Tag Archives: Peas

FRITTEDDA (A sauté of spring vegetables)

Frittedda is exclusively Sicilian and is a luscious combination of spring vegetables lightly sautéed and with minimum amount of stirring to preserve the textures and fresh, characteristic flavours of each ingredient — the sweetness of the peas, the slightly bitter taste of the artichokes and the delicate, nutty taste of broad beans. It is really a slightly cooked salad and each vegetable should be young and fresh.

In Sicily this dish is usually made at the beginning of spring (Primavera), around the feast day of San Giuseppe (19 March) when the first peas and broad beans come into season. It is thought that the origins of the dish are from around the northwestern part of Sicily (from Palermo to Trapani), but I have also found recipes from the agricultural areas in the centre of Sicily, in Caltanissetta, Enna and across to Agrigento and all have their own variations.

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Because frittedda is a celebration of spring, I also like to include asparagus, but this is not in traditional recipes. Use white or green asparagus, thick or thin. Yet again breaking with tradition I often add a little strong broth for extra flavour — Sicilians seldom add stock to food and rely on the natural flavours of the ingredients. They know that the sun always shines in Sicily and therefore, their produce tastes better.

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To fully appreciate the flavour of frittedda, I like to eat it at room temperature (like caponata) and as a separate course — as an antipasto with some good bread. The recipe also makes a good pasta sauce to celebrate spring.

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artichokes, about 3 young, tender
peas, 750g (250g, shelled weight)
broad beans, young, 1kg (these will result in about shelled 350g) The broad beans should be young and small — if they are not, (remove the outer peel of each bean)
asparagus (250g). Snap the bottoms from the asparagus and cut the spears into 2cm lengths
spring onions, 3-4, sliced thinly (including the green parts)
lemon, 1 for the acidulated water
extra virgin olive oil, about ½ cup
salt and pepper
white wine vinegar, ½ tablespoon or the juice of ½ lemon
sugar, about a teaspoon
fresh mint leaves, to sprinkle on top before serving

Prepare the artichokes – strip off the tough outer leaves. It is difficult to purchase young artichokes in Australia so you may need to remove quite a few of them.
Keep the artichokes in acidulated water (use juice of 1 lemon) as you clean them and until you are ready to use.
Cut each artichokes into quarters. Slice the artichokes into thin slices. I also use the stalk of the artichoke (stripped of its outer fibrous layer).

Select a wide pan with a heavy bottom and cook as follows:
Add some of the oil.
Add the artichokes and sauté them gently for about 5-7 minutes (tossing the pan, rather than stirring and trying not to disturb the ingredients too much).
Before proceeding to the next stage, taste the artichokes, and if they need more cooking sprinkle them with about ½ cup of water, cover the saucepan with a lid and stew gently for about 10 minutes. You will know when the artichokes are cooked as there will only be slight resistance when pricked with a fork.
Add more oil, the spring onions, the peas and broad beans, salt and pepper. Toss and shake the ingredients around gently to ensure that the vegetables do not stick. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add a dash of water (or stock).
Add the asparagus and cook for a few minutes longer.
Place the ingredients into a bowl or they will keep on cooking.
Add the white wine vinegar or the juice of ½ lemon – the small amount of vinegar or lemon juice provides a little acidity in contrast to the sweetness of the dish. You could also add a little sugar.
I sometimes add a little grated nutmeg – this accentuates the sweetness of the ingredients. Fresh mint leaves will accentuate the freshness but put them on top the frittedda when you are ready to serve it (mint leaves discolour easily).

Variations

The Palermitani (from Palermo) add the agro dolce sauce (sweet and sour sauce like when making caponata) made with caramelised sugar and vinegar at the end of cooking.

In Enna, in the centre of the island, wild fennel is added during cooking.

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PASTA WITH SARDINES AND PEAS (PASTA CA NOCCA – PASTA COI FIOCCHI)

Anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte (Italian saying)
Even the eyes want their part.

I am always fascinated by the literal and figurative use of language especially to describe particular dishes; for example, pasta ca nocca (Sicilian): the pasta is dressed with peas and fresh sardines.

Nocca is a bow or a ribbon in Sicilian. A coloured ribbon or a bow in one’s hair looks attractive – probably at the time Sicilians came up with its name rather than now. . This pasta contains peas, and the contrasting green against the pasta, is eye catching and demands admiration, hence the name. I make the dish even prettier by using farfalle shaped pasta (butterflies) although these look more like bows to me.

INGREDIENTS
pasta, 500g, short pasta (such as farfalle fusilli or shells)
sardines, 300g fillets
peas, 400g fresh, green, young and shelled
parsley, a small bunch, cut finely
onion, 1 cut finely
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
grated pecorino, to taste

PROCESSES

Soften the onion in the extra virgin olive oil.
Add the peas, seasoning and the parsley. Without the lid, stir the contents gently over medium heat until the peas are well coated with the oil and the parsley has softened.
Add a splash of water (or white wine or vegetable stock), cover and cook gently until the peas have softened.
Add the sardines and continue to braise the contents uncovered until the sardines have cooked (only a few minutes) and broken up in the sauce.
As an alternative, I like to lightly fry the sardines separately and then add them to the cooked pasta and the peas. This is not the traditional method for this recipe, but I particularly like to taste individual flavours.
Present with grated pecorino.
VARIATIONS
In some households a little tomato salsa is added to the peas.
Others add wild fennel.
Some use anchovies instead of fresh sardines.

 

 

 

TONNO E PISELLI (Tuna and peas)

Finally, Albacore tuna is available again in one stall at the Queen Victoria market. This tuna is sustainable, it is a lean fish and it can be quite dry if served without a sauce.

You can buy albacore tuna cut as a fillet or as slices from the centre of the fish – this cut will include the spinal bones and if you are braising the fish the bones will contribute to the taste. In Sicily this cut of tuna is called a ruota (wheel); the bones can then be easily removed at the time of serving. The wheel of tuna will have the skin still on make sure that the scales have been removed and make splits into the skin to stop it curling. Or you can remove the skin altogether.

Tuna and peas is a very common combination for Italians. I remember so vividly my maternal grandmother cooking wheels of tuna in very crowded saucepans, bubbling away on her stove in Catania, Sicily. Sometimes she also added tomatoes to the braise and studded the tuna with cloves of garlic.

Peas are sweet, hence the cinnamon stick. Sometimes I add nutmeg instead (for the same reason). Both the cinnamon and the nutmeg are optional; if using nutmeg, add it at the final stages of cooking.

Once cooked, you can also remove the centre bone, break up the tuna and serve it as a pasta sauce.

For 4 people

INGREDIENTS
1 slice of albacore tuna (about 700g)
1 onion,
400g of shelled peas
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil,
salt and pepper
2-3 fresh bay leaves
1tbs tomato paste for colour (optional)
1 cup of white dry wine
1-2 cinnamon sticks or some grated nutmeg (optional)

PROCESSES
Sauté the chopped onion lightly in the oil – use low heat.
Add the tuna and seal on both sides.
Add seasoning, bay leaves, wine and cinnamon stick.
Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the peas 10 minutes into the cooking and If adding nutmeg add it at this time. Do not let the braise get dry and add a little more liquid (water and or wine) if necessary.

 

If using it as a pasta sauce:

Use 400 g pasta, short shapes.
Leave the fish in the pan while you cook the pasta.
Drain it.
Remove the central bones from the tuna (if there are any) and return them to the pan.
Dress the pasta and serve.
Unlike the rest of Italy, Sicilians include grated cheese with fish.

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CALAMARETTI IN TEGAME – in Sicilian it is CALAMARICCHI ’N’TIANU (Small calamari braised with tomatoes and potatoes)

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Calamaretti is the diminutive of calamari and Italians do mean small. This is a common recipe for braised calamaretti. In Australia it is often difficult to purchase small sized squid or cuttlefish, but do your best.  A tegame, is a shallow pan.

The photo of this squid was taken in the fish market in Catania, however I have been extremely pleased with the squid from my fish vendor (Happy Tuna stall in the Queen Victoria Market) and I have been buying it frequently.

I particularly like char grilled calamari with a salmoriglio dressing (oil, lemon, parsley, oregano). However, a simple braised calamari is also a good alternative, especially in winter.

For a main course you will need 3 kg of young calamari or more because they shrink. Potatoes and peas are often included in this dish.

INGREDIENTS
small squid, 3 kg
white wine,1 cup
flat leaf parsley, chopped, 1 cup
extra virgin olive oil,  ½  cup
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
onions, 2 chopped
potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes or chunks (estimate for 30mins cooking time)
tomato salsa, 1 cup

TOMATO SALSA: fresh, peeled, ripe, chopped tomatoes or a can (with the liquid), a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic cloves left whole, fresh basil or dried oregano and a little seasoning. Place all of the ingredients into a pan together and evaporate until thickened. Add a little sugar, more olive oil and some extra leaves of fresh basil.

PROCESSES
Prepare the squid by removing the head with a sharp knife. Open the body and remove the internal organs. Retain the ink sacs and freeze them if you wish to use them at another time (see recipes……..).
Wash or wipe the squid and cut into strips.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the peeled chopped onions lightly.
Add the squid, stir for 3 minutes, and pour in the white wine, salsa and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently for 30 minutes.
 VARIATIONS
Add 4 chopped anchovies, to above recipe.
When in season add peas, (2 cups shelled).
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CANNULICCHI A LA FAVURITA – CANNOLICCHI ALLA FAVORITA (pasta with braoadbeans, peas and artichokes alla favorita)


In Spring we get broad beans and fresh peas. Artichokes (one name for them is cannolicchi in Sicilian) are also available and the combination of these three vegetables is very common in Italian (includes Sicilian) Spring recipes.

The recipe and the name of this dish is taken from the menu of one of Sicily’s outstanding restaurants the Charleston, found in Mondello on the outskirts of Palermo. I do not know why the restaurant is called by this name, but speculate that its size and grandeur is reminiscent of the popular, dance halls of the twenties. It is a lively, glamorous restaurant on the water, with top food and reputed to be frequented by pezzi grossi (slang for people who mean business).

