bandiera

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"bandiera", a fragrant stir fry of Italian summer vegetables

This is my mum’s version of the Provençal ratatouille. A dish like this one – basically a stew of summer vegetables – must exist all around the Mediterranean.  Because of its vibrant colors, in Umbria it’s called “bandiera” meaning “flag” . In Basilicata it’s known as ciambotta or cianfotta. It’s a close relative of the Sicilian caponata, another miracle of Southern peasant cooking.

I have with the bandiera the same love-hate relations that others have for custard. If you get the wrong version is awful. Particularly when the veggies have been cooked in tomato sauce until mushy and unrecognizable. My family’s recipe is crisp and fragrant. The trick is to cook vegetables separately and quickly combine them with just a hint of tomato and onion. Keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, it will be slightly softer and mellower, perfect picnic food.

Recipe

  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 plum tomatoes peeled and cubed
  • a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Chop all ingredients before starting to cook. Prepare a bowl where to keep the cooked vegetables. Take a large non-stick pan preferably a wok, heat one tablespoon olive oil and shallow fry the potatoes until crispy. Transfer in the bowl.

Increase the heat to medium-high, add one additional tablespoon olive oil and stir fry  the eggplants until golden and tender. Transfer in the bowl with the potatoes. Repeat separately for the zucchini and peppers.

Lower the heat, add a little more olive oil if necessary and soften the onions until translucent. Increase the heat to maximum, add all the cooked vegetables and the tomatoes and stir fry quickly until the tomatoes are absorbed by the vegetables. Season and transfer back into the bowl. Serve at room temperature or cold, better if the next day.

The dish is fantastic prepared like this but it’s work intensive. If I am pressed for time, I cook the potatoes and onions and then I stir fry them with a bag of mixed grilled vegetables and a two tablespoons of tinned tomatoes. Of course this is also a delicious way to use left over grilled vegetables from your last BBQ.

Serves 4-6

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