insalata strombolana – stromboli salad

Insalata strombolanaI have a deep, enduring love for capers. As soon as the weather warms up (in other words, now!), I’ll pull them out of the store cupboard and start adding them to salads, pasta and fish dishes. Capers for me, like apricots, olives and chilli peppers, are an essential foodstuff. Their salty, floral, aromatic kick is addictive, like kissing lips still wet from the sea…

Olives and chillis I can (and do) grow myself, but for apricots and capers I have to rely on other, albeit local, suppliers. Of course local is a relative term, since Mr Fussy here wants his capers from Stromboli, which is a couple of hours away by hydrofoil. I’m not making things easy for myself, I know. And I could if I wanted to, because capers are widely produced (and widely available) in Sicily, whereas production on Stromboli is extremely limited and for local consumption. But then again, since when has anything worthwhile been easily obtainable? So if you want these particular capers, you have to go to the island and pay the sort of prices most people would normally reserve for class-A drugs (although, by some defintitions, capers would probably fall into that category). There are no doubt people lucky enough to have gardens full of the flowers (which are incredibly beautiful, as you can see from the photo below), and who can pick their buds and salt them themselves. The rest of us just have to bite the bullet and hand over our hard-earned cash. By the way, steer clear of capers in vinegar. Gastronomic sacrilege. You want the salted variety, which is the only type that retains that intense, unadulterated caper flavour.

caper flowerAnyway, the point is, that early summer brings capers to mind, and with them, Stromboli, hence today’s recipe. This is a salad that is best “assembled” rather than mixed. Jumble it up if you like when you actually dig in, but not before, or the potatoes will start to break up and you’ll have something that looks like it’s been through a cement mixer…

The salad works fine on its own, with some crusty bread, and if you add tuna, is basically a meal in itself, perfect for a light lunch after the beach, to be followed by a light snooze under the volcano, and then back to the sea (can you tell I’m missing Stromboli?). It also goes well with grilled fish or sausages (although in my book, practically anything goes well with sausages…).

Here you need a good Sicilian white. I drank a dry zibibbo, but an Etna Bianco would also work, as would a white from Salina, another one of the Aeolian Islands.

Serves 4;

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium potatoes, preferably waxy
  • 6 piccadilly tomatoes, quartered, deseeded and then sliced again lengthways
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into fine slivers
  • handful of salted capers, blanched for a minute in boiling water
  • salt, pepper
  • a generous pinch or two of oregano
  • olive oil
  • optional: tinned tuna in oil, drained and/or a handful of stoned Sicilian black olives
  1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until just done. When cool, slice thickly and place in a serving dish.
  2. Layer over the onions and tomatoes (and tuna and olives, if using). Sprinkle over the capers.
  3. Drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil, then season with salt, pepper and oregano.

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