Today's post is all about pranzo (lunch). Judy and I are still in Lucca and we've invited friends to our apartment for lunch. These are really special friends - Angelo, Daniela and Eva are the trio behind Lucca Italian School, a wonderful language school and a place where I have spent many happy weeks over the past few years. They are, as I tend to think of them, the holy trinity of Italian teachers. Eva is also the school's master cooking teacher, but hey, no pressure!
I love to cook, especially for friends. It's a way of being creative, of welcoming others, of sharing a bit of myself. Conversation and laughter always surface when people share a meal. Often when I've hosted a meal in Lucca it's been for friends visiting from the United States. Today Judy and I are hosting Italian friends, so there is the added bonus of speaking in Italian and catching up on news from Lucca and the Italian School.
On the menu today:
Insalata mista, a simple mixed salad served with olive oil, lemon and a balsamic glaze.
Caprini aromatiche (an herb and olive oil marinated soft cheese). I could write a whole blog post on my love for this cheese and my attempts to recreate it at home; sadly I have not yet gotten it just right. Luckily in Lucca we can walk five minutes down to Il Mercantino on Via San Paolino and buy some.
Focaccia, soft inside with a beautiful salted crust. Fresh from Amadeo Giusti.
For the main course, a frittata with onions and zucchini (recipe below, adapted from Marcella Hazan).
Wine (this is Italy after all - wine with lunch is "normale"). Our friends arrived with a bottle of Sangiovese from the Lucca hills, which went perfectly with the meal.
For dessert a fruit crostata (or two) from a nearby pasticceria and a torta (cake) brought by Daniela, Eva and Angelo, filled with cream and raspberries. This came from what must be the most heavenly place on Earth, Pasticerria Sandra, L'angolo Dolce (the sweet corner), which is outside the walls of old Lucca in the Borgo Giannotti neighborhood. At L'angolo Dolce, pastry is art.
Coffee brewed stovetop in the Moka to round out the afternoon. Moka brewing is an essential skill and one both Judy and I have been practicing. We've just about perfected our technique.
Pranzo today was "perfetto." Great company, conversation in a mix of Italian and English across a range of topics, and a chance to welcome friends into my Italian home (even if it's only a rented apartment for a couple of weeks). It's all a piece of my part-time but very real Italian life. -post by JB
Frittata with Zucchini and Onions (serves 5-6)
2 small or 1 medium zucchini, cut into thin rounds
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
10 large eggs
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over low-moderate heat. Add zucchini rounds in a single layer and cook on one side until slightly browned. Turn and cook a couple more minutes on the other side. Remove from pan and place in a large bowl.
Sauté onion in the oil remaining in the pan until golden and soft. Remove from pan and add to zucchini. Cool to room temperature. (Can be done several hours ahead of time.)
Add to cooled veggies: chopped parsley, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper, eggs. Mix well to combine.
Preheat oven broiler.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch non-stick skillet and pour egg/vegetable mixture into pan. Cook over low heat, pulling up the edges as they set to allow liquid to flow underneath. When nearly cooked through and just wet on top, place under broiler for a couple of minutes to set top and lightly brown.
Slide from pan onto a plate and serve hot.
Note: This is not a fussy recipe, It can easily be cut in half (just cook in a smaller pan). Try swapping out the zucchini for small rounds of parboiled red potato, or add roasted red pepper and use soft goat cheese instead of Parmesan. Experiment!