Sicilian cooking is not just opulence and extravagance. This dish of chards with tomatoes, garlic and peperoncino (chili pepper) is a good example of cucina povera: a handful of a few basic, cheap ingredients delivers a hugely satisfying contorno di verdura (vegetable side dish). “Giri” is how chards are named in the dialect of Palermo and “Assassunare” derives from the French “Assaisonner” which means “to season”: in Sicilian culinary terms when something has been sautéed in oil and garlic, to get impregnated with that lovely flavor, they say it has been “assassunatu”.
Giardiniera is the classic Italian mix of assorted, pickled vegetables, preserved either in vinegar or in extra virgin olive oil. It is traditionally made in late spring and summer, when lots of good vegetables are at their best and abundant- giardiniera being a clever way of preserving the bounty from the vegetable patch (orto, in Italian). It is generally used as an antipasto, to accompany salumi (charcuterie) but it also goes well with lesso (mixed boiled meat) and it can be used in panini (sandwiches).
This one here is slightly different though: it is a mix of summer vegetables cooked in a thick, unctuous, sour-sweet tomato sauce, flavoured with bay leaves and cloves – a sort of Italian chutney, beautiful to look at and to eat. Continue reading