Che bontà! Spring in Sicily is a time to reap the benefits of its fertile soil and warm climate. Wisteria and blossom are in abundance, fruit is beginning to take shape on the trees and the temperature is warm enough to make you forget that winter ever existed. It’s a time to be enjoyed before the overwhelming heat arrives.
On every street corner, you will find the local fruttivendolo selling a cornucopia of local freshly picked fruit and vegetables, either from the back of a small lorry or 3-wheeler. I am usually overwhelmed at the choice and variety of local produce during this period that I don’t know where to start. But start I must!
Artichokes are nutrient powerhouses. A little tricky to prepare but delicious and full of health benefits. Artichokes are packed with phytonutrients providing antioxidant benefits and are full of dietary fibre, so great for digestive health. Rich in vitamin K, potassium and manganese which can help protect brain and cognitive health, lower blood pressure and boost metabolism. Additional health benefits include liver protecting properties and reduced blood cholesterol levels which can help protect against heart disease.
Simple artichoke salad (suitable for vegans and vegetarians)
The literal translation for carciofi conditi is “seasoned artichokes” but this description does not do them justice!
*Approximately 2 artichokes per person.
*Using rubber or latex gloves, start to clean the artichokes. Hold the artichoke so the stalk is upright and start to pull off the leaves from the stalk down until you see the leaves are white (usually tinged with pink).
*With a sharp knife, clean the tail end of the stalk, removing any green bits on the stalk and where you have pulled off the leaves.
*Slice off the top of the artichoke (the other end to the stalk) and then slice in quarters.
*Cover and soak the sliced artichokes in lemon juice and water whilst you continue preparing the remainder of the artichokes (this will prevent them from discolouring).
*Cook the artichokes in boiling water, salt, lemon juice and a splash of white wine vinegar.
*Drain the artichokes.
*When the artichokes have cooled down, dress them with plenty of olive oil and chopped parsley, vinegar (optional) and chilli (optional).