Welcome back Spring, we’ve been missing you lately. Since it’s your day, we cannot start anywhere else but from love. What is that makes you say all of a sudden: here we are, this is the man (or woman) of my life?
It might be the physical appearance, it might be the fashionable outfit, it might be those seductive blue eyes or for someone it might be a custom-built car or an impressive bank account… you can buy me with words, the use of an adjective that bears within the meaning of a thousand speeches, by an accent (yes, especially the English one), by a subtle and never obvious irony. The seduction goes through the words and the brain. Just a few words said in the right way are enough to send me head over feet, as old Alanis Morrisette taught me as a teenager.
The same happens to me in the kitchen.
At first I used to buy random cookbooks, without paying any attention to the author or the theme, it was a kind of unconditioned reflex which responded to this idea ‘ I miss this, perhaps someday I will feel like North Korean food and this book will be useful to indulge my whimsical cravings‘.
Then came the time of the visual aspect – actually I am not over yet – when a book to gain my attention needed mainly to have bright, effective and true pictures. Now I am fascinated by words.
I bought almost all Elizabeth David‘s books on Amazon: they are second hand books, they have pages yellowed by the time and no pictures. I discovered that you don’t need photos when you leaf through an Elizabeth David’s book. She uses her words just like she does with the ingredients in the recipes, with moderation and sensibility, without exceeding, she searches for accuracy and a vivid picture.
She has a sensual and almost tactile writing, Elizabeth David makes you experience the scent of freshly baked bread, the first bite into crisp vegetables, a simple meal, an omelet and a glass of wine. You can read her books as they were novels, in fact they are to me.
Among the books I keep on my bedside table there is Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a glass of wine, a collection of her best articles written in a 30-year career. I recently re-read what is one of her most vivid descriptions of French country cooking, a dream gourmet week spent in France Chez Barattero. She sketches with colourful brush strokes a week of fine dining, mentioning almost in a side note a dish of artichoke hearts dressed in simplicity with olive oil and lemon juice.
So today I wanted to make an artichoke and cheese flan with a silky béchamel, then Spring and Elizabeth David’s simple words playing their parts, it became a new season warm salad with grilled fresh pecorino cheese, with a citrusy citronette made with olive oil and lemon as dressing. Elizabeth David, I am sure you would have loved this…
- About 500 g of fresh fava beans, shelled
- 10 asparagus
- 4 artichokes, the toughest leaves and stem removed
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 200 g of fresh Tuscan pecorino cheese, cut into 2 thick slices
- fresh thyme, marjoram, tarragon or sorrel to serve
- Clean the artichokes by removing the tough and sharp outer leaves and the stalk. Cut them in a half and remove if necessary the inner hairy part. If you have fresh and not too large artichokes you can eat almost all of them, without too much waste.
- Slice the artichokes finely, then arrange them on a plate and drizzle them with the juice of half a lemon so they do not turn black and begin to cook slightly.
- Shell the fava beans and blanch them for one minute in boiling water. Drain, pass them quickly under cold water and then carve them with a knife, pressing them between two fingers to pop them out. Put them in a small bowl.
- Discard the wooden part of asparagus, then cut them into 1 cm thick slices. Blanch them in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain them and pass them under cold water for a few seconds to keep a nice bright green.
- Make a citronette, beating with a fork the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Mix asparagus, artichokes and fava beans in a bowl and season with half the citronette just made.
- Grill the two slices of fresh pecorino cheese on each side for a few seconds on a very hot pan, then arrange them on a dish, drizzle with the citronette and sprinkle with some fresh herbs. Try a few leaves of fresh sorrel for a green cucumber like flavour.
My favourite recipes with fava beans: