I think it is quite fab how in the Italian kitchen a side dish isn’t considered just your obligatory portion of veggies but taken as seriously as all the other components of your meal. This doesn’t yet necessarily mean that you should spend many hours preparing it but rather that it should be tasty too!
This Giorgione’s recipe from his book “Orto & cucina” is one fine example of a simple, flavoursome side dish. And as its main ingredient is kale, it is also (supposedly) super healthy. Hmmm, on second thought, I guess a street-credible blogger would have recommended a super healthy side dish right at the beginning of January for all new year’s resolutionists but better late than never, eh?
Kale with Anchovies
1 bunch kale
1 anchovy fillet in oil
1 garlic clove
Gently heat some olive oil and the crushed garlic clove in a pan. Add the chilli (chopped) and the anchovy fillet and cook on a medium heat for some minutes. In the mean time, trim the kale of its tough stems and chop it. Pour a little bit of white wine into the pan and add the chopped kale. Season with salt and a scoop of vegetable broth. Cover the pan with its lid and let the dish cook for 15 minutes (the kale should soften).
Today I think I may have found something that is even more unphotogenic than I am: this dish. I apologise for the silly faces posing with it but I felt compelled to add something to distract from the ugliness of the peas.
Yet, if you leave aesthetic questions aside, it is in fact quite a nice side dish! Yes, my version is quite similar to what the Brits call mushy peas, since I had to modify the recipe (from another Italian cooking magazine “Cucina Moderna”) a bit and use frozen peas as broad beans were not yet available in Helsinki this spring. However, even if you have to resort to peas as I did, a hefty dose of pecorino will still guarantee that this culinaristic journey will take you to a cena italiana rather than a Sunday roast!
Broad Beans with Pecorino
1 kg shelled broad beans (about 3 kg with the pod)
2 garlic cloves
60 g pecorino
Cook the beans in a good amount of salted water for 15 minutes and drain them. Head some olive oil in a frying pan and add the crushed garlic cloves. After 1-2 minutes, add one ladle of hot water and cook for five minutes. Mix the beans, garlic water, and a handful of fresh mint in a blender. Add the pecorino and season with salt to your taste.
A couple of months ago, I tried making a risotto that included a cheese that I was not familiar with: Taleggio. As this cheese isn’t really included in your grocery staples in Finland, I couldn’t find it in my local corner store either and used Swiss Gruyere as a substitute (well, not exactly a grocery staple in Finland either…). However, last week I managed to get my very first chunk of Taleggio and to top my happiness, it was even on sale.
The flavour of Taleggio is a bit different from any other cheese that I have tried before. I would describe it as something between brie and mozzarella. It definitely has that flavour typical of a mold cheese but it is milder and its texture is not quite as soft as brie’s. It certainly worked so well with the risotto that I went back to the great Taleggio sale and bought another piece. This time I tested it with potatoes and rosemary as suggested by this recipe. Rosemary is one of my favourite herbs which in cooperation with my new friend Tal makes this recipe quite a nice side dish to accompany chicken or red meat!
Taleggio and rosemary potatoes
800 g potatoes
250 g Taleggio
4 tbsp milk
30 g butter
1 sprig of rosemary
Cook the potatoes in boiling, unsalted water for only 10 minutes. Peel them and cut them into thin slices (~0.5 cm thick). Place the potato slices in a buttered gratin dish. Add the milk and season the potatoes with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary. Bake in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes.
Slice the Taleggio and remove its crust. Cover the potatoes with the cheese and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Allow the ready dish to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Sometimes the best things in life and cooking are simple. This is certainly the case with this salad. With little effort, the maximum yum (well, I guess yum really isn’t a word but it kind of rhymes nicely with maximum).
It is a side dish to accompany fish or meat. I have tried this with smoked salmon and it worked wonderfully. Add your favourite Italian song to the mixture and I guarantee you will simply have a stunning Italian meal!
Aubergine and Mint Salad
1 bunch of fresh mint
3 tbs extravirgin olive oil
1 tbs white wine vinegar
coarse ground salt
Cut the aubergines into slices (about 1 cm thick).
These steps you can skip, in case you believe that your aubergines do not hold a grudge, i.e. are not the bitter kind: Spread the slices on a tray and sprinkle the salt onto the slices. Leave them for about 40 minutes. Wipe off the liquid that has come out of the aubergines.
Grill the aubergine slices (I used the grill of my oven at 200C). After the first 5 minutes, flip them and continue grilling for another 5 minutes. Chop the fresh mint. Extract the seeds from the pomegranate.
Mix the grilled aubergine slices, chopped mint and pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Combine the olive oil and vinegar, stir and add to the bowl. If you skipped the previous steps of salting, you can add some salt as well. Mix well and serve with the meat or fish of your choice.
And finally, here is one of my favourite Italian tunes: