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Summer Vegetable Cianfotta from A16 Food + Wine

Welcome to the very first installment of Recipe Friday, the latest feature here at Bits+Bites. We've got a stack of soon-to-be-released cookbooks from local chefs and bartenders and we couldn't resist sharing—each Friday, we'll be giving you a sneak peek at one of the recipes from the book. This week, we're pleased as punch to be sharing a recipe from the forthcoming book, A16 Food + Wine. This lovely book, photographed by Ed Anderson (who photographed our "Around the World in 31 Meals" story in the August issue) makes me want to rush into the kitchen. This recipe, summer in a bowl, is the first thing I plan to cook.
 
SUMMER VEGETABLE CIANFOTTA



PAIR WITH FRAPPATO/NERO D’AVOLA BLEND (SICILY)
SERVES 8 AS A FIRST COURSE, OR 4 TO 6 AS A MAIN COURSE

To make the cianfotta, a traditional vegetable stew of Campania, local cooks braise countless combinations of vegetables in a generous helping of fat, be it lard, olive oil, or prosciutto trimmings. The zuppa comes into its own in summer, when eggplants and zucchini are plentiful. Fiorelli are the buds that grow into blossoms on squash plants. If you have a prolific zucchini or other squash plant in your yard and want to reduce its productivity, pluck off the buds and use them for this soup. If you don’t have access to fiorelli, look for squash blossoms at a farmers’ market or specialty-produce store and give them a quick slice before you add them to the soup.
While the prosciutto brodo adds richness to the soup, you can substitute water to make a vegetarian rendition. Because cianfotta is naturally thick, you can use the leftovers for making bruschette, topping them with a few leaves of wild arugula for a peppery bite.

1 globe eggplant, trimmed and diced (about 4 cups)
4 summer zucchini or squashes, trimmed and diced (about 4 cups)
Kosher salt
1 fennel bulb
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
4 sprigs marjoram
1 bay leaf
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (about 2 cups)
1 cup prosciutto brodo (page 75)
1 cup water
1 cup fiorelli or thinly sliced squash blossoms
1 cup cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
Block of aged pecorino for shaving

Preheat the oven to 300?F.

Evenly distribute the eggplant and zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut off the stalks and feathery tops (reserve for another use) from the fennel bulb, halve lengthwise, and then cut away the core. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices. You should have about 2 cups.

In a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed pot, combine the olive oil, garlic, marjoram, and bay leaf over medium heat and sweat, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic begins to soften. Stir in the fennel and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until the fennel begins to soften. Stir in the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more.

Pat the zucchini and eggplant pieces dry and add them to the pot. Stir the vegetables to ensure they are coated evenly and generously with the oil. Cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook, stirring gently every 10 to 15 minutes, for about 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not falling apart.

Remove from the oven and drain off most of the olive oil from the vegetables (you can reserve the oil in the refrigerator for a future batch of cianfotta). Add the brodo and water to the vegetables, place over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the fiorelli and tomatoes and simmer for a minute or two more. Check for seasoning and season cautiously if needed because the brodo is salty.

Divide the soup among warmed bowls. Using a vegetable peeler, shave a few pecorino curls over the top of each serving. Serve immediately.
 


Reprinted with permission from A16: Food + Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren, copyright © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.
Photo credit: Ed Anderson © 2008
The book (which will become available in September) can be purchased at www.tenspeed.com