A Fennel Orange Salad

from my Cookbook

'Naturally Vegetarian'

‘Tortelli d’Erbette’ (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma

'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, ParmaListening to:
Va Pensiero – ‘Nabucco’, Giuseppe Verdi
E’ Strano…! Sempre Libera – ‘La Traviata’, Giuseppe Verdi

This is the story of a young boy, and of a man who believed in him to no end.
He was a son of farmers, just like me. And he was a kid with a talent for music. Still, his life as a kid must not have been easy: His father ran a little restaurant in Busseto, a small village in the countryside around Parma, where life was slow and people dwelled in routines. The young boy partook one of the most important ones of those routines, and started playing the organ during mass.
One day, a man from a rich family heard him play. The man was so passionate about music, and so moved by the boy’s talent, that he endorsed his music studies and sent him off to Milan, to try for admission at the Conservatory.
He failed. He was applauded by some. But alas, he failed.
I like to imagine that, when he got back home, he was greeted by his mom’s homemade tortelli d’erbette, doused in butter and Parmigiano and stuffed with fresh ricotta and young greens. That bowl of warm, buttery pasta must have been so comforting after such a let down. 

'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma

This story could be totally be set in this current day, in this very moment. But it is not.
This happened in 1831, and the boy was not admitted because, were he to move to Milan, he would have been no more than an immigrant from the Dukedom of Parma into the Austrian kingdom. He was not rich enough, relevant enough and, however remarkable, belonged to a different ‘category’ of people.
That boy was Giuseppe Verdi. The Giuseppe Verdi who authored operas like La Traviata, Il Rigoletto, Aida, Il Nabucco, and many more. He wrote some of the best arias and chorals the world knows today, and has been performed in all theaters worldwide. It is still today.
Eventually, he got into the Conservatory. But he only did because that one man kept believing in him to no end, and was willing to stake a lot of money on his talent.
I wonder how it would have been today. I wonder how his life as an immigrant could be. I wonder if he would have succeeded. I wonder what beauty the world would have failed to witness if had that man not believed in him to no end.
I am sure that, if the same were to happen today, things would not have been much different.

'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma

Come to think of it, things are not much different in Busseto, too: it still is a quiet village – exactly what you would expect from the average Italian town, with old men with a local newspaper tucked in their pockets, their heads covered in hats – likely a borsalino or a coppola (still those same from the 1800s!), sipping espresso while waiting for their favorite osteria to open for the day, or for their homes to be filled with the smell of pasta sauce and baking. The church bells toll heavily, their mighty voice echoing through the village and into the countryside, raising clouds of birds flying like dust into the air. I like to think it hasn’t changed much since the 1800s and, in fact, I am sure it has not. Verdi’s father osteria is still there, serving the best products of one of the world’s capitals of food. And the recipes they cooked then are the same they still cook today. Tortelli d’erbette are still widely served in every restaurant and it is a tradition to eat them for the summer Solstice (though this is an other story entirely).
Today, Milan’s Conservatory is called ‘Giuseppe Verdi’.

Sometimes, I find myself thinking that if a ‘me’ were to have lived in Verdi’s era, I wouldn’t have been much different, either. I am sure I would have worn the same long skirts I love wearing today. And I am sure I would have loved cooking even more, and surely would have had more time to do it (in both a good and bad way,of course, but this is, again, another story entirely). I am sure I would have found a sweet man who I could trick into taking me to the Opera, even if he didn’t like it (I wonder what could have he liked instead?). Or maybe I wouldn’t have quit singing in that life as I did in this, and would have met Verdi in some Opera theater. But then again, I surely would not have had enough money to study to become a singer, so I would have sung his Traviata alone in my kitchen, while preparing these ravioli. Maybe I would have had someone who believed in me to no end, just like I do in this life.
And I am sure that, just as I do today, I would have though that singing Verdi while making ravioli is not a bad life after all.

