Recipe: Ciambotta with Baked Eggs, Savory, and Ragusano Cheese
Does the end of summer scare you, make you feel like diving head first into a big red watermelon and never coming out? I sometimes feel that way.
Got anxiety? I’ve found that a good solution is to gather what I can of the waning summer produce—eggplant, tomatoes, maybe corn, zucchini, sweet and hot peppers—and fashion them into something with a little more structure than your typical freewheeling summer fare, a dish that can address that back-to-school reflux burning up your throat. Cook something that means business. Turning on the oven will help you feel like an adult on a path to a serious life, walking in sturdy pumps, not flip-flops.
So here it is, a ciambotta, a summer dish, yes, but when piled into a baking dish, with eggs cracked on top, and finished with Ragusano, that excellent Sicilian caciocavallo cheese, it’s, well, a casserole, and a casserole always makes me feel as if I’ve really got a handle on the situation. I think.
Ciambotta with Baked Eggs, Savory, and Ragusano Cheese
(Serves 3 as a light supper)
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 red summer scallions, chopped
2 small inner celery stalks, chopped, plus a handful of celery leaves, lightly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
½ a fresh red peperoncino, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 medium eggplants, unpeeled, cut into small cubes
2 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
About 6 large sprigs of summer savory, the leaves lightly chopped
¼ cup dry Marsala wine
3 medium-size round summer tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped, lightly salted, and left to drain in a colander over a bowl for 30 minutes (save the tomato water)
½ cup capers, well dried
6 large eggs, room temperature
A small chunk of Ragusano cheese (a Sicilian caciacavallo), roughly grated
A handful of basil leaves, lightly chopped
In a very large skillet (one you can put in the oven, perhaps cast iron), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium flame. Add the scallion, celery, red bell pepper, and peperoncino, and sauté until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and sauté a minute longer. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and savory, season with salt, and sauté about 5 minutes longer, covering the skillet for a few minutes if the vegetables get too dry. Add the Marsala, and let it boil for a few seconds. Add the tomatoes, and simmer, uncovered, at a lively bubble for about 8 minutes longer, or until all the vegetables are just tender, adding the reserved tomato water if the ciambotta looks dry. The texture should be chunky, not too cooked down, with the tomatoes adding some liquid. Add the celery leaves and the capers, and season with a little more salt if needed. Give it a stir.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Make 6 indentations by pressing a spoon down into the surface of the ciambotta, more or less equally spaced, getting them as deep as you can. Crack an egg into each one. Season each egg with a little salt, and scatter on the Ragusano. Give everything a drizzle of fresh olive oil, and bake until the whites of the eggs are set but the yokes are still a little runny, about 12 to 15 minutes. Garnish with the basil. Serve hot.