Those who know me well and even those who meet me for the fist time, in a cooking class or in a book presentation, they often define me as a genuine and spontaneous girl. Elegant, refined, charming, sporty… these are not the first adjectives that come to mind when searching for a way to describe me, but I would say that genuine and spontaneous make more than happy, they fit me like with an old pair of slippers that you won’t throw away as they are comfortable.
Genuine to me is the milk that you drink in a pasture in the mountains or a homemade cake for breakfast. I therefore welcome it with enormous gratitude. My spontaneity manifests itself in being very simple in my expressions of affection, interest, curiosity or even dislike.
And spontaneity makes me immediately think about Spring and wild herbs, a light and vital season and one of the most precious gifts of nature. How not to be happy to be spontaneous, even though this sometimes causes gaffes, bloopers and hard times in having a formal approach to unknown people.
Wild herbs ad foraged herbs. How I would love to be able to recognize them all. Last week we took a walk along Via Francigena, the old road which pilgrims would take to reach Rome from the Northern Europe. We were suddenly behind the hills and the woods running along the road where we usually drive. It was a different and timeless landscape, with carefully farmed fields, vineyards, meadows and woods.
My eyes were hungry to discover new sights, they would incessantly run from the pale green vines to the uneven road made of red earth. Here and there I would spot herbs which I was able to give a name to, bladder campion here, which we know as strigoli, dandelion there, then a bunch of wild radicchio. It’s like sliding your finger on a map and recognize familiar names, which make you feel at home.
Next to those three or four herbs which I would recognize there were countless flowers, roots, bushes and leaves without a name. Yet I’m sure that edible herbs were concealed behind their mysterious appearance, herbs which surely a few decades ago were part of the locals’ food routine.
I felt the urge to take a course to learn to recognize those herbs, to collect them, use them in the kitchen, make decoctions, essences and liqueurs. But when I look at the daily duties, I put this dream next to the French course and a chocolate and pastry class. Yet this year I’ve been able to attend two bread making courses, perhaps in the future I will be able to explore these other aspects that intrigues me so much.
Wild asparagus risotto
A few weeks ago, at the Sunday farmers’ market in Santo Spirito in Florence, I met an interesting farm, La Penta, from San Polo in Chianti. Its stall stood out of the crowd of people who flocked to the square in one of the first sunny days of the season. It was crammed with salads, cardoons, asparagus and foraged herbs. I got closer, charmed by all that fresh green. I bought some herbs, carefully foraged by knowing hands.
I know, it’s not like having a walk in the woods and coming back home with a basket of wild asparagus, but the final result, the taste of the risotto, it’s the same: a glorious spring risotto.
Wild asparagus risotto
- 2 bunches of wild asparagus, about 200 g
- 200 g of brown rice - I used the Baldo rice, good to make risotto
- ½ white onion
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- 1 liter of boiling salted water
- 2 g of saffron
- 60 g of soft Tuscan pecorino
- Slice the onion very thinly and put it in a thick-bottomed pan with olive oil. Saute over low heat, then add the rice and stir to toast, until it becomes translucent.
- Pour the white wine and let it reduce, stirring on medium-low heat.
- Cook the risotto adding gradually the salted boiling water, where you previously dissolved the saffron.
- After about 25 minutes, add the chopped wild asparagus, keeping the tips aside. Cook the rice gradually adding the hot saffron water and stirring with a wooden spoon. The rice will be ready after about 45 minutes of total cooking.
- Before serving, add the asparagus tips and whip it with the pecorino cheese cut into cubes to make it creamier. Serve immediately.
- If I think about wild herbs, Claudia is the first person that comes to mind. She has a specific section of her blog dedicated to foraging wild herbs and she organizes hands-on classes, too.
- Here I told you about a good old fashioned morning, without electricity or internet connection, searching for wild herbs with grandma.
- With radicchio and dandelion I made also acquacotta and gnudi.
- One the most easily recognizable wild hers is nettle: Valeria used that to make an interesting pesto.