Spring faca fry (Frittedda)
Portions: Serves 6
Shell the peas and the fava beans, keeping them separate. Slice off the tips of the artichokes, remove all the tough outer leaves, and peel the base. Be merciless, however extravagant it may seem, for one tough artichoke leaf can ruin an otherwise perfect mouthful. Cut the artichokes into quarters. Remove the choke, if it has formed, together with any prickly tips on the inner leaves. Then cut each quarter in three, so as to have very fine wedges. Slice the spring onions and put them in a heavy saucepan with 125 ml/4 fl oz water. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the water evaporates. Add the olive oil and sauté the spring onions for a few minutes until pale golden. Add the artichokes, 125 ml/4 fl oz hot water, and salt to taste. Cover and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the fava beans and 125 ml/4 fl oz hot water. Cover and cook 5 more minutes. Add the peas. Cover and cook for 5 minutes more, then sprinkle with the vinegar and some pepper. Correct the salt, and cook over a medium high heat, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vinegar has evaporated. Refrigerate for 24 hours and serve cold. Here and elsewhere in this book, the quantity of vinegar must be considered a rough approximation and not a rule. I use a very strong white wine vinegar that we produce on our farm; most commercial wine vinegars are considerably lighter. Palates vary too, so it is wise to start with a small amount and keep adding until you reach the level of vinegariness that suits you. In another recipe, which I learned from my mother in law and have never found elsewhere, the young beans are boiled, mixed with breadcrumbs, then dressed almost like a salad, and served cold. They would not have been out of place on Apicius’s table.