Thursday, March 29, 2012

Swiss Chard bruschetta

My Swiss chard/silverbeet is not big enough to be picked, but I was working in the veggie garden and I broke one entire little plant by mistake. Well, I cut it right back, and maybe it will grow again. I sauté the leaves with olive oil, some onion weed (again) and a few black olives. A pinch of salt and pepper and some grilled bread for bruschetta, and lunch for two was ready, maybe unplanned, but ready!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring asparagus steamed over a vegetable soup and served with flowers

Lots of people know by now that I eat flowers, but still, some think of it as a bit of a freak thing to do. But if you have a few edible flowers in your garden (absolutely organic, no sprays allowed) they just make your dishes look so pretty, and they are not merely a decoration, they can have flavour and fragrance too! I used onion weed flowers, which have a mild garlic/oniony taste, and nasturtiums, which are probably the only flowers that the general public in New Zealand seem to consder edible (some claim to use them in salads, but in all these years here I have seen more trendy talk than action, and still far too much coleslaw). My first borage flowers and a few little violets added perhaps little taste, but they are eye catching with their blue hues, and welcome on my plate anytime.

On a large plate I prepared a bed of baby spinach leaves and then I steamed some asparagus. To save time and gas I steamed the asparagus over the vegetable soup that I was cooking for dinner (so that I could make lunch and dinner at the same time). I meant to photograph the finished soup too, since all the veggies come from my garden, but I forgot. Anyway, it had my last cabbage, carrots, celery (mostly leaves), cavolo nero, broad beans (they are here, finally!) and onion weed (of course). It was a lovely soup, and I just had to add pasta and seasoning, all the rest was from my garden. Anyway, back to the asparagus salad: after steaming the asparagus I rinsed them under cold water and placed them over the spinach leaves. And then I added the flowers. For dressing I just added salt, extra virgin olive oil and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. I also think that a simple Japanese miso and sesame seed dressing like this one could go well. This was a light but satisfying lunch for two.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Japanese inspired Vegan recipes: Onigiri and Soba with Furikake

When times are busy it is good to take out same ready make furikake. Furikake is a Japanese style seasoning, usually used to top rice, but useful for other dishes as well. I found one that I really like: Citrus Furikake from Pacific Harvest, (FYI, I have not been endorsed, payed or given free products by the company, but hey, if you have any free samples - vegetarian of course, do send them this way! :-). I love seaweed and this furikake is a mixture of 5 seaweeds: naturally flavoured kelp, karengo, sea lettuce, ao-nori, wakame, plus sesame seeds and a nice citrus touch. At home usually we sprinkle it directly on rice, or make onigiri (rice balls), or use it on noodles, vegetables, and a variety of dishes. Here are two examples.

Onigiri with furikake

To make the onigiri cook some Japanese (or sushi) rice (rinse it first until the water runs clear). When the rice is still warm wet your hands with water, rub them with just a little salt, and shape the rice balls with your palms. Sprinkle some furikake on top of each onigiri, or roll part of the onigiri onto the furikake for an even covering (but do not cover the whole rice ball with it, furikake is salty, and you just need a little bit).

Soba with Furikake

Super quick lunch: I cooked some bok choy like in here, and some soba like in here, but I didn't rinse the soba under cold water at the end: as soon as I drained the soba I mixed it with the hot bok choy, and then each diner sprinkled a bit of furikake on top. Simple, fast and the kids loved it!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Japanese-Italian Fusion: Fruit Salad with Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

I like small things, even when it comes to food: small plates with small tastings, miniature bites, doll houses' type of things... 

This is a 'fruit salad' that could be served at the end of a formal 'Japanese' meal, where presentation is important and fruit is often the only dessert, or at the end of a formal Italian meal (we also tend to have fruit rather than 'pudding').

For the dressing I used some Aceto Tradiozionale Balsamico di Modena, not to be confused with Aceto Balsamico di Modena (they are two different products) and it goes well with all the fruit used here, including bananas. And to accompany, no ice-cream or similar, but I dared to be different and went for fresh petals... if you choose them go for pink, cherry or peach, and yes, they can also be dipped in the ABTM and eaten,  I did it (but I don't know many other people who regularly eat flowers like I do :-).


for each person:
2 slices of banana (sprayed with a little lemon juice)
2 small balls scooped from a kiwi (green)
2 raspberries
2 small balls scooped from a kiwi gold (yellow)
1 tsp ABTM
cherry or peach petals

The utensils: a knife, a little scoop for the kiwis,  a flower cutter for the banana (I used a Japanese one for cutting vegetables like flowers), small bamboo skewers. To assemble just look at the pictures. Serve with the ABTM.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©