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Cookery School, Cooking class in tuscany

Go Green

Bitter greens, dark and leafy vegetables that pair perfectly with almost every ingredient, are delicious in salads, soups, stuffings, teas and even in sauces. Bitter greens are normally served as a side dish either sautéed, braised, boiled or gently steamed. Spinach, dandelion, broccoli rabe, Swiss chard, borage, chicory and kale are just a few of the favorite greens used in Italian dishes. More important than just being delicious, greens are a powerhouse of health and help your liver, purifies blood, prevents anemia and lowers cholesterol. Imagine one category of vegetables doing all this in such a delicious way!

 Spinach was brought to Italy from Persia, used primarily used in sweet dishes. Florence is known for creating specialties with spinach, from eggs Florentine to Crepes Florentine to gnudi dumplings and ravioli. Swiss chard, spinach and dandelion are normally used interchangeably or mixed together to create succulent stuffings for pasta as well as for savory and sweet tarts. Broccoli rabe, with its incredible emerald green color, has an intense bitter and mustardy flavor that requires stronger pairings. During the winter it makes a great side dish for pork dishes, pairs well with sausages and also in hearty soups with beans. It is celebrated with the pasta orecchiette, the dish that made it famous all over the world.

BUYING TIPS

Choose greens that are firm, fully colored with no yellow spots. Greens, especially broccoli rabe and spinach, can be very sandy . Wash them in cold water repeatedly to remove grit and dirt. To store: Spin them in a salad spinner and then place them in a bowl. covered with a damp paper towel to preserve their crisp freshness. Cover and refrigerate.

Bittergreen tart with drunken leeks

SERVES TK

I still remember the first time I served this savory tart at the cooking school. We presented it as a warm appetizer accompanied with the leeks. The sour and sweet combination paired amazingly well with the bitter flavor of the chard and the nutty note of the emmenthaller cheese.

  • 1 1/2 pounds prepared puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds cooked mixed greens such as Swiss chard, spinach, dandelion
  • Salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb sliced emmenthaller cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 2. Press the puff pastry into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim any excess pastry. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Refrigerate until ready to fill with greens.

3. Bring a pot of water to a full boil, add salt to taste and blanch each type of green separately. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Shock the greens in cold water; remove from water and squeeze dry.

4. Finely chop all the cooked greens and sauté in a large skillet with extra virgin olive and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

5. Transfer greens to the puff pastry-lined tart pan, gently pressing in order to cover the bottom evenly. Top with sliced emmenthaller.

6. Cover with another disk of puff pastry, cutting a couple of slits to let air out, brush with egg wash and bake until golden brown.

Drunken leeks

SERVES TK

  • 4 large leeks, white part only, cut length wise and washed
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups dry white wine

1. In a large skillet on medium heat, heat oil. Place leeks flat side down and cook for a few minutes or until golden. Turn leeks over and repeat. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Pour in the wine, cover with a lid, lower heat and braise until soft, about 6 minutes.

3. Serve with Bittergreen Tart.

Orecchiette con cime di rape (Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe)

Broccoli rabe is my favorite green during the cooler months. This traditional recipe from Puglia is made only with orecchiette (“little ears”) pasta and is never served with cheese!

SERVES TK

  • 14 oz orecchiette
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 dried red chili peppers, chopped
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large pot on high heat, bring salted water to a full boil. Cook orecchiette and broccoli rabe together, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, quickly sauté garlic, red chili pepper and anchovy fillets with extra virgin olive oil. It is very important that the garlic doesn’t turn brown or the sauce will be bitter.

3. When the orecchiette and broccoli rabe are done, transfer both with a slotted spoon into the seasoned oil, draining as much cooking water as possible. Simmer everything together, mixing very frequently. Season with salt and pepper, cooking until the pasta and broccoli rabe are well blended and broccoli rabe look almost creamy. Add a touch of cooking water if necessary. Serve hot with a touch of extra virgin olive oil on top.

Erbazzone

Erbazzone, the typical torta salata from the emilia romagna region, is what its name says: an herb pie. The recipe has roman origins and is traditionally served as an appetizer, along with cured meats and cheeses. you may use butter in place of the traditional lard if you wish.

SERVES TK

For the filling

  • 2 pounds Swiss chard, stems removed, boiled, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 white onions, minced
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons lard or butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

For the dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons lard, chilled
  • 7 to 10 tablespoons cold water
  • extra virgin olive oil, for the pan

1. Prepare the dough. Combine flours and salt in a bowl, then transfer to a flat work surface. Make a well in the center and add the cold lard. Working with your fingertips, combine the lard and flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle with 7 tablespoons of the water; keep working until the dough begins to form clumps. If it is dry, add more water. Form the dough into a ball, wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes. When ready to assemble, cut dough in half and roll into two 12-inch rounds. Place 1 round onto an oiled pizza pan.

2. In a large skillet on medium-low heat, cook pancetta in oil. Cook about 5 minutes, or until the pancetta has rendered off much of its fat. Add onion and garlic and cook, covered, for 10 minutes or until softened. uncover, increase the heat to high, and cook another 6 minutes until golden brown. Add chard and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the filling into a bowl and cool. Blend in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste for seasoning and then blend in the eggs.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the lard and garlic in a small pan and heat it up until the lard has melted; set aside and keep warm. Spread the greens filling over the pastry-lined pizza pan, leaving a 2-inch border. Dampen the edges with water, top with the remaining dough, and pinch the edges together. Fold the edges over toward the center of the tart, and crimp. Make slits on the top of the crust to let air out. Bake 20 minutes, then brush the crust with the melted lard and garlic mixture, and bake another 20 minutes, or until pale gold and very crisp. The edges of the tart will be golden brown. Cut in narrow wedges to serve.

Spinach with pine nuts, raisins and anchovies

Spinach in my house has always been served the same way for decades: sautéed with olive oil and garlic. This recipe comes from Liguria, and it is a great way to present and serve spinach. The sweetness of the pine nuts and the fruitiness of the golden raisins make it a great side dish for boiled and roasted meats. Frequently this dish is served with grated cheese on top.

SERVES TK

  • 2 pounds spinach, washed, stalks removed
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted in a skillet
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins, reconstituted in hot water for 2 hours, and then drained
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the washed spinach in a pot , cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain to remove excess liquid. Squeeze dry, then chop roughly.

2. In a large skillet on medium heat, warm the oil and add the anchovies. Cook for just a few seconds, then immediately add spinach.

3. Add raisins and toasted pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute and serve hot.

COURTESY OF INTERMEZZO MAGAZINE

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