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Pickled Asparagus

Monday, June 14, 2010

The post is superfluous and the recipe non-existent, they are driven only by the necessity of showing off those three cast iron gadgets, which I bought in a fit of madness an unspecified number of years ago.
All done, now I feel better and the gadgets can fall back into oblivion, as it should be. And if you really care for the asparagus... there you go.

Pickled Asparagus
for approximately 3 jars

asparagus, net 700 gr. circa
white wine vinegar 750 ml
water 750 ml
juice of two lemons
salt 2 teaspoons
sugar 2 teaspoons
coriander seeds, fresh dill to taste

Clean asparagus trimming most of their ends, so that they can stand in the jars up to about 2 cm from the edge (use the cut ends to make risotto or for a vegetable stock). Get the jars and the lids ready, sterilizing them for few minutes in boiling water.
In a large pot mix vinegar, water, salt, sugar and lemon juice and bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
Put half teaspoon of coriander seeds and a dill sprig in each jar, and then fill them with the raw asparagus, trying to pack them as tight as possible. Cover with the hot vinegar up to about half cm from the edge and then close tightly with the lids.
Let jars boil for about 10 minutes (calculate the time from when water starts boiling again), turn off the heat and let them cool down slightly. Take them out of the water and let stand until vacuum is created.
Place in a cool spot and let rest for about two weeks before opening.

Tartine Bakery Zucchini Bread

Friday, June 11, 2010
Tartine Bakery Zucchini Bread

Just like blueberry muffins, raisin scones and pumpkin pie, zucchini bread is also a very inflated object over here. Every respectable coffee shop has its own recipe, and each variation has its own fans. With raisins, without raisins; with nuts, without nuts; with cinnamon, without cinnamon; with eggs, without eggs (vegan version); with cream cheese frosting or pure and simple.
To make no mistake, I got the recipe from one of my favorite bakeries, of which I had already told you about, here.

Today I made my own, but tomorrow... breakfast at Tartine anybody?

Zucchini Bread
by Tartine Bakery

for a 9" long loaf pan

flour 270 gr.
baking powder 1/2 teaspoon
baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
eggs 2
vegetable oil 125 gr.
sugar 150 gr.
orange marmalade 115 gr.
zucchini, net 285 gr.
walnuts 115 gr.
salt 1 pinch

Grate zucchini. Toast walnuts in the oven for few minutes, chop coarsely and keep them aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with sugar, oil and jam until the mixture is well blended. Stir in zucchini and salt, mix gently (by hand), then add the flour and finally the walnuts. Don't mix too much, it's sufficient that the dough just comes together: just like when making muffins, for a successful recipe it is important not to overwork it.
Grease a loaf pan with butter and dust it with flour, pour in the dough, and if you wish, sprinkle the surface with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes. Let the zucchini bread cool off in the pan for about 20 minutes, then reverse it on a rack and let cool completely. It keeps well in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, up to 5-6 days.

Asparagus, Green Curry and Coconut Milk Soup

Monday, June 7, 2010
Asparagus, Green Curry and Coconut Milk Soup

To start the week right and forget that it's only Monday, a super easy soup that tastes like exotic places, distant horizons and barefoot in the sand. With all the flavor of seasonal vegetables.
That is to say, dreaming doesn't cost anything, half hour in the kitchen at the most...

Asparagus, Green Curry & Coconut Milk
a Soup

for 4

asparagus, net about 1 lb and 5 oz
leeks 2
shallot 1
green curry paste 2-3 teaspoons
coconut milk 1 small can (about 5.5 oz)
lime 1
olive oil, vegetable stock, salt, pepper to taste

Clean asparagus and cut off the hard ends. Cut them into pieces and set aside. In a large pot, saute sliced leeks and chopped shallot in a little olive oil. Add two teaspoons of curry paste and a splash of coconut milk, and cook for few minutes until curry paste is diluted. Add the asparagus pieces (if you'd like, keep some of the tips aside to garnish the soup in the end) and cover with the stock. Season with salt, pepper, lime zest and bring to boil. Adjust the taste by adding some more curry paste, depending on how spicy you want the soup to be. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until asparagus are tender, then mix in a blender until you get a smooth puree. Put it back on the stove, add the lime juice and the rest of coconut milk, cook for five minutes longer and serve with some Thai basil and the asparagus tips kept aside, briefly steamed or sauteed in a pan.

