bietole e lenticchie – chard and lentils

One look at these bunches of vibrant crimson and deep green leaves and I was won over. Nothing could be that beautiful and not taste delicious. I bought myself a bagful, and it was only then that I realised I didn’t have a clue what to do with them. Of course, when in doubt, ask the person doing the selling, which in this case was a man with a white cowboy hat and matching goatee Continue Reading →

fagiolini larghi ammollicati – runner beans with breadcrumbs

Here in Northern Sicily they love breadcrumbs. Not what you would imagine to be the Mediterranean ingredient par excellence, I know, but they pop up all over the place. Sicilians take thin strips of meat, pounded until almost translucent, and cover them with mollica condita (breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan, parsley, oil, salt and pepper. Garlic is often added, and in Palermo also sultanas and pine nuts). They then roll them up and slide them onto Continue Reading →

pasta con le zucchine – pasta with courgettes

  After the Baroque excess of fish soup, something of almost Buddhist simplicity this time. If you have any leftovers, you’ll be able to give them to your pet rabbit without any qualms. Actually, it would probably go quite well with carrots. One of the advantages is that it requires no soffritto and that you only use one saucepan, with the pasta and its sidekick cooking together in the same water. So it’s quick, easy, Continue Reading →

patate “a sticchiu i parrinu” – potato, tomato and onion bake

How naughty can you get in the kitchen, I ask? Well, pretty naughty, I suppose, as the famous scene from 9½ Weeks proves. Nor should we forget all those famous aphrodisiacs, such as oysters, lobsters, chocolate and champagne. But despite this, let’s face it, unless you’re Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, although the kitchen is somewhere you may have a good time and even issue frequent sighs of pleasure, it’s not somewhere you’re likely to Continue Reading →

two-and-a-half ways with king trumpets – due ricette e mezzo per i funghi di ferla

Today’s little beauty is Pleurotus eryngii. It apparently also goes under the aliases of king trumpet mushroom, French horn mushroom, king oyster mushroom, king brown mushroom, boletus of the steppes, and trumpet royale. More names than your average international fraudster. Mycologists, it would seem, are even more unable to agree than taxonomists, who as we have seen, are themselves a pretty litigious bunch. In Italian, it’s cardoncello, but for me it has always and only Continue Reading →

zuppa di fave – fava bean soup

There’s something about autumn, with the nights drawing in, that makes me yearn for rustic food. Really rustic food, the sort of stuff I could imagine people eating in front of an open fire in some draughty cottage a couple of centuries ago. Yes, very Thomas Hardy, I know, very Woodlanders. Although if Thomas Hardy’s characters had eaten a bit more of today’s soup, maybe they wouldn’t have been so unbearably miserable the whole time. Continue Reading →

cardi gratinati – cardoon gratin

You may be forgiven for thinking this is Unusual Vegetable Week, what with chayote followed by mustard greens, and now cardoons (carduni in Sicilian). It’s simply because autumn is when the market stalls are brimming with the new season’s produce, including quite a few local varieties not found widely outside Sicily. Anyway, back to our cardoons, which look like an untamed, grubby version of celery. Sort of celery with attitude, not least because the edges Continue Reading →