Spinach, garlic, olive oil and chili recipe
This Spinach, garlic, olive oil and chili recipe from Le Marche is simple to prepare but the flavours work so well together and the crisp garlic adds a surprising and delightful contrast to the spinach as well as the bite of the chili that this dish will not go without comment. This makes a good lunch dish or will work as a starter or as an accompaniment to roast or grilled meats.
Spinach, garlic, olive oil and chili recipe
fresh spinach, about 500g , enough for a side dish or starter for 4, washed and de-stalked
two cloves of garlic crushed and chopped coarsely
2 fresh sliced and 3 dried chilies chopped , add more or less depending on your preference
Pop the cleaned spinach in a pan of boiling water until it wilts, drain in a colander, as soon as you can, squeeze the water out of the spinach and chop coarsely. In a high sided frying pan, a wok is perfect, heat a good splash of olive oil – not your best and when smoking, fry the garlic and dried chilies until the garlic is golden brown and crispy. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and keep to one side, add the chopped spinach with care – there will still be some water with it and it will spit together with the fresh chilies. quickly toss the spinach in the flavoured oil to coat and heat through, a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and add some more – good quality olive oil and toss again, then serve topped with the reserved garlic.
While the recipe here is for spinach only you can use the same method for spinach with other spring greens but most other green leaves need slightly longer cooking and they should be blanched separately from the spinach as the spinach water will flavour other leaves.
Turbot, asparagus and courgette
Turbot, asparagus and courgette is a lovely combination of light and delicate flavours and with the addition of traditional Le marche deep fried zucchini, there is the added interest of the crisp texture of the courgettes.
Nowhere in Le Marche is far from the Adriatic and arguably the best fish is brought ashore in the southern port of San Benedetto del Tronto. We are based just 30 minutes from San Ben and while that is a bit of a drive for fresh fish we have discovered a fantastic fish supermarket that specialises in freezing fish straight from the boats as well as preparing a wide range of fresh fish dishes in their own kitchen. The interesting aspect to the freezing is that the whole fish are glazed, this apparently means that the fish suffers little or no dehydration. As it thaws the glaze comes off in sheets of ice and it is difficult to tell the difference from a thawed glazed fish from a fresh one. Whatever the effect, these fish are as delicious as any I have tasted.
For this recipe one medium sized Turbot serves two. The Turbot is filited – a proper filleting knife that bends through 90 degrees is pretty much essential for this job – and simply pan fried in a mix of butter and oil (not olive)
The asparagus is cooked in a little boiling water – just enough to cover and served with butter.
The courgettes though need a bit more attention. First cut the ends off and then cut in half. with each half slice 4 sides off to make a chunky square profile. Then cut these sections into chips about 5mm thick. put the chips in a colander and salt well.
Leave for a hour or longer for the salt to draw out moisture. now rinse salt off the courgette chips and dry them on kitchen roll – they need to be good and dry. Now drop them in a bowl of plain flour and toss them in a sieve over the bowl until they are all separate and coated in flour. Then drop carefully into hot oil – 200C – remove with a wire spoon once they colour, about 1/2 mins. drain on kitchen roll and serve immediately.
Le Marche Tripe
Tripe is a dish known throughout Italy from north to south. Each area has its own variations on cooking and preparations. I was personally inspired as a young boy to create this delicious dish and I learned the recipe from my grandmother Luigina a lady of just 90 years young. In turn I am happy to pass on this recipe which has been handed down through the generations of my family. Each time I cook tripe this way I remember with delight my “nona” grandmother and look forward to the pleasure that comes with the taste of this delicious but great value dish. Clearly, given its wholesome and warming properties this dish is only recommended in cold seasons.
- 1 kg tripe - ox \ calf
- 2 onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks celery
- 1 glass white wine
- 2 potatoes
- bunch fresh marjoram or parmesan knob
- oil for frying
- cut the tripe into pieces of one cm and boil in salted water for about 45 min, in the meantime, finely chop the onions carrots and celery and fry in the oil. Boil 1.5 liters of salted water and add the tomato paste and two potatoes, peeled and shredded. Drain the tripe and add to the frying vegetables, sauté together with the white wine, pepper, and the fresh marjoram or dried rind of Parmesan. After 15 min add in the potatoes with some of its cooking water, cook for two hours on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add more of the potato water to prevent the stock drying out.
- Serve with fresh parmesan cheese and accompanied with a fine full bodied rosso piceno.
Ruccola and walnut pesto
Ruccola and walnut pesto. Whether you call it ruccola, rocket or arrugula this salad leaf turns up often in Le Marche cuisine. As a salad ingredient, a pizza topping or one of my favourites, chopped and scattered on top of Tagliata. Apparently, ruccola was believed by classical writers of Roman times to be an aphrodisiac and this was the reason that monks in medieval times weren’t allowed to plant it in their gardens.
Yesterday, the sun was shining here in Le Marche and it felt like Spring but overnight it changed to stormy winds, snow and sleet – the Italian saying ‘Marzo è un mese pazzo’ is particularly fitting today. Luckily I cropped loads of rocket before the snow, which had self seeded from my orto and turned into a huge patch of wild rocket!
Ruccola leaves are peppery to taste and maybe like marmite, you either like the taste or not. I love the taste kick and it definitely livens up a green salad. Like spinach and kale, ruccola is packed full of green goodness and is easy to plant from seed. In Le Marche it grows best in Spring when everything is green and lush. In summer with hot temperatures I find it quickly runs to seed.
I’ve also added walnuts to the pesto but you can experiment with the addition of pine nuts, almonds or other nuts. My crop of walnuts needed using and I’m trying to use ingredients that are local to Cossignano and South Le Marche so I settled with half walnuts and half almonds. Thus this recipe is great for vegetarians and the walnuts provide some extra useful nutritional value as they are high in omega 3 fats as well as many other nutrients and anti oxidants.
What follows is a rough recipe for Ruccola and walnut pesto, but making pesto is more of a technique and you need to find out what balance of flavours works best for you. Also bear in mind that it tastes much milder when mixed with pasta than trying a teaspoon raw which is what I did and found it too pungent. Mixed with spaghetti it tasted fresh and green and not over peppery.
- A few good handfuls of fresh rocket ( I used the leaves and the stems)
- About 70 g parmesan
- A small handful of walnuts and almonds
- A few glugs of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil
- squirt of lemon juice
- small clove of garlic
- salt and pepper
- Using a food mixer, or a pestle and morter if you want to make it all by hand, first chop the nuts, then add all the other ingredients and whizz to a rough paste, maybe adding more oil or more cheese, tasting as you go. Remember it can taste quite strong on its own but teamed with pasta it is much milder.
- Half I used with pasta and the other is in my fridge to use over the next few days.
- Pesto can be very successfully frozen, maybe in ice cube trays for handy little portions