Summer Vegetable Cianfotta

Summer Vegetable Cianfotta Recipe


There's a fresh crop of fall cookbooks hitting stores, and in the coming weeks I'm going to highlight a few of the stand-outs. I'll start with a cookbook from my home turf, A16: Food + Wine. A16 is a much-loved San Francisco restaurant with a menu and wine list that celebrates Southern Italy, and to a greater extent the Campania region. One of the exercise classes I take is located just across the street from A16. A few times a week I find myself en route to a workout, walking up the south sidewalk, when I inevitably collide with the aromas spilling from their front door out into Chestnut Street. And for a few hours the other day, my kitchen smelled just as good. The recipe I'm highlighting is a beautiful, hearty stew that incorporates all manner of colorful summer produce - cherry tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant. I chose it because of its seasonality, but also because it uses a cooking method I've never tried before - more on that in a bit. I want to tell you a bit more about the book itself, and then we'll get into the cianfotta.

A16 Cookbook

The restaurant's namesake is an impressive strip of asphalt, stretching across southern Italy from Naples and well into Puglia. Chef Nate Appleman and wine director Shelley Lindgren celebrate the culinary spirit and traditions of this region as evident in this passage from A16: Food + Wine,

"...There are famous attractions in Campania - Pompeii, Sorrento, the islands of Capri and Ischia, the Amalfi coast - yet southern Italy remains largely removed from the usual tourist route, a lapse that has helped preserve its food traditions. Today nearly every restaurant in the center of Florence has menus printed in English, French, and Japanese, while you are lucky to be handed a menu at all in Campania. The international popularity of Naples-style pizza notwithstanding, it is still rare to find regional foods, such as the maccaronara pasta native to the Irpin hills, served outside of the region...At 16, we translate rustic Campanian cooking to a San Francisco setting. Just as Italian cooks work with the best ingredients they can acquire, we source the finest local and seasonal produce we can find and treat it in an Italian manner..."

After an initial introduction, the book dives into a robust, 60+ page southern Italian wine primer - itself worth the price of the book. It then moves onto the food section; pantry, antipasti, pizza, zuppa, pasta, seafood, poultry and meat, the pig, vegetables, and dessert. Whether the authors are talking about grapes, ingredients, or road trips, the text is genuine and enthusiastic in tone throughout. The end result is infectious - I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting, and now I have a list of wine producers I'm excited to track down, and recipes to try. I should also mention that Shelley helpfully offers up wine pairing suggestions to accompany with many of the recipes in the book. There is plenty of vegetarian inspiration here, and aside from the meat-centric chapters, many recipes are easily adaptable. The book was photographed and designed by Ed Anderson, printed on nearly three hundred pages of uncoated paper - no question, it's a looker.

A16 Cookbook

The cianfotta, a traditional vegetable stew, caught my attention not only because it is packed with summer produce, but because the cooking method is so dramatically different from the way I normally approach summer vegetables. Often I flash cook vegetables, just enough to take that raw edge off. For this stew we are instructed to braise the vegetables for about forty minutes in two cups of olive oil. Most of the oil is then drained off before you go on to make your broth, and I have to tell you, this approach lends a deliciously glossy, luscious texture to the vegetables unlike anything else I've tasted.

 
 
 
 

Summer Vegetable Cianfotta Recipe

Fiorelli are the flower buds that eventually grow into squash blossoms - if you can't find them don't let it stump you, just leave them out or use squash blossoms which are more readily available. Shelley recommends pairing this stew with Frappato/Nero d'Avola Blend (Sicily). The also include instruction for making this stew with a prosciutto broth, but I opted for the vegetarian version.

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 (fresh) marjoram
1 bay leaf
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (about 2 cups)
2 cups 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 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.

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

Serves 8 as a first course, or 4 to 6 as a main course.

Reprinted with permission from A16: Food + Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren, copyright © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.

