In My Kitchen, Primavera, November 2016

Spring is finally sending her beautiful vegetables from the garden to my kitchen. The first and most evocative of these is the artichoke. Carciofi, artichokes, are fiddly to prepare, requiring removal of most of their outer leaves while simultaneously bathing their cut bodies in acidulated water before they bruise and darken. It really is worth the effort.

Arty Artichoke
Arty Artichoke

I love carciofi gently braised with garlic, lots of good oil, a little water, a grind of salt, and handful of torn herbs, eaten straight out of the pot with some crusty bread. I love them creamed in a Spaghetti ai Carciofi, bringing back memories of tiny trattorie in Rome. I love them thinly sliced on a pizza. Mr T does not share my passion: there is something quite odd about that man, which was the subject of my very first post back in October, 2013.

bellissimi carciofi
bellissimi carciofi

So many of my artichokes now get the ART for Artichoke treatment because he won’t eat them and I can’t eat them all. This arty thing began in the 1990s when Daniella, the sister of a good friend, Sandro Donati, had a photographic exhibition featuring artichokes, beautiful black and white studies which included portraits of her mother: moody, melancholic, and molto Italiano. In that same year, I came across a book, with a forward by Lorenza de’ Medici, with stunning reproductions of works by Giovanna Garzani, ( 1600-1670), an artist who painted delicate still lives featuring fruit and vegetables. These two memories have influenced how I see vegetables. Why stick flowers in a vase when the garden is singing with other more spectacular stems? When I arrange and photograph artichokes, I am really lusting for their creamy bitterness in my mouth.

Chinese Dish with Artichokes, a Rose and Strwberrie. bypainting by Giovanna Garzon 1600- 1670.
Chinese Dish with Artichokes, a Rose and Strawberries. painting by Giovanna Garzani. Photographed from my treasured copy of  Florentines. A Tuscan Feast, Giovanna Garzani 1600-1670 with forward by Lorenza de’Medici.

Other herbal candidates entering my kitchen are given the art treatment too. Broad beans in flower, over grown stems of celery, sage bushes flowering purple, stalks of dark rosemary: ‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ There are small tussie mussies of fragrant mixed herbs, bowls of lemons, fronds of wild fennel. Primavera nella mia cucina.

fave
Broad beans arranged in the style of Garzani
A dish of Broadbeans,
A dish of Broadbeans, Gabriella Garzani, 1600- 1670

Sadly, I lost three hens to the foxes recently so we’re down to a dozen eggs a day. I sell a few here and there but always keep a basket of eggs in the kitchen, prompting a simple breakfast or a cake for someone. There is no need to refrigerate your eggs unless you plan to keep them for more than two weeks. I don’t clean the shells, if dirty, until I’m ready to use them. Cleaning eggs removes the natural protective layer, the cuticle or bloom from the shell, which preserves their freshness.

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Eggs from my spoilt chooks.

This month I have enjoyed researching the breads and sweets of Italy baked for the Day of the Dead, I Morti, on November 1/2. In Australia, Halloween was not celebrated until very recent times. Over the last 10 years, it has slipped into our language, led by commercial interests of course. The whole thing,  in Australia at least, seems culturally artificial to me. I am now teaching my little ones about Celtic and Italian customs to counter the purple wigs and lolly bags entering their homes. They listen with wide-eyed wonder. Young Oliver leans in close and whispers ‘slipping through the crack of time’, though he turned up his nose at my Fave dei Morti.

Pan dei Morti
Pan co’ Santi, made for the visitors from the other world.
fave dei morti
Fave dei morti

With all the bread I make, the little stove top griller pan with the heavy ridged lid, gets a constant workout. Stale sourdough comes to life when simply grilled and rubbed with garlic and dressed with new olive oil.

Bruschetta on teh grill
Bruschetta on the grill

Australian Cobram Extra Virgin Olive oil is reliably good, winning prizes around the globe. Last May’s (2016) olive harvest and press has just hit the shelves. Look for harvest dates on your containers of oil. This information is more reliable than use- by-dates. The closer you are to the harvest date, the better the oil. Store large tins of oil in the dark. Decant the oil into clean pouring jars. When visiting an olive oil producer in Margaret River back in 2006, I was informed that adding lovely fresh oil to the oil that has been left in a pouring jar, even if only a few drops remain, tainted the fresh oil with already oxidised oil. Makes sense really.

xxx
Zuppa Frantoiana.  A dense white bean soup which relies on the first pressing of the new season’s olive oil and is layered with oil and grilled bread in a deep tureen before serving.

