25 September 2010

What do with an abundance of greens,,,?

After a few weekends away I am enjoying a weekend at home and thanks to Epicurean Supplies I have beautiful freshly picked organic rainbow chard, spinach and curly kale in amongst a huge box of organic goodness.

So some green cooking on the cards for dinner tonight.  One of my favourite cookbooks is Verdura by Viana La Place.  A whole book of Italian vegetable recipes and they certainly do know how to make simple, fresh ingredients sing.  It is my first go to book for vegetable inspiration and a great first stop if an over abundance of anything on particular. I think I got my copy at Cook The Books.  A whole shop dedicated to books about food - so if you love cookbooks it is a dangerous shop to visit but of so much fun. The Silver Spoon is also another great book for ideas on just about anything if you want to go a little Italian. A real door stopper of a book with a chapter devoted to just about every fruit, vegetable and meat you could imagine

So given all the greens I turned to Verdura.  The Scafata caught my eye.  Broad Beans with Swiss Chard and Tomato, it sounds so much more exotic in Italian don't you think?  So with a few tweaks here and there, and a little more rainbow chard than broad beans a very tasty side indeed.

I am finally harvesting broad beans from the garden, however they don't last very long as so tempting to just to eat them straight out the pods.  When so young and fresh you don't need to do anything to them at all.  Hence a little bit of tweaking to the recipe required.

So for my Scafata we have rainbow chard,  a little lighter on the broad beans and a jar of cherry tomatoes from Sabato...these are so good.  The base of carrots, celery and onion gives great depth of flavours to the dish. I didn't want to waste the colourful stalks of the rainbow chard so they were finely chopped and added to the soffrito too.

Scafata is traditionally made with biete da taglio, young Swiss chard leaves with a barely developed rib.  So if you are growing your own you could pick it young and tender to get that especially delicate, sweet and clean taste.  If not, no bother as it turned out a treat with a regular bunch.

Scafata - Broad Beans with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes
5 tbsp EVOO
1 small onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
800g broad beans ( I only had a few and scattered them on top raw as straight from the garden and delicious as they are.)
Salt, to taste
1 bunch, tender Swiss chard, ribs removed and cut in to thin strips ( I used a bunch of rainbow chard and also finely chopped the stalks, too beautiful to waste)
450g tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped ( I used a jar of Sabato cherry tomatoes, but you could substitute with a regular can of tomatoes to save all the peeling and seeding - not may favourite thing to do with tomatoes!)

Heat the olive oil and add the diced vegetables and broad beans (or if fresh out the garden just scatter on raw at the end).  Stir well. Add salt to taste and a few tablespoons of water.  I also added a pinch of chili flakes which gave a nice amount of heat without taking over any of the flavours - I do love a just a little kick.  Cover and cook slowly over a low heat until the broad beans are tender or if leaving them until the end, just until the vegetables are tender. If the mixture becomes dry add a few more tablespoons of water.
Add the chard and tomatoes and cook, with the lid partly on, until the tomatoes thicken and the water has evaporated.  Grind a little black pepper and serve.

Also in my box of goodies were fresh baby fennel.  I love fennel and should have plenty of my own soon as it seems to have self seeded all over the place.  

Fennel: popular for its subtle aniseed flavour. Fennel appears in both Autumn and Spring, ranging in size from baby bulbs to fairly hefty ones.  Its fleshy leaf stems can be eaten cooked or raw.  For fresh fennel look for brightly coloured fronds and a firm and creamy white bulb with the layers packed tightly together.  They will keep in the fridge crisper for 3-4 days.
Smaller bulbs tend to be milder in flavour and can be eaten raw in salads or as a crudite.  Slice thinly at the last moment to avoid browning or pop in to some water with lemon juice to stop any discolouring. Larger bulbs can be sauteed, braised, roasted, BBQd...endless options really.

Fennel Likes: cream, chicken stock, olive oil, lemon, orange, cheese (blue, goat, Parmesan), almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, tomato, potato, anchovy, tuna, mayonnaise, capers, olives, radicchio, watercress, smoked salmon, prosciutto.
Fennel sliced, dipped in flour and egg and coated in a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and Parmesan and fried like a fritter is moreish to say the least. 
Fennel can also be added to pasta dishes, risotto, stews and soups.

I found this simple way to do fresh fennel, again thanks to Verdura - Fettine di Finocchi - Golden Fennel Fans - it even sounds so pretty.  It really couldn't be simpler.  Cut the fennel lengthwise in to fan shaped slices held together by the core.  Mine were baby fennel so very much baby fans!  Heat some EVOO in a frying pan and saute the fennel until golden brown on both sides.  A little salt and pepper etFishmarket this morning. The fennel can be served hot as a side or left to cool to room temperature and served with anti pasti or as part of a buffet. It would also be good left to cool and wrapped in a little prosciutto and drizzled with a little lemon oil.

The fish was great but it was definitely the veggies that were the star tonight.

And for the monkfish.  Tonight I brushed it with herbs, wrapped it in prosciutto and baked it in the oven. I thought the saltiness of the prosciutto would marry well with the meatiness of the monk fish. Brushing with a little olive oil and herbs adds a little flavour and helps keep the fish moist. This really is an easy dinner dish in under 20 minutes.

Prosciutto Wrapped Monkfish
Serves 4
2 fillets monkfish
4 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
6 slices prosciutto
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C
Mix together the herbs, zest and olive oil and add pepper and just a wee pinch of salt as you also have the saltiness of the prosciutto.  Set aside for a few minutes to let the flavours infuse a little.  The brush over the monkfish and wrap it up in the slices of prosciutto. Place in baking tray and cook for about 15 minutes.  It will really depend on the thickness of the monkfish fillets, but you want it just cooked and don't forget it will keep cooking once out of the oven.

With a nice chilled glass of pinot grigio we were all Italiano.

Buon Appetito!


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