'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma

I covered how to make ravioli, or tortelli as they are known in the Parma area, in my last post. Now it is time to add the most traditional dressing there could ever be: butter and Parmigiano. Once you have the ravioli ready to go, this recipe comes together in a cinch. One thing I do not think I mentioned is the kind of grain I used to make them: I used a blend of local whole wheat, a little semolina flour, and some whole flour made from an ancient grain called ‘Grano del Miracolo‘ (triticum compositum), once cultivated in Parma and that has now been rediscovered in that same area. It was thus called, ‘the Miracle Grain’, because each strand would produce a double cluster of wheat grains rather than just one. Crazy, right?
Or just a little miracle, just like Verdi’s success.

IF YOU WANT TO TRY MAKING YOUR OWN RAVIOLI, CHECK OUT THIS POST.

As always, use top-quality ingredients to make these. Ancient grains aside, I used greens from the garden, local grass-fed dairy and the best Parmigiano I could source from Parma’s hills. The recipe is a mix from what my mom, Marco, and this old recipe book taught me, so three absolutely respectable sources.

'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli)
 
Serves 4
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
FOR THE PASTA
  • See previous post, linked above.
FOR THE CONDIMENT
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons butter (70 to 90 g)
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
  • Rosemary flowers to garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make the pasta according to the instructions in the link above this recipe box.
  2. Once the tortelli are ready, cook them straight away in plenty of boiling, salted water until cooked. It could take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how thin the pasta is. Do not overcook them - keep them slightly al dente.
  3. Melt the butter on a pot. If you like, you can make it turn slightly brown, swirling it often so that it does not brown.
  4. Drain them and add to a large bowl. I personally prefer to use a little less butter and add a tablespoon of olive oil at this stage. Add the butter and toss well, shaking the bowl and turning delicately with a serving spoon. Be careful not to break them. Add the grated Parmigiano and mix delicately, then serve immediately. If you have some rosemary flowers on hand, they add a lovely aroma and touch of color.

 

NOTE: I think that having these with extra virgin olive oil and a little less cheese could be an option, too. Maybe a little lemon zest, too. A perfect 5 minute pasta to tidy you up when you’re feeling down (or not).

'Tortelli d'Erbette' (Ricotta & Chard Ravioli) from an Old Immigrant from Busseto, Parma

The Art of Ravioli Making {How to make Ravioli 3 Ways}

The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingOne Sunday, I can’t remember when, I was scouring through antiques and stalls full of old thingamabobs at our local antiques and brocante outdoor market, when an item in particular caught my eye.
It was the prettiest brass ravioli wheel, stuck in a pale wood handle, and bent by time and usage.
No sooner I picked it up to take a closer look at it that a scene painted in my head: a woman in a long azure dress – something that might have belonged to the early 1900s, wearing a long white apron, was in her home on a sunny day crafting ravioli out of this wheel, on a not-so-big pastel bright blue table with a marble top. There might have been a couple kids fretting around her, probably trying to dip a finger in the ravioli filling. The kitchen doors opened into a sunlit garden, the shades the same beautiful pale azure color of the table and her dress.
It was so serene.
I think I bought that wheel for no more than three euros.
I wasn’t the one driving that day and I held that wheel in my hand all the way home, and I kept looking at it several times for the following days. 

Silly as it may be, I have these theory that there are things – especially when we talk about rural countryside homes – that can never leave a house. Things that are forever bound to a life that acquires the traits of the never-ending, and that never seem to get unstuck from their original soul. Maybe it is karma. Maybe they are remainders of our past lives; signs trying to make their way back to us. [..]
You surely have seen this wheel multiple times throughout my photos, as it is my favorite prop. But, truth is, I never used it.
So I thought this would be the perfect chance.
I have a very talented acquaintance who sews historical costumes, and I asked her wether she could make me one of those romantic, Hepburn-style 50’s skirts. I was thinking of asking her for a high-waisted white apron to go with it…only I couldn’t decide which color I would like the skirt.
It just hit me now that it should be obviously azure.  The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural Cooking

