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Kathy Mattea's Ackumpkee

About the Recipe

This is something my Dad and I would do for lunch at the height of the summer. And it has a little ritual to it. He would sing while he'd wash the veggies, and then we'd sit and each make our own bowl. The other thing I love is that you have to DO it. It's not passive, it's like a little dance. No one else in my family liked it, so it became a special little thing between us. 

My Dad learned this recipe from his father, who was from the Piedmont region of Italy (he called it "Piemonte"). He was from a small town just outside Turin (which he always called "Torino"). I still make this for myself, solo, every summer, at the height of veggie season. It connects me, through time and space, with my Dad, and my Grandfather, and all my ancestors back in Italy. And because it's not something everyone in my family participated in or particularly liked, it's always marked a particular bond between my father and myself. I think of it as having lunch together, still, even though he is no longer alive, and I'm solo at the kitchen table. 


The vegetables (we usually wash them all and have them in a big bowl in the center of the table):

  • Celery stalks, with leaves (the inner, very light green ones are best, and especially the tiny heart of the celery at the middle)

  • Green pepper, cut into strips, North to South

  • Green onions

  • Radishes

  • Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes (preferably just picked and still warm from the garden sun!!!)


Okay, this is all by feel. It's best at the height of the summer, when the tomatoes and peppers are just ripe. 


The "stuff":

  • This you have to improvise with. Pour some olive oil into a shallow bowl. Then add apple cider vinegar. You should have about 2/3 oil and 1/3 vinegar, more or less. Add salt. 

  • Have some bread on hand. Doesn't have to be fancy....but it does help to balance things out. 


Here's how we do it at our house:

  • Cut up the tomato into small pieces in the olive oil mixture, the size you can pick up with a fork.

  • Slice the radishes into rounds and add them. 

  • Salt the whole darn thing. (I know you added salt before, but go ahead and salt the tomato mixture again)

  • Take a stalk of the celery, and hold the stem end against the edge of the table, and smack it with your fist. This makes lots of little cracks for the ackumpukee to get into. 

  • Drag the celery through the bowl, then with a fork, take a bite of the tomato and radish. Yum.

  • Then maybe drag the green pepper thru the stuff, then a bite of bread, then smash the white end of a green onion and do that one. 


You keep alternating, and as the tomato juices mix with the ackumpukee, it just tastes better and better. The bread gives you a little respite from the intensity of the veggies and the juices. It sort of resets the palate for the next round. And the variation in textures is a big part of the fun.


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