Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Daikon and Carrot Salad with Miso and Toasted Sesame Seeds

Peel a carrot and a piece of daikon as big as two carrots with a vegetable peeler. Discard the outer skin, and then continue 'peeling' to obtain long thin orange and white vegetable 'ribbons'. As you work drop the carrot and daikon strips into a bowl filled with water and lemon juice. Let the vegetables soak for about 30 minutes. In the meantime toast a tbsp or so of sesame seeds in a hot frying pan, and then mush them lightly with a mortar and pestle (I have a Japanese one for this, but any mortar and pestle will do). Set aside. In a small bowl thin one tbsp of miso (white or red) with a little hot water, or hot vegetable stock, into the consistency of a salad dressing (i.e.: not too runny, but not as thick as to be impossible to fold into a salad). Add 1 tbsp of soy sauce too, if you like (or gluten free tamari sauce). Drain the vegetables and add the miso dressing. Mix and divide between 4 bowls (if eating immediately, otherwise store in the fridge, covered, it will acquire even more flavour!). Before serving top each bowl with a pinch of crushed toasted sesame seeds. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, July 27, 2012

Italian borlotti beans cooked in a skillet

 The most famous borlotti beans are from the village of Lamon (not far from my Mum's place).

Fagioli in Padella

Soak the borlotti beans overnight, rinse and then cook with plenty of water and a bay leaf. Usually I add salt only at the end of cooking, then I keep the broth and a few beans for soup, and drain the rest to cook separately or use them in salads. Here I made them 'in padella' (in a skillet).

Sauté a shallot (sliced) or a couple of peeled garlic cloves with two tbsp of olive oil. Add the cooked borlotti beans, then about one cup of Italian tomato sauce (passata) and one cup of bean broth (or vegetable broth). Simmer on low for about 20 minutes, when the sauce thickens add half a tsp of smoked paprika (or some black pepper), adjust for salt and then finish everything with some more olive oil and plenty of fresh chopped parsley. 

In the past I didn't use chopped parsley with the paprika, but I do now, if I can: I find that parsley makes the beans easier to digest without... gas! Do you use parsley agains the 'effects' of beans? I also know that kombu seaweed, and bay leaves, are supposed to help, but if you know any other trick do let me know :-).

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, July 16, 2012

Aunt Alice's Artichokes

I have to say that the ingredients and cooking method are very similar to mine (and my mother's). We call it Roman style, possibly because both my Mum and my Aunt learned to make this in Rome (and I learned from them). But there are two main differences between my usual recipe which I always make in New Zealand (recipe here) and this one, simply due to ... availability!!! In NZ artichokes are still rare and quite expensive, so when I get a few I cook them with all the hard outer leaves (to be scraped with teeth at the table until you reach the heart) while here in Italy artichokes abound and so we can discard the outer leaves and cook only the tender hearts. 

The other difference is that while I cooked the whole artichokes "flower side up", the artichokes hearts with stalks are cooked "flower side down", and in this way you can leave a bit of the stalk in too, they are yummy and tender!

All you need to do is to:

Clean very well the artichokes discarding all the hard outer leaves. Also peel the stalks and keep up to 5 cm attached to the floret. As soon as one artichoke is cleaned drop it immediately in a bowl full of water and lemon juice or lemon slices. Keep the artichokes in the lemon water until cooking time. 

Finely chopped Italian parsley with garlic and salt, and then use this mixture to fill the centre of the artichokes (so far the recipe is like for the these artichokes) but then place the artichokes upside down into the pot (like in the photos, I only turned one up to show you what the inside would look like at the end of cooking), add a little extra virgin olive oil, a few more slices of garlic (if you like), another  pinch of salt, and a couple of fingers of water. Place on the stove on low, cover with a lid and simmer for about two hours, adding water from time to time, if needed.

Now there is one last thing to be said here: Aunt Alice had a wood fire stove (stufa, a bit like an Aga, I should remember to take a photo sometimes!) and in this way you can cook the artichokes (and many other dishes) really slowly, all they long... so the ones that she makes always have a special taste. Plus she has the patience to clean over 15 artichokes!

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini and Aunt Alice ©