The art of Ravioli Making

Ravioli is a kind of pasta that is as demanding as a posh lady. It is a fine-tuning of balance between thicknesses and ratios: the ricotta-to-greens ratio, the fat-to-lightness of the cheese ratio, and the dough, which must be rolled thin enough not to overshadow the filling but not so thin that it could break while cooking, or result slippery in the mouth. What fascinates me the most is that, while lots of people need to do research upon the subject to end up with the perfect ravioli, all these ravioli notions always seemed to come naturally to the women in my family.
Classic ravioli has always been a staple Sunday morning preparation in our home and at my grandma’s. I have seen them made in a plethora of ways: with the square metal cutter, with that special ‘box’ that looks like a sort of ravioli mold,  with the funny-looking ravioli rolling pin that my mom used more than any other method (‘it is the quickest,’ she would say. ‘and the pasta-to-filling ratio turns out perfectly!). It was the method that made the most sense, too: I  have never seen a pasta machine enter our household and the dough was always rolled out with the rolling pin method, producing a large, tablecloth-like circle that was overall easier to fold over in half than to cut into regular strips.

Then I presented my family with a third method, the ‘ravioli del plin’ one, and everybody fell in love with it. This method creates pockets that catch the sauce wonderfully, and it is much, much easier to show than to explain (click for video!).
In this guide I am going to show you 3 ways to fold and close your ravioli, starting from pasta strips, since most of you probably roll out pasta with a pasta machine.

For a full guide on how to make the pasta dough, click here.

TIPS FOR MAKING THE FILLING

~ Choose a mixture of young greens: I like to use a mix of young chard, young (not baby!) spinach, and a little bit of foraged, non-bitter wild greens. Make sure the greens you use are not bitter and do not have a strong taste, as beet greens might have, for example. You can also use just chard or just spinach. 

~ Cook the greens in a pot with very little water, as they will release tons of it and squeezing the water out can be quite a pain. It is important that the filling be as dry as possible.

~ Choose fresh, full fat ricotta of the best quality you can possibly find. if you can find it, use sheep’s milk ricotta. It is likely that your fresh ricotta will have a good deal of liquid: in this case, put it in a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel over a bowl in the fridge overnight, and let it drain.

~ Only use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano for these ravioli. Authentic parmigiano will bear the logo of the Consortium. If you can’t find it, it would be much better to use a nice and savory local aged cheese than go for the ‘fake’ stuff. I saw Parmigiano on sale at all Whole Foods.

~ Try not to skip the egg in the filling: it helps bind things together and will prevent your filling from falling apart after cooking.

~ If not cooking straight away, freeze the ravioli: unlike other kinds of fresh pasta, which can be left in the fridge for a couple of days, stuffed pasta will produce moisture from the filling, turn mushy and break. Therefore, if not cooking immediately, line in a tray and freeze them. You can dump them in the boiling water straight out of the freezer, and they will still cook in about 3 to 5 minutes depending on how thick your dough is.

Note that my filling is quite rich with greens compared to the traditional recipe that I am presenting you below. I love to load them with greens, but I agree that a prevalence of cheese is better in many ways. This recipe was a mix of trying to weigh the ingredients as my mom cooked, and research of very old cookbooks found around the Emilia region.

And now on to the recipe! (scroll down the photos)

The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural Cooking

How to Make Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli
 
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
FOR THE DOUGH
  • 4 eggs
  • 200 g (7 oz) organic semolina flour
  • 200 g (7 oz) organic whole wheat flour
FOR THE FILLING
  • 300 g (10.5) Full fat, fresh ricotta (preferably sheep's milk)
  • 450 g (1 lb) young chard and/or young spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 125 g (4.4 oz) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Pinch salt
  • Dash grated nutmeg
Instructions
MAKE THE DOUGH
  1. To make the dough, knead the flour with the eggs for a few minutes, until you have a smooth ball of dough. Let it rest in the fridge, covered in clingfilm, for at least an hour. You can also make it the night before. For a full guide on making pasta dough, check out the guide linked above.
MAKE THE FILLING
  1. To make the filling, make sure your ricotta is dry enough first. Add it to a colander lined with cheesecloth and leave it to drip for a few hours or overnight. If your ricotta in not very creamy, you can pass it through a sieve for better results.
  2. Wash the greens and cook them. You can either steam them, or toss them damp in a pot and let them steam on a very low flame by adding just about ¼ cup water. Cook until soft, about 10-15 minutes, then drain. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible, then chop finely.
  3. In a bowl, mix together well the ricotta, chopped greens, egg, Parmigiano, salt and nutmeg. Just like the pasta dough, you can prepare this the day before and leave it in the fridge covered with clingfilm.
MAKE THE RAVIOLI
  1. Roll out the pasta dough until you end up with thin strips. In a bowl, briefly whisk an egg with a fork.
  2. METHOD1 (classic squares): Mentally divide the strip in half lengthwise: you will be adding the filling on the lower half. Brush the whole strip with beaten egg, and distribute 1 teaspoonfuls of filling distancing them a little over ½ inch apart. Fold the strip over and press well to seal all around the filling. Using a ravioli wheel, cut squares around the filling to obtain ravioli. Line them without overlapping on a well floured tray.
  3. METHOD 2 (ravioli pockets): Proceed like above until you fold over the dough, but only seal the lower edge. Using the thumb and index, pinch the dough on the sides of the filling, as shown in the photos. Then, using a ravioli wheel, cut across the pinches towards you. Refer to the video to get a visual of how it is done.
  4. METHOD 2 (triangles): on the lower half of your strips, draw triangles using the back of a knife, but do not cut. Brush with egg wash, add a teaspoonful of filling in the center of each triangle, and proceed just like the 1st method, but cut triangles instead of squares.
  5. If not using straight away, lay them on a floured tray and freeze them. Once frozen, transfer to a bag.

