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Posts Tagged ‘Garlic’

Life of a Peach

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I’m going to have a tomato instead. Instead of anything I’ve mentioned or thought about it. But it’s not an ordinary tomato, this is a 312g (11oz) home-grown stripey thing tinged with green bursting with goodness type of tomato. I’ve probably got the only one in Auckland right now balanced on a kitchen scale. So it’s unique. My dinner is unique. I’m going to slice it up and pour a puddle of extra virgin olive oil over it, dust it with flaky sea salt and a good grinding of pepper and add a squeeze of lemon. That’s all it needs. But first I might cook the eggplant. I might regret it if I don’t. Fry it in oil, serve it all rich and unctuous. All slippery, silky, charred-edged, and, like all black foods, a bit sort of spooky, only safe if you’ve cooked it yourself, sinful and rich. The Italian name for eggplant is melanzane. Mad. Madness. Mad apple. Bad apple. Who knows? 180g (6 1/4 lb) of spookiness. Gorgeous spookiness. I’m up for it!

Small pan. Get it hot. Cube eggplant. No smell of green pepper (a sign of unripeness and bitterness). Add good slosh of oil. Get oil hot. Add eggplant. Splatter screen on top of pan. Big sip of wine.

When they’re mostly brown, lower the heat then let the pieces cook until they are tender. That’s a mistake too many people make. They think once the eggplant is brown, that’s it, you can eat it. Wrong. It needs to be TENDER. Otherwise it will be astringent. A few minutes before serving it (resist the urge), throw in as much sliced garlic as you like, stir around, season with a good few flakes of sea salt and a little pepper, then dish it into a bowl. A pasta bowl. You’ll find they’re a convenient serving vessels for one. They make it look like you’ve got more food than you have as it sort of spreads out rather than getting lost in a deep bowl like those trendy noodle bowls. Don’t go there. Not for this kind of food.

Then do the tomato salad. The trick is to slice it into thick rounds – big rounds – this is not the kind of thing to do with a wossy tomato – and again, you serve it in a pasta bowl. A proper Italian pasta bowl, not a modern deep bowl. This is the only way to do it. You should serve lots of things in pasta bowls. That way you would use these bowls more often and get your money’s worth.

I can’t possibly eat a 300g tomato.

A piece of sourdough. The last piece of sourdough. Actually it’s a crust. A dried out crust that would choke a seagull. Bin it. Soft floury supermarket roll instead. Toast it to dry it out and get some crunch. That’s the catch isn’t it? I want something crunchy but not too crunchy.

Set the table. Always. With a cloth. And a napkin. An old red checked faux Italian napkin. Except it IS an Italian napkin. I bought a set of red-checked napkins and a tablecloth 22 years ago in Tuscany at the place that had the lucertolas crawling up the wall, and we’ve used the napkins regularly every since. They don’t match the cloth I’m using now. But so what. They never had a hope in hell of matching the cloth.

The food’s enough for three people but you sort of hope no one comes home on a night like this.

The fork hits the side of the bowl with a sort of ‘ting’, like an announcement saying ‘start eating now’. I look at it, then I hear the fan again.

I don’t know if it is what I want to eat, but it is what I have cooked, so it is what I will eat. Willingly.

Help! I ate the whole tomato.

It’s that time of year, at least in cool climes, when radicchio is at its best

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

RadicchioRadicchio appears to be native to Italy, and the three types are named after the towns of their origin: Chioggia, Treviso and Castelfranco, all in the Veneto region. Chioggia is the most common radicchio found here, available pretty well throughout the year. It grows in a tight ball, resembling a small red cabbage and should feel weighty for its size. It has an agreeable bitterness and is excellent in salads on its own, mixed with other leaves, or with fennel. Treviso has long tapering red leaves with meaty white ribs, resembling a white witloof in appearance. It’s milder in flavour and is excellent grilled, baked or roasted and in risotto (I used the Chioggia variety for the recipe above, as Treviso is not readily available, and found it quite successful). Castelfranco is more open, like a young butterhead lettuce, creamy in colour, tinged with pink and speckled with purpley-red. It’s used in salads. The latter two are seasonal, appearing in late autumn.

Here’s one of my favourite salads with radicchio. Capers, garlic and parmesan cheese make a gutsy dressing that stands up well against the bitterness of radicchio. Just be warned; it’s very moreish!

Radicchio Salad with Caper & Parmesan Dressing