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Russian Kale Pesto

Monday, March 28, 2011
Russian Kale Pesto

And what the hell is this? Kale. Russian. Russian Kale.
When I was living back in Italy, this thing here, with curly leaves and purple stems, sweet taste and non-cabbagy smell, well... I had never seen that thing there. But let's be clear, if by chance any of you knows that it does exist over there, and perhaps has also an aunt who grows it every year in the garden in the back of the house, well, what are you waiting for? Step up and save me from embarrassment.
I actually discovered it only after a decade since I moved here in the U.S., but then, I've always known to be a leader. It seems that Russian kale was introduced in America in the nineteenth century by Russian traders, from which it takes its name. If the same traders had forgotten one plant along the Adriatic coast as well, we do not know.
As for me, when few days ago I decided to use it for the first time, it was love at first sight. Russian Kale, now and forever. It is my new obsession, along with pomelo, sweet lemons and iPad2 Medjool dates. I promise that from now on I will never let it go.

Russian Kale Pesto
for one small jar

Russian kale about 100-130 gr. (about 3 cups)
garlic 2 cloves
cashews about 40 gr. (1/4 cup)
lemon juice 3 teaspoons
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
extra virgin olive oil about 250 ml. (a little over 1/3 cup)
grated parmigiano cheese about 30 gr. (1/3 cup)
salt, pepper to taste

Toast the cashews in the oven for about ten minutes. Peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half. Wash the kale leaves, remove the hard ends and cut it in pieces. Gather all ingredients in the mortar mixer and blend like crazy.

Photo (Sun)Day: Strawberries

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Once there were strawberries.

Macco di Fave (Dried Fava Bean Puree)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Macco di Fave (Dried Fava Bean Puree) style=

Here, I say it: I'm with the minimalist for minimalism. And when it comes to minimalism in the kitchen, I just go into raptures. Yes, because recipes that start listing more than the three or four ingredients humanly acceptable make me really sick, striking some sort of culinary terror, and awakening in me two opposite temptations:
a) the unnatural and deceptive desire to run for cover to the nearest take-away, to please my laziness;
b) the need for a bowl of plain white rice (even without parmigiano cheese!), to accommodate the aspiration to the ethereal purity of the lonely hero.

I realize that starting a food blog was not really a great idea. True, I have a soft spot for colorful salts and flours made from mysterious grains, and over time I've collected an embarrassing series of powders, spices and other rather enigmatic concoctions (all that being edible material, ça va sans dire), not to mention bowls and pottery on sale, redundant cutlery and trendy gadgets. Still, if it was for me, I'd post spaghetti pomdoro 304 days a year, reserving the approximate 52 Sundays for gnocchi (always strictly with tomato sauce), and the remaining 9 days for the surprise dish. An effective blog, indeed.

Therefore, you can imagine my joy when I tried this phenomenal macco di fave, in my to-do list from time immemorial: the linearity of a minimal dish meets the vanity of a post. A perfect combination. In my dream blog, macco found its way all of a sudden, winning as many as 8 of the 9 surprise-dish days. Because to be more minimal and more delicious, I think it's really difficult.

Macco di Fave
(Dried Fava Bean Puree)

for 4-5 people

dried, peeled fava beans about 1 lb.
olive oil, salt, pepper, water as needed
garlic 2 cloves
wild fennel, chicory, kale, dandelion, rapini, mustard greens
(or some other green stuff of choice)

one big bunch

Soak the beans in a bowl of water overnight. The next day, drain and cook them over medium-low heat in a large pan, barely covered with water. Cook until the beans are tender and begin to come apart, skimming when needed, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if necessary. If you’d like, you could also add a carrot and a celery stalk to the cooking water, or start by sautéing a sliced spring onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, but I preferred to stick with the most proletarian version out there: fava beans, fava beans, absolutely fava beans, with the sole addition of a good pinch of salt near the end. When the beans are tender, reach for the evergreen immersion blender in the cupboard, and puree until creamy, adding oil little by little until you get a smooth texture.
In the meantime, wash the greens (in my case it was some Russian kale, a kind of purple kale, slightly sweeter and less pungent, something I didn't even know until the day before yesterday, to be honest); remove the tough ends and cook them gently in a large saucepan with an inch of water. Drain, remove excess water and sauté them in a pan with a little olive oil and the garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the macco in a bowl with the greens in the middle, and serve with a dash of olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper.

