Broccoli and potatoes, symphony for comfort dishes

We just stepped into February month and by taking a walk in the garden or in the countryside of Apulia region, in Southern Italy, we got the feeling of nature’s slow awakening and preparing its new dress as prelude to the approach of the Spring. Actually, even at Winter and its bizarre weather, the season we are living right now, we have amazing local agricultural produces for making delicious dishes to enjoy on our kitchen tables every day.

According to the tradition of simplicity in the kitchen and to the old saying ‘use what you have’, I turned classical music on in the kitchen and prepared a warm, inviting soup with broccoli and potatoes.

First of all, after peeling and dicing some local potatoes, chopping onion and garlic, making small broccoli tops, it is necessary to fry these ingredients in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Let them cook for five minutes in order all tastes of vegetables mix harmoniously, then pour a bouillon prepared with carrot, celery and onion on them and keep on cooking and boiling the soup for about 20 minutes. In the end, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. You may choose to make a cream, which perhaps children would prefer, or, even better, serve the soup in small pieces of vegetables in order to enjoy each flavor and warm crisp slices of home made bread dipped in the pot like a spoon.

An alternative to this appetizing dish, by using the same ingredients, would be sauteing diced potatoes, small broccoli tops in a pan with onion and garlic in some extra virgin olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper in the end, when they are done, and use the vegetables to stuff a sheet of puff pastry. Make a cream with some milk and robiola cheese and pour it on the filling made of vegetables. Roll up and close hermetically the puff pastry, paint its surface with some water or milk, bake it in the oven for about 15/20 minutes, 180°/200° C. Serve the steaming roll with your preferred wine and enjoy the recipe. By the way, this latter could be also an excellent idea for a dish to have for a picnic at Springtime.

Bread balls and vegetables soup: a delightful revisitation of an old family recipe for the Christmas table

   Hallo! We are at the third weekend of Advent and, for many, this means to make dishes from the old, local Christmas gastronomy live again; it is about those ancient tastes, which belong both to childhood memories and to family traditions as well. As a child, on these very special occasions, I often watched my Mom making tasteful bread balls, which were dipped and cooked in a boiling, Summer fragranced, home-made tomato sauce. She learnt this old recipe from her father, my grandfather, and, in the years, from time to time, I had the pleasure to prepare it too. This time, I’ve got in mind a revisitation of the old grandfather’s recipe  in favour of a  light, healthy, warm dish, which could be a tasteful alternative to richer dishes belonging to the Christmas tradition. 

   Ingredients for the vegetables soup: local potatoes, selery, carrots, orange cauliflower and romanesco broccoli, savoy cabbage, yellow and red peppers, zucchini, onion, garlic, fresh grated turmeric, salt, pepper, extravirgin olive oil, white or rosé wine, pieces of leg of lamb.

   Once all vegetables have been chopped into same-sized pieces, sauté the ingredients in a pot with little extravirgin olive oil in order to retain their integrity and nutritional content. Cook gently, tossing and stirring the vegetables. The cooking process could take about 15 minutes, it depends on the size of the vegetables.  Add the seasoning ingredients right at the beginning in order the vegetables can take their own time to get all fragrances. Let the pieces of leg of lamb to hiss a little before pouring some white or rosé wine. Leave the wine to evaporate and then add some bouillon prepared with carrot, selery and onion. Keep on cooking, covering the pot with a lid. As soon as the vegetables will be done, remove the pot from the cooker and use the mixer to make an homogeneous velvet cream of them. Please, remember to add the pieces of leg of lamb at the end, when you will serve the dish, if you like it. The purpose of the pieces of leg of lamb among the ingredients is to provide a richer taste to the soup.

   Ingredients for the breadballs (choose carefully the right amount of each ingredient, according to the number of guests at your table) : breadcrumbs, eggs, grated pecorino romano cheese, sage, milk, salt and pepper. Please, be careful with salt, since pecorino romano cheese tastes spicy and tasteful. At this proper, I may suggest to have a taste of the bread balls while mixing all ingredients together.

   Use all ingredients to work a good, soft mixture. Please, do not use much milk, otherwise the mixture could open while frying the bread balls. Make your bread balls, press a little on them in order to get homogeneously cooked. Coat the balls with breadcrumbs and fry them until their surface becomes golden and crisp.

   The more the bread balls will be warm when served with the creamy vegetables soup, the more you will taste the fresh fragrance of the sage and the spicy taste of pecorino romano cheese inside of them.

    I hope you have got the chance to enjoy this simple, humble, healthy dish and wish everybody a good 3rd weekend of Advent!