Snappy, spicy, and a perfect lift for so many dishes, this seasoning found in the city of Lecce, in southern Italy's Apulia region, is an old way of putting up the last (or first) of the tomato harvest. There, they are often small oval green tomatoes with pointed tips. Sometimes the tomatoes, in their marinade of garlic, chiles, basil, and mint, are set out on their own as part of an antipasto. On other occasions they season vegetable sautes, soups, tomato sauces, are sauteed into simple pasta dishes, blended with scrambled eggs, and are added to meat stews and ragus. Try a few spoonfuls the next time you saute spinach, sweet peppers, or onions. They're excellent on sandwiches, especially ones of roasted vegetables, or good ham.
Ahead of Time: Tomatoes keep 6 months in the refrigerator as long as they are totally covered with vinegar after each use.
1. In a china or glass bowl combine tomatoes and salt, cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Turn into a sieve and rinse briefly under cold, running water. Toss tomatoes with garlic, chile, sun-dried tomatoes, and herbs.
2. Collect small jars and lids adding up to about 4 cups capacity. Wash them in hot soapy water, then immerse in water in a large pot. Bring lids and jars to a simmer, lift out with tongs and fill with tomato mixture to within 1 inch of jar's lip. Add enough vinegar to cover, topping off with a little oil. Seal, cool, and refrigerate.
3. Marinate 4 days before serving. Top off with more vinegar and seal after each serving.
"Vegetables are perishable, so we don't have any indication of what they looked like 500 years ago," says James Nienhuis, a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin.