February 14, 2012

Agretti and Other Greeny Greens

About this time in Tuscany, we begin to see agretti at the markets. It’s a grassy green, just so fresh–and slightly bitter. We steam it briefly and then run it around in a sauté pan with garlic and olive oil, great olive oil of course. Next time I’m there, I’m going to buy seeds to bring back because I’ve never seen it here in the U.S. With every bite you get a full quote of Popeye vitamins!


Today is Valentine’s so I should be thinking RED, but all I can see this morning is green.  Maybe it’s because I’m still tasting my friend Ann’s hearty spinach and lentil soup from last night, and her vegetable salad.

Here is one of Steven Rothfeld’s photos from our forthcoming cookbook. Cutest vegetable in the world? The round zucchini can be hollowed and stuffed with whatever you want. Here, they’re filled with breadcrumbs, tomato, herbs, onions.

Stuffed zucchini 5273

The vegetable section of the book may be my favorite. This is cavolo nero, black cabbage, from our garden. It is such a fierce vegetable! We tame it in kale, sausage, and cannellini bean soup. That color–how to describe it–a slate green, toad frog green, stone green?


Recently I’ve seen recipes for raw kale in salads.  Has anyone tried that?  It seems unlikely to me.  With the chard and kale we grow, we usually harvest a bunch and steam it, then form softball-sized rounds and freeze them. So handy for a quick sauté or for risotto.

On a cold January day, I took this outside a small shop in Florence. Not shown is my winter favorite broccoli romano, pyramidal and intricate. It tastes like winter. These rosy cauliflowers are delicious when roasted. (Whoever invented cauliflower with cheese sauce–ugh!) Divide them into flowerets, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, tent with foil, and roast at 350 for about ten minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting until they are really done and browning. I treat root vegetables the same way. I roast carrots, parsnips, and onions, adding quartered apples for the last 10-15 minutes. A perfect supper with a roast chicken.


Many of my best vegetables are simple. But like just the right scarf with a sweater, the subtle additions make all the difference–as in gently steamed green beans tossed with black olives and orange zest.  Since I’m dreaming in green today, here’s a summer shot of our orto, vegetable garden in Italy. There’s a grand plenty–enough to share with friends–and going there to pick dinner is a big pleasure.