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insalata pantesca from Pantelleria

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, that’s because the Zolle farm produce box delivery is on that day. No need to walk to the market in this heat, my fresh and local fruit and vegetables arrive straight to my doorstep.

The latest load included sweet green peppers, teeny tomatoes, peaches, plums, dirt-caked potatoes, zucchini and purple Tropea onions, to mention a few.

Since tomorrow I get another box I decided to use up all the remaining vegetables to make lunch. On the menu today is insalata pantesca, a brilliant summer salad hailing from Pantelleria, in Sicily.

The island of Pantelleria is known for its crystal clear waters, rocky cliffs, passito dessert wine, and capers. Between the end of May and September flowering begins and that’s when the unopened floral buttons of the caper plant are harvested quickly, before dawn and when the buds have just barely sprouted. The smaller capers are the sweetest. Once harvested they are left to mature in a sea salt brine during which they lose any bitterness.

capers from Pantelleria

My favorite gifts are food, so when the The Cheeky Chef brought home from Sicily a pound of salt-packed capers from her recent trip to Pantelleria, I squealed with joy. I use capers in many recipes, but Pantesca (which means “native of Pantelleria”) may be my all-time favorite.

Ingredients:

3 plum tomatoes, chopped
7 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tropea onion, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes
2 tbsp. salt-packed capers, rinsed
1 large bunch of fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes and boil them with the skins on until soft. Chop them and let them cool.

In a bowl add the tomatoes, onion, rinsed capers and basil, season with salt and pepper and dress with olive oil. Once cool, add the potatoes, toss and serve.

Pantesca salad normally contains oil-packed mackerel, but may also contain typical fresh cheese like tuma or hard-boiled eggs. In ancient times, roasted dried fish was used instead of mackerel. I wanted to keep my salad vegetarian today, otherwise I use organic oil-packed tuna.