Tag Archives: Cavolo Nero

KALE SALAD with Italian Flavours

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Kale was everywhere in the places I visited in the US recently and I made this salad when I was visiting friends  in Okemos, Michigan. I bought a bunch of kale at a Farmers’ Market – it was local, in season, very fresh, and so why not?

When I make any salad I think of flavours and ingredients that I like and have used in other recipes. For example I have always enjoyed the flavours that go with sautéed spinach – pine nuts and dried grapes, usually currants.

With the addition of a little nutmeg this was originally a Tuscan/ Ligurian dish. Pine nuts and dried fruit are also found in Sicilian cooking but this dish is not Sicilian. Various Italian regions have adapted this dish to suit their culinary cultures, for example some Southern Italians may add chilli, in some regions they may add chopped anchovies that have been dissolved by sautéing in a little extra virgin olive oil. Broccoli or other leafy greens (like cavolo nero – Tuscan cabbage – or kale) are cooked in this way also.

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Although in Michigan I could have cooked the kale in the same way as I would have cooked spinach and eaten it as a cold cooked salad, I chose to use raw kale.

This was the US after all and there were plenty of cranberries in the pantry (they weren’t too sweet) so I chose these instead of currants. If I had dried, sour cherries (used in Middle Eastern cooking) I may have used those. Dried figs sliced thinly could have been OK as well.

In the photo, just to show their sizes, from left to right: top – dried sour cherries, muscatels, below – currants, cranberries.

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If I had no pine nuts, I may have used another kind of nut, for example walnuts, hazelnuts or pepitas (green kernels from pumpkin seeds).

On another occasion I may use walnut oil or hazelnut oil instead of extra virgin olive oil or perhaps a mixture of two.

I often use grated lemon peel as an ingredient in either a raw dish or in my cooking (quite Sicilian) so I also added this to the salad.

This salad is so simple that I almost feel embarrassed writing about it. No amounts for the ingredients are necessary, make it to suit your tastes.

For the photo of the ingredients used in the salad, I have used baby kale leaves.

INGREDIENTS

Kale, spring onions, pine nuts (lightly toasted), dried small fruit: such as dried grapes – currants, sultanas, raisins, or cranberries or dried cherries.

Dressing: extra virgin olive oil, grated lemon peel from 1 lemon and juice, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

PROCESSES

Strip the leaves of the kale, removing the tough ribs/ stalks then tear it into small pieces or cut it finely. Slice the spring onions thinly.  Combine kale and onions and add the nuts and dried fruit. Mix  all of the dressing ingredients together and dress the salad.

This salad is quite suitable as a starter and of course, it can be part of a main course.

See also:

Kale (Winter Green Vegetable and How to Cook It)

Cavolo Nero and Three Ways to Cook It

Michigan, Food and Produce. Spare Ribs Recipe

TORTA DI VERDURA (A vegetable flan or pie)

So what else can you do with all these wonderful winter leafy greens?

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In Italian a torta is a cake, but it can also be a savoury type, for example as in this case a TORTA DI VERDURA (A vegetable flan or pie). Verdura means vegetable and in this case green, leafy vegetables.

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There are different types of pastry that can be used, but in this case I chose one made with extra virgin olive oil. It is easy to make and I have found that it also generally keeps better than the other pastry and makes a more solid casing for the verdure. Interestingly in the rural areas around Ragusa (Sicily) sugar is often added to pastry and on this occasion I have done so.

I like to use a variety of different green leafy vegetables for the filling. Selected from any combination of the following: chicory, escarole/endive, chopped tender green leaves of celery and fennel (in small quantities) spinach, broccoli, cime di rape and cavolo nero (in the North of Italy). Kale (not Italian) is also suitable and occasionally I have also used a little cabbage.

If I am including endives or chicory, I use the outside leaves and reserve the more tender, lighter coloured leaves in the centre for green salads. Bitter tasting chicory and endive are particularly appreciated – bitter vegetables are considered particularly beneficial for the liver.

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The TORTA DI VERDURA is best served at room temperature and usually I bake it on the same day if I am presenting the torta at home. I usually stagger the preparations by cooking the verdura the previous day – often I will have it as a contorno (a vegetable side dish) the night before and save some for the pie. I either make the pastry the night before or at least two hours before the baking (this pastry likes to rest).

