Archive for September, 2015

Vineyard Pesto (there are nasturtiums)

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

nasturiums

 

Nasturtium vines may be browning and tangled, but they are still producing a prosperity of flowers, those orange, red and yellow banners of sunny days.

To me a pot of fluttering nasturtiums are the flags that refuse to be lowered by school buses or evenings requiring sweaters. Blackening basil is far too prissy a plant to be a good measure of how much Indian Summer we can still enjoy; nasturtiums are defiantly joyful, even when the darkness closes in on daylight from either end.

You probably have a pot of leggy vines tumbling off your porch as you read this. Quick – harvest a cup or two of flowers right now. That will take you exactly two minutes. Throw the flowers in a food processor with the ingredients below, and you will have a pesto unlike no other. Vaguely spicy (add more leaves to make it more peppery), vaguely sultry, this pesto tastes like it has relatives in Middle Eastern markets.

 

in processor

 

 

There are recipes for pesto everything, but this one, to me, has as much stature as the classic with Genovese basil. Toss 1/2 cup -3/4 cup of the paste upon a pound of drained pasta – the softness of egg noodles are particularly delicious.  Toss well, and serve hot or at room temperature.  (But don’t let the pasta sit too long, maybe 15 minutes at the longest; the flavor will fade.) – for a light pasta with a gentle, haunting spice.

This doesn’t have the whack of basil pesto. It is only “flowery” the way saffron is flowery, which is really more earthy and spicy, but all very oblique. This is pesto for gardeners and poets, but I think some children will like it, too.

The original recipe is in the Martha’s Vineyard Chapter of my book, “In Cod We Trust, the celebrated cuisine of coastal Massachusetts.” Martha’s Vineyard is an island saluted all over by nasturtiums.

 

bowl of nasturtium pasta

 

 

Vineyard Pesto

makes 1 1/2 cups

2 cups nasturtium flowers (for a spicier pesto, include 5-10 leaves)

1/2 cup toasted pistachios (substitute walnuts or pine nuts)

juice of one lemon

4 cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

1. Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blend. Refrigerate in a glass or ceramic jar if storing, but use at room temperature.

two bowls

Antipasto Quick Bread with Einkorn Wheat

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

einkorn

I’m briefly leaving the coast of Massachusetts and its burgeoning farmers’ markets, recent post inspiration, for Italy, because I can never stay too long away from that country.

I first learned about Jovial Organics Incorporated, based in Modena, Italy, a few years ago when I was researching gluten-free products. Gluten-free or not, the Jovial story, and einkorn wheat, for its heart and reinvention of an ancient food, is just a compelling food tale.

The “Mrs.” of Jovial Organics, Carla, was born into an Italian-American household with a mother who made homemade pasta and a father who cooked on the weekends. Her family’s homemade pizza was not what other Connecticut children were eating. Carla traveled to Italy as a young woman, fell in love with her parents’ homeland and an Italian man named Rodolfo Bartolucci, “Mr. Jovial.” They married, established a home in Italy, and started a family. When their young daughter developed various medical issues, consequences of gluten intolerance, like so many people struggling with this, the parents desperately searched for answers.

Italy being Italy, a solution lay in its hills. A neighbor of the Bartoluccis was growing einkorn, documented as the most ancient form of wheat. All modern wheat hails from einkorn. Einkorn has never been hybridized. When Paleolithic hunter-gatherers became Neolithic farmers of the Fertile Crescent, one of the wild seeds they corralled with agriculture was einkhorn. Einkorn doesn’t have less gluten, but when it is mixed with a liquid its structure causes less gluten to be produced. It is a satisfying, nutritious answer to bread and pasta for those who cannot tolerate modern wheat.

Even if you can sustain a slice of grocery store toast, know this: Einkorn has more protein than any other grain, and 15% less starch, which means it has far fewer carbohydrates. It has more flavor, and a lot more nutrition. Bartolucci says that the nutrition of einkorn is to modern wheat what an heirloom, farm-raised tomato is to a supermarket tomato.

Einkorn contains 200% more lutein than modern wheat, “the same antioxidant that makes egg yolks yellow,” Bartolucci says. For essential nutrients, einkhorn has 50% more manganese, riboflavin, zinc, and 20% more magnesium thiamin niacin, iron, and vitamin B6 than modern wheat. In fact, all of the above is what is synthetically added back to an “enriched” loaf of bread baked with modern wheat. In einkorn it never left.

