Here in Abruzzo, we’re just about to start a procession of fresh, locally-produced fruit and vegetables that’ll last from now until well into the autumn.
Just appearing now are the first bunches of fat new season asparagus. And in tandem with this most blissful of treats come purple-and-green baby artichokes – carciofini – just a little bigger than a golfball and the key ingredient for my absolute favourite springtime treat.
Talking of which, there’s not much that can beat steamed asparagus piled onto thickly-buttered toast, topped with a poached egg and a few shavings of parmesan. But for me, an artichoke omelette wins hands-down.
With only two principal ingredients – a couple of eggs and about half-a-dozen carciofini – this is one of those rare and delicious dishes in which the taste of the end product far exceeds its sum of parts.
Start by preparing the artichokes. Trim the bases; cut off the top third; and pull-off and discard the outer few layer of leaves. Cut the artichokes in half and drop them into boiling water.
You’ll need to work quickly because artichokes start discolouring the instant they’re cut
Some of these carciofini might have a few inches of stalk still attached. If they’re about little finger thickness, peel them and use them too. They’re good. But if they’re bigger – bin them.
Simmer the artichokes for 10-15 minutes until tender, then drain and roughly chop them. The big deal here is that because they’re still small, young and dainty, they won’t have developed the tiresome hairy ‘choke’ that makes preparing (and eating) full-grown artichokes such a chore.
Now make an omelette. Whole blogs have been devoted (though not by me) to making an omelette. Books have been written on the subject. Don’t be inhibited. You can make an omelette. Yes you can. Lightly-beaten eggs. Pan. Butter. There – wasn’t that easy ?
One thing. Keep it loosely-set in the middle. What the French – who have a word for every culinary term in existence – call baveuse.
As your omelette starts to set, add the chopped artichokes and just a scant dessertspoon of finely-grated parmesan. Not too much. You want the hint of cheese lurking in the background rather than swamping the whole dish.
A pinch or two of salt and a grind or two of black pepper completes the process.
Gently fold the omelette out onto a hot plate and eat right away. Don’t bother with salads, spuds or other accompanying veggies that might get in the way of this taste experience. In truth, just a chunk of good, fresh, crusty bread is really all you need.
And probably a large glass of Abruzzo Cerasuolo – the blush pink wine made from Montepulciano grapes.
Instead of parmesan, you could try a few slivers of either Taleggio or Fontina cheese. And strike a happy balance with the amount of butter you use in your pan. Not so much that you end up with an oily mess; not so little that you don’t capture that luscious mouthful of buttery omelette, artichoke and cheese.
Best of all is that the season for these little treasures is so short, (perhaps reappearing briefly in the autumn if you’re really lucky), you don’t get the chance to become tired of them.
Even if you had an omelette every day. Which actually doesn’t seem such a bad idea…