It happens over night, so to say. First, the thunderstorms in the second half of August announce that summer is merging into late summer. The fifth season, as Nonna Lina calls the last week of August and the whole month of September. Weatherwise, you get two possibilities: you might either enjoy blessed days full of mellow sunshine, or you might get a taste of autumn cold. By that we mean that the clouds look darker and the garden takes longer to recover from a thunderstorm (or perhaps a tornado, as it happened on Sunday evening over the Cavallino / northeastern Lagoon).
Lina’s generation used to call this season the Fifth Season, and the food benefits from the water, cold spells and misty mornings. These warm days when the summer heat is gone. The British Lifestyle Magazine The Simple Things interviewed us in My City – Appreciating Venice about what exactly this Fifth Season is, its colors, the fruit, vegetables. And the recipes! Here’s a little excerpt from our interview: (click here to read the full version):
What’s it like in September?
Warm and calm. Venice sits in the midst of a vast lagoon and this large water basin stores warmth. This means that summer lasts a little bit longer here. In late summer (we call September ‘summer with a bonus’), the colours become sharper. Early autumn is called ‘Canaletto season’ because the Venetian painters used to benefit from this mesmerising light and clear skies. It’s a great time of the year to go for long walks. The scent of the summer flowers is strong because the heat has abated. On a bright September morning you’ll notice the scents of wisteria, blossoming for the third time and oleander growing in the campi (squares) with its irresistible vanilla-lemon balm fragrance.
Tell us about the light and colours of your city.
In September, the early morning light has a rose gold hue. This colour is accentuated by the red brick façades and many buildings in town that are painted in rosso Veneziano (Venetian red). Towards noon, the sky turns 2 cobalt blue, shifting to emerald by late afternoon. If you’re lucky, your September evening sky will glow rose, pink and dark gold intermingled with light blue.
This is the look and feel of the season, and the fruit and vegetables offered now at the Rialto reflect it, as always. This is why we love our market, and here are our favorite images from September.
Melanzane di Sant’Erasmo. Above you can see melanzana violetta lunga, from the largest vegetable island of the Lagoon, Sant’Erasmo. But how do we eat melanzane (aubergines) in Venice?
A standard dish of the season is melanzane alla parmigiana, which restaurants on the Cavallino peninsula and Iesolo offer as staple food in late summer. And in Venice, this is often part of the seasonal cichetti (Venetian tapas selection).
In addition to this all-Italian dish, we make another called melanzane in salsa curry. These are aubergines cooked al dente and served in a creamy yellow sugo made from panna (sweet cream), curcuma (turmeric), polvere di senape (yellow mustard powder), black pepper, Cayenne pepper, prezzemolo (parsley) and sea salt from Chioggia. We garnish with Taleggio or any semi-solid cheese we have at home, and thus it becomes the favorite pasta dish (pasta corta) of the season. And a healthy one as well, for spices work miracles if you know how and when to use them: For example, this dish helps avoid catching cold and stops a running nose when the season gradually merges into autumn.
Fichi d’India and frigitelli. While the last of the strawberries and apricots from the Martelltal (Valle Martello) in the South Tyrol have disappeared by now, angurie (water melons) are still on sale until late September. At the Rialto, there are more exotic fruit around, arriving from southern Italy. For example, fichi d’India (Indian figs) grow in profusion on the Amalfi coast, and in particular in the hills above the villages Praiano and Furore. I’ve seen people harvest bananas and passion fruit in Campania and Sicily. Here at the Rialto Market, we are so lucky to get them all, freshly delivered from southern Italy, and ready to flavor the sweet dishes of the season, such as our late-summer sour cream breakfast bowl, flavored with honey, Indian figs, blueberries and cane sugar.
We also have a pasta dish which benefits from the sweet-sour flavor of the fichi d’India and frigitelli, green peppers which taste best braised in olive oil and seasoned with a hint of coarse sale marino di Chioggia (sea salt). To this we add a hint of cinnamon, a spoonful of curcuma, a secret mix, and panna (sweet cream), and here you have another seasonal sugo for pasta!
Uva e fichi. In the gardens in Venice, it’s still time to pick the last of the sweet uva fragola. And it’s vendemmia time (wine harvest season) from now in the Lagoon. The Rialto offers delicious grapes from other parts of Italy as well, such as uva Vittoria from Apulia. In the Lagoon, uva Dorona, the golden grapes growing on Mazzorbo and Torcello, will be harvested soon, from the last week of September. And we also get the last of the green figs at the Rialto (and from our own tree in the garden!).
Pomodori camoni: I wrote about the tomatoes growing in the northern Lagoon in this post. Another favorite, whose peak season is late summer, is the pomodori camoni, also called pomodorini verdi: Green tomatos, from which we make confettura di pomodorini verdi, a sweet-sour tomato jam flavored (again!) with spices. This jam is best eaten with any cheese you like, we’d eat it with Taleggio or Agordino di Malga cheese from Belluno. Amongst others, this recipe is part of our upcoming culinary online class: Harvest Time in the Lagoon.
Fagioli cornetti. September is also the time when many vegetables are back in our orto! You could call it second spring time! This is why at the Rialto Market, cornetti, green beans are now available. For example, they taste wonderful in a warm salad with cherry tomatoes, flavored with balsamic vinegar and of course, a hint of spices. Or, use the cornetti in a topping for pancakes: Cook the fagioli cornetti in salted water, braise them in olive oil with dried and fresh tomatoes, and flavor them with pinoli (pine nuts) and sultanas, both roasted in butter. Now, speaking of dried tomatoes …
Pomodorini grappolo. Dried tomatoes (pomodorini secchi) are also back at the Rialto market, the first amongst a colorful variety of dried vegetables and fruit available soon. You could use a few of these to flavor a simple tomato sugo, and add a hint of curcuma and cinnamon as well. You could also use this sugo, garnished with parsley and tarragon, as topping for pancakes, flavored with crispy pieces of bacon if you like.
We’ll have another culinary story online later this week!6