salad that is a must of the summer. The main ingredients are bread – the unsalted Tuscan one gives the best results -, tomatoes, onions and basil dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and white wine vinegar. On this base, almost anything can be added: peppers, cucumbers, celery, capers, tuna, anchovies, and many more. The colorful result is a masterpiece for the taste buds.
Fiori di zucca
Zucchini flower – but they may also be pumpkin flowers – are harvested together with the zucchini throughout the summer months and they are a delicacy that can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways. Stuffed, incorporated into a sauce, or used as a topping on pizza or pasta, you can experiment with different recipes, but the classic dish calls for them to be battered and fried. Markets sell them either in bright yellow edible bouquets or still attached to the zucchini.
Prosciutto e melone
Dry cured ham and melon – It may sound surprising, but the warm, dry, salty ham and the cold, juicy, sweet melon are a match made in heaven, i.e. any Italian kitchen. The brightly colored combination tastes just as good as it looks and today it is a staple on every summer buffet or aperitivo table, as it has been on Italian tables since the second century in fact it dates back to 2 A.D.
Eggplant and capers are the stars of this Sicilian dish, in which they are mixed with many other vegetables in season in a sweet and sower tomato and vinegar sauce. There are as many variations of caponata as cooks who make it, and in some cases it may even include nuts or fish. Caponata and bread used to be considered a meal in itself, but today it is generally served as a side dish or a starter, either warm or cold.
Spaghetti alle vongole
Spaghetti with clams is one of the great classics among the seafood recipes of the Italian cuisine. Once more, a simple traditional dish with a refined flavor, and once more, many variations are to be found in different places – spaghetti or linguine (long pasta with flat section), with or without wine, with or without tomatoes – but always delicious.
The green of basil, the white of mozzarella and the red of tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, the perfect, light, fresh and patriotic combination that brings the colors of the national flag onto Italian tables. The quality of the ingredients is what makes the difference in this extremely simple recipe – freshly picked basil, high quality mozzarella, and sun ripened tomatoes create an incredible mix of aroma, flavor and texture.
Figs are one of the most flavorful and versatile summer fruits. They find their way into all courses of the meal: wrapped in dry cured ham for an antipasto, mixed into a pasta sauce, or baked in pastry for dessert.
This dessert – its name literally means ‘drowned’ – combines two Italian specialties, coffee and gelato. Nothing could be more simple, tasty and enticing than a scoop of vanilla ice cream drowned with a simple hot espresso. For once, everyone agrees that the original recipe is so good that it is rare to find any variations.
Ilona Catani Scarlett