November 18, 2007
We awoke from our deep slumber with a serious hangover and tongues swollen from the Raki. After a rose scented Turkish coffee, we decided that finding another dinner as amazing as the previous night’s would be impossible in Izmir. So we headed for the airport.
We caught the next flight to Palermo and from there found a wobbly helicopter to take us to Balcone di Sicilia, a farm in the hills above Marina di Ragusa. We arrived just in time to pick tomatoes from the garden for the evening’s ragu. The dark beauty in the kitchen pulling pasta in long strokes while sweat ran from the her neck to her exposed cleavage told us where to find her husband in the gardens.
The fat man we found plucking basil was not exactly what we expected. He had a hole in his trousers through which his thickly veined satchel protruded when he bent over. We stood there with mouths agape while he chuckled, then showed us the secrets to his marriage. Five beautiful gardens filled with plum tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, chiles and herbs.
He gave us a basket and we filled half of the basket with tomatoes that looked as if they were about to burst. The other half we filled with eggplant, basil, tarragon and cayenne.
His wife prepared our pick into an amazing ragout within the hour. The fat man swore the secret was in the drops of her sweet perspiration. He slapped her buttocks and chuckled. I asked for a small bottle of her essence, but all we received were more chuckles and another plate of pasta.
About 1 kilo of ripe red plum tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium-sized eggplants, peeled and cut in small cubes
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 cayenne peppers, deseeded and minced
2 handfulls of basil leaves, torn
1 handfull of tarragon leaves, torn
1 cup Nebbiolo, Pinot Nero or other Sicilian red wine
Sicilian Olive oil
Boil a pot of water, add the tomatoes in small batches. Remove after 1 minute and set aside to peel when cool. Saute the onion in olive oil for 2 or 3 minutes until translucent. Add the smashed garlic and saute for 2 or 3 minutes more.
Add the eggplant, cayenne and saute for about 15 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, the red wine and cook about 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the sauce is thickening.
Add the herbs and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes. This sauce should taste fresh and bright, so the cooking time should be less than an hour.
Toss with fresh linguini and serve the wine with which you cooked. If she likes it spicier, add a drizzle of pili pili.