Pasta of the Week, Pantacce and Borlotti Beans with Rugola. I Can’t Believe it’s Vegan

Lots of Italian food is vegan by nature and vegan by tradition but you never see it labelled as such. And that, in my opinion, which is neither humble or otherwise, is a good thing. I can’t stand labels. Most of the food you will read about on my blog is vegetarian, but I rarely mention that word in the post. I firmly believe that once we do away with labels- vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, omnivore, ethically farmed (hallelujah) and heaven forbid, Paleo- the culinary world will be a better place.¬†A good recipe tempts the taste buds with the summary of its parts and its visual tease.

Another version of Pasta e Fagioli

I’ve tasted very good vegan food in restaurants without that little colour- coded ‘v‘ in the corner to guide me, many a fine Italian antipasto¬†and primo,¬†as well as lovely traditional Indian, Greek and Middle Eastern dishes. Last Saturday I joined the throngs at the popular A1 bakery in Brunswick and ordered the Ful Mesdames platter. It¬† was comprised of a large bowl of semi mashed warm Ful,( dried fava beans recooked) dressed with a few chick peas, olive oil, parsley and sumac, sitting on a wooden board full of extras, gherkins, pink turnip pickles, warmed middle eastern bread cut into quarters, and a generous side salad of tomatoes, lettuce and onion. It was a surprising bargain for $8, a dish that would generously feed two people. No v word in sight. The stuff that parades as vegan around the cooler traps of Melbourne is either bland or highly processed and appeals to those whose taste buds are still transitioning from childhood to something else. The newly converted may need a label to spur them on. The best vegan food is never described as such. Look at the wonderful Italianesque recipes of Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of The River Cafe¬†fame, whose simple vegetable based recipes make me drool at the thought, sending me running to the kitchen garden. Again, no v word required. Good food is based on fresh seasonal ingredients, combined with a solid understanding of the role played by complementary herbs and spices, then presented in such a way in such a way to excite the diner.

This week’s Pasta Della Settimana ( pasta of the week) came about thanks to the current seasonal offerings from my garden- abundant rocket, fresh borlotti beans, tomatoes, garlic and chilli. It’s a solid meal for a cooler day. It’s another take on Pasta e Fagioli, that classic Italian dish that has moved up the ranks from Cucina Povera to bourgeois heaven. It can be deveganised by adding some finely grated parmigaino or any other animal based shavings you might fancy.

Pantacce pasta

Today’s pasta of the week calls for Pantacce, a¬†mini bite sized lasagna pasta shape with a diagonal cut and a frilled edge along one side. These shapes are made by Molisana, another brand of pasta I sometimes use. It’s a versatile shape that goes well with most sauces. My garden inspired the rest. In this recipe, the beans are the main star, with a small handful of pasta per person to help unite the dish, providing a farinaceous element for the hungry.

Pasta, borlotti freschi e rugola.  Pasta with fresh borlotti beans and rocket.

Ingredients. Once again, this recipe is descriptive, not prescriptive.

  • Fresh borlotti beans, cooked slowly with a handful of herbs, a pinch or two of salt and a drizzle of oil. If you can’t access fresh borlotti, use dried beans and cook them slowly so they don’t split or go soggy.
  • Pantacce pasta, a lasagnette shape made by Molisana or any other medium-sized short pasta shape. I have used one large handful per person as I wanted the beans to star.
  • Some left over home-made tomato sugo, a few tablespoons per person. If you don;t have fresh tomatoes, use a good quality, thick tomato passata, cooked with a little garlic and oil.
  • finely chopped garlic to taste.
  • one finely chopped fresh chilli or a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes.
  • EV olive oil
  • fresh oregano, finely chopped.
  • fresh rugola ( rocket) torn.

