I am just back from my short Italian break, which has been full of relaxing days spent at the beach, nice food and the occasional Italy football match on TV. My notebook and digital camera have captured the best food moments of the past week and, day after day, the essence of those scraps and shots will appear here. To start, I picked one of the simplest dishes I made in the past week, yet one which perfectly sums up the essence of Italian summer: charred pepper salad.
While you can use any peppers you like for this dish, getting some sun-ripened peppers in season is the best you could wish for. If you cannot find those, supermarket ones will do, but absolutely avoid pre-packaged peppers stored under modified atmosphere: I find these have a peculiar stench that will not go away no matter which cooking technique or how much seasoning you use.
I had some delicious giant yellow bell peppers at hand, each shaped slightly differently from the next, which worked like a charm. It would be impossible to find peppers like these in a supermarket: too irregular for the modern city customer, which says loads on the consumer misinformation we are exposed to. Luckily, Italian markets have not succumbed to this idiotic mentality.
Our small but cosy seaside home was quite near to the town of Fondi, with its medieval city centre and its rather famous produce market, the MOF. This huge market, probably the largest in Southern Italy, is mainly for greengrocers and purveyors but it opens to the public after 11 AM. It is not a place for everyday shopping: everything is sold by the case. Still, if you're planning on spending a week or more in the area (or if you live here) and want to do some cooking, it is a great place to buy good quality ingredients at prices that range between one third and half of what you would find in stores just a few kilometres meters away. We did some shopping here at the very beginning of our holiday bringing back a few kilos of Sicilian round aubergines, zucchini, cherries and clearly some huge misshapen yellow bell peppers I used for this recipe.