I willingly confess to cooking a great deal less in the summer. About the only thing I’m conscious of during extremely steamy, humid days is the relentless rising of the heat index. When even the slightest
movement causes salty sweat to slide slowly down my nose, just staying coherent is an exhausting event. No way is that oven dial passing go.
During this sweltering season, “cooking “ is all about selecting satisfying ingredients that can be assembled with minimal effort. Thank goodness for all the spectacular summer time ingredients that can help cool a candent cook. I pop frozen grapes, superb little sugar bombs, that instantly cool a torrid temper, greedily suck down ice cold chunks of watermelon and consume copious quantities of crisp, garden fresh cucumbers, doused with vinegar and feathered with fresh dill.
But my ultimate cool down method is simply to support my local restaurants. The calming climate of an air conditioned dining room and the pleasant banter of someone taking my order provides such lovely relief.
My latest destination of deliciousness is Campania in Branford, CT. Campania fulfills every criteria my conscious cooking self cries out for, especially my desire for exquisite ingredients, perfectly prepared.
But it’s really a rather intimate experience. This is a restaurant where the owners, Ron and Nancy Solevo, welcome you with genuine interest and delight , as though they were expecting you and are truly happy you’ve arrived. “It’s all about the love” has never been a more appropriate phrase when it comes to describing Campania. Wonderful, wonderful Italian love, dished up in big portions and big cheek kisses.
Whenever I am asked why I think the food is so good at Campania, I simply respond again and again “it’s all about the love.” Ron presides over his kitchen with a passion that renders dishes that consistently, reliably and deeply satisfy. Each time I visit, I become a little more enamored with the Campania experience.
It’s not just me succumbing to the many charms of Campania. Even BK, my frequent dining companion, a man who definitively declares that he “only eats to live” has proclaimed Campania one of his favorites.
At Campania, he sniffs, he savors, he smiles. He has been observed swooning over the beautifully vibrant beet salad, a plenteous platter filled with glistening magenta beets, richly infused with flavors of balsamic and fig, and crowned with creamy goat cheese. When presented with an immense portion of meltingly tender pork braciole, BK reverently took his first bite, closed his eyes and said breathily “I love this food, I really love this food”. And when Nancy informed him that she had made icebox cake for the evening’s dessert special, Mr. “Eat to Live”, lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
I really love a creative cocktail. Nancy and Ron’s son, Joe, serves up sensational cocktails that are potent yet palatable, several concocted from homemade fruit infused liquors and fresh herbal embellishments. A recent blush pink watermelon martini was so luscious on a languid summer night and delighted the entire table with it’s liquid Jolly Rancher like flavor.
I also love choosing from the day’s specials. I feel this is where a chef can really shine and share his creativity. I have been duly dazzled by Ron’s interpretation of chilled seafood salad. Calamari, scungilli and scallops were pleasantly sweet with a terrifically tender texture. But it was the amazing immersion of lively lemon and herbal flavors that made it so memorable. A dissecting discussion determined that there was exceptional olive oil bringing this dish to full fruition, indeed, that good oil gave a long lingering layer of eloquence to this quintessentially summer selection.
My exploration as cook and food enthusiast requires that I taste as much as possible, no? So I am truly blessed to have loving dining companions who generously share their bounty. Not everyone easily tolerates a roving fork. That genial generosity at Campania has filled my plate with tasty bits of seared ahi tuna served with piquant, peppery arugula, spicy cherry peppers stuffed with tuna, capers and anchovy, veal piccata with a melodious mélange of capers, shallots, white wine and lemon, and zuppa de pesce, an astonishing assortment of seafood. At Campania, it’s an ocean liner sized platter, well laden with an enormous lobster tail, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops and more!!
Sometimes it’s a simple plate of pasta that feels right and I really enjoy the specially imported pasta used in Campania’s kitchen. I particularly adore the capellini, especially when kissed with cream, tomato and a touch of fennel, with plump, juicy shrimp entangled in it’s delicate strands. Mmmmmmm, maybe not so simple, but simply delicious.
Seeing as it’s a scorching summer out there, I leave room for gelato. Of course, I always leave room for gelato. Because it’s gelato…it’s sexy, it’s seductive, it’s very Italian and it’s so scrumptious. Here in the cool confines of Campania, I slowly savor that gelato, supremely sated and surrounded by love.
284 East Main Street
As “The Conscious Cook”, Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, writes about living and eating healthfully. She teaches cooking classes to students of all ages, utilizing incredibly tasty, natural ingredients and brilliantly simple recipes.
A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College, Robin is a passionate food professional who is always exploring new ways to live a delicious life.
“Confessions of A Conscious Cook” follows Robin’s more indulgent adventures and experiences.
For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net