Method

  1. Boil pasta in abundant salted water until al dente. Keep back some of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a wide and deep pan, add some olive oil to the pan and heat it on medium. Add the garlic, chilli, and oregano. Stir about for one minute then add the tomato sugo or passata, a few tablespoons per person. Stir through the beans, season well, then add the cooked pasta. Use a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce. The dish needs to be well sauced. Bring the dish to high heat, stirring, then add the rocket and move it about until it wilts. Serve hot with a drizzle of good oil.

    Pasta e Fagioli, many ways to enliven a traditional dish.

Footnote. Sometimes I mention brand names in¬† my posts. I don’t receive any recompense for this, although if some came my way, I wouldn’t say no. Some Australian readers have been asking about brands of pasta to use and so I have decided to mention a few in these pasta posts. De Cecco is still my favourite.

 

The Wisdom of the Contadini. Spring Garden Diary

An old Italian proverb advises,”¬†Quando i mandorli fioriscono, le¬†donne impazziscono“- when the almond tree blooms, women go crazy.¬†I can safely say that I missed this arboricultural, aphrodisiacal or psychotic event a few weeks ago. The almonds already have fruit! Mr Tranquillo is looking for a later flowering variety to extend the season.

My productive organic¬†orto reminds me of the wisdom contained in old Italian proverbs, based on the experience of centuries of vegetable growing by the Italian¬†contadini, the¬†rural peasants, who depended on a productive home garden for crops to be eaten fresh, stored, pickled or dried. Given that this class of farmer was often at the mercy of the landowner, working under the mezzadria,¬†the¬†traditional¬†share cropping system, a productive ‘home’ patch would have been essential to their survival.

Earrly zucchini plantings- another round wll be planted in late December
Early zucchini planting- another round will be planted in late December.

With each turn around the garden, I can hear the vecchi, the old folk, reciting advice in the form of rhymes, the oral history of food and planting. ¬†I have selected a few gems to go with this season’s verdant bounty.

Masses of herbs
Masses of herbs for salsa and pesto
  • Chi pianta le fave senza concime,¬†le raccoglie senza baccello –¬†Those who plant broadbeans without fertiliser, picks them without pods.
Waiting for the first Fave Beans
Waiting for the first fave beans.
  • Chi ha un buon orto, ha un buon porco. Those who have a good vegetable garden, have a good pig. We find this to be the case with chooks also: they love wild rocket and silverbeet.
    The girls are excited when the big gates are opened. Springtime meeans more eggs.
    Let me out…stamp, stamp, stamp.
  • Un piatto di lattuga l’insonnia mette in fuga. ¬†A¬†plate of lettuce chases away insomnia.

    cos and radicchio
    cos and radicchio
  • L’insalata vuole il sale da un sapiente, l’aceto da un avaro, l’olio da un prodigo, vuol essere mescolata da un matto e mangiata da un affamato. ¬†A salad wants salt from a wise man, vinegar from a miser and oil from a squanderer, mixed by¬†a madman and eaten by the¬†hungry.
  • Wild rocket pops up anywhere in the garden: enough for us and the chooks.
    Wild rocket pops up anywhere in the garden: enough for us and the chooks.
  • Lattuga romanella ripulisce la¬†budella. Cos lettuce cleans the gut.

    Abundant Cos lettuce seedlings from saved seed
    Abundant Cos lettuce seedlings from saved seed

Simple dishes star this season, the cucina povera of the Italian contadini: 

  • freshly made egg pasta with sage leaves browned in butter
  • frittata stuffed with herbs and wild greens, with ricotta saltata
  • orecchiette with turnip tops, garlic and anchovies
  • green salads wisely dressed
  • pies and tarts with silverbeet, dill, spring onions and mint, along with fetta
  • silver beet dolmades
  • salsa verde to dress fish or dill and walnut pesto to dress hard-boiled eggs
  • risotto with cavolo nero or radicchio
Radiccho grows everywhere, as well as in the path!
Radiccho grows everywhere, as well as in the path!

It’s all very green with the odd touch of bitter crimson. The planting of the summer fruiting vegetables has begun.

