Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pasta e rapini

I love rapini. This nicely tempered bitter-ish savoury green partners up with spicy chilies, garlic and oil like they have been together all their lives.

Rapini isn't bitter to an inedible level, but it is mellower and more flavourful by picking after cooler weather has set in. Sauteed with a firey chili and a clove of garlic, it is amazing mixed with soft polenta or tossed with pasta (and a drizzle of high quality olive oil).

I like a long pasta but one with grooves to pick up all the flavour in this 'sauce' is also good. I added the last of a batch of fresh homemade pork sausage, casings sliced open, diced and sauteed into the mix.

Rapini, aka rabe, broccoli rabe, broccoletti di rape, broccoletto, broccoli di foglia, or cime de rape. There is also a Chinese variety, a similar, but milder, green, known as choy sum, Chinese broccoli or Chinese flowering cabbage. No matter what you call it, this member of the turnip family also freezes well for use long after the bumper crop is harvested. Trim tough stalks and blanch or steam first.

Winter greens are a common dish in many parts of the Mediterraneo and are well suited to be grown elsewhere around the globe. Seasonality of even the humble salad makes a good arguement for the seasonal menu and eating local produce.

A great recipe for winter greens was posted on from the branches of an olive tree: Wish Recipe and also published in Wish magazine.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Ahh fresh lime juice. Added to salsa, guacamole, and in a quick spicy tortilla soup that I made for our Mexican movie night dinner. We enjoyed this along with chicken flautas and of course, margaritas.

I like the classic straight up version from sauceguide.

1) Prep your vessel of choice by giving the rim a once over with a piece of lime and a light dose of salt.

2) Shake the following with ice:

2 shots tequila (I like el Jimador for mixing, straight is another matter entirely)

1 shot triple sec (or Cointreau in a pinch)

1 shot fresh squeezed lime juice


3) Strain into prepared margarita, coupette, or martini glass.

I sometimes add a bit of Rose's lime cordial and a splash of gomme syrup to sweeten it a bit for some friends, blended with fresh (strained) strawberries for a barbecue accompaniment, and my former flatmate's favourite: blended with a cup or so fresh watermelon.



Looking for a quick and satisfying meal idea to pair up with a crisp green salad? Or a dessert to sit alongside an espresso or flat white? Something to hand the hungry monsters when they come home from school? Or maybe something that can easily be downsized, garnished and noshed with a pre-dinner cocktail?

Check out the round-up for Hey Hey it's Donna Day #6 Fritter-fest graciously hosted by Jenjen at ilovemilkandcookies.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Salsa di noci

Walnut sauce is a delicious traditional Ligurian pesto made with, of course, walnuts.  Waaait a minute, you may be saying.. pesto? Isn't 'pesto' a green sauce made with basil?

Yes, and no.

It's true that pesto is a basil sauce and also a famous Ligurian specialty.  Vero also that Pesto alla Genovese, according to the L'Ordine dei Cavalieri della Confraternita del Pesto, can only, by right, be made in Genova. To prevent reinterpretations of the sauce (either made with substandard ingredients or with non-traditional additions) from being called Pesto alla Genovese, the aforementioned club (translated: Order of the Cavaliers of the Brotherhood of Pesto), green capes and all, have applied for their own DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) label. This means only ingredients of approved quality originating in Liguria can be used to make Pesto labelled 'alla Genovese' and thus, protection of the name from being associated with anything other than the genuine article.

Consult any dictionary and you will invariably find that pesto means "green sauce made with basil, garlic, cheese and oil.." (apparently pinenuts are considered by purists to be an adaptation of the Savona district) but pesto can also mean 'ground or crushed'.  Hence its use to explain this sauce.

The combination of the ingredients in walnut sauce is a contrast to the ingredients used in traditional pesto and does suggest some outside influence.  Liguria's 350km coastline was dotted with ports, none larger than the one in Genova.  Entirely conceivable that outside gastronomic combinations were also imported.. and complemented the wonderful produce of the region.

Walnut sauce is a delicious coating for fettuccine (or any sturdy long pasta) but is traditionally served with pansoti, a pocket pasta similar to ravioli but with a filling of predominantly wild Ligurian greens. These vary in composition with season ranging from swiss chard, curly endive and borage to whatever is locally available. Like the beet greens in the recipe, select ones with some backbone and flavour. Making pansoti is a little more work but worth it.

For the record, I prefer parsley (prezzemolo) in the sauce but use a little marjoram in the pansoti filling.  Use nothing but the freshest walnuts.  Rancid flavours, as you can imagine, will ruin this sauce.  I like to gently and briefly grind a handful in a mortar and pestle or use the smash and chop technique (with the blade of a knife) to break them down to very small pieces but not make a dry paste.   I also use a full fat 'farmer's' milk (4%) in place of the clotted milk or ricotta (latte cagliato).  Stir it in ever so slowly and it comes together beautifully.

The Ligurian recipes here, courtesy of www.mangiareinliguria.it are perhaps some of the most authentic and unadulterated ones I have found.  They are simple to prepare and taste fantastic. Their english translation is under construction..

Buon appetito.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sweet Lemon Fritters

F is for fritter.. for this October Hay Hay it's Donna Day post. F also stands for fantastic. When you taste these.. coincidence, I think not.

I am very fond of lemons.. and also of cognac (that I substituted for the brandy in this recipe) so imagine a dough scented with both, full of golden sultanas and served warm with a dusting of sugar..

The whole of the Mediterranean is so tightly bound to its regional food culture that I find the overlap between seemingly different countries absolutely intriguing.  Take Croatia, specifically, the island of Osljak, where there are influences of what one might associate with Hungarian, Turkish and Italian cuisine.  So I was not very surprised to find a fritter recipe that is similar in style to that found in Southern Italy.  Doesn't everyone like a sweet after a meal?  And this fritter hits the mark deliciously.

Here is Jelka Valcic's recipe for sweet lemon fritule.

375 mL warm whole milk
2 tsp dry yeast
pinch plus 2 Tbsp caster sugar
3 large eggs
125 mL brandy
1 Tbsp lemon peel
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
5 Cups all purpose flour
2 cups golden sultanas (raisins)

Vegetable Oil for deep frying
Additional sugar or icing sugar

Place 250 mL warm milk in medium bowl. Add yeast and pinch of sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Whisk eggs, brandy, lemon peel, vanilla, salt, and 2 Tbsp sugar in large bowl; whisk in yeast mixture and 125 mL warm milk. Mix in flour.
Using wooden spoon, stir dough 5 minutes. Mix in sultanas. Continue to stir dough until dough begins to come away from spoon and bowl, about 5 minutes longer.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and let raise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Using two oiled spoons, scoop up 2.5 cm balls of dough and with the second spoon, scrape dough onto baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Continue with remaining dough and re-oil spoons as necessary.
Heat 7.5 cm oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 175-180C. Carefully drop 10 dough balls into oil. Or fewer in a smaller pan. Turning often, fry until golden and cooked through (about 2 minutes). With slotted spoon, lift fritters to paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Continue with remaining dough.
Place warm fritters in large bowl or basket and sprinkle with additional sugar. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Transfer to platter. Let stand at room temperature.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: May 2002 edition of Bon App├ętit magazine