Despite the fact that my studio kitchen is barely large enough to turn around in, it's always difficult for me to say no to a shiny new kitchen toy. I also happen to have a talent for rationalizing the purchase of cool specialty equipment in the name of feeding myself; thus, the introduction of a beautiful pasta machine to my collection of gadgets, and the impetus for several rounds of ravioli experimentation! In honor of the season, I decided to make mushroom ravioli, flavored with parsley and spring onion, and studded with toasted walnuts. And with Beemster X-O in my arsenal, I couldn't resist whipping up a rich and creamy sauce to drizzle on top!
Shortly after the kids are born down the road, I venture to another part of my region where I begin my yearly foraging ritual. Ramps are among the teasers of a lush season. They the first wild and foraged ingredient I used when I started cooking and studying food at a professional level. The culinary application on ramps has taken off in the last few years and now ramps are perhaps the hippest of alliums that chefs and other food enthusiasts tinker with. During the months of April through June, every restaurant around spotlights ramps and makes them the star of each dish they are on. Some of the interesting ramp applications I saw last season were ramp spaetzle, pickled ramp (faux) caviar, ramp vichyssoise and ramp kimchee. I know I will be impressed at a handful more this year. For me, I like them done simple- grilled, sautéed or puréed.
On this week’s installment of the Foraging Fairy (uhhh..) I’m running with my pasta making video debut and adding wild nettles for a robust, textural and, of course, healthy green pasta dish that can be accompanied with cheese and various other garden/ foraged treats.
Stinging nettles grow in the wild starting in early spring into the summer. (When you cook them the skin-irritating stingers dissipate so there’s no need to worry of indigestion). Although nettles aren’t as flavorful as ramps or asparagus they offer a lovely green color and texture similar to baby spinach or chard.
17 January 2011
Podere Conti, Pontremoli, Italy
Tonight I really gained insight into the birth of opera. The depth of tradition and honor in this country is something you can feel deeply in your cells, and with a little research one can integrate quite smoothly. I recommend starting in the kitchen, since it is the most sacred of spaces, second only to the centuries-old churches perched high on mountaintops and nestled into villages. The birth of an opera in this century, one might think, is highly unlikely, but I can assure you that an American in the kitchen of a traditional Italian home is a think tank for operatic composition.
16 Novembre 2010
I’m getting my Italian on, as is evidenced by the very authentic manner I have written the date above. But I am also experiencing something a little deeper, a sort of “marriage of two cultures” going on here, and I’m feeling it deep in my soul. Perhaps it is all the testaroli here in Luigiana that have me all a-flurry. A familiar texture with holes throughout the surface, an excellent range of uses, a history of accelerated migration fueling its creation… The most authentic and micro-specific product from Luigiano/Pontremoli, Testarolo is actually unleavened bread!
Testarolo (the fresh flatbread-like form) or Testaroli (plural, or when cut into pasta squares and served with sauce) is indeed the original unleavened bread, cooked in a Testi, aka, wrought iron fry pan. The shepherds would carry the heavy pans on their backs and use them to cook while crossing the mountains and having no time for yeast to rise. Sound familiar?