I wrote this post on 18 September 2011 – Golly ! that is eight years ago. And my feelings for September continue to be roughly the same. Not my favourite month. End of Summer. Sigh. The recipe, too, continues to be the same. Reassuring. Easy to make, and that’s a good thing. And good for parties.
An Indian summer … although we’re half way through September … it’s so easy to enjoy the heat but too late to pretend not to notice that the days are getting shorter … and busier … and that any day now it will get brrrr-cross-your-arms-and-slap-your-shoulders-nippy and we’ll start having to wear sweaters and what have you and don slippers indoors instead of traipsing about bare foot. It is as if a whisper of seasonal melancholy were subtly knocking at my front door. For someone who loves summer as much as I do, September is a very challenging month and can see me veering towards a moany-groany, want-to-run-away frame of mind.
This year I decided I would be grown up about it and do my best to stretch the summer’s feel of freedom as much as I could. I tried to organise myself so that I could work in ‘chunks’ … and thus it was that a few days ago, I was able to scamper off to the beach at Sabaudia for most of the day. It took us one and a half hours to get there but, as always, it was worth it. There were very few people about, now that people are back at work and children back at school. The breeze was caressing as only a zephyr can be, the sea was still warm enough for me to swim in (I am such a wimp about cold water!) and it was all I could do to tear myself away and head for home as the sun began to set. Aaaah. Sigh …. isn’t the sun setting over the sea one of the most compelling sights to behold?
Ultra-organised, smug lady had prepared some vegetables the day before (a potato and celery purée and roasted bell peppers), had bought gorgeous fruit on the way to the beach, knew that wine was cooling in the fridge, so it was only a question of buying some chicken or meat on the way home and dinner was going to be a snap. But, repeat, I had a very hard time of wrenching my body and soul from the siren call of the sea with the result that all the shops were naturally closed by the time we finally did drive past them.
I didn’t feel quite so smug then, as I took on the slim prospect for our main course that evening, knowing that just like Mother Hubbard, I was going to find the cupboard woefully ‘bare’ when I got there — the ‘cupboard’, these days, naturally being the fridge and the freezer. But thank goodness for Nursery Rhymes because I realised that there was indeed one food in my cubbyhole cupboard that was going to save the day: tuna fish packed in oil! Polpette di tonno … i.e. meatballs made out of tuna fish (technically the tuna doesn’t qualify them as ‘meat’-balls … but what else can one call them in English? croquettes? ugh). How about … fish-balls?
The ingrdients: salted capers (which need to be rinsed and drained a few times to be rid of the excess saltiness), lemon zest (the zest you see came out of the freezer), parsley, two tins of tunny fish packed in oil (and please note that it wasn’t the top quality kind but still, a good kind), and last, and in the case of any kind of polpette, never least … the moistened bread (again, as I wrote in the other post on meatballs, ‘plastic’ white bread serves very well). You will also need an egg to bind the polpette mixture, bread crumbs to coat them and, optional, some grated parmesan cheese.
The tuna is drained of its oil and gets plopped into the blender …
Add the other ingredients. Ordinarily, I would have chopped up the lemon zest before adding it for a ‘finer’ and more understated taste. But that evening I was in too much of a hurry … and too hungry!
Freshly milled white pepper … (Don’t ask what the coffee is doing in the photo … I expect it was lurking about near the stove when we got home and nobody bothered to put it back where it belongs).
Process the mix being careful not to ‘overwork’ it … it must not go all liquid-y. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and …
Add the grated parmesan cheese if you think you are going to like it. We do and we did.
I put in about 4 heaped soup spoons.
One egg. Mix everything up very well and if the consistency is not thick enough, add some bread crumbs to ‘toughen’ it up.
Shaping the polpette di tonno …
Coating them in bread crumbs …
All those polpette from just two tins of tunny fish!
Fry the polpette in plenty of oil and in small batches. Remove with a slotted spoon and let them rest on some kitchen paper before serving.
I served the polpette over a purée of celery and potatoes (which I had made the day before), together with the peperoni al forno (which I had also made the day before):
Please note the size of the garlic … it is cut very ‘big’. The garlic imparts an inimitably pleasing flavour to the overall taste of the dish and is thus very necessary. However, not everyone, including myself, actually likes to eat the raw garlic itself. The bits of garlic are large enough to be espied by even the most near-sighted diner and hence he or she can safely shove it out of danger’s way, to the far end of the plate.
The impromptu meal brought on by my stubborn desire to tarry a while by the sea reserved another surprise. I remembered that we had some Canadian wild salmon in the fridge, which we ate accompanied by toasted bread and butter. So … what was going to be a very ordinary though perfectly good supper turned out to be a bit of a feast.
It was half past nine by the time we sat down to eat. Very late. Very very late. The sort of naughty ‘late’ that seems fitting only during Summer, when time flows more slowly, ‘a misura d’uomo’, as they say in Italian, meaning ‘suitable or appropriate for man’. And for yet another evening, I was able to ignore the whisper of seasonal melancholy subtly knocking at my front door. It will bang loudly soon enough …