By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
My Grandma Francesca was an aristocratic lady from Palermo, and she has always been an inspiration for my way of cooking. With the simplest of ingredients, she was able to improvise sumptuous meals for small gatherings or large banquets.
From my grandmother, I learned the joys of hospitality. Her house was, as is mine now, always full of people sharing wonderful food together. To my family, this is the best celebration and the true meaning of friendship. To us, "Open your heart" means "Open your kitchen pantry."
Thanks to my generous grandma, I also have a holiday house in the fantastic island of Vulcano, a tiny place in the Eolian archipelago in Sicily. My grandpa, who was from far Northern Italy, fell in love with my grandma in Sicily, but they decided to get married and live in the middle of Italy, in Florence, where I was born and still live. However, their love for Sicily was too strong. In 1964, before Vulcano became the tourist destination it is now, the island was a wild place in the middle of nowhere. This is where my grandfather built a big house from scratch.
The island is really an old volcano, and my house faces the crater. From the terrace, you can see all the other little islands, including Stromboli, still an active volcano.
Today I’d love to share a typical recipe of the Eolian islands—a simple Mediterranean dish that is fresh, genuine, and packed with flavor.
The term Cunzato, in Sicilian dialect, means “dressing." You can dress your bread with all the ingredients you want, adding green salad, mozzarella, ricotta, boiled eggs, tuna, olives, or whatever your creativity suggests!
Loaf of salted, durum wheat bread
8 cherry tomatoes
1 tsp capers
1 red onion
1 red chili pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Cut the loaf of bread in half. Drizzling extra virgin olive oil into a pan, place the bread on top, heating it until lightly golden brown.
Cut cherry tomatoes and onion and place the slices on the bread. Add capers, olives, and some anchovies. Drizzle with oil and add the herbs, a pinch of salt, and hot pepper.
The dish is ready!
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. 'Ippo' loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), and Superfoods, Ippo is currently finishing her latest work, The Lords of Florence (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).