In the spring, cookbook author Domenica Marchetti paid tribute to one of her culinary idols on her blog. Today, it’s Domenica’s turn to take the spotlight. A brilliant home cook, eloquent writer and proud (fellow) daughter of Abruzzo, my friend Domenica’s latest cookbook, The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, is stunning.
I was fortunate to witness Domenica in action this summer when our families spent a food-filled day together on Abruzzo’s fabled Costa dei Trabocchi. Domenica is as thoughtful in her cooking as she is in her writing. Now, I’m admittedly a bit of a chiacchierona (chatterbox) and become particularly gregarious in Italy, where a double dose of adrenaline kicks in the moment my plane touches down. During our seafood cookery class on a trabocco, a spider-like fishing platform that juts into the Adriatic Sea, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Domenica secretly wished she could ask me to please pipe down as I babbled and gesticulated excitedly throughout our lesson (see proof below). However, Domenica good-naturedly endured my prattle while she instinctively cleaned briny mussels and diced sun-ripened tomatoes. (Domenica’s solicitousness has been passed down to her two teenagers who willingly entertained my three little boys all day).
Later that evening, we were treated to a pre-dinner baking lesson with our friend Fabrizio Lucci’s mom and godmother. Admittedly, neither of us was able to keep pace with Rosa, who nimbly and effortlessly shaped the delicate cookies called celli ripieni into perfect crescents. Towards the end, however, I began chit-chatting with Mamma Anna Maria while Domenica – who, by this point, was feeling the effects of jetlag – diligently persevered until she mastered the technique.
So it comes as no surprise that the recipes in The Glorious Vegetables of Italy are both meticulously detailed and infinitely inspiring. The book’s gorgeous photography and Domenica’s engaging prose are truly, in her words, a “love letter to the Italian way with vegetables.” Although the volume is worthy of display on a coffee table, I know that before long, my copy will take its place, dog-eared and oil-stained, among my favorite cookbooks – although in my house, it will likely always be called “the vegetable book that Nick and Adriana’s mom wrote.”
So here’s to you, Domenica, one of my culinary idols … auguri infiniti.
Vegetable Fritto Misto
Recipe adapted from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
I looked to my garden for guidance in choosing my first recipe to try from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. This may be my last week for zucchini blossoms (“fiori di zucca”) and in my opinion, there’s no better way to enjoy them than battered and fried. In her recipe, Domenica also recommends adding baby artichokes to the fritto misto (which I didn’t have on hand). I did, however, have the fresh sage leaves she suggests and trust me, this ingenious addition to your fritto misto is a must.
Makes 4-6 or more servings
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sparkling spring water, such as San Pellegrino
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 6 zucchini blossoms, with stems, rinsed and patted dry
- 6 large fresh sage leaves, with stems, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 small zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
- Vegetable oil (or your oil of choice) for frying
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving
- Coarse sea salt for serving
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, water, egg, and fine sea salt to make a smooth batter about the consistency of heavy cream. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
Pour enough oil into a medium skillet to reach a depth of ½ to ¾ inches. Place over medium-high heat and heat the oil to 375 degrees F (190 C) on a deep-frying thermometer (if you’re using another type of oil, adjust the temperature if needed). To test the oil temperature, drop a small amount of batter into the hot oil. It should sizzle and float to the surface immediately, and quickly turn golden.
Have ready a paper towel-lined baking sheet for draining the oil.
Drop the zucchini blossoms in the batter (stems up) and then transfer them immediately to the hot oil. Fry the blossoms in batches, taking care not to crowd the skillet, for 2 minutes, use a fork to turn and fry for another 2 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. With a slotted spoon, transfer the blossoms to the prepared baking sheet. Fry the zucchini wedges and sage leaves in the same way, turning them once as they cook.
When all of the vegetables have been fried, transfer them to a serving platter and sprinkle a little coarse sea salt over them. Arrange the lemon wedges on the platter and serve immediately.