Melbourne’s cold Spring has seen the return of the hearty soup to my kitchen. This thick meal in a bowl, Zuppa Frantoiana, is a soup which celebrates the first pressing of the season’s olive oil. The soup is layered with oil and grilled bread in a tureen before serving.

A lovely terracotta soup tureen, found unused in Savers for $4. No lid.
A lovely terracotta soup tureen, found unused in Savers for $4. No lid. Happy Strega.

Speaking of Sandro, (see somewhere above), I’m including a little clip of one of his joyous Friulian songs. La Banda di Sandro blended traditional jazz with Italian folk sung in the Friulian dialect. Hey, just for fun, and just because I wish he and Judy were back in my kitchen; I know they would eat all the carciofi and then ask for more.

Thanks to Liz, at Good Things, the In My Kitchen series continues.  Do check out some of the other kitchens on her site this month. Saluti a Tutti.

62 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, Primavera, November 2016”

  1. So sorry to hear Mr Fox got his way. It’s always a worry for all of us who keep chickens. Artichokes are the first spring offering for us here in France too and as you say, well worth all the effort. Now it’s Autumn but so dry and so mild that we are still picking tomatoes an figs, aubergines and courgettes, it’s all a bit strange!

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  2. Lovely post. Other than the female form I think vegies are super sexy art forms, just as important to draw them as to eat them! I’d love to share carciofi straight from the pot with you, I also have a refusnik in house so there appearance is rare in my kitchen. Enjoyed the music…

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  3. I’m with you 100% on loving to use fruit and veg as decorative objects. (don’t tell anyone, but I have been known to buy pears just to draw and photograph them) Some gorgeous images here. So sorry about the foxes taking your hens. My favourite olive oil is Cobram too. And I’m with Sandra, would happily share the carciofi straight from the pot with you!

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  4. Great tip about not cleaning the eggs. I had probably read that elsewhere but had forgotten. From time to time my friend down the road shares some eggs with us so I’ll make sure not to clean them. I have one lonely artichoke that I’m growing. It’s a spectacular looking plant but nothing is happening in the fruit department. I’m probably in Mr T’s corner when it comes to eating them which is why I decided to plant one and see if I might enjoy one I grew. Still waiting…

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  5. Well, when I cannot afford to buy my favourite ‘Nuggetty Farm’ olive oil [yippee, there was a gorgeous Yule promotion on!] I also buy Cobram: love their pouring bottle besides the lovely oil!! . . . oh, and I do not mind cleaning artichokes to get to all the good bits 🙂 !! Just past the ‘lovely’ season in that . . .

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      1. Just over 110 km SSW of Sydney on the rim of the Southern Highlands and almost in the Nattai National Park: pretty but also pretty isolated if you don’t drive yourself 🙂 !! Oh the olive oil is worth every penny – have given some very elegant bottles of Meryl’s as gifts instead of wine and friends have raved . . .

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    1. Tortoises! Well, we all have our local pests but nothing eats my artichokes- rabbits, parrots, ducks, kangaroos, – nothing will touch them. They are a beautiful plant in the ornamental garden just for their pale green architectural beauty too.

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    1. I think Garzani had an enormous impact on illustrations of the kid found it Elizabeth David’s book. I recall seeing it at some time.
      Autumn is my favourite season- far more mellow and gentle. spring here is volatile and this year, almost non existent as the La Ninya cycle of weather makes her presence felt.

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  6. Certainly a lot of foxy loxies around this year! Very distressing when they make their target too. I love the artistic presentation of fruit and veg, edible artwork. I wish I was a bit more artistically creative as it would be wonderful to produce such stunning pictures. I think you should consider producing some podcast children stories about all the things you are so knowledgeable about. I wouldn’t know where to start to impart accurate but interesting information that is so much more valuable than the commercial approach handed to kids that has nothing to do with true history. Agree about Cobram oil, and yes, it does make sense about adding new to old bottle. I must remember that!

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    1. The history of Samhain is a fascinating one and has as many twists and turns in custom as its modern incarnation. I would like to do some little books for kids- my grandchildren are growing up far too quickly so I should get om with it. Yes, Foxie loxies, and partly our fault too. I thinks some got out and I didn’t notice.

