Tag Archives: Queen Victoria Market

SPAGHETTINI E COZZE – Spaghettini with mussels

Culturally In Australia Easter is no big deal, however in Italy it is tied to religious observances and fish is traditionally eaten on Good Friday by Italian Catholics even if they are not practising Catholics.

I plan to cook something simple – a pasta dish with Mussels. Cozze in Italian, cuzzili in Sicilian.

This is not a complicated dish. It is made with fresh mussels and a little fresh tomato, but not so much to mask the taste of the other ingredients.

Local mussels are prolific in Victoria and I regularly buy them at the Queen Victoria Market; these are generally farmed in Port Phillip Bay and recently from Mount Martha; when I get the chance, I like to go to Portarlington, where they are sold straight off the boats. Mussels are sustainable.

Red, ripe tomatoes are fabulous at this time of year, but tinned tomatoes are OK too. I even used some ripe, yellow,  heirloom tomatoes in this sauce!

Spaghettini (thin spaghetti) are used for this dish – the thin strands result in a greater surface area and allow greater absorption of the sauce.

The sauce is prepared quickly while the pasta is cooking. The same ingredients and method of cooking this dish can also be used with other fish – try squid.

Do not be horrified and think me a phony for using grated cheese with fish!  The rest of Italy may not, but Sicilians do it. Using cheese is not necessary, especially if you like to savor the fresh taste of the tomatoes.

spaghettini, 500g
mussels, 2 kg fresh, live mussels
red tomatoes, fresh, 500 g, chopped and peeled
garlic, 3 chopped…to taste
parsley, 1 cup finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil, ½ – ¾ cup
salt and pepper
basil, fresh, some stalks and leaves in the sauce and some leaves to decorate and provide a last-minute aroma
grated pecorino, (optional), to taste

Clean the mussels by rubbing them against each other in cold water (or use a plastic scourer). Pull the beards sharply towards the pointy end of the shell.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan.
Add the mussels.
Cover and cook over a brisk flame, shaking the pan every now and then, until the mussels have opened. Turn off the flame and let them cool slightly, then remove and discard the shells of about ¾ of them. Use the whole mussels for decoration.

If you have given the mussels sufficient time to open and some have remained closed, there is no need to discard them. They are very much alive, place them back on heat and they will eventually open.
Save the juice from the mussels in a separate vessel.

Add the onion to a new pan, sauté till golden.
Add the chopped tomatoes and some basil stalks with leaves attached (these can be removed at time of serving).
Simmer the sauce for about 8-10 minutes, just to blend the flavours and to evaporate some of the tomato juice. Place the tomato sauce aside.

Cook the spaghettini.
Add some extra virgin olive oil and garlic to a new pan (or wipe down the same pan that you have used to cook the sauce).  Soften the garlic and add the parsley.

Add the  mussel meat to the pan and toss the ingredients around for a few minutes before adding the tomato sauce and as much of the mussel juice as you think you will need for the sauce. Remove the cooked basil (it has done its job).
Add the mussels in their shells (gently) to warm through.

Drain the pasta. Add it to the pan with the rest of the ingredients toss them around till they are well coated. Be gentle with the cooked mussels in their shells as you want to keep the mussel meat in the shell.
Add fresh basil leaves.

Present with grated cheese for those who wish.

Pasta with cozze is eaten all over Italy but in Northern Italy parsley and garlic are the preferred flavourings and no tomatoes.

CARDOONS, What are they? (Cardoni or Cardi in Italian)

The featured photo was taken in a market in Paris but cardi are sold in every market in all regions of Italy..

The photo below is not a photo taken in one of the markets in Italy – it was purchased from Gus and Carmel’s stall in the Queen Victoria Market (Carmel is holding the plant, she was reluctant to pose).

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It is a cardoon (called cardone or cardo in Italian) a close relative of the artichoke with light green to white stalks ribbed like celery. Cardoons (cardoni or cardi) are fibrous; the stringy fibres run lengthwise and need to be removed. Only the stalks are eaten and they the plant is young can be eaten raw when young.

I am very excited by this because it is the first cardoon I have ever seen for sale and cooked in Australia.

I was in Chanti two years ago and travelled through Tuscany when cardi were in season and I must admit that I have never seen cardoons as gigantic as the one anywhere in Italy. The other photo (see bottom of this post) showing a darker variety of cardi was taken in the market in Catania, Sicily and this is the size (not necessarily the colour) that I remember my mother buying when we lived in Trieste.