Then, about a month ago I visited my favorite thrift store. It is a large warehouse run by father and son, who collect all sorts of unthinkable junk and pile it there in big heaps – which I love to no end.
Stuck in a corner there was a table [with the most interesting pattern on the top]. It was all beaten, scrapped, and scraggly, and it was missing half a leg. I could tell it was used for pasta making, as it still had its original drawer for the tools and a hole for sticking in the rolling pin.
‘Why does the surface look like this?’ I asked.
‘This was once tiled, or covered with a marble top, I assume. it’s yours if you want it. Let me just find the missing leg…’
Its sides had the most faint remainders of a pastel color.
‘What color do you reckon it could have been?’
‘Not sure, but probably something blueish? you know…you should paint it something like pale blue. Azure, I’d say.’

The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural Cooking

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side Salads

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsListening to: I Vespri Siciliani, Giuseppe Verdi – Ballet of the Four Seasons: Spring

When Ottavio, my grandfather, was a kid, he was put to work as soon as he was tall enough to hold a plow.
Still today, while I have testimony of my grandma’s scribbled recipes laden with macroscopic grammar mistakes, I have never seen him write a single word. I never thought of asking him wether he knew how to write. I learned from him to speak the local dialect with which we still communicate today (some words unintelligible by the average Italian speaker, like ‘rass‘ to say ‘uccelli‘ (birds), or ‘da pett‘ to say ‘vicino‘ (near), so I can safely say I can speak 4 languages rather than 3), and to live according to moon phases, which he calculated without thinking.
What fascinates me the most about him is that he never considered the vegetable garden as the work that was forced upon him when he was a kid. He kept doing it all his life, even when he didn’t have to, and even when he became a master builder and got another, better-paying, still back-breaking job. He tended the garden all his life, with the dedication you would direct to those things you cling to for solace when life seems to be drowning you.
His garden always produced wonders: plump, seedless zucchini; the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes; the most fragrant, inebriating bushes of basil; as well as glowing eggplants without the slightest hint of bitterness, usually turned into melanzane sott’olio by my mother’s wise hands. Sure, he had his troubles with vegetables he was not accustomed to growing – like that time he picked all the Delicata squashes I had planted when they were still unripe because he thought they were round zucchini and were not supposed to grow too big, hence ruining half my harvest. But for the most part he was a magic-maker.
This year, at the dawn of his 89th birthday, he started lamenting a throbbing pain at his shoulder. Though it took an incredibly long time, all his work finally presented its bill.
After 80 years – 80 years! of honored service, he hung up his plow and rake and gave up on the garden.

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsRoasted Beet & Radicchio Salad with Smoked or Blue Cheese, Honey & Citrus Oil

I am finally home for a couple days after a long stretch of working travel and before a second stretch begins, and I used this time to catch up on photography, and to collect some thoughts.
This year I set off determined to take over my grandpa’s work and start a little garden of my own. I bought several varieties of ancient heirloom fruit and veg and a plethora of flowers – ornamental and wild, and decided to grow them into something.
I have been thinking of the reasons why I decided to do it aside photography purposes, and ended my thinking with quite a loot of soulful musings.

