Archive for May, 2010
Pansotti are ‘pot bellied’ pasta triangles from Liguria, usually stuffed with ricotta and borage. I don’t have any borage growing at the moment, but I do have a bunch of wild leeks. The filling is simply equal parts of seasoned wild leeks sautéed in butter, with freshly made ricotta. Place everything in the food processor with a few gratings of pecorino romano to make a thick paste for stuffing the pansotti.
The pasta dough is my usual ravioli dough recipe (which makes enough for about 3 main course portions):
250 g all-purpose flour
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T milk
The pasta has been garnished with sautéed wild leek bulbs and some shavings of pecorino romano. All the leek tops are inside the pasta. You have to cut open the pansotti with a fork for the green to be revealed. If you do use borage leaves, the purple-blue flowers would make a beautiful garnish.
Panforte from Sienna, Tuscany — literally ‘strong bread’ in Italian — isn’t really a bread, or a cake, but more of a chewy dried fruit, nut, honey and spice confection. Think of it as an 800-year old powerbar recipe.
Normally it is eaten around Christmas, served at the end of a meal with a glass of fortified wine. Here it has been cut into small cubes for snacking anytime.
This recipe is based on Kate Ramos’ Fig and Nut Bars recipe on CHOW.
1 cup toasted almonds
1 cup toasted cashews
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 T cocoa powder
zest of 1 orange
1 T fennel seeds, grind half, leave half whole
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cups dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Chop the toasted nuts coarsely. Butter and flour a 10″ circular pan, or line the pan with a parchment paper base and collar. Mix the flour, cocoa, orange zest, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl. Add the toasted nuts and fruit and mix well.
In a saucepan melt the sugar, honey and golden syrup and simmer over medium heat until the mixture reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer. Carefully pour this caramel over all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Work fast — the mixture hardens in no time. Pour into the prepared pan. Dampen your fingers and press the raw panforte into the baking pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the panforte puffs up a bit. Place the pan on a rack to cool. Wait until the panforte has firmed up before slicing.
Dandelions have a lot to offer. However, they are much maligned by those who want their golf course perfect lawns. Must keep up with the Joneses. Get out that weed killer. Too bad children and pets can’t play on the grass.
Here’s a batch of dandelion flower syrup. Nice on pancakes, in cold drinks, on ice cream. Lots of possibilities. The leaves will make their way into salads and pastas. In the autumn I may also dig up the roots.
Dandelion Flower Syrup
250 dandelion flowers (snip off the stem, which is very bitter)
3 litres water
Wash the flowers and place them in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Cover and let steep overnight.
Strain the liquid and then weigh it. I ended up with 2.2 kg of liquid. Measure out half that amount of sugar (1.1 kg in my case). Your exact results will vary.
Place the dandelion liquid and sugar in a pot and boil until reduced by half. Cool and decant into jars. Store in the refrigerator.
Here is a simple cake that has a bit of a sponge quality to it, all the better to absorb warm dandelion syrup and some wild blueberries:
As mentioned, the leaves can be used in salads among many possibilities. Here is a dandelion, baby potato, maitake mushroom and egg salad, all bound by a garlic and mustard dressing:
As an aside, there are a number of articles which point to dandelions as being useful in the fight against cancer. It would be ironic in the extreme if a plant that some have tried so hard to exterminate, is actually useful in combatting one of humanity’s most fearsome diseases.
The “pheasant back” (aka “dryad’s saddle” — a seat for a tree nymph (if you ever see a tree nymph, email me)) is edible as long as it’s tender. Test it first with your knife. Or better yet, if your fingernail can get through the outer rim of the mushroom then at least that part can be eaten. I plan on drying thin slices of the tougher ones, and making mushroom powder for inclusion into soups, pastas, etc. The smell of the freshly picked mushroom bears an uncanny resemblance to watermelon rind! That’s one way to find them, although as you can see, they’re easy to spot.
The outer arc of the mushrooms were good for immediate eating, so here’s a crispy polenta cake with sauteéd mushrooms and stinging nettle butter sauce.