If you want to make use of all that zucchini and all those tomatoes showing up in the farmer’s markets right now — and get a delicious and meatless meal — try making what my mother, the late Rose Popolo Rodricks, used to make: Giambotta. She pronounced it, “Jumbottella,” but the Italian spellings are either Giambotta or Ciambotta, and most people who are familiar with it pronounce it, “Jumbott,” or something like that. Doesn’t matter much. As Red (played by Richard Farnsworth) says to Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) in “The Natural” over dinner in a restaurant: “You can’t spell it, but it eats pretty good, don’t it?”
You can make this easy summer stew with almost any fresh vegetable, but here’s what I used this week: Olive oil. Half a stick of butter. Four cloves garlic, chopped. Two large ripe tomatoes, diced. Two large yellow onions, diced. Two eggplants, peeled and cut into chunks. Four small zucchini, cut into chunks (skin on). Two small summer squash, cut into chunks (skin on). One 28-ounce can of cannellini beans (do not drain). One pound string beans, cut into two-inch pieces. One 28-ounce can petite-diced tomatoes. Hot water or vegetable stock, 32 ounces.
Here’s what you do: Heat a big pot, cover the bottom with olive oil, and lightly brown some chopped garlic and the diced onions. Keep the heat at medium to medium-high. Add the diced fresh tomatoes, the diced zucchini and summer squash, then the eggplant. Add the butter. Add the green beans, and mixed all the ingredients. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Add the hot water or vegetable stock (about 32 ounces) or — if you must — chicken broth. Then pour in the can of cannellini and the can of petite-diced tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat, then simmer until ready to serve. Serve in a bowl with a sprinkle of grated parmesan, some crusty Italian bread and a glass of vino.
A word about meat: My mother would sometimes include Italian sausage in this dish, sizzled separately then cut into bite-size pieces and added to the stew. It’s optional. I say this: Summer is when we get great fresh vegetables — try Giambotta without adding the pork. Treat yourself to good bread and a glass of Chardonnay or Zinfandel.