Monday, January 2, 2012

G.G. cooks and gardens in the New Year

Happy New Year!

I already have a New Year's confession! Oh heavens, I think you are supposed to start the year off on the right foot and I've already done a bad bad thing or two. My first meal of the new year was...... KFC...... Oh I can hear the gasps. I too am appalled. I would like to say it's not my fault, but I was actually driving so I could have steered off the course that my passengers were mapping. I got a 20 pack of nuggets to share and only ate 5, however, the deed had still been done. 

We were coming back into town from a New Year's Eve Ball, so that's the reason I allowed such an atrocity. At least I didn't get a giant feast as one of the passengers was trying to convince me to do. Ick!

The second bad thing I did was to accidentally get ridiculously sunburnt ( i know, I know- Skin cells in trauma!) which resulted in some crazy delusions last night. I woke up thinking I was in my old house and couldn't find anyone or my water bottle or the air conditioning remote. Once I finally stopped sleep walking/being delusional, I had to remind myself that I wasn't in my old house, and stopped trying to open the sliding door (which doesn't exist in this house!) to get some air. Wowee. Maybe it was actually the KFC?! Kidding..

To make up for the indiscretions, after a suitable nap, Dad and I sprang into action in the kitchen. The most exciting news I've had for a while is.... I made a salad with ingredients that came entirely from my garden! (except for the dressing, of course!) Can you even BELIEVE IT?!  I can't! And , even better, I've got a whole summer of garden eating to continue. I always dreamed of having a productive vegie garden, and now it's coming to reality. It's funny how such a simple thing can make you so happy, but there is nothing better than fresh vegies and salad straight out of the garden just whipped into something - it doesn't matter if it is simple or spesh, it always tastes amazing.

I was so happy to harvest a four small zucchinis, 16 beans and some 'would be perfect on a pizza, more peppery and fresh than I've ever had before' rocket. To go with the Zucchini Carpaccio salad (from Dominique Rizzo's new cook book 'My taste of Sicily')we also made Ravioli soleil with asparagus and pecorino (from Aaron Cooks Italian). The salad was absolutely beautiful- fresh and simple. Love it and can imagine myself eating this many more times through summer, especially since I've got all the gorgeous ingredients growing close by. 

Now, I'm no Nonna, or no Kristina Di Russo, however, the pasta making experiment turned out reasonably okay. The pasta was a little thick - and then too thin, and then too thick again which did affect the quality. Essentially, I do need some tips from a Nonna, but as I don't have one handy and I'm sure you don't have a spare Nonna floating around, I'm going to have to be content with learning from a book or from watching Antonio on tv. Definitely not as good, but the next best thing that I have access to. Overall the pasta was also a hit and I particularly loved the rich yolk oozing out of the pasta when cut. We got the pasta recipe from Guy Grossi's my Italian heart and I will include it below.

I will tell you, make a vegie garden! It's seriously addictive and very rewarding. It hasn't taken very long for the garden to get to the point of fruition. Still, I continue to get attacked by the pigweed and it has taken a lot of effort to get to this point, but it's worth every minute. Obviously I have to water and weed every day, and then I also have to give the garden some grand gestures of caring like mulching and fertilising once every two weeks to remind the plants just how much I love them. If you don't have space for a patch, check out Indira Naidoo's blog and new book  'The Edible Balcony', which talk about creating an edible garden in small spaces. 

At my old house, I tried many times to establish a garden, but honestly, I didn't pay it enough attention and the possums were frightfully active. Those little insidious marsupials managed to eat everything and I had to enclose the whole space, which made me forget to water as frequently as I should have! Once I worked out what I was doing wrong, it was surprisingly easy to fix, because fundamentally I had it right, although the particular space I lived in wasn't really conducive to a healthy garden. Although I haven't got the book yet because I don't need it at the moment. When I move again, it will be on my:things to buy list. I don't know how I could ever give up and live without a vegie garden now that i've got one and love it so dearly.

Also, if you get a garden, you too can sit and ponder the wonders of nature. At the moment I'm particularly interested in the growth process of a corn. Such a funny little thing- the little strings and parcels that keep the corn wrapped fresh and tight. Whoever first thought to eat corn must have been a funny thing too~! Imagine stumbling on such a thing and unwrapping only to find the brightness of a yellow corn and then thinking to eat it. I'm glad they did. Where would the world be without corn? I mean seriously think about that question. Not only would our Southern US and Mexican friends not have created the amazing corn that we love so much that goes with our ribs and tacos, there would be no corn bread and on a more serious level, the world would be a very different place. Think about Africa and South America and the impact corn has on their countries and even their economies.. Okay.I'll stop there. Maybe you need to get your own garden so that you can start pondering too!  

