Tenerumi are the vine tendrils of Sicilian zucchine called cucuzze, and are commonly eaten in the Ragusa area in eastern Sicily. You can prepare them as a dish of greens or as a light summer soup.
- 1 colanderful of cleaned tenerumi
- ¾ lb. (300 grams) fresh ripe tomatoes
- 1 garlic clove
- 4 TB olive oil
- 6 oz. (160 grams) thin pasta (for soup)
- Fresh basil
- Hot red pepper (optional)
- Grated caciocavallo cheese (optional)
Snap off the leaves, tender stems and tendrils, discarding any tough stems and overly large or yellow leaves, and put them in a basin filled with water and wash thoroughly. If you find a few tiny underdeveloped cucuzze, break them in half and add those to the basin. Change the water a couple of times to make sure there is no grit left in the leaves. Pile the washed tenerumi in a colander.
Place a large pot of water to boil. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for a minute, then take them out and place them in cold water so that they will now be easy to peel. Add some salt to the boiling water, put in the tenerumi, cover and simmer until almost tender but still bright green in color.
Meanwhile, in another pot, sauté the garlic clove in the olive oil, then discard the clove. Peel the tomatoes, cut into small pieces, and add to the oil. Also add the optional hot pepper if you want a piccante touch.
Take the cooked greens out of the pot but save the cooking water – I do this by taking out clumps of greens with tongs, and plopping them on a big cutting board. Roughly chop the tenerumi and add them to the sautè pot.
Cook until tomatoes are soft, adjust the seasonings and serve as tenerumi greens. Or, to continue for the soup:
Bring the cooking water to a boil, break the pasta into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces and cook in the tenerumi cooking water until tender. Now, using a strainer, scoop out the pasta and add it to the tenerumi mixture. Quickly add ladlefuls of the hot cooking water, until it is the correct consistency. It should have a bit of “broth”, i.e. cooking liquid, but not too much – like a soupy vegetable dish. Add a handful of torn basil leaves, and pass grated caciocavallo cheese if desired.
Tenerumi are a common dish in Ragusa and Modica, and are typical of the kinds of local dishes we like to sample in eastern Sicily.