May vegetables and fruit
Yes, the time of making vignarola has finally arrived. For the uninitiated, it is one of the greener and tastiest dishes of Roman cuisine, albeit less known outside regional borders. It’s a tribute to spring produce, made with romaine lettuce, artichokes (the last ones of the season!), peas, spring onion and fava beans. The latter have in fact made their entrance to the market stalls, positioning themselves next to chicory, baby spinach, borage, asparagus and baby garden lettuce. And while green continues to dominate the chromatic scene, in May other equally vivid colours begin to emerge, such as bright white of onions and spring onions, the yellow of new potatoes (to be baked in the oven with skins on) and the crimson of the more precocious beet varieties, such as the Rotonda di Chioggia and the Piatta d’Egitto.
Peas and fava beans: May legumes
In short, we are in the middle of spring and all it takes to realize this is looking at the triumphant market stalls full of delights, with many delicious vegetables that can convert even the most convinced carnivores. And that’s a good thing because this is the time to prepare for the summer with a lighter diet to rid us of toxins accumulated in winter and strengthens the body with a load of vitamins. So go crazy with peas, yes, but also fava beans (enjoyed raw with morsels of pecorino cheese, a typical snack on May 1st, or cooked and reduced to puree or transformed into delicious falafel), taccole, asparagus and agretti. Great importance must also be given to spring onions, delicious in omelettes, perhaps together with asparagus and a few mint leaves, or in soups with an Asian flavour. Carrots should not be underestimated: who said they are used only for soffritto? Try making pancakes out of them, you won’t regret it.
Uses and properties of peas
It’s still too early to talk about it, but towards the end of the month the coveted courgette flowers will arrive. Delicious in omelettes, delectable for dressing pasta but perfect above all for being stuffed, battered and fried: one of the most delicious appetizers around. But let’s go back to peas: this is when they are the freshest and very tender, to be eaten barely blanched in order to maintain their crunchiness. They are legumes rich in phosphorus, folic acid, vitamins and minerals, in particular potassium and magnesium. They are good both for soups and risottos and as side dishes, combined with meats or other vegetables to add a note of vegetable sweetness. Try to reduce them to cream and flavour them with spices and aromatic herbs to taste: in the kitchen you need a little inspiration.
The seasonal fruit of May
As far as the fruit department, strawberries are still the protagonists of this month. Stock up on them now, because we will soon have to say goodbye, so go ahead and bake pies with custard and improvised spoon puddings with a little whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts. Strawberries are so versatile in pastry that they will always make you look good with your guests! Following in May are medlars, a good source of vitamin C, calcium and carbohydrates, but the most gluttonous are waiting for only one fruit: cherries. It doesn’t take long to see them appear, but you have to be patient a little longer. The wait, however, will also be rewarded by other steadfast summer companions, such as kiwis.
by Michela Becchi