Tuesday, November 24, 2015

vegetable surprise

veggie wraps
There's nothing mysterious concealed within this parcel.  Pull the string, take a whiff of the steam as it gently unfurls and in an instant every single ingredient will be revealed at the sight, smell and taste of each.  In just the palm of a hand, the beauty of fall and winter seasons are condensed and translated in food.  Food that cooks in a mingling of flavors that are absorbed and released through its own sweet juice.  The final result will make your heart skip for a second and all five senses will sing soundly. To start, get a hold of good ingredients, you’ll be inspired as you handle them.  The rest is just chopping, slicing, and dicing, in a rather rustic but thoughtful way. I’ll never tire to say that good food depends almost entirely on great ingredients especially when there's really no recipe involved. That's all there is to say.   
veggie wraps
Vegetable Wraps
serves for 4 people

1 medium size butternut squash, peeled and diced
4 medium size Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced longwise in quarters
4 big oyster mushrooms, it would be better if you can get a hold of porcini mushrooms
4 fresh spring onions
1 big fennel
12 large size chestnuts, peeled and boiled for 10 minutes
fresh thyme
fresh dill
extra virgin olive oil
parchment paper and baking string

Rinse and peel the vegetables.  Dice the butternut squash, slice the fennel, divide the Jerusalem artichokes in quarters, divide the spring onions in half.  Slice the bigger oyster mushrooms in half and leave the smaller ones whole.  Peel the chestnuts from their outer skin.  To remove their inner skin, boil the chestnuts in water for 10/15 minutes, this will also pre-cook the chestnuts so they can cook equally with the other vegetable.

Place all the vegetables in a big bowl and season to taste with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.  Give it a mix with your hands coating all the vegetables with the seasoning.

Divide the parchment paper in 4 pieces, 60 cm long. Place a sheet of the parchment paper in a small bowl, this will help you wrap the vegetables.  Place the vegetables within the bowl covered with parchment paper, add the fresh thyme, dill and a last drizzle of oil.  Pull the 4 extreme corners of the paper and bring them above the center, gather the middle with your hand to form a tight package, see the top photo.  Tie the package tightly with baking string. Place the four parcels on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC for 20/25 mins.
 No fuss. Oven baked wrapped veggies. You're wondering what veggies, right? Coming soon. Happy sunday folks :)

Friday, November 13, 2015

I did a video

Fregola con Vongole

Gather some flour, we're making fregola today.

Yes, I did a video to show you how to make it.

Let the flour run through your fingers, feel its rustic texture as small amounts of cold water and saffron are added. Use a coarse, stone ground, durum wheat flour. Movements should be continuous and circular, one hand adds the flour and water, the other, moves it around. Your fingertips press delicately against a large wide ceramic plate, with a smooth and slippery surface. The flour and water will merge and suddenly a resemblance of tiny golden nuggets will form. The fregola is made. The corners of your mouth now raise and that big smile on your face will be the result of a proud accomplishment.

This kind of pasta builds as you add flour and water, a little of each, a little at a time.  The reason why I don't use specific measurements, although I'm sure there must be a recipe that does.  The video shows you a handful of flour, and a few drops of water (or a tablespoon would be more accurate); as the flour absorbs the water, another handful of flour and some more water.  Keep going until you get the amount you want.  Consider one heap handful of fregola per person, again it's very approximate, my handful will never be your handful, but you got the message.

Wait...we're not done yet.

Place the fregola on an oven tray lined with baking paper, cover with a clean cloth and allow it to air-dry for a couple of hours (even less if you can't wait).  Every once in a while, move it around so that it doesn't stick  Now, place the tray in a preheated oven at 150ºC for 20 minutes.  This step will absorb any remaining humidity and most importantly, it will toast the fregola. You'll know it's ready when you move it around with your hands and it makes the sound of dry pasta.  You can store it in a sealed container up to a month.

...we're still not done. Wait.
Fregola con Vongole
Fregola with Clams
Serves 4 people

Fregola pasta
1 kg clams
250 gr tomato puree
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups saffron broth, made with hot water, saffron and a pinch of salt

Place the clams in a bowl of fresh water, add a tbsp of salt.  Leave the clams in the water for a couple of hours allowing them to discharge any remaining sand.

For the sauce
In a preheated medium size pot, add 5 tablespoons of EVOO and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves. Add the clams to the pot and cover with its lid. Once the calms are open, remove them from the pan, leave the juice they released in the pot. Add the fresh parsley, the tomato puree and season to taste.

Remove most of the shells from the clams and keep just a few with their shell to decorate.

After 20 minutes, put the clams back in the same in the pot of tomato sauce. Add the broth of hot water and saffron. Bring to a boil.  Add the fregola pasta, consider a heap handful for each person. The fregola cooks within 5 minutes.  Add some extra saffron broth if necessary.  The idea is to keep this a little liquid. If desired, add some more fresh parsley.  Serve.