Breadcrumbs are sprinkled on top of the pastry before the filling is added. This will help to absorb juices from the vegetables and will assist to prevent the pastry from becoming soggy. My breadcrumbs are made from 1-3 day old, with the crusts removed. I use bread like a sourdough or made with pasta dura flour (hard wheat) and which has had time to rise naturally.

In the north of Italy, eggs are usually included to bind the mixture rather than the breadcrumbs; I add 2 beaten eggs well as the bread expecially if I am going to leave the cooked torta for more than 2 hours before I eat it.

INGREDIENTS
Vegetables: you should have masses of raw leaves – the equivalent to 3 large bunches of green leafy vegetables (se above for variety) which should give a mixture of about 6-8 cups of cooked, well drained and chopped, mixed greens.
½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil,
onions, 2 large chopped
salt to taste
chillies 2 dried or fresh (left whole and optional)
garlic, 6 cloves, squashed,
¾ to 1 cup coarse breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly whipped with a fork
Variations
When you are ready to put the filling into the torta you could also add the following:
Anchovies and black olives, ½ cup of olives ¼ cup of anchovies, chopped,
Currants and toasted pine nuts (about ½ cup of each, to taste). When I use this option I do not use chillies and add a little nutmeg.
Cheese – Sharp cheese like pecorino or provolone (with chillies) or a mild cheese like ricotta or pecorino fresco (I do not add chillies).
PROCESSES
To clean the greens: remove any bruised or brown leaves and cut off the tough stem ends. Separate the bunches into leaves, wash and tear some of the bigger leaves into smaller pieces (so that they cook quicker and fit into the pan better).
Cook the leaves by either steaming them in the pan and only using a little water or by adding them to about 3 cups of salted boiling water (as is the traditional Italian method for cooking verdure.) Stir regularly and ensure that the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cover and cook over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes – they will get more cooking later. Once again, Italians would cook these for a longer period. Drain well (I leave them in a colander until ready to use).
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan, add the whole chillies and the garlic and stir till the garlic has flavoured the oil. Remove and discard the garlic and chillies.
Add the onion and stir until softened.
Squeeze any remaining moisture from the greens before adding them to the pan, then taste for salt, adjust and toss them into the pan in the flavoured oil.
Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes.
Let cool and set aside.

PASTRY CRUST: Pasta Frolla Fatta Con Olio (Short pastry made with oil)

I like to make my own pastry, but you may prefer to use a commercial variety. I also enjoy using my fingers, however food processors work well.

In this recipe I have used standard cup measurements and approximate weight, but let your intuition be your judgement and vary the amounts as needed. Different flours will absorb differing amounts of liquid I have estimated the approximate amount of water which could be used. Pastry making is also influenced by the weather, use cold water, and rinse your hands to cool them under the cold-water tap, keep the pastry in a cool place when you allow it to rest.

The pastry should be compact and may not need any extra liquid, but if you feel that you will not be able to roll it out, add more oil or a little water. Some recipes use a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks, others add a little white wine or lemon juice for the extra moisture.

I like to bake the bottom of the pastry blind before I put in the filling: line the pastry with foil; add pastry weights (or dried beans or chick peas) on top. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights. (Optional – brush pastry with egg white to provide a better seal and bake for another 10 minutes).

The torta can also be covered entirely with pastry, rather than with strips as I have done on this occasion.

INGREDIENTS
plain flour, approx 3 cups
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup water cold
2-3 egg yolks
extra virgin olive oil, to brush the top of the pastry
PROCESSES
Combine in a large bowl or on a slab with the flour, sugar and salt.
Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and lightly rub quickly with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.
Make a well in the centre, work in some of the water, adding more water as needed, until the mixture begins to hold together and form soft dough. Knead for 2-3 minutes until the pastry feels elastic
Shape into a ball, wrap it in plastic film and let it rest in a cool place for at least 60 minutes before rolling out.
To assemble the torta:
Preheat the oven to 190.C.
Butter a deep spring- form pan (mine is 22.5 cm round and 6.0 cm deep) with extra virgin olive oil.
Divide the pasty into 2 parts; roll out one slightly larger than the other to line the bottom and the sides of the dish. Make the edge about 1cm higher than the edge of the tin. (About 07.5 cm). Do not b concerned if you find this dough to have become a little more stiff and resistant to stretching.
Fit the dough into the prepared well buttered pan, pressing it against the sides and letting the excess dough hang over the edge (about 3cm).
Prick the pastry and place it in the fridge until the filling is ready.
Roll out the remaining dough and cut the pastry into strips.– these will form the lattice.
Prepare the filling:
Drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add eggs and any of the variations (optional).
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over pastry in the pan.
Cover the filling with strips of pastry: start with the longest strips and lay in a cross shape across the centre of the pie (90 degree angles). Alternate horizontal and vertical strips until you have covered the cake with a lattice (or weave them in an over-and-under pattern).
Press the ends of the strips firmly to the lip of the pie and then fold in on itself.
Bake and cook until the top is golden and the pastry has detached itself from the sides of the tin. This may take about 45- 60 minutes
Allow to rest in the tin for 8 minutes on a wire rack before releasing it (or if you are clever and have used a conventional baking tin, inverting it).