Cardoons are a winter vegetable and appreciated in all parts of Italy. I know that there are a number of varieties of cardi but they can be grouped into two sorts. One grows straight and long (60 to 150 cm), and I guess that this is what I have (it is 110cm tall, and the top leaves have already been trimmed); the other cardi are curved and in Italy are known as the gobbi (hunchbacks).

The best cardi are grown blanched. This is like the blanching of some celery – the plant is tied together and paper or boards are used to block out the light and shade the stalks. When the light source of celery is blocked out the plants lack green colour, the stalks are generally more tender and are sweeter in taste. Apparently the best cardi are grown in total darkness; to blanch the gobbi, the plants are bent on one side and covered with earth; this contributes to the typical arched shape.

When my family settled in Australia we missed our cardi and my mother cooked the ivory stalks of silver beet the same way, i.e. gratinati – au gratin (part boiled and then baked with béchamel and parmesan cheese). She also part boiled them, crumbed and fried them (called impanati). My mum has never worked and was particularly bored when we settled in Australia, where in fact she developed her best cooking, even if she did not have the range of ingredients. We knew that the silver beet stalks would never taste like they should (similar to artichokes), but they looked good when we were having guests.

Gus is Calabrese and the fruit stall next door is also run by Calabresi. They tell me that one of their favourite ways to eat cardi  are when they are preserved in extra virgin olive oil. They are boiled first in acidulated water, drained well and like when preserving carciofini (small artichokes) are then covered with oil, salt and perhaps some dried oregano.

In Tuscany the cardi are often recooked in chicken or veal stock and in Piedmont they are precooked and then presented with bagna caoda (a warm dip of anchovies, garlic, and olive oil, usually served with fresh vegetables as an appetizer).

To clean cardi, take off the outside leaves and any that are discoloured or soft until you reach the inside of the plant. As you can see in the photo the plant was significantly reduced in size and looks very much like the centre of a celery. With a sharp knife strip off the coarse, outer, stringy layer of fibres – some people use a potato peeler to do this. I do the same with artichoke stalks and like artichokes they need to be placed in lightly acidulated water as you are cleaning them. The cardoons are then cut into 5-6 cm pieces and are partly boiled to remove more of their bitter taste, and then recooked. A good squeeze of lemon juice added to the cooking water will also help to prevent them from darkening. Do not think about reusing the cooking water as stock – it is bitter.

INGREDIENTS

cardoons, cleaned and cut into pieces (I ended up with only 20 pieces)
lemons, the juice of 1- 2
béchamel, (white sauce made with butter, flour, milk salt, white pepper and some nutmeg and I used 2 cups)
parmesan cheese, grated.  I used 120g
butter, extra

 

PROCESSES

Clean and cut the cardi to size, place them into boiling, salted water and lemon juice and cook till softened. The cooking liquid should completely cover the vegetables. My cardi remained slightly crunchy and I cooked them for 35-40 mins. Some cardi can take a long time to soften and some of the recipes I read suggested a couple of hours cooking time.
Drain well. If you intend cooking them later keep them in the cooking water till you are ready for the next cooking stage.
Preheat the oven 200°C.
Grease a wide, shallow ovenproof dish with butter and place a layer of the cardi in it (there will be two layers). Cover with some of the béchamel (besciamella) and half of the parmesan.
Continue with the second layer of cardi, followed by the béchamel and cheese. At this stage you can decide if you would like to sprinkle some coarse breadcrumbs made with good quality bread (sourdough or pasta dura) on the top of the cheese and dot the crumbs with some bits of butter.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the surface has turned a golden brown. Serve at once.

See other Cardi Recipe: CARDOONS (Cardoni or CARDI Sicilian recipe)

 

 

CALAMARETTI IN TEGAME – in Sicilian it is CALAMARICCHI ’N’TIANU (Small calamari braised with tomatoes and potatoes)

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Calamaretti is the diminutive of calamari and Italians do mean small. This is a common recipe for braised calamaretti. In Australia it is often difficult to purchase small sized squid or cuttlefish, but do your best.  A tegame, is a shallow pan.

The photo of this squid was taken in the fish market in Catania, however I have been extremely pleased with the squid from my fish vendor (Happy Tuna stall in the Queen Victoria Market) and I have been buying it frequently.

I particularly like char grilled calamari with a salmoriglio dressing (oil, lemon, parsley, oregano). However, a simple braised calamari is also a good alternative, especially in winter.

For a main course you will need 3 kg of young calamari or more because they shrink. Potatoes and peas are often included in this dish.

