Seasonal cooking

Greens of spring: scafata or vignarola?

Not so long ago, I posted a picture on my FB page of a springy vegetable stew , one that my mother used to make with the pickings of our vegetable garden every Easter. It showcases fava beans, artichokes, shelling peas, spring onions and baby chards or baby romaine lettuce at their peak. The choice between a) chards or b) romaines depends on your heart being rooted in Umbria or Tuscany-in which case you'd select option aand call it scafata, or your devotion to Rome steering you to option b-which would make the stew a vignarola.

I don't prefer one or the other version, as mom would make it according to market availability and whim, but I did have several requests for the recipe in the picture, so here it is.

Enjoy.


Scafata or Vignarola

Artichoke and spring greens stew

for 4 people:

1 lemon

4 medium sized artichokes

1 pound unshelled fava beans

1 pound shelling peas

2 spring onions

1 bunch of baby chards or 2 heads of baby romaine lettuce

1 sprig marjoram

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

 

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze its juice into a bowl of cold water. Drop the squeezed half lemons in the bowl.

Clean the artichokes. Remove the outer tough bitter leaves until about 2/3 of the outer circle of leaves are a lighter, somewhat yellowish green.

Slice off the darker top tip of the leaves. Pare the outer part of the bottom and peel the stems. Finally, slice off a very thin layer from the bottom of the stem.

This procedure is called turning, as for each phase of it, your knife will circle around the artichoke.

Halve each turned artichoke and remove the hairy choke if necessary. Cut each half in half again.

As they are ready, drop the artichoke quarters in the lemon water to prevent them from browning.

Shell the fava beans and the peas.

Cut offthe green top of the onions then cut in 8 wedges if they have a roundish bulb or just slice lengthwise if they are the narrower kind.

Carefully rinse the chards to eliminate any grit or, if using baby romaines, cut in quarters and rinse well.

In a shallow sauce pot pour the oil, than arrange all the vegetable snugly. Season liberally with salt and pepper and top with the marjoram.

Cover the pot and place it on low heat. The vegetables will release much moisture in which the vegetables will gently braise.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until everything is soft and well balanced. Adjust salt and pepper and enjoy at any temperature.

NOTES

  • Depending on the size of your artichokes you might have to cut them in 6 or 8 wedges or maybe just in half if smaller. If using baby artichokes you can leave them whole
  • The fava beans only need to come out of the pod, you do not have to peel every single bean
  • Spring onions are not to be confused with scallions, which are the very thin, available-year-round green onions. Spring onions are the young, firm fleshed, uncured, sweet tasting onions that are available in the very late winter and spring
  • To make this dish more substantial, you can render some cubed pancetta in the oil before adding the vegetables and serve the stew on thick slices of toasted country bread
  • The flavors in this dish make it a perfect complement to roasted lamb

Cooking in Italy: spaghetti mediterraneo-fresh anchovies, cherry tomatoes and arugula

My last day in Positano, dinner at the famed Buca di Bacco awaits tonight, but until then my heart is set on that boat and its charming young captain who will valiantly take me to Arienzo, the beach where for the last week I've been basking in the sun, swimming and enjoying house specialty after house specialty made with perfect homegrown vegetables and locally caught fish.

20130730-160243.jpg

I sprint on those last few meters, lest it take off without me. My right sandal slides from under me dragging my left leg behind it. Next I know I'm on board, feigning more faintness than I fairly should, while the charming young captain (his name is Adriano, I learn) tends to the abrasions running from my left foot all the way up my left knee.

20130730-155602.jpg

At the other end of the ride, the charmer's employer, Peppe, awaits with medication and an invite to enjoy the best yet house specialty, spaghetti mediterraneo, made with fresh anchovies, cherry tomatoes and arugula. Because of my injuries, Peppe receives special dispensation from his wife, the genius at the stove, to share the recipe for me to share in turn.

20130730-155707.jpg

And though my favorite sandals are no longer shell-studded and my leg is badly bruised, I learnt today that even slipping and falling can be a good thing in the right place. Oh, and, ladies, I also just found out Adriano is single.

Spaghetti Mediterraneo Spaghetti with fresh anchovies, cherry tomatoes and arugula

for 6 people 1 pound fresh anchovies 1 cup cherry tomatoes 1 to 2 garlic cloves olive oil salt and pepper to taste 1 pound spaghetti 3 generous handfuls wild baby arugula

Clean the anchovies: remove the heads, open in half, remove guts and spine. Quarter the tomatoes. Smash and peel the garlic cloves.

Heat the olive oil with the garlic cloves and as soon as you start smelling the garlic, throw in the tomatoes. Sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper and let the tomatoes cook until they are slightly soft.

Add the anchovies fillets and sauté over lively heat until they change color to whitish silver and are still soft, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Lower the spaghetti in boiling water and cook until very al dente, about 4 to 5 minutes less than the time advised on the packaging. Transfer to the pan with the tomatoes and anchovies and, over high heat, add some of the pasta water. Cook until you have received desired toothsomeness, the spaghetti should be quite al dente still.

Finish with olive oil and pour on a platter over which you will have scattered the arugula. Serve immediately.

20130730-155832.jpg