Unwittingly this morning I initiated what later evolved into a manic culinary project. I have an undying interest in seaside dwelling. Aroused perhaps by the clear blue sky above Sarasota Bay I amused myself during breakfast today by revisiting Villa Luna, the mountain-top home in Porto Rafael, Sardegna where we stayed a number of years ago. Though access to the property is precipitous the reward is a spectacular view of the Mediterranean. The remoteness of the venue invites reflection and planning.
Before the unintentional initiative took hold it required the subsequent – and similarly unanticipated – intelligence that our residence on Longboat Key is home to variety of fresh herbs. This particular topic had arisen last evening in the apartment as we stared across the adjoining lawn at the yachts moored in the boat slip. The bushes on the lawn were too far away to discern their exact composition. But later today a closer examination revealed the surprising detail – one I might add we had likewise encountered on Hilton Head Island years ago in a similarly unlikely spot on a winding field adjoining an inland waterway.
The visit to the Italian island region prompted a vital interest in food. Under most circumstances my activity in this sphere is limited to consumption, usually being satisfied with what I am given. Our first and immediate exploration of local boutique retailers drew us to Italian ham and Pecorino cheese. These ingredients alone traditionally heighten my passion. What however propelled me irretrievably into the kitchen was the discovery outside the door of a rosemary bush. This evergreen aromatic shrub has nothing to do with either rose or Mary; rather the name derives from the Latin “ros” meaning “dew” and “marinus” meaning “of the sea“. The perfumed herb is unquestionably my favourite after Maldon sea salt.
The coalition which arose of these various elements was the pedestrian but acceptably peasant dish “egg-in-the-hole“. I suspect the little talent I have for cooking was inspired in this instance by the elemental mixture of bread, oil, ham and cheese. The wooden fragrance of the Mediterranean herb rosemary was the crowning ornament! The scent of it and the oil “crisping” the bread in the frying pan blended extraordinarily well with the thick wooden counters of the stone-lined kitchen in Sardegna. It was a sensual image I have never forgotten! I recall too my early morning attempt to communicate in basic Italian with the gardener as I tore the fragrant needles from the bountiful bush.
This afternoon we conspired to re-enact “egg-in-the-hole” with the most favourable local ingredients. As I write the performance is yet in its rehearsal stage as we have only bought and stored the necessary elements. The plan is to complete the venture tomorrow morning for breakfast. At the deli counter late this afternoon I ordered a pound of thinly-sliced Black Forest ham. We bought two loaves of bread, one a dense whole-wheat round, the other a buttered brioche loaf. The Pecorino ewes-milk cheese is naturally from Italy. The other requisites are at-hand. Tomorrow morning using a small inverted glass I shall prepare the hole in the slice of bread. The remnant bread shall be added to the frying pan to brown in the olive oil. We have coarse salt – but sadly no Maldon – and small Florida tangerines to start the meal. While it may not achieve the pinnacle of the Sardegna experience it will clearly satisfy the association with the sea and the necessity of salt – both the Sacrament of Heaven!
Villa Luna, Sardegna: