It’s summertime! One veggie that always pops into my brain every summer is zucchini! And when I think of zucchini, I think of my mother’s ciambotta, or “jambot.” This dish is the epitome of the simple, healthy, nourishing way of Italian peasant cuisine. The beauty and essences of this dish is the way the veggies are cut and the timing of their doneness in the pan.
Most ciambotta dishes you see consist of just zucchini and one or two other veggies. I’m all about less is more. However, Raphaella (my dear Mother) really nailed this one which is a medley of zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, yellow squash, green bell pepper, carrots and tomatoes.
To begin with, get yourself a nice large and somewhat shallow thick gauge saute pan. The objective is lots of surface area to saute the veggies and also to make room for new ingredients added to the pan. Heat up the olive oil and start to saute the sliced potatoes. We are not going high heat here or trying to create a crispy potato. It’s medium to low heat for nice color and softening for a thick sliced potato. Have a sturdy metal spatula handy to scrape potatoes off bottom of pan if they stick.
Once you have sauteed the potatoes for about 5 min on each side, push them over in the pan and add garlic and red onion to the oil in the cleared out area. Let that sweat for a few minutes (do not brown or burn) and then gently toss in with the potatoes.
At this point, push over the contents of the saute pan and to the cleared out area add the sliced zucchini, carrots, yellow squash,cubed eggplant (keep skin on) and diced green bell pepper. Toss that around for 5 or 10 minutes in the oil then gently mix all the contents of the pan together and season generously with fresh cracked black pepper and freshly ground sea salt or kosher salt.
At this point deglaze the pan with red wine vinegar using the spatula to lift browned particles off the bottom of pan.
Note: do not omit the green pepper or use too much of it. I could never get this dish to taste like Raphaella’s no matter how hard I tried. And it’s all because the little bit of green pepper she adds. Just the right amount once cooked into the tomato gives this dish a unique taste. Too much though, will ruin it.
Now, we will crank the heat up a bit and add the tomato. I have made this dish with fresh garden tomatoes and it is still delish. However, I think it comes best with canned San Marzano plum. Just dump the entire contents of the whole peeled tomato can into the saute pan. Then, with a fork gently smash up the tomatoes a bit (without mashing up the beautiful sliced veggies). Add some whole fresh basil leaves.
Let all that stew for about 30 minutes on medium to low heat. Give it a stir now and then. Taste it for seasoning. Add another round of salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh chopped parsley, red pepper flakes, drizzle with a tad more extra virgin olive oil and serve with Italian bread and your favorite Italian grated cheese.
The objective is to have all the veggies (except for the eggplant which will almost turn into a paste) to be soft but firm if that even makes any sense. This is a relatively quick dish where we do not want to overcook anything including the tomato. I like to go for a “fresh,” “under cooked” vibe with this dish.
A note about chicken stock: I am not a big fan of adding chicken stock (especially store bought) to beautiful vegetable dishes like this. The vegetables, spices and herbs have all the flavor! Just add a little more salt to bring it out. I am not a vegetarian but for some reason, I love keeping my cooked veggies completely vegetarian when meat is not one of the ingredients.
I would enjoy this dish with a nice pinot grigio.
I hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for visiting!
Ciao for now!
3 medium sized red potatoes, skin on, sliced ¼”
1 large or two medium sized zucchini, skin on, sliced ½”
1 large carrot, peeled, sliced ¼”
1 small eggplant or ½ of large eggplant, skin on, cubed ½”
1 medium sized yellow quash, skin on, sliced, ¼”
1 medium to small red onion, halved then sliced ¼”
4 cloves of garlic sliced razor thin
1 small green bell pepper or half of a large one diced 1/4″
1 28oz can of whole peeled
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of fresh chopped parsley
Handful of whole basil leaves
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
Fresh ground coarse sea salt or kosher salt to taste
Your favorite Italian grated cheese