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Blog archive: March 2008

Chard springs to life


Deep green goodness is best enjoyed from leafy greens that are as fresh as possible. These giant chard leaves were picked from my garden and steamed within 24 hours. Once you’ve tasted veggies as fresh as this, you’ll understand why so many cooks become gardeners. They were grown from seeds planted last year from my friends at JL Hudson and pretty much grow themselves in most conditions. Just add water and wait for them to flourish.

Before cooking up these leaves last night, I went to my local yoga studio for a little post-work breath, stretch and relax. By strange coincidence, my fabulous teacher, Gabe Hendrie, was comparing some of the poses to chard and fresh salad greens. She described how yoga poses and greens are not as good if they wilt, and how the simplest of ingredients and poses make the most vibrant and nutritious dishes and yoga asanas. She also said that the best reason to do anything, whether yogic, food-related or otherwise, is for the pure enjoyment of it. Of course, Gabe’s observation of parallel culinary and yogic forces and the pursuit of pure pleasure struck a nice chord with this particular OrganicFoodee. So after class, I asked Gabe for a chard recipe that brought her the highest enjoyment factor. This is what she said:

1. Take four big leaves to feed two people as a hearty side serving.
2. Don’t use too much stalk. Discard about half of it, then chop the rest into 1 inch / 2 cm long pieces and steam.
3. While the stalk is steaming, halve the leaves down the spine, then slice them in 1/2 inch / 1 cm strips.
4. Once the stalk is fairly tender (about 4 minutes), throw the leaves on top and steam until everything is cooked to your taste.
5. In a bowl, mix 4 tablespoons olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon good quality sea salt. Himalayan pink crystal salt tastes good in this dish, also my personal favorite salt variety, Halen Mon. You can try a flavored olive oil too, especially lemon olive oil.
6. Once the greens are tender, remove from the heat and drizzle with the oil.
7. Serve and eat immediately for sheer taste pleasure and utmost nutritional satisfaction.

Pasta is easy!


Okay, rolling out pasta dough is far from easy unless you use a special pasta rolling machine. While these gadgets are not very hard to find or expensive, most people don’t plan to make pasta from scratch often enough to warrant getting one. So how else can you approach making pasta from scratch while not purchasing the rolling machine?

Pizzoccheri – this is the answer! Made with a combination of buckwheat flour and durum wheat flour, this Northern Italian pasta is really easy to roll out using a wood rolling pin. The softness of the buckwheat dough means there’s really no need for a pasta rolling machine or other fancy gadgets. Simply flour your countertop and roll out the dough, and you’re halfway towards a superbly gourmet homemade dinner.

What’s more, buckwheat is almost always organic, even when it’s not written on the pack. This is because buckwheat bizarrely grows better WITHOUT chemical fertilizers. A rare crop. Buckwheat prefers the harshest growing environments and poorest soils, and simply doesn’t grow very well if you treat it to fertilizers. So you can feel confident your pizzoccheri are full of natural goodness, with minimal chemical inputs.

Here’s how you do it… Take 1 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour, and 1 cup of durum wheat flour. In a bowl, add 1 cup of water, little by little, squelching and kneading as you go. Keep kneading in the bowl for at least ten minutes, then leave the dough to rest, covered in a recycled plastic bag. Then, flour the counter and rolling pin, and roll to about 3mm thick. Cut into 1/2 inch tagliatele-style strips, then chop down into shorter strip. Boil and serve with a sauce of your choice, or the traditional way… boiled with potatoes, and cabbage, then doused in melted butter, fried garlic, porcini, fresh sage, and creamy semi-melted fontina cheese.

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