The most versatile vegetable, the humble silver beet.
The most versatile vegetable, the humble silver beet.

Julie’s Spring garden in the North Island of New Zealand is always inspiring, especially given her brilliant photography. Find her at¬†frogpondfarm

I am also linking in with Lizzie’s Garden Share Collective this month.

Hot Summer Nights. Calamari Fritti in Fretta.

The season is hotting up, in both senses of the word. Mr Tranquillo, my current Cabana Boy, refuses to don the appropriate costume or demeanor as he attempts to get the pool functioning in time for a sizzling hot weekend. My adult daughter sips her white wine as she ponders the thought of her father as Cabana Boy. She announces that she doesn’t¬†want to go there, the thought is just too ‘gross’.

Whenever these hot evenings string out for too long, dinner preparation must be super fast. I had calamari fritti on my mind. As my daughter left before the meal, her black eyes glared from the car ” Don’t send me a photo, it’s not fair!”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese lovely molluscs were acquired from the Queen Victoria Market on the best day of the week, Tuesday. In terms of Melbourne’s catch, this is the first day of the week, when the fish are still jumping fresh. ¬†The fishmongers at the Vic Market are happy to clean your purchase.

Calamari Fritti con Rugola in Fretta ( for two)

  • 2 big handfuls of wild rocket/rugola
  • 3 spring onions, sliced, including green end
  • 1 chilli, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • a little olive oil
  • 400g freshly prepared calamari, sliced, including tentacles.
  • cornflour
  • salt and pepper
  • five spice powder
  • neutral tasting¬†cooking oil, such as canola, for frying.
  1. Prepare the salad base. Arrange the rocket leaves and toss with the spring onions on a serving platter.
  2. Make a quick dressing. Crush the chilli and garlic with some salt in a mortar and pestle. Add some olive oil. Lightly dress the leaves.
  3. Heat a fryingpan or wok and add some oil. Toss the calamari slices in cornflour mixed with salt and five spice powder. Cook the calamari in batches, tossing well, for around one minute. Using tongs, drain well on paper towels.
  4. When all the calamari is fried, toss through the salad leaves.

Serve with lemon wedges.

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It is heartening to know that calamari is a sustainable seafood here in Victoria. The rubbery frozen tubes sold in supermarkets are not worth buying unless you fancy eating fried condoms. These usually come from Asia or the USA.  If you do choose to buy these from the supermarket, ask about the source.

The following is a great site to check out the sustainability of Australian seafood.   http://goodfishbadfish.com.au/

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Song plant.  Ooo Ooo, Ooo Ooo Ooo, Ooo Ooo, Ooo Ooo, Ooo,  Hot Summer Nights.

 

 

A Farewell to Broad Beans. Frittata di Primavera

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At some ungodly hour this morning, still half asleep, I heard my mother’s voice saying, ¬†‘Don’t¬†make a rod for your own back.’ ¬†At the time, I was considering the long list of jobs in the vegetable¬†garden for the day ahead. Rod for my back? ¬†Yes indeed.

In Spring, the garden turns into the dictator of this little kingdom. The broad beans must come out today, the potatoes were dug out yesterday, a rather disappointing crop due to frosts in June. All the silver beet plants are now towering over me as they all simultaneously go to seed. They must be dug out and handed over to the chickens, reminding me that next week, the greens will be few in our kitchen.  There are lettuces and cucumbers to transplant, more crops to sow, and a piece of metal rio (metal building mesh) would be very handy to make a shady wall for the rhubarb. The fruit trees need netting, the tomato plants staking!  Just as one languishes in the land of plenty, along comes that dictator to deliver the rod. Or am I stuck in some bygone land of Catholic penance?

Non Capisco una Fava!
Non Capisco una Fava!