When einkorn proved the precise solution to their daughter’s health, the Bartoluccis contracted with various Italian farmers to grow it commercially. Cue Jovial Organics Incorporated, producers of flour, pastas, and wheat berries, and now a cookbook, “Einkorn.” The “ancient” quality of einkorn always had more interest for me than its very genuine promise of bread to the gluten intolerant, and this cookbook is a baker’s read, not a medical “alternative.” Carla Bartolucci provides plenty of easy advice for working with einkorn. (Let pie crusts rest a bit before rolling so the einkorn can properly absorb the fat. Mix einkorn gently. Nothing overwhelming.) My starter is still growing, but from the looks of it, I understand einkorn makes a killer sour-dough loaf with a crust that Mr. Lahey of the famous No-Knead Loaf can envy.

Che bella!- is the recipe below, and so Italian. A combination of antipasto flavors tucked into an easy quick bread, this makes an easy, interesting portable appetizer, or a lovely housegift. If you are bringing it to a gluten-sensitive household you might wrap the cookbook up, too.

bread and wine

Einkorn Savory Antipasto Quick Bread

makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose einkorn flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/3 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

2 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1.4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 cup diced firm cheese, such as Manchego, Swiss, or Colby

1/2 cup diced salami or mortadella

1/2 cup diced ham or turkey

1/2 cup pitted and sliced green olives

Instructions

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan

2.  In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix in the pecorino cheese and oregano.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy.  Whisk in the milk, oil, and wine until combined.

4.  Fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture, and use a spatula to mix until the flour is completely absorbed.  Add the diced cheese, and meats, and olives, mixing them into the batter evenly with a fork.  Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

5. Bake the bread for 40 – 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean in the center.  LEt the bread cook in the pan for 15 minutes, then uncomld the bread and let cool completely on a rack before slicing.

bread on board

Steamed Eggplant with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

eggplant platter

Eggplants runneth over in farmers’ markets this time of year: Sicilian, Thai, Japanese, Indian. Listada de Gandia, Rosa Bianca, Violet of Florence. Small, plump orbs. Long, lolling digits. Squat white pillows flecked in violet.

I’ve discovered that there is more to eggplant than parmesan or brushing them with olive oil and grilling them to charred disks.

Steaming brings out the absolute creamiest possibilities in very fresh eggplant. I had doubts about this technique at first, which is no more difficult than plunking whole eggplant into a steamer, and leaving it for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your nightshade’s size. (A genus of the Solanacae family, eggplant or Solanum melongena, share nightshade status with tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, tomatillas and tobacco, to name some of thousands.)

I had been concerned steaming would preserve the bitterness, or at least make the fruit watery. Nope.

I tried using the small, ovals called Fairy Tale eggplant, and I tried steaming the large round Rosa Bianca. Both were beautiful: firm and creamy, no bitterness at all, even from the seeds.

The sauce I made is Shangri-la over these freshly steamed guys. It’s a blend of hot and sweet, the ideal match to creamy and firm. Serve a platter of these at room temperature as an appetizer, or as a side dish to almost anything.  If you are a Cape Anner, there is no hyperbole high enough for what these eggplant taste like beside Trupiano’s Chicken Sausages.

About that Pimenta Moida, a favorite ingredient in my book, “In Cod We Trust;” I promise, you really can find it in your local grocery store. I buy it at Stop & Shop by the two’s. It comes in a tall glass jar, and is in the Portuguese or Spanish section. Sometimes it is called “Malagueda.” It adds the slightest bit of freshness to this sauce, but if you truly can’t find it you can substitute your own hot sauce, even Tabasco. Just taste for the proper amount, although I think these hot sauces are generally best used in half the amount of Pimenta Moida.

 

eggplant with rose

 

Steamed Eggplant with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

serves 6 as a side dish or appetizer

Listada de Gandia, Rosa Bianca, Thai types, or small fingerling types of eggplant, 2 large eggplant or 8 small

2 teaspoons finely diced garlic

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce, or Bragg’s liquids

2 tablepoons Pimenta Moida or 1 tablespoon (or to taste) hot sauce of your choice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

chopped cilantro or parsley

Instructions

1.  Place a steamer in a large sauce pan, and fill with water appropriately.  Lay the whole eggplant, including stem, no matter what the size, in the steamer, and cover.  If your eggplant are very round you may have to cover tightly with foil rather than a lid.  Steam until a fork passes easily through the eggplant, about 15 minutes for small eggplant, and as long as 30 minutes or even more for large ones.  When totally soft, remove cover and allow eggplant to cool completely.

2.  To make sauce, whisk together all the ingredients in a glass measuring cup.

3.  To serve, cut the stems off the eggplant, and then cut the eggplant lengthwise into appropriate serving sizes, depending upon their size.  Lay out on a platter, and pour sauce over all.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley.

I used almost the whole amount of the sauce for 2 large round eggplant.  I think this is best served immediately, but it is also delicious, just a little soupy, and the eggplant softens more, served the next day as leftovers.