Spring

ODE TO MY GARDEN AND TWO RECIPES WITH SPONTANEOUS HERBS

In a moment everything has changed.  Spring is gone, like Grandma.
While the garden was at its best, giving clouds of white flowers and miles of new grass to be cut, I sat down under the pear tree, in a sea of newly fallen white petals, with the phone ringing in my hand.
I already knew, I didn’t need to answer. That night my Grandma had stopped by to say hello and she had made a big mess.

I had awakened with the rustling of the wind shaking the branches of the trees in my garden. I had got up to drink a glass of water and from the kitchen window I had watched incredibly far into the darkness, at the edge of our property, where the pear tree is, which is the oldest tree we have. I think it’s about sixty years old, and each spring turns into a beautiful white bloom, boasting its awakening after the long winter. That night was particularly clear due to the full moon, and I saw everything.
I saw how the wind had stripped the pear tree of all its beauty, leaving it naked, as if it were January again. The petals were scattered everywhere.
Grandma spoke to me through the garden, and I think she was a little bit pissed off. Leaving us so suddenly wasn’t her style … she had to find a way to protest.
I lit a candle and placed it on the kitchen balcony. Go, Libera! Libera as the name you bear (which in italian literally means free)!
I think she listened to me.
The next morning, under the pear tree that she had decided to mess up – who knows, maybe trying to cling to it, not to let herself go – I already knew, even before the phone rang, she was definitively gone.

From that day I have lived in the garden.
I got sick of a bad influence picking up the flowers. I was healed by sowing new seeds and making great infusions with the lemons of our greenhouse.
I eat everything the garden gives me. A few things actually, because it’s still too early to pick up the vegetables I’ve planted, but wild herbs never fail if you know where to look for them.
My grandmother knew it well, and I called her many times to ask her how to distinguish the leaves I was looking for and especially how to use them in the kitchen.
She was a culinary encyclopedia, and she liked to explain the small details, wandering through a thousand other stories of her life.
While I gather some fresh nettles pricking my fingers as usual, I think about how this spring looks different and how quickly it has slipped away, replaced by long and already too hot days.
The changes overwhelm me as always and I feel a bit “out of rhythm” as if the time I recently had at my disposal burned together with my thyme plant, which is now dried under the sun.
I have moved the kitchen table in the garden and replaced it with a large wooden board – once the bottom of a boat – resting on two trestles. A Zarotti family classic that I learned from my Dad, who seems to never have enough tables for his needs. When you need a table and all of the others are busy, you somehow create one. That’s the rule.
I have dragged the table on the grass and I have left it beside the outer wall of the @TheFreakyRaku studio.
There it has stayed for a long time and it has become my headquarters.

My garden is my office, my kitchen and my studio at the moment.
I get ahead with my work and I continue to make myself liters of lemon infusion.
When I get tired, I take a stroll and I lie down under the pear tree, with my hens all around strangely intrigued by the golden button of my leather boots. They constantly peck it, grumbling a little. Sometimes they make long speeches, while other times they keep quiet for hours.
In the silence I understand why this garden is so important to me.
I can clearly perceive that this is, more than others, the place where I can feel that there is something beyond the visible.
Here I get assured that we are not only matter and that the energy that has inhabited a body – or any living form – is never completely lost; I believe it finds a way to transform itself and live again, and maybe communicate with those who are willing to listen, through silence or in the most unexpected ways.
I think of how many forms of silent communication exist, while I let another day go and along with it the feeling of having lost something important.
My garden teaches me that everything has its own time, and what dies today will be reborn tomorrow, in one form or another. It will always be a gift for those who are willing to grasp it, and today, I have made a good harvest!

 

GREEN VELVET SOUP WITH SPONTANEOUS HERBS & WHOLE WHEAT DANDELION MINI TARTS
 
! *For 4 persons / approx. 4 tarts 12 cm diameter
Author:
Ingredients
FOR THE SOUP:
  • 500 gr of clean herbs as you please between:
  • Dandelion, Nettles, Plantain or Silene (the ones I used).
* If you're not sure about how recognize them, I suggest to google their names first to see some detailed pictures or better, find a good book about spontaneous herbs.
  • 500 g of chard and black cabbage
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1,5 L water or vegetable stock of excellent quality
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅘ tbsp sour cream
  • Sunflower seeds and fresh thyme to garnish (optional)
  • Veronica Persica flowers, also commonly called " birdeye speedwell" for an extra touch - they are edible!
FOR THE TARTS
**DOUGH:
  • 200 g of whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 80 ml of cold water
  • Butter to grease the molds
**FILLING:
  • 350 gr of cooked Dandelion/ Taraxacum* leaves
* Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, which consists of species commonly known as dandelions.
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch of Chili pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
HOW TO MAKE THE SOUP:
  1. Clean and wash all the vegetables, carefully removing the roots and the hardest parts of the stems. Cut them roughly into pieces with the knife.
  2. Peel and wash the potatoes and cut them into small pieces.
  3. In a large saucepan quickly stir-fry the chopped leek together with the garlic clove in the olive oil. Then add the green vegetables and cook on medium heat for a few minutes.
  4. Add the potatoes and cover everything with boiling vegetable stock of good quality; otherwise, rather than using stock cubes, simply add some water.
  5. Cover with the lid and boil for about 15 minutes, then simmer over low heat for another 5-10 minutes without lid. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Blend everything with a kitchen mixer until you get a thick and velvety cream.
  7. Serve in a bowl garnishing with sour cream, fresh thyme and sunflower seeds. Add some Veronica flowers to make it prettier!
HOW TO MAKE THE TARTS:
  1. Pour the flour into a glass bowl, add salt, oil and the egg. Combine the cold water and knead everything quickly with your hands until you get a ball of compact and elastic dough with no clumps. Adjust with a bit of extra flour if it is too soft.
  2. Wrap the dough in the plastic-wrap and let it stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, wash the dandelion and boil it for a few minutes in a pot of water. Drain and squeeze out excess water.
  4. In a frying pan quickly stir-fry the garlic clove and a pinch of chili pepper in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, add the boiled dandelion and sauté for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and let it chill.
  5. In a clean bowl whisk the eggs, add the sour cream, a pinch of salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese, then incorporate dandelion when it is cool. Keep aside.
  6. Butter the molds for the tarts.
  7. Divide the dough into five equal parts and, using a rolling pin on a lightly floured wooden board, roll out four parts to make four equal discs to lay on the buttered molds.
  8. Stuff the tarts with the dandelion filling you have previously prepared, then with the extra dough (the fifth part) make strips using a knife or a pastry cutter to create a lattice finish.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 180° C for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let it chill a bit and serve!

 

 

 

 

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