The swiss chard I got as an infant plant from Rooftop Farms was really ready to go. The last chard recipe I made was simply sauteed with a runny egg on top. The chard itself is not how I remember eating chard, so I referred to Rocco, who is the only person who ever prepared chard for me, and I cooked it the way he does. It came out just as I wanted it to.
While I was rinsing the chard, I get a call from Nonna, who has her own cell phone by the way.
"Jane (my name is Jen) I gotta the panelle, you want it?"
Faster than you can say mala figura I was at Nonna's house, ringing the door bell. And as usual she was buzzing me in, but the outer door was locked, so I couldn't get in. No problem. "Nonna!" I screamed up to her apartment. After a few moments, Nonna comes out onto her balcony. No true Sicilian doesn't have a balcony. I think they just shrivel up and die without one.
"Jane, you don't gotta the keys?" If I had the keys I would have already been up eating panelle, "Okay, Jane I come down." After a few falls and trips to the hospital, Nonna should not under any circumstances be climbing down the stairs, so I tell her to just throw the panelle down. Usually she then will go into the house and get a little rope and tie whatever it is it and reel it down, which is what I thought was taking so long. Before I know it she's at the front door and walks out carrying her cane, like its an accessory.
"Jane, why you no gotta the key?" I haven't lived there in like 5 years.
"Nonna, you shouldn't be walking down the stairs by yourself!"
"Jane, I can walka downa the stair bya myself. I go out alla the time bya myself." She's a live one. I tried to calmly take the panelle from her, but it was more like ripping it out of her hands and shoving it into my mouth, while thinking, just one, you need to photograph this. It was so perfect, and Rocco was right, good panelle is a little greasy, which I have to admit my panelle was lacking. It had the right flavor but not enough grease seeped into it and all over my hands and the upholstery of the Jeep like this one. There are sometimes casualties involved in good panelle. Its a fact of life.
"Nonna, who made this?"
"Jane, you like? I getta the recipe. My friend-eh make-eh." The hunt to find this person is on. When I trap her, I will let you know.
I suspected it had eggs in it, but when I mentioned this to Rocco, after teasing me that I didn't leave him any, he literally had a fit that I even mention eggs in panelle. That would be a real mala figura according to him.
Rocco's Swiss Chard
1-2 cloves of garlic sliced
extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh tomato, chopped
bunch of swiss chard, whole or chopped (give swiss chard a good soak, its gritty)
salt and pepper
Sautee the garlic and peroncino in extra virgin olive oil. Add the tomato and cook down a bit. Salt and Pepper. Add the swiss chard and sautee a few minutes. Salt and pepper. Cover and steam until soft.