Photo (Satur)Day: Shiitake Mushrooms

Saturday, March 19, 2011
Shiitake Mushrooms

East meets West. Earthy, meaty, full of flavor. Shiitake mushrooms.

Jicama, Pineapple and Mint Salad

Friday, March 18, 2011
Jicama, Pineapple and Mint Salad

Longing for summer? YesYesYesYesYesYesYesSYesYesYesYesssssss!

Jicama, Pineapple & Mint Salad
for 4

jicama, medium size 2
fresh pineapple 4-5 slices, about 1/2 inch thick
shallot 1
lime 3
chili pepper, a Thai one, if possible 1
salt, fresh mint as needed

If you don't know jicama, you could:
a) read here, and here;
b) try to imagine a tuber similar in shape and color to a large, flattened potato, with the not-so-subtle difference that your jicama is best eaten raw, and what's more, it is sweet, crisp, and refreshing like an apple.
Jicama is grown widely in Mexico and Central America, where it is often consumed as an antidote to summer heat, cut into sticks and simply seasoned with chili, salt, and lime juice. Humbly good and refreshing.

Today, however, instead of sticks, I cubified it. How did that story go, about changing the order of the factors...? Or something like that, ah here, I think they say that despite everything, the result doesn't change. Sticks, fillets, cubes or parallelepipeds, who cares? Try it. Rain (worse) or shine (better), jicama won't let you down.

As for the so called recipe, simply peel the applepotato jicama and cut it into small cubes along with the slices of pineapple; mince the shallot, squeeze the limes, remove the seeds from the chili pepper and chop it fine (maybe try to remember washing your hands after touching the seeds and before rubbing your eyes), mix everything well in a pink, green or blue bowl, season with a pinch of salt and quite a bit of freshly chopped mint... and today also we can breathe a sigh of relief.

Photo (Satur)Day: Turnip

Saturday, March 12, 2011

One sunny Saturday. At the Farmers' market.

Baked Fennel With Orange, Pine Nuts and Raisins

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Baked Fennel With Orange, Pine Nuts and Raisins

This post - I admit - should have been the last entry of Citrus Week, which against all odds ended after three, pathetic, episodes.
But what can I do? Do you know how many impediments are there for a poor foodblogger? Error, conditio, photos, cognatio, etc ... etc ...
WHL (= What a Hard Life).

Baked Fennel
with Orange, Pine nuts & Raisins

for 4-5

fennel 2
orange, large 1
raisins, pine nuts 1 handful each
salt, pepper, olive oil, fennel greens, bread crumbs

Clean fennels, cut them in half and slice them not too thin. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil and the juice of the orange, and set aside. Toast pine nuts in a nonstick pan for a few minutes. Mix few tablespoons of bread crumbs with the chopped fennel greens and grated orange zest.
Grease a baking sheet with a little olive oil and sprinkle the bottom with bread crumbs. Make a layer with the prepared fennel, pour half of the liquid over it, sprinkle with pine nuts, raisins and more bread crumbs. Cover with the rest of the fennel and the remaining juice, another handful of pine nuts, plenty of bread crumbs and sprinkle with olive oil (don't put the raisins on top because they'll burn and become bitter).
Bake at 400 for about 45-60 minutes until the fennel is tender. If it starts browning too much while baking, cover the pan with aluminum. Serve warm, even better if the next day.

Raw Beet and Carrot Salad

Monday, March 7, 2011
Raw Beet and Carrot Salad

I had an epiphany! One of those that (almost) hits you like a pan on the forehead: beets can be eaten raw. Olé!
Unfortunately for me, I always thought they were like potatoes, which, raw, may not be very successful. Instead I had a nice surprise, an epiphany induced by my new friend Mark Bittman, about whom I've already promised to talk a bit more in detail in the next few days.
But for now take this salad: fresh, crisp, and strictly raw. Now, tell me if this is no reason to be happy. Cheers!

Raw Beet and Carrot Salad
for 4

red beets, medium size 3
carrots 2
fresh ginger 1 piece, about 1" long
shallot 1-2
olive oil 2 tablespoons
Dijon mustard 2-3 tablespoons
lime 2
salt, pepper, fresh cilantro as needed

Peel beets and carrots and grate them into a bowl. Add grated fresh ginger, finely chopped shallots, salt and pepper. Prepare the dressing by mixing oil, mustard, and lime juice, and pour it over the vegetables. Mix well and sprinkle with a generous amount of chopped fresh coriander (mind you, make the amount truly generous...).

Photo Day: Guava

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One rainy Sunday. Towards Chinatown.