Ciambotta (Italian Stew)
Recipe from “Nonna’s Italian Kitchen” by Bryanna Clark Grogan (The Book Publishing Company, 1998)
This vegetable stew makes a delicious dinner, and when reduced just a bit, it could make a hearty pasta sauce.
Eggplant and plum tomatoes, combined with potatoes, zucchini and other hearty vegetables, make a warming stew that’s perfect with crusty bread.
Food as Medicine
Tomatoes are an extremely rich source of the powerful antioxidant lycopene; when cooked and combined with a healthy fat, as the tomatoes are in this recipe, lycopene is made even more bioavailable. However, the preventive effects of tomatoes against prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease are not due solely to lycopene; studies show that it is the “synergy” of nutrients in tomatoes that give them their health-promoting properties.
1/2 lb. eggplant, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoons good, fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
a large handful of fresh basil, stems removed, chopped
1 lb. ripe plum tomatoes, passed through a manual food mill, or peeled and chopped finely in the food processor (or use a 14-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, drained and processed)
3/4 lb. new potatoes, or any waxy potato, scrubbed and cut into 1×2-inch pieces
1/2 lb. zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 large or 2 small sweet red or yellow peppers, seeded and cut into 1×2-inch strips
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1. Toss the eggplant cubes in a colander with 2 teaspoons salt. Let it sit in the sink until it starts to sweat out the bitter juices.Rinse them, drain, them and pat dry, squeezing a little.
2. In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and celery. Stir-cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, adding a little water as necessary to prevent sticking and burning. Add the basil and stir-cook for a minutes, then add the tomatoes. When it comes to a simmer, add the eggplant, potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir, bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and peppers and simmer 15 minutes more, or until all of the vegetables are tender.
3. Taste for salt and pepper, transfer to a warm serving bowl, and allow to stand 15 minutes before serving.
Use Yukon Gold potatoes instead of the waxy potatoes.
Instead of zucchini, you can use any summer squash, or try using cauliflower or fennel root.
Instead of eggplant, you can use mushrooms.