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Your Comments


Tomasina
September 8, 2008

Looks beautiful and delicious, I can not wait to try it.

 

Helen
September 8, 2008

Ooh, what an interesting way to cook the vegetables. Sometimes when I come across methods like this I have to persuade myself to cook the recipe as I am wary of using all that oil but I know what you mean about giving them a gloss and a lushness. That, combined with the slow cooking, it is almost like confit vegetables! I will definitely try this, it sounds really interesting.

 

Fit Bottomed Girls
September 8, 2008

This seems like the perfect fall meal. I'd never heard of fiorelli before...I'll have to be on the lookout for them at my farmer's market!

 

Sara
September 8, 2008

This sounds great - my squash plant hasn't been that productive this year, so I have plenty of blossoms but not much in terms of actual squash. I will give this recipe a try.

 

sue bette
September 8, 2008

I've been wanting to get to A16 for quite a while now - now I am even more antsy! This dish looks wonderful, thanks for the recipe and the book review.

 

Ahhh summer vegetables...so little time left...!

I made your Lemony Chickpea Stirfry last night by the way and really enjoyed it. I doubled the recipe and substituted local patty pan squash for zucchini--it was very easy!

 

Fearless Kitchen
September 8, 2008

This looks wonderful. It's nice to see Southern Italy getting more attention lately! I really like the addition of fennel.

 

Sarah
September 8, 2008

What a beautiful picture! This is right up my alley - although I will have to bully myself into using that much olive oil - great how you can use it again however. I made a version of your chickpea stirfry for dinner last night - I love adding the chickpeas as that mean you don't need anything else to fill you up!

 

What a lovely soup. It sounds like it would be hearty and refreshing at the same time. I am intrigued by the cooking method.

 

lifeinrecipes
September 8, 2008

I'm definitely picking up this cookbook. A16 and/or SPQR are always stops on my route when I'm in town.

Need to make this now while the produce is perfect. Gorgeous.

 

Erin
September 8, 2008

Sounds like a great book. I'll have to check it out at the bookstore today.

 

glutenfreeforgood
September 8, 2008

I love it that so many of your featured recipes are gluten free by default — nothing for me to convert. Yeah! I just got my weekly CSA box full of veggies and have everything in this recipe except Yukon gold potatoes and squash blossoms. It's cold and dreary here today so this will warm my soul. I'm going to go buy some potatoes and make this today. Thanks!
Melissa

 

VeggieGirl
September 8, 2008

Sounds like a great book; and the cianfotta sounds wonderful as well!

 

Jen (Modern Beet)
September 8, 2008

what an interesting preparation method! Oddly, if I saw this in a book I would probably shy away from it due to the large amount of olive oil, but hearing you describe it makes me more apt to give it a try -- thanks Heidi!

 

Biz319
September 8, 2008

That looks amazing! And my local ethnic grocery store is selling squash blossoms too! They are about $15.00 a pound, but I am sure a cup weighs hardly anything.

Thanks for the beautiful picture - so glad soup season is here!

 

iffet
September 8, 2008

It looks really reach and flavorful.

 

Aaron Kagan
September 8, 2008

That's the one trouble with cherry tomatoes: they're amazing raw, great when cooked ever so slightly, and excellent when stewed. How are you supposed to decide?

Answer: by quantity. If you have a handful, eat them. If you have more, cook longer as the amount that you have to get rid of increases.

www.teaandfood.blogspot.com

 

Life Chef
September 8, 2008

That . Looks . So . Good! I'm gnawing on my keyboard now...
I "poach" grape tomatoes in olive oil with thyme and garlic. I use them in the video on my website for Warm Wild Rice Salad with Summer Vegetables which you can of course see at www.lifechef.net or youtube.com/chefasata.
I LOVE stewing things in olive oil. Fat grams be darned!

 

Manuel Braverman
September 8, 2008

Really interesting recipe.
Since fennel bulbs are very difficult to find where I live.
Do you think that adding some fennel seeds to this recipe would be a good idea?

 

Rachelle Chinnery
September 8, 2008

This sounds strangely like it was sent directly to me... I have a garden full of squash plants that are flower-full and fruit-scarce... it's starting to cool down up here and I just hate to see those blossoms go to waste. What a scrumptious sounding hearty veggie dish! Won't be able to resist that book.

 

Uncle Hannah
September 8, 2008

This looks like the perfect late-summer, almost-fall recipe! MMMM! And you could modify the veggies to whatever you have onhand. Except the fennel--I don't know if I'd want to leave that out since it's so different flavor-wise from the other veggies.

Must have a fall dinner party to justify making a big pot of this....

 

GLenda de Kruif
September 8, 2008

Did you really mean 2 cups of olive oil that seems like a lot. But it looks yummy.

HS; Yes, 2 cups is right. Keep in mind you drain most of it off in toward the end.

 

Erin
September 8, 2008

This sounds wonderful...any idea where to get fiorelli?

 

rick
September 8, 2008

Not knocking the recipe, as it looks very good, but I feel it's a little late in the season for us to access some of the ingredients. Living here in WV, i'll not see squash blossoms till next spring

HS: Part of the fun of a cooking technique like this is that I that you can likely substitute in local seasonal ingredients.

 

Lynette
September 8, 2008

I wish I had this recipe last autumn when I had a glut of squash buds, but this is definitely one for my archive. Thanks again Heidi

 

Y
September 8, 2008

This is slightly reminiscent of the Turkish method of cooking vegetables- usually a medley of root vegetables, but they could be any vegetables- slowly in olive oil and water; no herbs are added, and the vegetables are allowed to speak for themselves. The only accents are lemon, salt, pepper and sometimes a pinch of sugar. Improvise. Eat hot or cold. Decorate with parsley. Enjoy.

 

Elizabeth
September 8, 2008

I made this tonight and thought it was gross at first taste. I kept on, though (considering the time it took to prepare) and ended up thinking it was quite delicious. That little bit of pecorino sharpens up everything in the soup just perfectly. I should note that my vegetables weren't tender in 40 minutes, at which point I had to leave the house, so they sat in the oven at 300 for an exta hour. I'll have to try making it the right way, too. I also enjoyed the buttermilk cake quite a bit -- I have an abundance of milk products thanks to my three dairy goats, so it was nice to have something to use the buttermilk in.

HS: Hmmm, yeah. I can imagine overcooking the vegetables like that could be a problem. Glad you liked the buttermilk cake!

 

George & Culinary Travels
September 9, 2008

That sounds so very good.

 

Brenda
September 9, 2008

Just a general comment. I don't get to read regularly, but I keep finding myself on your site. I'll google an idea or problem I'm having, or strange ingredient, and the best site always seems to be yours! I can spend hours combing through your archived recipes. Fantastic, you are.

 

Reeni
September 9, 2008

This sounds lovely! Nourishing and satisfying I love how the vegetables are braised in olive oil; I can't wait to make and taste.

 

Traci (Soup of The Day)
September 9, 2008

Perfect timing -- I'm always looking for new recipes to use up the summer bounty of goodies!

 

Beverly Jane Reynolds
September 10, 2008

This is soooo yummy that I have e-mailed it to my daughter who is also a vegetarian. Now I will share it with 600 of my forum friends. My Non-vegetarian hubby even likes it. Yeah and thank you so very much. This is on my to make often list.
Bev

 

Barista Heather
September 10, 2008

Yum!

I changed the recipe around quite a bit based on what was available to me, using only eggplant, zucchini, carrots, and the potatoes.
And the soup turned out splendidly.
Thank you so much for another fantastic recipe!

 

Linda
September 11, 2008

This does look good tho I too was concerned about that amount of olive oil. I made the chick pea stir fry for dinner this week and we loved it! This is going to become a staple in the household. My husband asked "is this one of Heidi's recipes?" Is that a compliment or what? :) Thanks.

