I love all brassicas (brassicaceae or mustard family), not just the Italian cime di rape, the coloured (green, purple, pink) and cream cauliflowers, broccoli, cavolo nero, kale, kohlrabi, cabbages Brussels sprouts and all of those Asian mustard greens .
If we are talking about favourite Sicilian brassicas, there are the cime di rape, coloured cauliflowers, the green and purple coloured kohlrabi and broccoli.
Italians seem to buy local produce and you are unlikely not find brussel sprouts, savoy cabbages, cavolo nero or red cabbage in Sicily – these are grown in north of Italy. In the north of Italy you are less likely to find cime di rape or kohlrabi or the purple cauliflowers.
In Sicily the white cabbage (cavolo cappuccio), available in winter, is often used uncooked as a salad green and simply dressed with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The salad tastes quite sweet.
Brussels sprouts in Italy are called cavolini or cavoletti di Bruxelles (or Brussels).
The Brussels sprouts in my mother’s kitchen were always brasati (braised in a little broth – stock or stock cube with a little water). My mother’s brussel sprouts were always overcooked and unfortunately for me this seems to be the preferred way that Italians prefer to eat vegetables.
Brussels sprouts, 1k
onions, 2 sliced finely
butter and extra virgin olive oil, ½-¾ cup
stock/broth, veal or chicken, ½- 1 cup
pepper and salt to taste
Remove the external leaves to the cavolini, and cut a little cross at the base
(to help them cook evenly).
Precook them for about 5 mins by boiling them in salted, boiling water (I do not pre cook them) and drain well.
Sauté the onions in a mixture of oil and butter, add the cavolini and toss them around till coated.
Add the broth, salt and pepper, partly cover them with a lid and braise slowly.
Red cabbage (cavolo cappuccio rosso) is not a Sicilian vegetable, but is appreciated in Trieste and goes very well with pork. The following recipe has Austrian origins, which is not surprising when one looks at Trieste’s location.
bacon or speck cut into very small cubes, ½ – 1 cup
red cabbage, ½ sliced very thinly
extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
red wine vinegar, ½ cup
salt and pepper to taste
Lightly brown the bacon or speck in a little oil.
Boil the vinegar, add the cumin seeds and a little salt and pour the hot mixture over the cabbage.
Add the bacon, toss and let it marinade for at least 2 hours.
Add a drizzle of oil when ready to serve.
Cooked cabbage is not very common in Sicily, but it is in Trieste and I have always loved the way my mother cooks Savoy cabbage (cappuccio verza).
When we first arrived in Australia, there was plenty of cabbage and not much else in the way of green vegetables, so cabbage was frequently eaten. As silly as this may seem to you, I used to love this cabbage dish as a filling in a sandwich or panino (bread roll). Although it was my favourite filling I used to cringe on those occasions that my mother had packed this for my school lunch. It used to smell so strongly and on those particular days, I used to pretend I had forgotten my lunch and ate it on the way home. My school bag always needed to be aired overnight.
Savoy cabbage, ½ sliced thinly
garlic, 3 cloves, chopped
white wine, ½ glass or water
bay leaves, 2, fresh
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil, ½-¾ cup
Add the garlic and the cabbage to the hot oil.
Stir the cabbage in the oil until it begins to soften, add the wine, bay leaves and the salt and pepper.
Cover the pan and cook on very gentle heat for at least 20 minutes (my mother cooked it twice as long). Stir from time to time to ensure that it is not sticking and add more wine or water if necessary.
CAVOLOFIORE AFFOGATO (cauliflower)