Many meals come my way gratis, thanks to l’orto, the veggie garden. This is the upside of our peasant labour, and when I eat this way, I feel that it’s worth all the effort. Last night’s Frittata is an example. I gathered all the ingredients from the garden, added some eggs from our chickens and made a 10 minute meal that was alive with taste, and rather healthy too.

Frittata di Primavera -Fave, Patata e Rugola

Spring Frittata with Broad Beans, Potato and Rocket.

This recipe takes only a few minutes to throw together if you have already cooked and peeled the broad beans, which is discussed previously here.

  • 4 -5 small new potatoes, yellow fleshed
  • 1 cup of broad beans
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
  • a large handful of rugola/rocket
  • Extra Virgin olive oil ( Australian oil is an excellent choice if you happen to live here)
  • vinegar di Jerez ( Sherry vinegar)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Method

  • Boil the new potatoes in their skins, until just done. Roughly chop.
  • Heat a small non stick pan and add a good glug of olive oil.
  • Add potatoes, turn around in the oil, add a pinch of salt and the paprika, and cook till golden.
  • Add the chopped garlic, turn about for a minute, then add the double shelled broad beans.
  • Beat the eggs with a little more salt and pepper, then pour over the vegetables.
  • Lift up the edges of the frittata, allowing the unset egg to run back under, turning the pan as you go.
  • When the frittata looks almost done, except for the wet top, pop it under a hot grill for a minute or so to set.
  • When done, invert onto a plate, using the plate as a lid over the pan.
  • Top with rugola/rocket, which has been¬†dressed in olive oil and sherry vinegar.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Garden monthly, October 2014

 

Purple flowers everywhere attract pollinating insects.
Purple flowers everywhere attract pollinating insects.

Spring has slowly arrived. September was frosty and windy; only now the fruit trees are beginning to blossom. The ground has been too cold to plant seed, but with a few more hot days and some welcome rain, October will be a busy month. Although the plants won’t notice, an extra hour of light at the end of the day and not¬†the beginning, will be most useful for this gardener.

fave/ broadbean flowers
fave/ broadbean flowers

My tasks include:

  • sow summer crops keeping rotation in mind.
  • planting out the tomato seedlings raised by my son in his hothouse.
  • enriching beds with compost and crumbled cow manure, then mulching.
  • building shade cloth covered fences on the south and west sides to protect the garden in summer.
  • remove dead wood from the strawberry patch and add compost then straw. Look for poly pipe to make a cloche for summer protection.
delicate quince blossom
delicate quince blossom

The most vigorous specimen of Cavolo Nero ( black kale) is now flowering for seed collecting, as well as attracting more bees. I have enjoyed tracking its life through these monthly garden posts. When the seed are harvested, probably in summer, I will have plenty to distribute so contact me if you need some.

Cavolo nero going to seed.  This bush has been going for more than a year.
Cavolo nero going to seed. This bush has been going strong for more than a year.

The overgrown sage bush is in flower, attracting more bees to the garden. When the flowering is finished, I’ll chop it back and make cuttings to pot up. Blue and purple flowers attract bees and other insects, necessary for pollinating summer flowering vegetables.¬†I find that endive lettuce and raddicchio ¬†flowers are the best for this purpose.

Radicchio
Radicchio

I have many out of date seed packets. At the end of Last April, I used old seed to plant a random winter crop garden. I am still eating the produce from that sowing. These seeds will be thrown randomly into a compost rich bed this week. Surprise beds are fun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Harvest includes silverbeet, rugola selvatica, radicchio, beetroot, broad beans ( the early ones), broccoli side shoots, parsley and lettuce. All these make lovely green feasts and are added to pastas, pies, salads and soups.

garden greens and fetta pasties
garden greens and fetta pasties

This post forms part of the garden share collective, a monthly roundup of vegetable gardens around the world managed by Lizzie. It serves two purposes. It allows you to connect to other food growers around the world, but also forms a useful home garden diary where weather events, seasonal change and particular micro-climates are recorded. If you like growing food, check out the others at the collective.