Dominique Rizzo's Carpaccio Di Zucchini E Rucola - Zucchini Carpaccio with rocket 
Serves 4

3 large zucchini thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
3 tablespoons verjuice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 good handfuls of rocket
1 handful flat leaf parsley leaves
1 handful of mint leaves
shaved parmesan to serve

Mix the zucchini with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, verjuice and salt and pepper to taste and leave to marinate in the fridge for ten minutes.

Toss the rocket, parsley and mint with the marinated zucchini. Top with shaved parmesan and serve cold. I also added some blanched and sliced beans because I wanted to maximise the potential of the ingredients I got from the garden.

Aaron Craze's Ravoli soleil with Asparagus and Pecorino
Serves 4
200 g basic egg pasta dough (I'll put Guy Grossi's recipe below)
durum wheat semolina for dusting
100g unsalted butter

Asparagus filling
15 asparagus spears, woody stalks removed, stems and tips separated
salt and pepper
100 g of Pecorino Sardo grated
70 g mascarpone cheese
juice and rind of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 large free range egg yolks

To serve
50 g Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Sardo for grating

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
white truffle oil (optional)

Bring 2 saucepans of lightly salted water to the boil. 

Blanch the asparagus stems and tips for 4 minutes in 1 saucepan. Drain, season well with salt and pepper and set the tips aside.

Blitz the asparagus stems, pecorino, mascarpone, lemon juice and rind and olive oil in a food processor. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary remembering that you should always season pasta fillings generously.
Divide the pasta dough into 8 equal balls and roll out into 8 square sheets on the number 1 setting of a pasta machine. Place a tbsp of the filling into the centre of the 4 sheets. 

Make a small well into the middle of each mound of filling, without exposing the pasta underneath. Gently place an egg yolk in each hollow and season each yolk. Close each ravioli with a second matching sheet, expelling and air so that the pasta and filling can cook properly. 
Set aside on a tray dusted with semolina. (Don't stick them on top of one another like Dad did in the beginning..)
Poach the ravioli for 3 minutes in the second saucepan of boiling water. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large heavy based frying pan. Add the asparagus tips and try briefly to warm through. 

Drain the pasta, saving a little more cooking water, and tip into the butter. Add a little of the pasta cooking water to the saucepan to make a butter sauce.
Serve immediately with grated cheese, a drizzle of extra olive oil and a few drops of white truffle oil if you are feeling extravagant. 

Guy Grossi Pasta Fresca - Fresh Pasta Dough

250 g unbleached flour
250g durum wheat flour
pinch salt
4 eggs

Sift the flours and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the eggs one at a time and knead on low speed for about 10 minutes. Add a little water, if required- the dough should soft but not sticky. Divide the dough into 2-3 pieces so it is easier to work with. Roll out each piece by pushing through a pasta machine on the highest setting. Fold it in half and run through the machine again several times, folding each time. (If you do not have a pasta machine, use a rolling pin on a floured surface.) This process is called laminating. You need to laminate the pasta until it looks and feels silky smooth. Adjust the setting on the pasta machine each time and roll the pasta until it is 1-2 mm thick. Cut into desired shapes for filling, or into long strips, such as for tagliarini, fettuccine, pappardelle etc. (If you do not have a pasta machine, roll up the sheet of dough and cut throuogh it with a very sharp knife to make long pasta.) Spread out the pasta on a floured tray and cook on the same day as you make it. Makes 500 g.

Do your New Year's Resolutions involve food? Do tell....

6 fabulous comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi G.G! Happy New Year! It was great to bump into you at Willow Tree last week...isn't it a great venue, perfect for the North West food lovers - I look foward to your post.
I love the look of your fresh garden vegetables, so inspiring. As for my New Years resolution...yes it does involve food and plenty of it! Cheers, Pig Pie P.S I confess, I too gave in to the tempation of KFC on New Years Day!

Nic@diningwithastud said...

Happy New Year :) I think that the best food porn ever is that of an oozey egg :D NOM

::The Beetle Shack:: said...

What a great harvest- I will try that recipe with the fresh goods from my garden!

xo em

SOL's view said...

Happy New Year GG!

The ravioli looks amazing with that yolk. This is something I will definitely have to try, although my daughter will cry foul because it has wheat. Perhaps I shall have to wait till she goes home. *wicked grin*

My head keeps telling me I should go low gi, and low fat. My heart keeps telling me how much I shall miss chocolate if I do. Dilemma!


Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Happy New Year! Love the look of the little zucchini - did you keep the flowers to stuff?

Ally said...

You grew things!! See, the black thumb has vanished!

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