Thursday, June 7, 2012
One of the things I find hardest to write are recipes. I have no problem whatsoever writing up reviews of hotels and restaurants, stories about my day or any other type of ‘reporting’ that you can throw at me. Fiction? Forget about it.
And recipe writing. It just throws me for a loop. It kind of feels like homework. The problem is that while I love to impart whatever I know about a subject, I’m basically an impatient teacher when it comes to any lesson type of situation. And while I love to cook, I’ve never been tempted to do cooking classes since I know my limitations. Put me in a kitchen and then just get out of my way. I like to get on with the project at hand, and I just don’t enjoy slowing down to explain things.
So the recipe thing is really a challenge for me. Some of my best friends are some of the very best cookbook writers, and I truly appreciate their skill, patience and expertise at figuring out how much of this and that goes in to a certain dish to make it perfectly replicable in the comfort of your own home.
Me? I’m more liable to use terms like handful of this or bunch of that, than terms like cups, ounces and teaspoons. But, since you’re reading this blog, you already know that.
And I guess since I am often so vague, I tend to get emails from people questioning my quantities. I was especially aware of this today, as I was writing up a recipe for a dish I cooked a couple of weeks ago, Pasta with Swiss Chard, Goat Cheese and Chives.
Since I know my limitations in terms of memory and quantities, I had actually scribbled down the ingredients as I made the dish. As I transcribed them, here below, I knew someone was going to send me and email asking me if I had made some sort of mistake.
Which is understandable. Because who adds 2 cups of chopped chives to a recipe? Chives are a garnish, right?
I’m here to tell you chives are the magic ingredient. They are a secret weapon that will turn any mostly vegetable dish into something that most vegetable avoiding people will not only love, but ask for seconds of.
I learned the chive trick when we started our vegetable garden here in Todi. If you’ve ever planted chives, you know that they spread really fast. And so I started putting them in everything. In a big way. Every time I made a salad I’d add at least a half cup of chopped chives. And when my friend, Alessandra (who hates salad and any sort of green vegetable with a capitol H) finished her salad and asked for more, I knew I was on to something.
But back to the pasta. It was one of those dishes that I threw together with what was at hand one weekend in Todi. A half pack of Faella pasta from Orte, a fresh chive-covered goat cheese from Ponte Rio, and the last of the Swiss chard from the garden.
It would have been pretty good with just those ingredients, but since I had to trim our unruly chive patch down before it went completely out of control, in went 2 cups of chives as well. And that made all the difference.
Chives really are the miracle ingredient. And notice I said ingredient, not garnish. Enough with the snippets of chives on top of potatoes. Think of them as the pungent, green tasting alternative to garlic or onions. Throw them on as you would any other green like arugula or even basil. But use more. The more the better.
While I use them generously in salads and frittatas, I especially love them in pastas. Be heavy handed. Use more than you think wise. A cup is good. Two is better.
So the recipe is below, and I hope you do make it at home. But one warning. While I wrote down the amount of chives I used, I wasn't so careful about the Swiss Chard.
Is 'basket full' an accepted term of measurement?
Pasta with Swiss Chard, Goat Cheese and Chives
1 pound/500 grams pasta
1 big bag of Swiss Chard (or spinach), chopped (see photo above for quantitity)
2 cloves garlic
3 tabelspoons olive oil
1 cup soft goat cheese
2 cups chopped chives
Salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pan, add garlic and cook until it begins to be fragrant. Add the Swiss chard, stir and cook until just wilted.
In the meantime, bring large pot of salted water to boil , add pasta and cook until done. Drain, reserving a cup and a half of the pasta water.
Add the drained pasta to the Swiss chard, stiring and heating so that the two mix. Add some of the pasta water, a 1/4 cup at a time, so that the flavors meld.
Turn off heat, and add the chives, mixing well. (add more water if you’d like)
Finally, add crumbled goat cheese, mixing some in, and crumbling some on top because it looks pretty.
And at this point, sprinkle a few snippets of chives on top too. Because, well, sometimes chives are a garnish too.