And so, and now, another summer month has passed.
We took holidays at the end of August this year, believing it would have made our summer feel longer, stretching it further into early September. We are going to Sicily for two weeks (!), and I can hardly contain the excitement. In the meantime, though, as we roll out of one working week into another, I live with the uncomfortable feeling that summer is slipping through my fingers – too fast, too soon.
I have been resonating a lot with Molly’s thoughts on feeling busy. Being shut in a cubicle while summer is exploding outside makes me feel like I’m missing out on the best things in life – picking berries, baking pies, watching clouds, sleeping in the sun, swimming in the ocean and eating lots of grilled fish, to name a few. Days are so long and (mostly) beautiful here finally that I ache to be outdoors. I blame it on my lack of vitamin D.
Thankfully, we had quite a few sunny weekends this year. We spent most of them in the park, snoozing, walking and tanning and picnicking – grazing on cold salads packed with whole grains, vegetables and fresh herbs – this one was a big hit. A couple of weeks ago we also went to see The National playing in Hyde Park. I am currently obsessed with them. Each and every song resonates with me to a level I didn’t think possible. I feel very much like the teenage version of myself right now.
Anyway, we had fregola salad for lunch that day in Hyde Park (perhaps this makes me an adult after all), and I made a version of it again the other night. Hearty forkfuls of chewy, nutty wheat coated in sweet, charred, soft baked tomatoes, well-seasoned aubergine and too much Parmesan, a couple of glasses of white wine from Veneto. This is what summer should always be made of.
Fregola with Roasted Tomato and Aubergine
Fregola is a typical Sardinian kind of pasta. It is similar in shape and texture to pearl couscous as it also consists of small balls of durum wheat flour, dried and toasted, and comes in a mix of colours, from pale golden to sienna. The flavour is pleasantly sweet and nutty, the texture firm, holding its shape perfectly in soups and stews. It is traditionally eaten in a saffron broth with clams, but it is equally good in salads. Here, I tossed it with roasted aubergines and cherry tomatoes, garlic, lots of basil, pine nuts and Parmesan, but I encourage you to experiment and find your favourite combination.
Grated Parmesan, for serving
Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment; scatter one with the aubergine plus the garlic; on the other, place the cherry tomatoes, cut side down. Season with generous salt, pepper and a spoonful of oil each. Bake for 40-45 minutes, checking halfway through and turning the aubergine pieces if needed. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the fregola and cook for 10-12 minutes, until al dente but cooked through. Drain, then transfer it back to the same pot, and season with the remaining oil. Stir in the seasoning – aubergine and tomato – and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and roughly torn basil leaves. Give it another stir to combine. Serve warm, with generous grated Parmesan.