What I think I like the most about gardening is that it is sort of becoming my own way of meditating. Assuming that meditating means emptying the mind from all sorts of prejudice and root your feet in the here and now, then meditation also means taking care of the person you are in every moment you live. It is like a date during a relationship that never gets old, a relationship which can renew itself second after second.
I, contrary to my relatives whose work was forced upon, can choose to plow the soil as a way to meditate, and I associate the sprouting of a seed with the sproutlings of a soul who is perfectly at peace.
Here, in this sort of state of mind devoid of vanity, I am learning to distinguish who I ‘wish I was’ from who I inevitably am.
And, for the person that I am and that is doing the gardening, some feelings have started to lose their meaning. The feeling of competition, for example. Or the feeling of judgement, both towards one’s self and towards others. The feeling of expecting things. Here, in the garden there is nothing to complain about and there is nothing to wish for. All just is, and that is it. All that I can wish is for my deeds to grow nice and healthy. There’s no wishful thinking, and it beautifully feels like having both wings and roots, if you know what I mean.
So I am going to pick up his shovel – laying there, where his working shirt still hangs on a nail hammered to a plank in the greenhouse, and take over.

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side Salads

In the meantime, somewhere else in Italy, in the countryside right outside of Parma, there is a farm I had the luck to visit recently, called Podere Stuard: they have a vast collection of heirloom vegetable seeds and fruit trees, ancient varieties that have been forgotten by large producers and that they are bringing back to life in their shop and to the markets they attend weekly. I saw the most beautiful pink, gem-like radicchios, flaming red chard, amethyst-purple Venetian garlic, and the sweetest, pink-and-red apples the size of the fist of a kid – all ancient varieties naturally found growing spontaneously in fields throughout the region.

I was so inspired by their effort to preserve biodiversity, that I couldn’t help but buy some ancient and heirloom varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruit myself. I bought some varieties dating back to the middle ages: purple carrots, yellow cherry tomatoes, white ‘peach’ tomatoes, lovage, marigolds, bear garlic, wild vineyard garlic. Then I bought three heirloom fruit trees: ‘Cocomerina’ pear, small pears the flesh a deep pink; ‘Abbondanza’ apples, tiny round red fruits with pinkish hues in the flesh; and ‘Sanguinella’ peach, a variety of a deep red and white flesh. all indigenous varieties of Emilia Romagna, which are currently sitting in their vases waiting till after the new moon to be transplanted.
I also bought a plethora of flowers: Chamomile, a variety of poppies, purple tansy, blue bells, buttercups, and windflowers.
If everything goes well, photos will be gorgeous this summer.

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsPere Cocomerine

Parma, where Podere Stuard is, in the Emilia side of the Emilia-Romagna region, is homeland to some of the most delicious Italian food: not only to Parma ham for example, but to the ‘Parmigiano’ side of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the undisputed king of Italian cheeses. The vast Padan plains are home to freely grazing cows of all races – mostly ancient ones, like Vacca Rossa, red cow, of which the milk makes the most incredible looking brownish cheese, or the white, majestic Romagnola cow.
But here in cow-less Romagna (in spite of the fact that there’s a race bearing this part of the region’s name), the green, orchard-lined hills are more often dotted with the white and brownish mantles of sheep and goats, and famers set out to produce small-batch cheeses and yogurts made from their milk when the season is right. I love goat’s milk cheeses (which are also said to be much better for women suffering from hormonal problems than cow’s milk cheese) and I think they complement bitter-ish greens like radicchios and chicory absolutely wonderfully. I got this incredible goat blue cheese, goat milk’s spread, as well as a good chunk of hearty Parmigiano Reggiano.
These cheeses are, to me, literally gold: the farmers only make them when the animals naturally go ‘in season’ and produce milk without being forced to, so they are not available year-round. The unusually warm weather anticipated things a bit and all animals seem in a particularly good mood these days.

