The problem with this blog thing is that everything (at least food–wise) is out there in public. I can’t kid myself that I haven’t eaten twice my body weight while in Venice because it’s out there, in living color, that I did.
Between the blog, facebook, instagram and any other social media you can think of, every meal, trip to the farmers market and snack gets documented, written about and posted. There’s no hiding.
This became very clear in the weeks leading up to Easter, when the family discussion turned to the most important part of the holiday: lunch. In Italy Easter is a big deal. It’s not just about looking for eggs and eating peeps. People actually go to church and – more importantly – sit down to a big family meal at midday.
Our yearly meal alternates between Umbria and Bari. Domenico’s mother either makes the trip up to our house in the country, or else we drive down to her place by the sea. Either way, I’m doing the cooking.
Since it’s a special meal, I do try to make a bit more of an effort. So this year, as I started to receive texts from London “Ma what are you making for Easter?” from Sophie, I decided I would go all out, and do something really different and special. Artichoke Lasagna!
Ma, you did that last year.
Ok then, something completely different, risotto with peas, artichokes and fave?
Been there, done that.
Where before I could fudge my way around everyone’s faulty memories, with the blog, it’s written very clearly in black and white (actually a carefully selected shade of gray) how we’ve celebrated each and every holiday.
Which is actually ok, since it does force me to be a bit more inventive, when I would normally tend towards the lazy. A lot of people ask me if I think long and hard about developing recipes for this site. The answer is, nine times out of ten, no. This is just the stuff I make.
But now, as the blog is heading into it’s fourth year, I guess it is encouraging me to think about my seasonal ingredients in new ways.
Which leads us back to Easter lunch.
But rather than treat them traditionally, with broccoli rabe and anchovies, I decided to douse them with a heavy coating of Spring. I took bunches of mint, wild fennel and parsley, and whizzed them into the best pesto ever, with almonds instead of pistachios. To make things even greener and springier, I barely stewed some tender fave beans with spring garlic, which became part of the ‘sauce.’ Finally, a shower of snow white ricotta salata added tang and was just plain pretty.
1 pound / 1/2 kilo orecchiette
3 cups shelled fresh, fave beans
2 stalks spring garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh wild fennel or dill
peel from one lemon (only the peel, carefully taken off with vegetable peeler without any pith)
1/3 cup peeled, un toasted almonds
1/2 cup fruity olive oil
2 cloves garlic, or 1 spring garlic, chopped roughly
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Place the mint, parsley, dill, lemon peel and garlic in the food processor. Puree until well chopped. Add almonds and puree until smooth. With motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.
Scrape out into a small bowl, and mix in the grated cheese by hand. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
In a sauce pan, gently heat the olive oil. Add chopped spring garlic, and let cook briefly over gentle heat. Add shelled fave beans (in Italy, no one takes them out of their skin, just the large pod) and stir. Add about a half cup of water, 1/2 tsp of salt, cover and let cook until just tender. Try to use small, very fresh fave. Keep tasting for doneness. They shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.
In the meantime bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until done. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.
To assemble: Place pasta in a large serving bowl, and add fave beans. Stir gently. Add pesto. Stir gently, using a bit of the cooking water to loosen things up. When it is well distributed, add grated ricotta salata, stirring some in, but also letting some sit on the top since the white is so pretty against the green.