Spring

Coconut Rhubarb Mess

I made meringues for the first time.

I made them on a rainy, damp day. The egg whites didn’t get as fluffy as I hoped, and in their raw form, they looked more like melted marshmallow. I was already discouraged, but I thought to bake them anyway. I spooned the liquid, pearl-white, thick mixture into my muffin tins so that it would stay in place. I turned on the oven at the suggested temperature. I waited. And to my big surprise, I saw them growing rapidly inside their beds. They grew and formed mushroom tops that became increasingly golden and firm. I removed them from the oven with a mixture of fear and hope. I thought  they were too pretty to be true, and that given how it all began, they would collapse as soon as they were out.

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Broad Bean and Pecorino Bruschetta


Life rolls fast these days, and so does the cooking. Meals have been simple around here lately – stripped back, essential. The host of green produce that is finally coming into season helps me to keep things uncomplicated and yet somehow exciting. Even the simplest of salads or a toastie can turn into a feast in its own right.

We love things on toast around here, and we tend to eat them often, so I always keep a loaf of bread at the ready. At this time of the year, we have been eating toast with smashed fresh peas with mint and feta; with artichokes, or spring vegetables and burrata; or, like in this case, with broad beans and pecorino.

The recipe isn’t much of a recipe per se, but rather a serving suggestion. For two people, start with about 500 gr of fava beans (in their pod). Shell the beans, blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water, drain them and let them sit in an ice bath for 5 minutes. Peel and discard the outer shells, then place the beans in a bowl. Season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, good olive oil, and some lemon juice. Meanwhile, toast some sourdough or baguette. Season with olive oil, then arrange the fava beans on the bread, shave some pecorino on top, and serve with some micro greens (totally optional) or some freshly torn mint leaves. Serve.

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On Foraging and Nettle Pesto

 

I became acquainted with foraging at a young age, still unaware of its real meaning. It simply appeared in the list of open-air games alongside Hide&Seek and the like.

My uncle, my mum’s youngest brother, was the one who first showed me how to forage. He was nine years younger than mum, and eighteen years younger than their older brother. Age-wise, he was closer to my brother than his own siblings, and you could tell he belonged to a different generation from theirs, the one which came after the economic boom and the cultural revolution of the Sixties. Grandma thought he was never going to marry, as he was too handsome and only liked to flirt around without commitment. Plus, his friends were his only other family. He dedicated his whole young life to sports and leisure, running marathons and playing soccer, and being the fittest, funniest and the most adventurous. His has been a model, a myth and a mentor for both my brother and me. The only one in the family who took the time to educate us on music, sport and life like an older brother would, and in a way parents can’t do.

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Pastiera Napoletana

The most fascinating side of an enlarged family is usually the one which lives far from the rest. My family is no exception. As a kid, among the whole lot of aunts and uncles all born and raised in Veneto, I have always been intrigued by that aunt who chose the alternative path, married a man from the South during her graduate years and left the native soil to follow him in his social and professional climbing.

They lived in Palermo, Reggio Clalabria, Naples, Udine, Varese, Florence and who knows where else in Italy. My aunt would follow her professional, upscale engineer husband wherever his career would take him without objection, even after the birth of their (only) daughter. They would show up sometimes at my grandma’s house for a weekend over Christmas or Easter or some other public holiday, have lunch with the rest of us, and then leave right after in their shiny new company car.

What was most striking was how much she had changed and moved on from her Venetian country origins. Far from using any dialect, her way of speaking had a strange inflection, a mixture of accents and local usages that made her even more singular before my eyes. She would discuss literature, philosophy, religion, art and music with her very puzzled mother and sister –all subjects that she probably had time to dig in her long days at home alone, with her husband away for work, pressured by the idea of pleasing him and be presentable at one of the many social events they had to attend.

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