So, when I came home to find a bag of vegetables I had lying around prior to leaving, I decided to use them up along my new purchases of radicchios and local cheeses. So here are two comforting, hearty recipes using leftover beets, the cheeses I bought and one of my favorite winter vegetables.
These super easy recipes involve a technique I learned from Marco, who has a Phd in Gastronomy and is the Chef at Podere Stuard, who in turn learned it from a chef he worked under. I hope you do not fear the microwave, because I never had such perfect results with radicchio! if you don’t have one, steaming will work just fine.
I used a mix of beautiful pink radicchios I found in Parma, some curly Trevigiano, and the more classic oblong red radicchio. If you can find them, pick several different kinds! The curly Trevigiano and the pink ones are the sweetest, less bitter, most delicious and unfortunately most expensive, but absolutely worth it. Both recipes, I think, are best enjoyed immediately, as the vegetables will lose their crispy edge if left to cool and reheated, but they are so little work it is worth making them for immediate consumption.
They are 100% real Italian fare, one all northerners have on their tables in the winter, and one that calls to my mind the pearly mists of Veneto and of the plain…


Grilled Radicchio with Cheese Fondue and Toasted Walnuts

GRILLED RADICCHIO WITH FONDUE AND WALNUTS

8 radicchio heads of different varieties, preferably Trevigiano & Rosa
Olive oil, salt and pepper
100 g mixed cheeses like aged Montasio (grated), Parmigiano (grated) and gorgonzola or taleggio (cut into pieces)
50 ml milk
A generous handful toasted pine nuts or walnuts.

Wash the radicchios, cut them in half (or in quarters if they’re bulky) well and leave them damp. Line on a plate without overlapping them too much, cover them with cling film and microwave at high for 3 minutes, or until soft.
In the meantime, heat up a grill or cast iron pan until very hot. Dress the radicchios with a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
Add the cheeses to a pot with the milk and melt them over a low flame, stirring often. keep them nice and warm.
Cook the radicchios on the hot grill/pan, turning them each time one side turns nice and crispy brown. Serve on a plate with the fondue and the toasted nuts. 

MORE IDEAS:
~ Finish them under the broiler to turn the cheese gold and bubbly.
~ Chop and toss with cooked pasta, then broil with extra cheese to form a nice crust and make a pasta bake of sorts. 


Roasted Beet & Radicchio Salad with Smoked or Blue Cheese, Honey & Citrus Oil

ROAST BEET & RADICCHIO SALAD WITH CHEESE & CITRUS OIL

2 medium radicchio heads, or 4 small ones, quartered lengthwise
4 small beets, cut into 1 inch slices
Olive oil, salt and pepper
A handful sage leaves (at least 8)

To top
Your favorite cheese: I suggest blue goat’s, smoked ricotta or good ol’ Parmigiano
Toasted pine nuts or walnuts
Citrus extra virgin olive oil, like orange or lemon
A good drizzle of runny honey

Preheat the oven to 200 C˚ / 390 F˚.
Steam the beets for 5 minutes, then add the radicchio and steam for 2 more minutes. You can use the same microwave technique from the recipe above, but make sure to add a little water to the plate and microwave the beets alone for 5 minutes, then add the radicchio and microwave for 2 more minutes – always covering with clingfilm.
When done, toss well with olive oil, salt and pepper and the torn sage leaves and coat well.
Spread on a tray lined with baking paper and bake until slightly crispy and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Do not cook for too long or the vegetables might turn dry.
Serve immediately with crumbled cheese, nuts, and a drizzle of citrus olive oil

MAKING CITRUS OLIVE OIL
If you cannot buy it, making your own is super easy.
Heat a cup of oil over a bain-marie with the peel of half an organic lemon or half an organic orange, making sure none of the white part is attached to the peel. Heat, very gently, for about 20 minutes. Ideally, the oil should never heat above 40 – 50 C˚, but as long as it is being heated over a bain marie it will never fry up.
Done! Wait until completely cool before removing the peel and storing in a jar.

FOR CHEESELESS VERSIONS:
If you do not want to use the cheese, you can make these recipes delicious with ‘vegan parm’, of which you can find many recipes online, or a mix of toasted and crushed seeds, and extra sage and rosemary. It will still be delicious!

 

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