Be Italian!

As an Italian  I am able to better appreciate the different flavours of the torta  if I eat it warm rather than hot.

Can you imagine this torta made with wild greens? The photo below was taken  just outside the gates to the Valley Of The Temples in Agrigento. There he is with his plastic bag…..

Wild greens picker

 

IN PRAISE OF WINTER VEGETABLES

How I love winter vegetables. Come to think of it, I love all vegetables!!!

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These are some of the seasonal vegetables I bought last week from the Queen Victoria Market and I always make the most of them.

Although the seasons have become blurred and are becoming even more so (changes in climate, new strains of seeds, faster and better refrigerated transport) I still look forward to seasonal vegetables and tend not to buy them out of season.

What I did with the above vegetables and the recipes (click on the links)

I stuffed the Artichokes with ricotta, almond meal and pistachio.

The Cime di rape were cooked with orecchiette.

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The KALE was braised with garlic and eaten as a side vegetable. The left over cooked kale went into LENTIL SALAD

The CAVOLO NERO went into a soup.

The Frisée went into a mixture of leaves for salad.

I used half of the Celeriac raw with some rocket (dressed with homemade mayonnaise) and the rest I cooked and made a mash with cooked potatoes (Ratio: more potato than celeriac- I used 3 medium cooked potatoes and ½  cooked celeriac, butter and milk or cream, salt and pepper).

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With the left over potato and celeriac mash, I added garlic, extra virgin olive oil and a little warm vegetable stock and made a Skordalia  with a difference. There is no celeriac in skordalia and I am probably offending many fine makers of skordalia (those from a Greek culture), but it tasted great. The pink peppercorns I grounded on top also made a difference. I presented it with  Sardinian carta di musica (music sheet)- a yeast-free, paper-thin bread.  It is called pane carasau in Sardinian.

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The red radicchio was made into a salad with canned tuna, cooked borlotti and red onion (Recipe from my book: Small Fishy Bites).

The fennel was braised and topped with TAPENADE

SEE: RADICCHIO, TUNA AND BORLOTTI SALAD and BRAISED FENNEL WITH TAPENADE

You will find other recipes for some of these vegetables on my blog: key into the search button the name of the vegetable you are looking for, and different recipes should come up.

In this photo there are artichokes, fennel, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, red radicchio and a baby endive (which is sometimes called curly lettuce or frisée).

QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET (Carmel and Gus’s stall in B Shed, Stall 61- 63)

CICORETTA CON SALSICCIA (Chicory with fresh pork sausage)

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This photo above is a photo of one of the courses I very much enjoyed in a Sardinian Restaurant in Bologna called Taverna Mascarella. It was listed on their the menu as Cicoretta con salsiccia (fresh pork sausage)

Cicoretta is either young chicory or it can also mean wild chicory. The large featured photo is of a man collecting wild greens in Agrigento (by the entrance to the temples) and the one below is a photo of wild chicory sold in the Catania market in Sicily.

I have written about chicory on this blog before and it is one of my favourite green leafy vegetables. You could also make it with other greens: Cime di rape or Cavolo Nero (also called Tuscan cabbage) or Kale or even spinach.

See:
CICORIA
CAVOLO NERO
KALE

This is how to make Cicoretta con salsiccia:

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch of Chicory.
2 Italian fresh pork sausages (with or without fennel or chilli)
 
PROCESSES
Clean and wilt the greens. Drain them.
Cut sausage or remove the mince from the skins and separate it into small pieces. Saute the sausage in some extra virgin olive oil. Add the greens, salt and pepper (to your liking) and toss them around in the hot pan with the sausage meat until the greens are well coated and flavoured.
 