Sweet Pea Ravioli With Won Ton Wrappers

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Sweet Pea Ravioli With Won Ton Wrappers

I made a long list of justifications and excuses for this post. Guilt has plagued me all weekend, no matter if the above ravioli have proved to be a quite respectable dish.

I will limit myself to list a series of facts, it's your task to draw the conclusions:
1) I've worked for years (too many...) in a so called Italian restaurant, run by Greek owners, with a Mexican pizza-maker, a Vietnamese cook, Brazilian waiters and hamburger with fries as the main course. I was the most authentic thing on the menu;
2) I live next to an Indian Restaurant named Zante (...!), famous up until Oregon for its curry flavored pizza;
3) The most popular sushi on the streets of San Francisco is the California Roll, with avocado and crab, but contenders for the title are the Dynamite Roll, with tuna, avocado, and spicy Mexican sauce; the Caterpillar Roll, with avocado, cucumber and unagi; the Philadelphia Roll, with smoked salmon, onion and cream cheese; and the evergreen Rock 'n Roll, with avocado, eel, and barbecue sauce;
4) Around here if you don't have focaccia, you're nobody, and so even the most famous Irish Bakery in the city has one with tomatoes and onions, perfect for a pint of Guinness;
5) Not only focaccia, but even if you don't have pesto, you're nobody. Spread it on chicken breast, slip it in bean soup, or throw it on a bagel with salmon, and you'll rule the streets. Guaranteed;
6) The latest Italian-French Revolution is called ciabaguette, not a ciabatta, not a baguette;
7) About pizza I shall not talk, 'cause my heart is torn, but if you're interested, take a look here, there's something for every taste;
8) And then, Praguese coffee-shops in the heart of the Latino neighborhood, Chinese-Mexican take-aways, triple cappuccinos with no foam, tofu burgers and vegetarian steakhouses, garlic ice cream, Andalusian tiramisu and tea lattes. Boy, some things do leave a mark. Have pity on me.

Although I don't think I got that far (see Number 5 and Number 7), guilt - I repeat - has haunted me for days, and I feel compelled to apologize.
I apologize to all the purists out there, to the Fundamentalists of the Imperia Pasta Machine and the Zealots of the Wok; I apologize to all the ghosts of Sunday lunches, of past, present and future; I apologize to the Brotherhood of the Ravioli and to that of the Won Ton. And most of all, I apologize to all the grandmothers, mother-in-laws and aunts, to those from Ascoli and those from Beijing. Forgive me 'cause I don't know what I'm doing, let alone what I'm writing, but more than ten years in this gastronomic melting pot have spun my certainties. The only one that still remains in me, the invincible fortress of my taste, is Pizza, the one with capital P, in which I'll always have one blind and unwavering faith. Of this I'm sure, and the rest is just a sand castle. Or a deflatable piece of dough. At least until the next post ...

Sweet Pea Ravioli
with Won Ton Wrappers

for 4

fresh peas, shelled about 250 gr.
green onions 2
olive oil, salt, pepper, mint, grated parmigiano cheese, butter to taste
won ton wrappers 32

The idea is not mine, of course. I found it online by accident; if you do a search for "ravioli with won ton wrappers", Google will open up a whole new world.

For the filling, blanch peas for a couple of minutes, drain and set aside. Cut the green onions into thin round slices and saute them in a pan with a little olive oil, add the peas, fresh mint, salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes. Let it cool off, put everything in a blender with two tablespoons of grated parmigiano cheese and puree until smooth.
To make ravioli, place few won ton wrappers on the work surface and scoop a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each. Brush the borders with cold water, then cover each wrapper with another won ton sheet, trying to eliminate all the air bubbles and pressing with your fingers to seal the edges. As ravioli are ready, place them on a platter and cover them with a cloth.
Cook them in salted boiling water for two minutes or until they come to the surface. Dress them with melted butter, grated parmigiano cheese and a sprinkle of pepper.
And so the ravioli are served.

Note: Seriously, I was really curious to see the result. Won ton dough has a neutral flavor, and this works in favour of the filling, may it be made with peas, asparagus, cheese or whatever your imagination suggests. The difference is rather in the texture of the wrappers; I might call it stickier, or a little chewier. Nothing prohibits you from using the pea filling for some ravioli ravioli, or as an appetizer, spread on some toasted bread.