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Marmalade of Spring Greens

    In southern Sicily one finds tasty and rather thick, doughy impanatas filled with greens and a multitude of other things, including raisins, capers, anchovies, and cheese.  When juicy black olives are also added, the result is luscious but much too heavy.  I have remedied the heaviness of this dish by eliminating the doughy exterior and turning the mixture into a spread.  You can present a plate of the lukewarm marmalade spread on thin rounds of bread, or you can sprinkle the covered rounds with cheese, run them under the broiler to glaze, then serve them hot.

2 pounds fresh spinach, escarole, Swiss chard, etc. (see notes)
1 garlic clove, peeled, and lightly crushed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 flat anchovy fillets, drained and crushed with a fork
1 1/2 teaspoons of capers, preferably salted, rinsed, and drained
1/4 cup chopped pitted purple olives (7 or 8 Kalamatas)
1 1/2 tablespoons seedless black or yellow raisins, soaked in warm water, drained dry and chopped
1/8 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes, with few seeds, or more to taste
32 grilled or fried rounds of Italian or French bread
1/3 cup coarsely grated provolone or caciocavallo cheese, optional



1.  Wash the greens until the water runs clear; remove the stems, stalks, and/or tough leaves, and drain.  Cook the greens 10 minutes in boiling salted water; drain, refresh in cold water, drain, and squeeze thoroughly.  Makes 1 cup (Or cook them in the microwave: place them in a covered dish with a few tablespoons of water and use full power until they are fully cooked.  Drain thoroughly and squeeze dry.)

2.  In a small skillet fry the garlic in olive oil until lightly browned; remove the garlic and discard.  Add the greens and fry them for 1 minute, stirring.  Add the anchovies and capers and cook, stirring, 30 seconds longer.  Remove the mixture  to a work surface, allow to cool, then chop fine (by hand or "pulse" in a food processor) with the olives, raisins, and pepper flakes.  (The dish can be prepared several hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate.)

3.  Divide the mixture evenly and pile it onto bread rounds.  Sprinkle  them with cheese and run under the broiler to glaze.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes to the Cook:
There are two approaches, you can mix your greens or just use one type.  Avoid frozen spinach, which doesn't have enough taste.

I prefer to cook greens by dropping them by the handfuls into lots of boiling salted water (about 1/2 tablespoon of salt per quart of water), then keeping the water at a full boil throughout.  I use about 1/2 tablespoon of salt per quart of water.  According to my friend Jacques Chibois, the greens do not absorb the salt, and the boiling "sears" the leaves so that the can hold all their nutrients.

For more Sicilian recipes see:
Paula Wolfert's Mostly Mediterranean, Revised Edition.

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©1999—2006 Paula Wolfert