The Charleston is a popular restaurant and the menu represents the best of Sicilian traditional dishes, wines and quality produce. Each traditional dish is modern in its presentation and very different to Sicilian food one generally eats in Sicily.
Using tubular pasta will help to trap the sauce and cannolicchi are suggested in the recipe. These are cylindrical shaped, hollow pasta ranging from 50-60 mm in length with a smooth surface; other large tubular pasta can be used.

The vegetables are cooked very quickly. The softer centre and the fondi of the artichokes (the tender, fleshy parts at the base) are used in this dish, so you can purchase the larger, fleshy, artichokes which are very common in the Queen Victoria Market.

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The pasta dish is similar to a warm salad. I make the sauce while the pasta is cooking to better preserve the colours of the vegetables (the different shades of the colour green).

In my recipe I add herbs at the end of cooking – mint or fennel fronds (cut finely) or fresh basil (not yet in season). I also like to include a spoonful of fresh ricotta on each person’s plate.
The following recipe is for 6 people

INGREDIENTS
pasta, 400g cannolicchi or other tubular pasta
artichokes, the fondi (bases)-depending on the size of the artichokes I usually buy 5 large artichokes and use the stalk as well.
lemon, 1 for acidulated water.
broad beans, young, 1kg.
peas, young, 1kg.
onion, 1 large white, fresh (fresh onion are sweeter in taste ) sliced,
pecorino, 100g freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil, 3/4 cup

PROCESSES
Shell the peas and broad beans. (Many remove the outer light green peel of the broad beans – I only buy young broad beans and only remove the skin of the larger beans)
Prepare the artichokes by first removing all of the leaves and only keeping the tender centre and its fleshy base. Remove the choke if there is one. The peeled stalks and the artichokes should be sliced finely. Keep in acidulated water until ready to use.
Boil the water, add salt and cook the pasta and make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
Heat the oil and add the onion. Stir gently until golden and softened.
Add the vegetables and toss till they begin to change colour and have softened (about 7-10 mins). Add salt during cooking.
Add fresh, finely chopped herbs before the end of cooking..
Drain the pasta, add the sauce and toss gently.
Present it with grated pecorino and black pepper.

I hope to eat at the Charleston again (I arrive in Palermo within the next few days). Because it will be autumn, these will not be on the menu, but I am pretty certain that whatever I eat will be seasonal and fabulous.

RISI E BISI (Risotto with peas)


Today in Venice, Venetians are celebrating the feast day of their patron saint (25 April, the date of the death of San Marco).

Risi e bisi the classic Venetian dish was traditionally offered to the Doge (do not know which one) on April 25, the feast of Saint Mark. This is not surprising, it is spring in the northern hemisphere and peas are one of the symbols of the season.

It is a public holiday in Venice and all sorts of events take place.

Although Venetians celebrate his feast day they also celebrate Liberation Day (liberation from the Nazis at the end of 2nd World War) and Festa del Bòcolo (is a rose bud) and it is customary for all women, not just lovers, to be presented with a bud. The very old legend concerns the daughter of Doge Orso Partecipazio, who was besotted with a handsome man, but the Doge did not approve and arranged for the object of her desire to fight the Turks on distant shores. The loved one was mortally wounded in battle near a rose bush. There he plucked a rose, tinged with his heroic blood and asked for it to be given to his beloved in Venice.

I grew up in Trieste (not far from Venice and in the same region of Italy) and risi e bisi is a staple, traditional dish.

The traditional way of cooking it does not include prosciutto but prosciutto cotto, what we call ham in Australia. Poor tasting ingredients will give a poor result; use a good quality smoked ham. As an alternative some cooks in Trieste use speck, a common ingredient in the region (it tastes more like pancetta). Some of the older Triestini use lard and only a little oil.

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My mother also added a little white wine to the soffritto of onion and the ham, but this also would have been a modern addition. The butter is added last of all for taste. Use parmigiano parmigiano is the cheese used in the north of Italy, pecorino in the south.

The secret is in using good produce, preferably organic, young and freshly picked peas (for their delicate taste) and a good stock. My mother made chicken stock. If she had no stock, she used good quality broth cubes- very common in Northern Italian cooking.

INGREDIENTS

peas (young, fresh), 1 kilo unshelled
rice, 300g vialone nano preferably,
ham, cubed 50-70g,
onion,1 finely cut (I like to use spring onions as well)
parmigiano (Reggiano), grated
50g
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
dry white wine, ½ glass (optional),
parsley, finely cut, ½ cup
butter, 2 tablespoons
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 
PROCESSES
Shell the peas.
Heat the olive oil, add ham and onion and over medium-low heat soften the ingredients. Do not brown.
Add the shelled peas, parsley and when they are covered in oil, add very little stock (to soften the peas), cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the rice, and stir, add the wine (optional) and evaporate.
Keep on adding the hot stock, stirring the rice and adding more stock as it is absorbed. End up with a wet dish (almost soupy and all’onda as Italians say) and with the rice al dente. In fact, the dish should rest for about 5 minutes before it is served so take this into consideration (the rice will keep on cooking and absorb the stock).
Add parmesan and butter, stir and serve.
 
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