Mediterranean Inspiration

Spring 1998

By Roberta Bailey

Time passes. Seasons change, and then, change again. You work hard toward one goal, and then, before you know it, that goal has passed and you’re reflecting on its moments of intensity while looking toward the next life event. Sometimes it’s all in perspective; most times it’s hard to grasp, seeming surreal.

My son, Isak, came home from college over the Christmas break. The little boy whom I used to hoist onto the counter to one side of my mixing bowl, his sister to the other side, each cracking an egg into the bowl, or measuring baking powder or honey, is now studying culinary arts with the goal of making it his livelihood. He brought home his knife set, about 20 razor sharp tools of the trade, some of which I had never seen before.

One evening, we made spinach and roasted garlic calzones together. While chopping the garlic with one of his perfect French knives, I had one of those benchmark moments of clarity and perspective. I saw all that had brought us to that moment, how the roles were reversing, he was teaching me, and how I was being inspired to become a better cook.

That inspiration has been further influenced by another friend, David Shipman, whose first love seems to be cooking. At his table, I am discovering simple and absolutely delicious Mediterranean cuisine. I could live on garlic, good olive oil, good olives, tomatoes, greens, shell beans, and then, more garlic.

As a result, my gardens will look different this year. More greens – is that possible? Different greens, chicories, endive, radicchio, broccoli raab and dandelion. More shell beans. It’s hard to grow enough shell beans. I wonder if I could grow olives in my greenhouse? And more Italian paste tomatoes with good flavor, such as Hogheart, Dad’s Barber and Amish Paste.

Perhaps a meal or two of yours will be influenced as well.

Radicchio Risotto

3 c. vegetable or chicken stock

1 T. olive oil

2 T. butter

2 shallots, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 head radicchlo, halved, cored, sliced thin (reserve 1 T. of the reddest for garnish)

1 c. Arborio rice

1/2 c. dry white wine

2 oz. Fontina cheese, cubed

2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Bring stock to a simmer. Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the radicchio and sauté for 1 minute. Add the rice, stirring until well coated. Add the wine, stirring until liquid is absorbed.

Start adding the simmering stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is absorbed before adding the next half cup. Continue cooking until the rice is slightly firm in the center, about 20 minutes. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with the salt and pepper, garnish with the reserved radicchio, and serve immediately. 4 servings

Warm Curly Endive with Spring Onions

Prepare a vinaigrette of 2 T. each of red wine and balsamic vinegar, 1 to 2 cloves finely minced garlic, 1/3 c. olive oil, and salt.

Slice some sweet spring onions very thin. Sauté them in a little olive oil in a large sauté pan until limp. Add the endive and the vinaigrette and toss them quickly until the endive is just starting to wilt. Grind fresh pepper over the dish and serve.

Broccoli Raab Pasta

1 lg. onion

8 cloves garlic

1-1/2 lb. broccoli raab

olive oil

red pepper flakes


1/2 to 3/4 lb. penne or ziti pasta

red wine vinegar

pecorino romano cheese

Peel and thinly slice the onion. Crush, peel, and thinly slice the garlic. Wash the broccoli raab, remove the heavy stems, chop the rest coarsely. Put the pasta water on to boil. Sauté the onion over high heat in a sauté pan, liberally oiled with the olive oil. Once wilted, add the garlic, toss briefly, then add the broccoli raab, pepper flakes and salt, along with a splash of water. Lower heat, stir and cook until tender. Cook the pasta. Season the greens with olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. Toss with the pasta and garnish with cheese. Serves 4.

Shell Bean Purée on Grilled Bread

1 lb. fresh shell beans (any variety, late season starchy beans are best)

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper

a few sprigs of savory or rosemary

1/4 to 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

hearty bread

Shell the beans, discarding the pods. Cook the beans in lightly salted water with a sprig of rosemary until nearly falling apart. Drain them of all but a cup of their liquid, but reserve some for later. Add the minced garlic, salt, and 1/4 c. olive oil. Cook and stir over low heat until the beans begin to form a paste, 10 to 30 minutes. Add more bean water if necessary. Taste and remove herbs when beans have enough flavor. Purée the mixture and add olive oil and salt to taste. Makes 2 cups. Serve on grilled bread slices that have been oiled and rubbed with a clove of raw garlic.

This edition of the Harvest Kitchen was originally published in the spring 1998 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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