Sunday, June 20, 2010

More red food

Maybe it's something to do with keeping warm, but I am loving the bitter warmth of winter veggies at the moment -- like those strong green rocket leaves we're plucking from the garden a few times a week. Or radicchio.

Where radicchio runs free (briefly, pursued by eager Italian cooks)

I never used to like radicchio. It wasn't until we went to Treviso and saw its jewel colours there, and when I started reading about all the shapes and types of radicchio, well, I got curious.

As luck would have it, it's prime season for them now, and we've had a few of the firm bullet-shaped radicchio trevisano in the last few weeks.

Look, it's just like the picture!

I had it in a lunch salad, with sweet dollops of soft goat's cheese, some halved grapes, and a gentle vinaigrette.

Hmm, it goes well with sweet things. My books say olive oil, definitely a lover of oil and some salt. So the first time I used it, that's what we had: salad of beautiful leaves, crisp but well-coated in olive oil and with little bits of goat's cheese snuggled into the pockets formed by the leaves. I sliced some of it finely, sauted briefly (I think with a shallot?) and we had that on top of sweet lamb chops. Yum. We might have it that way again tonight. Bring the red wine.

So as for red foods, this one pops nicely between the beetroot dip and the pomegranates. (I made a batch of muffins today, with oatmeal, brown sugar, marsala-soaked raisins and pomegranate seeds. Mmm.) Now how do I get my fingertips back to a normal colour?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beetroot, bags of crisps, and other things I don't blog about during normal blogging hours

If there's one thing a happy commuter does, it's to eat well. All that running for trains and sitting on your duff-el bag in the mornings can instigate a three-week long craving for sea salt chips in packets to be snuffled on the way home. For sanity and waistline, eat well and resist. That makes me happier.

We've been trawling the local farmers' markets (early winter produce) and enjoying what little we can get from our garden. I'm grateful to whoever planted the leeks and rocket in our garden. We're having leek and potato soup for dinner tonight, and that rocket - wow, it's got bite. I think it'll go into an eggy pie with ricotta and parmesan tomorrow.

Love the rocket's bitterness. You will work with and loooove the rocket's bitterness.

So this is what we are eating, and enjoying:

Beetroot dip
(from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion 2e)

This is one of those little recipes in the margins of the second edition. If you love beetroot (hands up) tat's me - cant type wih one hnd in the air - then this is divine. Even if you don't go for beetroot, this might be an mmmm experience. It's the garlic.

When you get your bunch of beetroot, all you do is rinse them briefly, hack off the green parts of the leaves (not the stem or the root), put them in a dish wrapped tightly with foil, and bake them for one or two hours. It helps proceedings in my house if there is a cake on the top shelf of the oven for the first hour.

If you haven't broken the skins, they will steam in their own jackets. You know they're done when they are soft enough to poke successfully with a fork. The skins will slide right off and you will look like Lady Macbeth as you do it.

The same day or a couple of days later, whack one or two of the peeled, roasted beets in a food processor with a small clove of garlic, a pinch of salt and a few seeds (not pods, just the black seeds) of cardamom. I like a 1/4 tsp of cumin, too. Blend it up, drizzle in olive oil and blend again. Keep adding oil until it's gloppy enough to dandle on the end of a breadstick. You're done.

I'm keen to try it in pitta sandwiches, with jacket potatoes, and even with those aubergines and carrots I've got roasting in the oven. Oh, and I steamed a handful of the younger beet greens, drizzled them with olive oil and stirred in a spoonful of this garlicky goodness -- divine.