Positano dreaming – a Campania menu

A year ago this week we were in Positano, Italy with a group of friends with whom we love to travel, celebrating the 50th birthday of our friend Jane. We ten (David, Paul and Jane, Kate and Jay, Kevin and Maureen, Robert, and Bill) were staying in a villa high above the beaches, inaccessible to motor vehicles (not even a scooter) without a winding walk down long, uneven steps to a narrow drive in order to reach the main thoroughfare that winds around the coast and hills, through Positano and on south. Kate had seriously injured her foot prior to the trip and was not able to walk much. Paul, our host, had arranged for an air-conditioned van to be at our disposal when needed. Still, some measure of walking up and down the steep roads was unavoidable.

Eight years prior, on an earlier group trip to Rome to celebrate Paul’s birthday, I severely sprained my ankle a few days before flying. Contrary to my usual caution, I wouldn’t get it x-rayed for fear they’d put me in a cast. So like Kate last year, I hobbled, iced and elevated through two weeks of vacationing.

So it strikes me as absurdly appropriate that with Kevin and Maureen due tomorrow for their first visit to our home, and me planning a Campania-style feast, that I should clumsily smash my 5th metatarsel and break two bones in my right foot. As a result of this break, for the next two or three weeks I will have to curtail gardening, skip berry picking, and avoid the Y and long walks.  Of course David says we should go out to dinner, that no guest would expect a home cooked meal – and I should not expect of myself. But planning and cooking is a great pleasure to me. Having to sacrifice all these summer delights for two weeks is asking too much.

Except for frying the eggplant and some stirring, I think I can make most of this dinner seated. Once I get the wood fire built, I can relinquish the grilling to David. Then I will allow him and the guests to get the table set, mix the drinks, take the house tour while I am propped on a pretty pillow with a cold drink.

Fortunately, July in New York is the perfect time for a Positano-inspired dinner. I have just one jar left of last year’s tomato sauce. Fresh garlic, onions and shallots have already been harvested, and when combined with Crandall’s Corners Farm eggplants, everything is in order for a classic parmigiana di melanzane. Last week I tested my overgrown green beans and discovered they make an excellent substitute for Italian beans for a cool salad dressed in lemon, red onions and garlic.  The pork tenderloin, while not traditionally Italian, once rubbed in a pesto of lemon, pepper arugula and olive oil, and grilled, will be a perfect complement to the summery vegetables.

Tomatoes are coming in slowly, and I have four on the counter – so the question remains, which ubiquitous Campania salad we will begin with: arugula or tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

And dessert can be a no bake option: a variation on a semi freddo using the chocolate biscotti crumbs I saved in the freezer since December as a crust, a good local vanilla ice cream, folded with whipped cream and my own black berry coulis, frozen into a spring form pan.

Local Sources:

Arugula, basil, tomatoes, oregano, green beans from the kitchen garden

Shallots from the community garden plot

Onions, garlic and eggplant from Crandall Corner’s Farms

Flying Pig pork tenderloin

Wilcox Vanilla Ice cream

Wild berries

Beeswing Biscotti

McCarthy Dinner Menu – August 1, 2011

Insalata di ruccola

Parmigiana di melanzane

Grilled pork tenderloin with Arugula and basil pesto

Fagiolini Di Santa Maria Assunta

Chocolate -crusted Vanilla and Blackberry semi freddo

The recipe: Fagiolini Di Santa Maria Assunta

A crunchy green bean salad with red onion and prosciutto

Named for the church overlooking the beach at Positano, inspired by the lights at dusk as we watched night fall from the dining room of Le Sirenuse

1.5 (or more) pounds fresh string beans, trimmed

1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 T red wine vinegar

1 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)


1 garlic clove, slivered

1/4 pound prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced and cut into long, thin strands crisped in a skillet

Have your deli slice and stack the prosciutto without paper between the layers) Stack several slices prosciutto and slice into long, thin strands no more than 1/8-inch thick.


Heat a large pot of water, with 1t of salt, to boil. Toss in the trimmed whole green beans, stir to submerge and turn off the heat and cover.  Allow to blanch for 4 minutes. Test a large bean – it should be slightly tender but still have crunch. You can leave them in an extra 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the size of your beans. Strain beans in a colander and dump them onto a large dry towel, separate into one layer and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile make the dressing in a blender or processor. Combine:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • With blender on drizzle in
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil blend to emulsify

Pour into a large bowl and add

  • 1 garlic clove, slivered very finely
  • 1 cup (about half) a red onion sliced paper thin

An hour before serving: toss green beans into onion/vinaigrette bowl, toss to coat and chill until served.

To serve: mound on a platter or bowl and top with crispy shreds of fried prosciutto and a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley, oregano and or rosemary. You can garnish with a pinch of cracked black pepper and fine sea salt.

Church of Santa Maria Assunta from the dining room at Le Sirenuse


About barbaraprice

Artist, Food writer, book editor, gardener
This entry was posted in Adventures in cooking, Entertaining, Gardening, Vegetables and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Positano dreaming – a Campania menu

  1. Susan says:

    Gorgeous Photo and Wonderful Menu ~ an inspired cook for sure!

  2. barbaraprice says:

    Thanks Susan! You are another one of my inspirations!

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