INGREDIENTS
small squid, 3 kg
white wine,1 cup
flat leaf parsley, chopped, 1 cup
extra virgin olive oil,  ½  cup
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
onions, 2 chopped
potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes or chunks (estimate for 30mins cooking time)
tomato salsa, 1 cup

TOMATO SALSA: fresh, peeled, ripe, chopped tomatoes or a can (with the liquid), a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic cloves left whole, fresh basil or dried oregano and a little seasoning. Place all of the ingredients into a pan together and evaporate until thickened. Add a little sugar, more olive oil and some extra leaves of fresh basil.

PROCESSES
Prepare the squid by removing the head with a sharp knife. Open the body and remove the internal organs. Retain the ink sacs and freeze them if you wish to use them at another time (see recipes……..).
Wash or wipe the squid and cut into strips.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the peeled chopped onions lightly.
Add the squid, stir for 3 minutes, and pour in the white wine, salsa and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently for 30 minutes.
 VARIATIONS
Add 4 chopped anchovies, to above recipe.
When in season add peas, (2 cups shelled).
MA2SBAE8REVW

FAVE ( Broad beans)

Fresh broad beans are only available for a short season in Spring, but walking around the Melbourne Victoria market in the last two weeks I have only seen them in a few stalls.

In spite of my love for broad beans I do not always buy them unless the pods are fresh, bright green in colour and most importantly they must be small or medium sized. Unfortunately most of the broad beans you see for sale are the puffy, larger broad beans, the most mature pods.

In Sicily these large pods are shelled and the beans are dried. Beans this size have to be soaked before cooking and each bean has to be, individually, peeled.

The size of the beans inside the pod determines how you prepare them.

Sicilians eat the tender, young broad beans (about the size of a fingernail) raw. Sadly, you are not likely to find these for sale – you will have to grow them yourself.

Broad beans are sold in their pods and they have to be shelled. And if you look at the photos you can imagine that the process takes time and you need to buy a large quantity of bean pods to get a decent feed. I paid $7 for these ($4 per kilo) so they are not exactly cheap.I ended up with less than 500 g.

When I bought my broad beans I was amused to see that the vendor had placed a packet of shelled broad beans on top of the bean pods. She said her daughter had shelled some because some people do not know what’s inside the pods and that they have to be shelled before eating.

Others may not know that the larger beans need to be skinned again (double-peeling or twice-peeled beans). They have a thick, outer skin, which can taste slightly bitter. Double peeling beans is a very time consuming process, which I try to avoid by selecting the smallest pods I can. (I like to select my own).

There are different brands of frozen broad beans and some brands are double peeled
(you can usually find them in Asian food shops). Although frozen beans are quite acceptable, the fresh ones certainly taste better. Think of the differences in taste and texture between frozen peas and fresh, young peas.

Broad beans are not difficult to cook. My favourite cooking method is to sauté them in a little oil and a little chopped onion, parsley and a little salt and pepper. To finish the cooking add a little liquid, cover and braise them until softened (cooked in umitu in Sicilian and in umido in Italian).

RECIPE:

Broad beans with mint

If the beans are not too big (or have been double peeled), a very simple way is to cook them in boiling water till softened (I do not cook them for long), drain them and dress them with a little good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a few leaves of mint. Mint is tender and lush at this time of year. If you do not have mint, dried oregano is always a good Sicilian choice.
See my other posts about broad beans: Cannulicchi a la Favurita – pasta,

Maccu – soup, made with dry broad beans

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RAPE (Turnips)


This photo shows a fresh bunch of small turnips. Turnips (the bulb), even if small are not popular to eat in Italy, but the leaves are eaten.

You can see that the ones I buy are a sold with their leaves – green, fresh and tasty. They are excellent to eat either wilted in salted water and dressed with oil and lemon, or braised with garlic and chilli. Turnips are members of the brassica family and these greens are related and taste very similar to cime di rape (see ONE OF MY FAVOURITE VEGETABLES Cime di Rape  ).

Tim, Kieran and Chris (at a stall in the Queen Victoria Market) know that I always like to buy my turnips, beetroot and celeriac with their green leaves attached – they should never be wasted.

 Iota is a stew-like soup of borlotti beans, potatoes and smoked pork meats. It is a specialty of Trieste and environs and in Trieste is traditionally made with saurkraut, however in  a couple of places close to Trieste the saurkraut, is replaced with turnips.

Iota (a Very Thick Soup From Trieste)

IOTA FROM TRIESTE, Italy made with smoked pork, sauerkraut, borlotti beans

KALE (Winter green vegetable and how to cook it)

Gus+%40+stall_0042-250x250

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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