Sunday’s in Marion’s Backyard

Sunday’s in Marion’s Backyard

Beginning this week and over the course of the summer, we will bring you a new feature for Tavola – Marion’s Backyard. The Italian Tribune’s Food Editor – Marion Fortunato, will feature her summer recipes and outdoor entertainment ideas highlighting dishes and ingredients essential to Italian cuisine during the summer.  

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Pesche al Vino

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Peaches in wine is a dessert that takes practically no effort to make. The fruit is softened a bit with a mixture of sugar and lemon, then bathed in red wine or prosecco. The result is absolutely sublime.

Serves: 4


  • 1 bottle dry red wine and/or 1 bottle prosecco, both chilled
  • 4 large peaches, cut into wedges*
  • 4 heaped tsp of sugar, plus more to taste
  • juice of ½ lemon

*When you halve the peaches (before cutting into wedges) scoop out some of the fruit underneath the pit. It tends to be slightly bitter which you don’t want in your drink.


Choose ripe peaches that are soft but firm to the touch. Add the peaches to a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss gently. You’ll want the peaches slightly sweet. Drizzle the juice of ½ lemon over the top. Let the peaches sit for about 15 minutes to soften and absorb the lemon. To serve, add the peaches, including some of the fruit syrup that has puddled at the bottom of the bowl to wine glasses. Top each glass with red wine or prosecco. Chill the glasses for 30 minutes for the flavors to infuse and serve cold.

Sicilian Insalata di Mare

This seafood salad can be a meal in itself. You can adapt the recipe by adding other vegetables, such as arugula and red onion, but the beauty of this Sicilian dish lies in the fresh ingredients and Mediterranean flair.


  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ pound cleaned calamari, bodies cut crosswise into ½ inch-thick rings, tentacles halved lengthwise
  • ½ pound bay scallops or quartered sea scallops
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound mixed yellow wax and green beans, ends trimmed, beans cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add ½ teaspoon of the garlic and cook, stirring until the shrimp turn a light pink, about 1 minute. Transfer the shrimp to a platter. Add the water to the skillet and deglaze over high heat, scraping the pan. Pour the pan juices into a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet. Add the squid and scallops. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add ½ teaspoon of the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to the platter.

Pour the reserved pan juices from the bowl into the skillet and cook over high heat, again, deglazing the bottom of the pan. Add the mussels and the remaining ½ teaspoon of garlic and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over high heat until the shells open, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a large bowl (discard any that do not open). When the shells are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and add it to the platter.

Pour any accumulated shellfish juices into the skillet and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced to ¼ cup. Pour the liquid into a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil and let cool. Stir in all of the seafood and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool under running water; pat dry. Add the beans, basil, tomatoes and parsley to the seafood salad. Season with salt and serve with lemon wedges.

Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms and Caramelized Onion

This is the perfect time of the year to prepare dishes with zucchini blossoms. The delightful texture of the blossoms pairs wonderfully with caramelized onions. The tomatoes and zucchini add to the body of the recipe creating a light and flavorful dish.


  • 20 zucchini blossoms, stems removed (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 3 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups ¼ inch cubes zucchini (about 3 medium)
  • 1 ¼  pounds tomatoes, seeded, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley


Gently rinse and dry zucchini blossoms. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, sprinkle with salt and sauté until deep golden, about 20 minutes; set aside.

Cook penne in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, heat 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini blossoms and sauté until wilted, turning, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper towels and gently blot. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini cubes; sprinkle with salt and sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, caramelized onion and crushed red pepper to zucchini mixture; sauté 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vegetable mixture and 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid to pasta and toss to coat, adding more liquid if dry. Stir in cheese. Transfer pasta to large serving bowl; top with blossoms and sprinkle with parsley.

Sicilian Grilled Chicken with Artichokes and Eggplant


This delicious chicken entree has many of the classic Mediterranean flavors. The secret to a tender and juicy grilled chicken is to keep the temperature of the grill from becoming too hot – the lower temperature makes all the difference, so cook it slowly and you’ll taste the difference.

Mediterranean Drizzle

  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 four pound chickens

Artichokes and Eggplant

  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice


Mediterranean drizzle

Mash garlic and 2 teaspoons coarse salt in mortar with pestle or in small bowl with back of spoon until paste forms. Whisk in lemon juice, then oil. Use at room temperature.


Whisk lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Place 1 whole chicken in each of 2 re-sealable plastic bags. Divide lemon marinade between bags. Seal bags, releasing excess air. Turn to coat chicken with marinade. Chill chicken at least 1 hour and up to 1 day, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Remove chickens from marinade. Sprinkle chickens inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie legs together. Place chickens, breast side down on grill. Cover and grill chickens 45 minutes. Try to maintain a barbecue temperature between 350°F and 400°F. Turn chickens breast side up. Cover and grill until temperature reads 165°F at the thickest part of the thigh – about 35 minutes longer. Transfer chickens to work surface and let rest 10 minutes.

Carve the chickens and transfer to platter. Arrange grilled lemons, baby artichokes and eggplant around chickens. Spoon some of Mediterranean drizzle over chicken and vegetables. Garnish with grilled lemons.


Squeeze juice from lemon into bowl of cold water. Cut stem off 1 artichoke, leaving about 1 inch. Snap off bottom 3 rows of leaves. Cut off tip of artichoke. Halve artichoke lengthwise. Scrape out choke. Place in lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add artichokes and boil until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain; pat dry. Mix oil and 1/3 cup lemon juice in small bowl. Brush artichokes with some of dressing.

Grill until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to large bowl. Mix in dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer artichokes to platter. Pour dressing into small bowl. Serve artichokes warm or at room temperature, offering dressing alongside. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)


In a large bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 cup warm water; stir until the salt is fully dissolved. Add 6 to 8 cups cold water. Cut off and discard the stem end of the eggplant. Leave the skin on for grilling, it helps them to keep their shape on the grill. Cut the eggplant into ¾-inch thick slices. Place the slices in the salt water and let soak for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.

Drain the eggplant and pat it dry. Lay the slices on a large baking sheet or tray. Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay the slices oiled-side-down on the grill. ​​Close the lid if using a gas grill and cook until grill marks appear, about 5 minutes. Brush the top sides of the slices with oil and sprinkle them with salt. Turn the slices over and cook until the eggplant is very tender – about 5 more minutes.

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