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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Get the Cooking: A Summer Recipe in Italian Heat

Cooks cook for occasions—family dinners, a bake sale, a growing belly, a friend’s health—anytime, I guess, when there’s a plate waiting.

So mainly we consult recipes, I guess, to see how another cook has already addressed the cooking opportunity we face today. So how would an Italian cook – my own favorite cook – cook on an insufferable summer day? This thought has come to my mind more than once so far this summer.

Most of all, the Italians have taught us a good way—or way—of cooking in the summer ahead. On many of my trips to Italy when I was younger, mainly in restaurants there, I would regularly see plate after groan of cooked food on sideboards on the walls. It was all prepared ahead of time, perhaps when the day was cold or the first night of the week.

The recipe here is my mishmash suggestion for a cool summer dish, put together after reading around Italian cookbooks. From Elizabeth David’s “Italian Cuisine,” I found spinach and raisins in greens; The bed of greens themselves, from Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” although my turn is to make them long “ribbons” as if they were a sorrel “pasta” bed

But I gleaned the most by reading Pellegrino Artusi’s “La Scienza in Cucina, L’Arte di Mangiare Bene,” in its English translation (“Science in the Kitchen, The Art of Eating Well”), by far Italy’s own best. The popular cooking book of its day, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, years after the reunion.

The main idea of ​​this recipe is to cook it ahead of time, when the kitchen isn’t hot, and keep it around to serve the following days. That’s why its measurement is so abstract.

cooked greens on a bed of cooked vegetables

Makes 24 servings.


For greens:

  • 1 small or 1/2 medium or large Savoy (Napa) cabbage, any wilted outer leaves removed
  • 5 very large leaves of green chard (or the equivalent of small leaves)
  • 1 bunch (or bag) spinach
  • small handful golden raisins
  • apple juice or white wine
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For vegetables:

  • 5 cups canned tomatoes, diced (or the equivalent of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed well by hand)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 10-12 small waxy potatoes, washed but peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 6-8 small, thin carrots, washed, cleaned and peeled but peeled
  • 24 standard green or pole beans, ends washed and trimmed
  • 1 each red, yellow, orange and green bell pepper, stem, seed and venous and each cut into 3-4 large pieces
  • 8 small zucchini, washed and both ends cut, crosswise and diagonally into thick rounds
  • 4 baby eggplants, washed and stems intact but “caps” trimmed or pulled, quartered
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano, crushed in the palm of the hand


Prepare greens. (You can do this several hours in advance or a day in advance.) Cut cabbage lengthwise into 2-inch-thick strips; Discard the bottom and core. To cancel. Remove the thick veins from the chard (leaving them and the stems open) and, as with the cabbage, cut the leaves into 2-inch-thick strips. Keep aside from cabbage. Prepare a large pot of well-salted, rapidly boiling water.

Blanch the greens, starting with the cabbage, until it is crisp-tender, about 2, maybe 3, minutes until cooked through. Drain with a slotted spoon or “spider” to drain into a large colander in the sink. Do the same with the chard leaves, about the same length. Filter those leaves too. Blanch the spinach for 45 seconds to 1 minute, then drain it with the other vegetables in the colander.

Press down on greens to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. When cool enough to handle, in a large bowl, toss the greens, separating them into individual strips, and tossing the strips together.

Meanwhile, heat apple juice or white wine and soak raisins in it for 15 minutes; Drain the raisins and keep them aside. In a large skillet (preferably non-stick), heat the olive oil over medium heat, then cook the garlic for 1–2 minutes until it loses its color, being careful not to brown or burn.

Turn up the flame a little. Add the drained greens and, with tongs, flip the greens into the oil and garlic every 2–3 minutes until well combined. Salt and pepper generously. Do this for 10 minutes, until it is thoroughly heated, adding half the raisins and continuing to toss with tongs. Set greens aside (or refrigerate if making ahead).

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