Palm Sunday Eats, and other Celebrations

Today’s harvest: Wild greens, Chard, Lettuce, Wild Asparagus, Artichokes, Parsley and other Fine Herbs

I am back from a brief trip to Milan, only to find out about my Saveur’s BFBAwards victory.
I am stunned and honored. I cannot believe you all candidated me, and I cannot believe I actually managed to win.
I would especially love to thank a few people:
Cynthia of Two Red Bowls, who is an amazing blogger and support and such a happy presence on the web.
Molly Yeh, Lindsay of Dolly and Oatmeal and Sini of My Blue & White Kitchen, who are some of the coolest bloggers around.
Golubka and Haruka Sakaguchi of The Denizen Co., who are such a great source of inspiration. And so is Peter, aka Yushichi, who is crazy talented and the very thought of what he does is enough to get my creative flow going.
And finally Phi of Princess Tofu, who is one of the most talented, fun and inspirational people on the web and I adore her and her work to pieces.

One of the greatest gifts in life is having someone to constantly inspire you through thick and thin, and all these people are a huge part of this victory.

Still, I am a great believer that, whether one fails or succeeds, one can never afford to linger on results for too long.
If you fail, take 5 minutes to cry, then move on and do better.
If you succeed, take 5 minutes to rejoice, then move on and do better. If there is one thing I learned from the elders of my family, is that one should keep their head down to work and keep their head up to speak, and not the other way around.

So thank you, thank you so incredibly much!

My goal is to become a better photographer and a better writer. This is just the start.

If you are interested in knowing what silly things run through my head while I shoot, check out my Modern | Pop’s post on Photography.

Eggs, Italian Easter Hortus Natural Cooking

 

 

 

Moving on!

We are going through Holy Week / Passover. Everything is in bloom, the weather is really warming up, and soon there will be Easter celebrations. It is my favorite time of the year.
Easter means outdoor meals together with tons of people, picnics with friends, walks along the beach. It is the scent of cherry trees and the sound of waves breaking on the shore.

Today, to celebrate Easter, Spring and Saveur, I am sharing the humblest and most classic of meals with you.

The recipe for the vegetables below takes advantage of the last harvests of fennel, and it is something you might have seen somewhere already. It is very similar to the vegetables ‘A la Grécque’ present in Julia Child’s cookbook, and it is one of those versatile, quick, delicious recipes that you’ll find yourself making over and over again with all sorts of vegetables. This is a more personal take on it, inspired by a version that has always been cooked in my house.

I believe that, were you to pick just one cookbook for the rest of your life, Julia Child’s book should be the one. I’m not fond of modern cookbooks, save some exceptions, but I often find myself tinkering and experimenting with recipes I find in old books and have great fun trying to give them a healthy twist.
Everyone should own one classic, very good cookbook, and learn to play with the recipes and adjust them to your liking and to your diet.
Old books, which don’t get overly creative but focus on down-to-earth, affordable recipes, often include forgotten ingredients and concoctions like semolina and ancient grains – most of them gluten-free, and often veganizable.
Learn to tinker – in the kitchen and in all of your life experiments, and some very interesting results are bound to spawn from your efforts.

Another wonderful classic cookbook is Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. (It would have been her 90th birthday today!

Both this vegetable and bruschetta dishes are down-to-earth, simple, ancient preparations that celebrate this wonderful period of the year in which everything is in bloom, and have always been eaten by the rich and the poor alike.

On Sunday,  we traditionally eat eggs that have been blessed by a priest. It is a symbol of new beginnings, with the certainty that some kind of spirit will look over us.

Sautéed Vegetables Grecque, Italian version

Poached eggs over Asparagus, Italian Easter recipe

Bruschetta with Asparagus and Eggs
(This recipe really needs no quantities, as you could make it for 1 or 10 – just eye the asparagus amount for each person. This is a classic Italian Easter combo that makes for a lovely breakfast or brunch idea.)

Slices of good quality bread, whole wheat or sourdough
Fresh Eggs, poached
A Garlic clove
Extra virgin olive oil
A bunch of Asparagus
Salt&pepper
Extra – A soft cheese like Ricotta, Robiola or Chevre

To trim the asparagus, snap them where the stalks get tough. Wash them, and steam until the stalks are tender.
Once tender, you can simply dress them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, or sauté them in a pan with the same ingredients.
Poach your eggs. For perfect poaching, bring a pot of water to a boil, then keep at a steady simmer. Create a whirlpool with a spoon, and very gently break your eggs in – I prefer to do it one egg at a time, and count 3 minutes since they hit the water.
The fresher your eggs, the easier they will be to poach. I never use vinegar, and I just drop them straight into the water.
Toast your bread slices. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub the bread with it, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

SIMPLE VERSION
Spread some fresh cheese on the bread if using, and top with the asparagus and egg. Crack on some fresh pepper, and drizzle a tad more extra virgin olive oil.

BROILED VERSION
Grate some Parmigiano or other hard seasoned cheese on top of the eggs and asparagus, crack some fresh pepper if you like it and broil briefly – just enough to color the cheese.


Fennel and Mushrooms Sautéed with Fresh Herbs

1/2 lb Fennel
1/2 lb Cremini Mushrooms
1 Shallot
A small piece of celery stalk
5 tbsp Olive Oil (or substitute one or two tbsps with butter)
A few sprigs of Parsley
1/8 tsp Marjoram
3 Juniper berries
6  Coriander seeds
1/8 tsp Fennel seeds
1 cup water
A good pinch of Salt & pepper

Put all the ingredients except the mushrooms and fennel in a pan that can fit everything, and simmer for 5 minutes. In the meantime, wash and quarter the fennel, and trim the butt ends of your mushrooms. If there are traces of dirt, briefly pass them under running water and drain.
Add the vegetables to the simmering liquid, and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue cooking until the liquid has completely reduced and the vegetables start to brown. The fennel should be very tender, and the vegetables should cook for a total of 20-25 minutes. If the water evaporates too quickly, add a little more during cooking. You’ll end up with soft, slightly caramelized vegetables that make a great side for pretty much anything.

Other vegetables that are lovely cooked this way:
Potatoes, Roots of any kind (cooking time up to 30 minutes)
Eggplant, Zucchini, Peppers, Leeks, Onions

See you next with stories from Milan!

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Poached eggs over Asparagus, Italian Easter recipe

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