Friday, 25 May 2012

Spring veggie salad with confit lemons and garlic bruschetta

This is an unpretentious recipe. Frugal, plain and simple.
The kind of food I like cooking.
Vibrant green vegetables and fresh herbs, garlic and a top quality extra virgin olive oil.

This 'green' salad combines some of the best and healthiest produces of this season: asparagus, fava beans, and 'agretti'.
You may be wondering what 'agretti' taste like. I guess it's not that easy to find these vegetables outside Italy, or the mediterranean countries. 

They have a grassy, earthy flavour and we usually cook them with pasta or as a side dish. I had never thought of combinig them to other vegetables in a salad, though reading this book may have had some influence on my latest cooking endeavours.

Last but not the least, with this post I take part to the contest 'Salutiamoci, mangiare bene per stare bene': the challenge is to cook something good and healthy too. Each month a different italian blog will be hosting the contest, choosing an ingredient amongst super natural foods (the list of ingredients has been developed with doctors who deal with cancer prevention and other serious deaseases).

This month the contest was hosted by 'Stella di Sale' and fava beans were the chosen ingredient.

Hope you enjoy the salad!
Take care,

Ingredients for the salad (serves 2/3):

asparagus: 1 bunch, approx. 800 gr - 28 oz.
agretti (barba di frate): 450 gr - 16 oz.
fava beans: 900 gr - 32 oz.- unshelled
coarse salt

Ingredients for the citronette:

extra virgin olive oil: 4 tblsp
preserved lemons oil: 2 tblsp
lemon juice: 1 tblsp
garlic: 1 clove - peeled and crushed
fresh ginger: 1/2 half tblsp - grated
salt and pepper: to taste

Ingredients for the bruschetta:

wholemeal bread: 4/6 slices 
extra virgin olive oil: 3 tblsp 
thyme: 3/6 sprigs - with flowers 

For garnish:

confit lemons: 1 big, or 2 small
chives flowers

~ ~ ~

Prepare the citronette: in a medium size bowl wisk together preserved lemons oil, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Stir well. Reserve.

~ ~ ~

Shell the fava beans, wash and rinse them, discard any damaged or rotten bean. Set aside.

Wash 'agretti' carefully under cool running water, then cut off any roots, yellowish or extra thick stem. Set aside.

Wash the bunch of asparagus under cool running water, then trim away the bottom of the stalks (the white and thick part of them, 1/3 of the stalk will do). 
If you like so, you could peel the stalks, so that they are the same width as the tip. Thin stalks of asparagus do not need peeling. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine tap water and ice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add coarse salt (the water should be as salty as seawater).
Add the shelled beans to the boiling water and let cook for about 5 minutes, then remove from the saucepan and plunge into the ice water. Let the beans cool, then peel the outer skin from each of them.

Meanwhile cook the asparagus: plunge them in the same saucepan of boiling water and let cook at least 8 minutes, or until the tips are tender. Remove from the saucepan with a skimmer and plunge into icewater.

Cook agretti in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, until wilted. drain well and let them cool completely.

~ ~ ~

Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet and place it over medium heat. Transfer bread slices in the skillet, heating slowly until bottom is golden brown. Flip bread slices and toast the other side as well. Rub the slices with the garlic clove and garnish with thyme.

~ ~ ~

Combine the vegetables in two large individual plates.
Pour the citronette on the salad and gently toss to coat; add the confit lemons, halved and quarterd, and serve with garlic and tyme bruschetta. Garnish with chives flowers. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Como, Città Murata

The first time I visited Como I was about five years old and I was on a school trip with my kindergarten classmates and, of course, our teachers.

Little I remember of our train trip from Milan and the places we visited once there, and I would probably have forgotten all about it, was it not for an old snapshot, showing a bunch of kids on a tiny stretch of pebbled beach, a grey sky reflecting itself in the lake behind them, and a timid smile on my face.

At that time, never would I've guessed I would spend many happy moments with my husband and daughter here, on lake Como.

About 5 years ago, Riccardo and I moved from the crowdy and frantic Milan to a quiet (almost too quiet!) small town in Brianza, about 20 kilometers from Como.

Over the past years we have made a habit of visiting 'La città murata' - the Walled City - the most ancient part of the city, so called as it is still surrounded by its old Roman walls and towers.

Our roundabouts usually start from the merry-go-round in the public gardens next to the Lungolago Trento. Though Maddalena would never leave the spot, I love getting lost in the narrow cobbled streets that stretch between the elegant Piazza Volta and the impressive architecture of the Duomo.

I love to cath every tiny teeny detail.

A marble decoration of an old palace in Via Cinque Giornate,or the coloured glass vases in an antique shop as I walk along Via Diaz. 

Inevitably, though, I stop in front of 'Pane e Tulipani' at the crossroads between Via Bonanomi and Via Lambertenghi: a cafè, a restaurant and a florist at the same time.

The first time I had a look through the shop windows I knew this was my kind of place.

I was completely fascinated by the shabby-chic interior design, and plunged into the intimate and calm atmosphere of this 'cafè-fleur'. 

As in a reverie I had a glimpse at the wide selection of teas and sweets, cakes and cookies, and ordered a strawberry tart.

Since then, I have regularly come back to this place. I pay a visit any time I am in Como. Be it for a coffee, a sweet snack, or an evening 'aperitivo'.

I also love to have lunch here with Riccardo and Maddalena, though this is not a vegetarian restaurant.

If you wish to go green and have a 'meatless meal' here are a couple of dishes you could choose: vellutata di piselli (green peas cream soup) or bruschetta con mozzarella di bufala ('bufala' mozzarella cheese bruschetta) among the starters; asparagi con uova al burro e scaglie di parmigiano (bleached asparagus with  fried eggs and parmesan cheese) as a high-protein dish; insalata di cavolo viola e pere (purple cabbage & pears salad)  or insalata cotto e crudo (mesclun mix salads, beans, and pecorino cheese)if you'd rather go for a light salad.

The quality of the food is high and the presentation of each dish is mouth-watering!

I also love the fact that the menu always changes according to  the season, so please don't expect to order ' bleached asparagus, eggs and parmesan' if you visit this restaurant in January.

You can't leave this place without having a glimpse at the florist' shop. Every detail is really nice, here.

I would probably buy everything you see on these shelves, handmade baskets being among the items I like to collect...

But, luckily, every time I step in this place my daughter Maddalena pulls my coat and reminds me it's time to go back to the merry-go-round for a last ride...

We lazily walk out of this 'cafè-fleurs' whishing to be back soon for another family supper, or coffee break in the city.

I really treasure these moments. I hope you and your family may spend some good time together, and share happy memories in the future, like the ones I lived on our trips to Como.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

a snapshot from home

Espresso Banana Muffin - Instagram photo by Riccardo

This week I share an instagram snapshot from home. And a few words.

Our daughter Maddalena got chickenpox at the beginning of this week, and though I cooked and baked all sorts of treats to cheer her up (or me up, or both) I couldn't find that time and space to capture with images the food I offered my family these days.

There were apple strudel, millet and chestnut pancakes (see recipe here) and muffins, amongst the others.

As I wrote in the previous post, muffins are on my favourite list lately, and a dozen standard batch a day is not quite enough for us!

I found the recipe of the espresso-banana muffin you see in the picture in Heidi Swanson's book, Super Natural Cooking

Loved them from the first bite!

I'll be back soon,

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