Cheese wafers
The crusty wedges you can see in the photo are made with grated Pecorino sardo (Sardinian pecorino).  If you add grated cheese to a heated non stick frypan and keep on cooking it it will stick together and form a wafer. You could do this on a stove or in an oven.
Try making small ones at first, just add a spoonful of grated cheese to a non stick frypan and watch it melt. Cool in the pan and the cheese will solidify and you will be able to lift it out with a spatula.

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THOSE OTHER BRASSICAS (Cabbages and Brussel Sprouts and how to cook them)

I love all brassicas (brassicaceae or mustard family), not just the Italian cime di rape,  the coloured (green, purple, pink) and cream cauliflowers, broccoli, cavolo nero, kale, kohlrabi,  cabbages Brussels sprouts and all of those Asian mustard greens .

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If we are talking about favourite Sicilian brassicas, there are the cime di rape, coloured cauliflowers, the green and purple coloured kohlrabi and broccoli.

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Italians seem to buy local produce and you are unlikely not find brussel sprouts, savoy cabbages, cavolo nero or red cabbage  in Sicily – these are grown in north of Italy. In the north of Italy you are less likely to find cime di rape or kohlrabi or the purple cauliflowers.

 

In Sicily the white cabbage (cavolo cappuccio), available in winter, is often used uncooked as a salad green and simply dressed with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The salad tastes quite sweet.

Brussels sprouts in Italy are called cavolini or cavoletti di Bruxelles (or Brussels).

The Brussels sprouts in my mother’s kitchen were always brasati (braised in a little broth – stock or stock cube with a little water). My mother’s brussel sprouts were always overcooked and unfortunately for me this seems to be the preferred way that  Italians prefer to eat vegetables.

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INGREDIENTS
Brussels sprouts, 1k
onions, 2 sliced finely
butter and extra virgin olive oil, ½-¾ cup
stock/broth, veal or chicken, ½- 1 cup
pepper and salt to taste

PROCESSES
Remove the external leaves to the cavolini, and cut a little cross at the base
(to help them cook evenly).
Precook them for about 5 mins by boiling them in salted, boiling water (I do not pre cook them) and drain well.
Saute` the onions in a mixture of oil and butter, add the cavolini and toss them around till coated.
Add the broth, salt and pepper, partly cover them with a lid and braise slowly.

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Red cabbage (cavolo cappuccio rosso) is not a Sicilian vegetable, but is appreciated in Trieste and goes very well with pork. The following recipe has Austrian origins, which is nor surprising when one looks at Trieste’s location.

INGREDIENTS

bacon or speck cut into very small cubes, ½ – 1 cup

red cabbage, ½ sliced very thinly
extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
red wine vinegar, ½ cup
cumin seeds,
salt and pepper to taste

PROCESSES
Lightly brown the bacon or speck in a little oil.
Boil the vinegar, add the cumin seeds and a little salt and pour the hot mixture over the cabbage.
Add the bacon, toss and let it marinade for at least 2 hours.
Add a drizzle of oil when ready to serve.

Cooked cabbage is not very common in Sicily, but it is in Trieste and I have always loved the way my mother cooks Savoy cabbage (cappuccio verza).

When we first arrived in Australia, there was plenty of cabbage and not much else in the way of green vegetables, so cabbage was frequently eaten. As silly as this may seem to you, I used to love this cabbage dish as a filling in a sandwich or panino (bread roll). Although it was my favourite filling I used to cringe on those occasions that my mother had packed this for my school lunch. It used to smell so strongly and on those particular days, I used to pretend I had forgotten my lunch and ate it on the way home. My school bag always needed to be aired overnight.

INGREDIENTS
Savoy cabbage, ½ sliced thinly
garlic, 3 cloves, chopped
white wine, ½ glass or water
bay leaves, 2, fresh
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil, ½-¾ cup

PROCESSES
Add the garlic and the cabbage to the hot oil.
Stir the cabbage in the oil until it begins to soften, add the wine, bay leaves and the salt and pepper.
Cover the pan and cook on very gentle heat for at least 20 minutes (my mother cooked it twice as long). Stir from time to time to ensure that it is not sticking and add more wine or water if necessary.

