Vegetarian

Mini Radish Ricotta and Green Onion Tartine

The trouble with travel, with being an expat, is that you leave little pieces of your heart scattered across the globe. A sizeable chunk of mine resides in France, and spring is a season that leaves me longing for long picnic lunches in Paris or gentle hikes through the lavender fields and cherry orchards near Aix-en-Provence. So I fix myself a little plate of radishes, butter, sea salt and baguette. Maybe with a barely-dressed green salad and an icy glass of rosé. It’s not the same as decamping to, say, La Bastide de Moustiers for the season, but it certainly soothes the wanderer’s malaise.

This classic French combo of Radis, Beurre and Sel de Mer is often served on tartines – open-faced sandwiches, so I translated them into hors d’oeuvres size to serve at a recent French wine tasting. They’re light, bright and a nice way to balance out a heavier lineup of small bites.

It’s worth the effort (all five minutes of it) to make your own creamy, fresh ricotta for these. If radishes aren’t your thing, you can also top the ricotta with sliced figs and a drizzle of honey, or arugula and proscuitto – whatever takes your fancy. By all means use some rustic baguette slices if you prefer – I typically use the cutouts, simply because they are so easy to eat mid-conversation with a glass of wine in the other hand.

Mini Radish, Ricotta and Green Onion Tartines
Makes about 16 appetizer/bite sized tartines

1 batch fresh ricotta OR 1/2 cup premade ricotta

For the Tartines
8 slices Pain au Levain or other rustic bread
4 tbsps butter, at room temperature
1 small bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small bunch green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1/2 lemon
3 tbsps olive oil
sea salt

Special Equipment
Small round cookie or biscuit cutter.

Using cookie cutter, cut out circles from bread slices (save trimmings for breadcrumbs).

Place bread circles on cookie sheet and place under broiler until lightly toasted on both sides.

Remove from broiler and spread each circle with a little butter.

Place a heaped teaspoon of ricotta on each toast circle and arrange radish slices on top.

Sprinkle each with a liberal amount of green onions and sprinkle with sea salt.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice and serve with a glass of wine and extra sea salt to taste.

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Spring Herb Pesto and Antonio Carluccio

by editor on March 28, 2011

Spring Herb Pesto Tagliolini

Who were your heroes growing up? Mine were a rather eclectic, and in retrospect partially embarrassing collection of chefs, musicians and writers. One of my enduring favorites is Antonio Carluccio, an Italian chef, lifelong champion of foraging and early Jamie Oliver mentor. Digging in the dirt with bare hands, scraping earth off mushrooms and truffles with a pocket knife, before conjuring it all into something sizzling and frequently involving bread or pasta, his TV shows were a perpetually hungry child’s dream. If you’ve read his books, you know they’re also a visual and edible treat, filled with gorgeous earthy photography of simple, real food like this Spring Herb Pesto – a variation of one of his recipes that I’ve been making for years.

Fast forward to this winter in London, as we hurried back to our flat through South Kensington, hungry and looking for shelter from a driving snowstorm. Spotting a Carluccio’s – part of an international chain he started but has since sold – we ducked inside. We were warmly welcomed with good wine, fragrant pillows of freshly baked focaccia and a table right next to (gasp) Carluccio himself as he enjoyed a holiday dinner with family and friends. Besides a walking cane (carved himself, with a samurai knife no less…), he was no different than he appeared all those years ago on TV, eagerly attending to his guests and customers with characteristic ebullience and not a hint of superiority. Full, happy and incredulous at the randomness of life, I don’t think I even noticed the ice cold sleet on the way home.

Spring Herb Pesto Tagliolini

In typical Carluccio style, this simple dish is bursting with fresh, earthy flavor, yet none of the herbs are overpowering. It’s a staple at my house throughout spring and summer, and I often play around with the mix of herbs – maybe adding some thyme and oregano or whatever is abundant in the garden. Serve alone with rustic bread and a lighter red, or a crisp and herbal New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Serve it as a side to just about anything – spring lamb, roast pork tenderloin or your favorite roast chicken. Enjoy!

Spring Herb Pesto Tagliolini

Antonio Carluccio is the author of numerous books, including The Complete Mushroom Book. Be sure to take a peek at his friendly and instructional iPad/iPhone app called “Antonio Carluccio’s Simple Cooking” ($6.99 from the iTunes App Store)

Spring Herb Pesto with Tagliolini
Adapted from “An Invitation to Italian Cooking” by Antonio Carluccio | Serves 4

1 lb (450g) freshly made ribbon pasta or 14 oz (400g) dried fettucine/tagliolini
made with eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sauce
2 tbsp mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp basil, finely chopped
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
1 oz (30g) pine nuts, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 stick / 4 oz (115g) butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 oz (30g) parmesan, freshly grated
1 large lemon, extra parmesan to serve

Place chopped herbs, pine nuts and oil in a medium bowl and mix together.

In a small pan melt butter and stir in garlic. Cook for a few minutes until garlic is just softened.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water, according to directions. Drain, and set aside about a 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Pour garlic and butter into herbs, along with grated parmesan and a little salt and pepper.

Mix together until well combined, adding a splash or two of the reserved pasta water to make sauce creamier.

Toss pasta with herb paste, taste for seasoning adding more salt if necessary.

Serve immediately on warm plates, topped with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and an extra sprinkle of parmesan.

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