Positioned high above the glittering Tyrrhenian Sea along the staggeringly beautiful Amalfi coast, the small fishing village of Cetara is often missed as the hoards head out to the more popular towns of Ravello, Amalfi itself or Positano to the beaches lined with ice cream coloured umbrellas laid out in their perfectly judged rows. They’re all lovely of course but, in August, no thank you. Cetara however is different. So different I should probably not even talk about it for fear of ruining its perfect peace. Here, the tonno rosso (red tuna) and anchovy boats sit quietly in the mirrored stillness of the harbour their work done under the cover of darkness. The tiny candy coloured streets are shaded by lines of washing and drapes of jewel-coloured bougainvillea. There is hardly a sound to heard. We stop by a tiny shop its open doors laced with strings of garlic and drying chillies. The boxes piled outside are overflowing with plump Marzano tomatoes, bright Romano peppers and Cipolla Rossa di Tropea, the sweet elongated red onions so prized by locals. There are peaches too, apricots and sweet melons but no-one is there to serve us. It’s lunch time of course. We stop by a restaurant that had just opened for its first season to serve platters of marinated fish simply arranged over thinly sliced tomatoes and rings of sweet onions served with a crisp green salad and freshly baked bread. This simple salad is inspired by that lovely lunch in an equally lovely place famous mainly for the production of a local delicacy that dates back to Roman times – colatura di alici. But that’s another story entirely.
2 very ripe plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cipolla rossa di Tropea, peeled and thinly sliced
A few capers or caper berries, to garnish
For the marinade:
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp good quality red wine vinegar
Half a lemon, zested and juiced
8 large leaves basil, finely chopped
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
How I make it
An hour before you want to eat, arrange the tomatoes and onion on a pretty plate.
Whisk together all the marinade ingredients (except the lemon zest) and pour over the tomatoes and onions.
Cover and set aside for one hour to allow the flavours mingle.
Garnish with the lemon zest and the capers/caper berries.