 

Shannon
September 12, 2008

This dish looked so beautiful, and I looked forward to being the most popular girl at the pot luck this month. Unfortunately, I had tremendous difficulty executing this. I bought beautiful veggies from the farmer's market, and followed the recipe exactly (or so I thought). But, when it came time to take the veggies out of the oven, they weren't tender at all. So, I left them in. And left them. And left them. It took 75 minutes, not 50, for the veggies to become tender. So, I took them out and attempted to drain out the oil. It was very, very hard to do this with all those veggies in the pot. I got several ladles of oil out, then added the water and proceeded. What I got was a brown, bland, oily mess. It wasn't inedible, but nobody was crowning me queen of the pot luck. Where did I go wrong?

 

Liz
September 12, 2008

Shannon, I feel your pain! Sometimes it just doesn't go right. Did you cook the fennel and then the potatoes for a bit on the stovetop before adding the soft vegies, or did you just toss them all in and head straight to the roasting? It's also possible the oil wasn't hot enough on the stovetop when you did the above. Also, do you have an oven thermometer? They are $5 at the grocery, and hang from one of the racks. I've found that every oven I've tested is off by several degrees in one direction or the other, and the amount by which they're wrong will vary depending on the temperature I'm aiming for. In some apartments, I found the oven to be off by 50 degrees. That's the difference between perfection and failure for many dishes. Priceless to really know, especially if you can't afford a fancy professional range!

 

Katie in Berkeley
September 13, 2008

I also ended up needing to cook for an additional 25 minutes to get the potatoes to tender. We did a 1/2-inch dice on the eggplant and zucchini and a 3/4-inch dice on the potato, so maybe that's a factor. And it definitely took two people to drain the oil out of that heavy pot! I think if I did it again I would add the cherry tomatoes as garnish and let them just get warm in the soup at the table. Cooking them for even two minutes made them get kinda lost. And MAN was the pecorino important! It set the whole dish off. I was most amazed at how those familiar vegetables ended up having a totally new texture. Thanks for reprinting this recipe.

 

Liz
September 13, 2008

follow-up: made this tonight after a trip to the farmers' market. substituted kohlrabi for the fennel -- divine. sauteed the garlic ~3 min, then tossed in the marjoram and kohlrabi about 5 minutes, then added the potatoes for another 4-5 minutes. Tossed in all the soft vegies (cutting back on squash, adding various sweet peppers), roasted at 325 for an hour. At the end, after cooking 5 min w/ the water, tossed in julienned squash blossoms and a tomato cut into small wedges, served immediately. A total success. Had Nero D'Avola and some French sourdough w/ butter. Even the kids ate their vegies. :-) Thanks, Heidi!!

 

Eddie Gehman Kohan
September 13, 2008

We had big success with this recipe, but we also cooked the veg longer than suggested. That's part of the whole fun of trying out new recipes...the little thrill of having to be completely "present" and "interpreting" right as you go. It was a big hit, especially as we, like some of the other commentors, have an abundance of squash blossoms. Kudos to Heidi for chosing such as good recipe, as usual.

 

Sara
September 14, 2008

I made this for a dinner party and it went over pretty well - served garnished with the cheese and pine nuts as well (had some vegan guests). I too had to cook it an extra 20 or 30 minutes. Next time, I do a more careful job draining the olive oil; I think I'd actually dump all the veggies into a colander instead of just ladling out the oil. The resulting stew was way too oily for my taste - it gave me a stomach ache!

 

Susan
September 14, 2008

Thanks for the lovely recipe. I just served it as my first lunch for company in my new house. It helps that there's a Saturday farmer's market a few blocks away.

My method for draining the oil from the hot, heavy pot: I didn't. I used a bamboo skimmer to lift the veggies out into another pot (pulling out the herbs at the same time). Much easier, and just the right amount of oil clings to the vegetables.