Welcome back Spring, we’ve been missing you lately. Since today is your day, we cannot start anywhere else but from love. What is that makes you say: here we are, this is the man (or woman) of my life?
It might be the physical appearance, it might be a fashionable outfit, it might be those seductive blue eyes or for someone, it might be a brand new sports car or an impressive bank account. As for me, you can buy me with words – the use of an adjective that bears within the meaning of a thousand words, an accent (yes, especially the British one), and a subtle and never obvious irony.
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 with cookbooks.
At first, I used to buy random cookbooks, without paying any attention to the author or the theme. It was actually a kind of unconditioned reflex, as I miss this book! Perhaps one day 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 it yet. A book, to gain my attention, had to have beautiful, mouthwatering pictures.
Now, I am fascinated by words.
I bought almost all Elizabeth David‘s books on Amazon: they are second-hand books, with pages yellowed by time, and no pictures.
I discovered that you don’t need pictures when you leaf through one of Elizabeth David’s book. And that’s because she uses her words just like she does with the ingredients in the recipes, with moderation and sensibility, without exceeding. She aims for accuracy and a vivid picture.
She has a sensual, almost tactile, writing style. Elizabeth David makes you experience the scent of freshly baked bread, the first bite into crisp vegetables, a simple meal, such as an omelette and a glass of wine. You can read her books as if 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 simply dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
This description totally changed my plans.
Warm Spring vegetable salad with grilled pecorino
Today there was an artichoke and cheese flan with a silky béchamel in my plans, then Spring and Elizabeth David’s simple words playing their parts, it became a warm Spring vegetable salad, with artichokes, fava beans, asparagus, grilled pecorino cheese, and a lemony citronette. Elizabeth David, I am sure you would have loved this…
Warm Spring vegetable salad with grilled pecorino cheese
- 1 kg fresh fava beans
- 12 asparagus
- 4 artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 300 g fresh Tuscan pecorino cheese, cut into 4 thick slices
- fresh herbs, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, mint or sorrel to serve
- 4 slices country bread, toasted
- Shell the fava beans and blanch them for a minute in a pot of boiling water. Drain, pass them under cold water, then remove the outer skin: make a small slit with a knife along the edge and pop the bean out from its skin. Collect the beans in a bowl and set them aside.
- Clean the artichokes, removing the tough outer layers and stalks. Rub the artichoke hearts with lemon, then cut them in half and use a small spoon to remove the chokes. Thinly slice the artichoke hearts and arrange them onto a plate. Drizzle them immediately with lemon juice to prevent them from browning.
- 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 preserve a nice bright green.
- Make a citronette, beating with a fork the juice of half a lemon, 4 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 you just made.
- Grill the fresh pecorino slices on both sides for a minute on a very hot non-stick pan, then arrange them on four serving plates along with a slice of toasted bread. Top with the spring vegetables, drizzle with the remaining citronette and sprinkle with your favourite fresh herbs.
My favourite recipes with fava beans:
- Fava beans with chorizo and pimentón, born after a short trip to Barcelona.
- Barley risotto with fava beans, seasonal, fresh, spring-like, comforting.
- Fava beans, salami and cheese muffins, the classic Tuscan appetizer seen under a new perspective.
- Heidi Swanson’s Grilled fava beans, simple, smoky, perfectly cooked, and fun to eat.