See Recipes:

CIME DI RAPE

CAVOLO NERO

CAVOLOFIORE  AFFOGATO (cauliflower)

KOHRABI with pasta

 

KALE (Winter green vegetable and how to cook it)

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This is Gus.

Kale is not an Italian vegetable, I could not even find the name of it in my very large Italian dictionary.

I can remember telling Carmel, Gus’ wife, about having to cook the kale the day that I buy it because I cannot fit the plant in my fridge. She told me about a Northern European customer who told her that in her country this winter plant is usually covered by snow and that she keeps her kale in the freezer (cut it up into separate branches). Apparently this softens the plant making it easier to cook. Fascinating!!

I clean and braise kale the same way as I cook cavolo nero – it is similar in taste and has almost the same texture but I usually cook it for longer. I also cook it the same way as I sometimes cook brussel sprouts.

In the photo below coloured kale is in the vase and black kale( also called cavolo nero and Tuscan cabbage) is in the vase.

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See:

CAVOLO NERO and three ways to cook it

THOSE OTHER BRASSICAS (Cavoli, Verze e Cavolini di Bruxelles)

COOKED KALE IN A SALAD

Any left over cooked kale makes a wonderful addition to a quinoa or a lentil salad ( for example to the grain or pulse I may add: chopped tomatoes, spring onion, pepitas, sliced celery, roasted pumpkin, braised carrots or braised cooked zucchini (if I have some leftovers in the fridge). The dressing could be a simple Italian: extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Or it may be a Moroccan type dressing: pomegranate molasses, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, cumin and lemon juice.

As you can see from the photo, one plant can be very  large in size. There are  bronze ans silver coloured kale plants as well (see photo below) but the green type is the first kale to became available. The green plant laying horizontally is a cavolo nero.

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CAVOLO NERO and three ways to cook it

Cavolo nero  is also called black Tuscan cabbage. I have also seen it called Black kale. It is not black in colour, it is a very deep green, the leaves long, thin and curly. I constantly find myself in situations where I end up explaining to others how to clean and how to cook it. It gives me great satisfaction (I feel like a know-all). This morning it happened twice at the Queen Victoria Market. Once at the stall where I was buying it, and again a little later as I was walking along carrying it in my basket. And it happened last week as well.

Here are three ways you can enjoy it:

  • Ribollita (soup)
  • Crostini
  • Contorno ( vegetable side dish)

RIBOLLITA

Cavolo nero is prolific in Tuscany and is one of the main ingredients in the famous Tuscan soup called ribollitaBollita (soup is a feminine word) means boiled, so the soup is called reboiled, and it is.

 Ribollita is made with cannellini, other greens (beets, cabbage), tomatoes, red onion, garlic, celery, carrots, leeks and cavolo nero. Once the soup is made, it is then layered with good quality 1-2 day old bread and left to rest for at least 24 hours; the flavours intensify when it rests.

When the soup is ready to eat, a little extra virgin olive oil is added and then it is reboiled. It is one of those soups that never die – leave it all week.

Have you ever eaten Tuscan bread? Wonderful stuff. Thickening and eating soup with the bread is what contadini, (peasants, on the land) have always done. This custom is very much like the French who ladle soupe over a slice of bread – pain de campagne. The quality and character of the bread is important, it adds flavour. Good bread lasts one week and many say that it improves with age.

 

On CROSTINI

One other way to eat cavolo nero is on crostini.

Use slices of good quality bread, grill them, and while they’re still hot rub them with a cut clove of garlic and drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Strip the leaves off the tough stalks (I usually only remove the toughest bits of the stalks at the end of the leaf), wilt till soft, drain well and cool.

Add salt freshly ground black pepper, and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Mix well and place a little of the cooked vegetable on the hot crostini. Drizzle with more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Place on slices of bread fried in extra virgin olive oil until crisp (crostini).

 

As a CONTORNO (a vegetable accompaniment)

I cook cavolo nero the same way as Italians cook most greens: it is first wilted then tossed around in oil and garlic and salt. Unlike most Italians who like their vegetables soft, I skip the wilting process and sauté them in oil and garlic, add salt and pepper, a splash of liquid (stock, white wine or water) and cook till softened (It is tougher than silverbeet and will take longer to cook).

In photo below, braised greens as an accompaniment to sauteed  chicken livers.

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