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  7. What beautiful produce and art. Fruit and veg are certainly wonderful subjects for artwork. I haven’t grown artichokes but certainly enjoy eating them in any form. I’ve got the boys eating them on homemade grilled pizza and am expanding their horizons. So many eggs, how wonderful despite the fox making his mark.

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  8. what a shame about the chickens and the fox. i don’t think we have them in our neighbourhood, being suburban brisbane. Sorry I have to say we love Halloween in this household:) I keep telling people it’s not american at all but Celtic (and mexican) and therefore as an english colony we are fully entitled to indulge. We should be carving out turnips instead of pumpkins apparently.

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  9. The Mexican version would be a derivation of the Spanish, Celtic version too. The Celtic version is an old traditional celebration, but one that was never transported to Australia. It is the Americanisation of this custom I object to Sherry. And of course we are entitled to use any customs that we like.

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  10. I share your love of artichokes, Francesca. Sadly, a single variety has overtaken our market, although some farmers are trying to bring a few lesser known varieties back. That is what I find so impressive in Italy. You can see many kinds in a market and as one’s season ends, another’s begins. Wonderful! Speaking of wonderful, this post was lovely and a good part of the reason I love IMK posts. Thank you for sharing your kitchen with us.

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    1. Thanks John. It is good to see the lesser known varieties returning. It’s the same with other vegetables and fruit- the supermarkets dominate the buying and determine which ones are grown. It is important that smaller growers, for farmers’ markets or the home, find older varieties to plant.

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  11. I share your love of Italian paintings of produce, and your appreciation of the beauty of artichokes. Your eggs look wonderful — here in the US we are forced to keep them in the fridge because the law requires that eggs be washed before sale. As you say, it strips the natural coating that would keep them fresh. Too bad for us!
    I’m appreciating all the IMK posts. Mine is here:
    http://maefood.blogspot.com/2016/11/my-kitchen-november-2016.html

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Mae. I have read that about eggs in the US. There is much debate about the best way to deal with eggs, Europe having quite different laws again. Commercial egg companies wash the coating from eggs, the apply a new artificial one. Supermarkets always make their own laws whereas farmers markets are more natural in approach. Thanks for dropping in this month Mae.

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  12. I’m not into Halloween either, it does feel very commercial to celebrate here, as it’s not something I grew up with.

    So many vegetables are so pretty! Rainbow chard looks gorgeous put into a vase in lieu of flowers.
    I’ve only ever eaten artichokes preserved from our local Italian deli – they are so yum!

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  13. Love seeing in your kitchen – it has been soups and stews weather until very recently – we had tacos the other night because it just seemed too warm for soup – finally! Your artichoke art is beautiful – our neighbour has artichokes in the front yard and i think they look really beautiful in their garden. I like your approach to day of the dead – isn’t it interesting how many traditions there are at this time of year and yet all the shops are interested in is selling lollies! And your comment on not washing eggs reminds me of my mum rubbing something on the eggs to keep them longer but I cannot remember that name of it!

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  14. That wily Mr Fox is such a bugger, isn’t he. I’m only every just one step ahead of him, but occasionally not even that.
    I love the Garzani images you’ve shared – I will be hunting down more of them.

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  15. Thanks for sharing your great tips on the olive oil and eggs Francesca. I keep my eggs in the fridge as we only eat them on weekends and I always keep olive oil in the dark pantry or dark bottles. My olive oil bottle only gets refilled once completely empty. Love how a griddle pan brings any bread back to life. Hope your remaining hens still happy & producing for you 🙂 Lovely seeing you for IMK x
    https://missfoodfairy.com/2016/11/04/in-my-kitchen-november-2016/

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  16. Beautiful post Francesca and love your Arty Artichokes and broad bean styling. The delicious charred look the griddle pan leaves on the sourdough bread certainly brings it to life. Gorgeous soup tureen too 🙂

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  17. Francesca, that song made me tap my toes and smile — what a lively tune and FUN performance! (Loved the lyrics in the subtitles, too.) Your artichoke art — all of your photos — were breathtaking. Garden bouquets are exquisite indeed! Thanks, too, for your recipe for artichokes (very first post) and the story behind your love(s). I’d eat artichokes out of the pan with you any day!

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