For a lot of people travel is about seeing new things, running from one important and beautiful cultural experience to another. And, of course, I love spending an afternoon in a gallery or exploring another villa garden, but Italy for me now is about hanging out with friends, good friends I see much too infrequently.
My closest friend there, Elizabeth has a large circle of Italian and expat American and English pals. I’ve been lucky enough to be welcomed by the “women’s group” that’s been meeting for over a decade. It’s fun to socialize in someone’s home and see a more intimate side of Italy. And of course, there’s the food. One night the buffet set up in the very modern kitchen was endless but there was one dish that blew me away. It was a cobbler of cherry tomatoes.
As I was helping myself to the third piece all the women were giggling as they watched me. It seemed they had a secret they were reluctant to share. Turns out I was eating a famed Martha Stewart recipe. Every time I make it I can’t believe how good it is. The tomatoes are treated as the fruit they are, but with a savory palate of aromatics. The original recipe calls for copius amounts of basil, tossed raw over the tomatoes with sauteed onions and garlic. A little flour is added to absorb and thicken the juices. The tomato mixture is then tucked beneath two layers of a gruyere crust. This time around I didn’t have any basil in the house so I used cilantro instead and added about an inch of fresh ginger, minced and sauteed with the onion. And I used a collection of baby tomatoes from the farmers markets that were sweet and colorful. There is something about the cheesy richness of the crust and how it plays off the super sweet tomatoes that is just awesome.