CRAVE: Spring season provides abundance of produce for fresh recipes
Agliata is an Italian garlic sauce. This is a surprisingly delicious way to enjoy vegetables. The grilling gives the radicchio and zucchini a luscious smoky flavor and sweetness that pair perfectly with the tangy sauce. Serve the vegetables with grilled chicken, steak or fish. For a vegetarian feast, serve it with polenta and grilled mushrooms.
Grilled Radicchio and Zucchini with Agliata
For agliata sauce
1 head garlic
3⁄4 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup water
2 cups day-old Italian rustic bread, crust removed and cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 small zucchini
1 large radicchio
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut off top of garlic head until cloves are exposed. Place garlic in a small baking dish and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake garlic for 20 minutes or until soft. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, mix balsamic vinegar and water. Add bread cubes and soak for about 15 minutes or until very soft. Squeeze liquid out of bread and put bread into a mixing bowl. To the bowl, add roasted garlic cloves squeezed out of their skins, minced garlic and parsley. Blend all ingredients into a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in remaining olive oil, a few drops at a time to make an emulsion. The oil will not be absorbed completely; a little oil on top is traditional.
4. To prepare the vegetables, cut zucchini lengthwise and quarter radicchio. Place vegetables in a shallow baking dish. Blend minced garlic with olive oil and brush zucchini and radicchio with this mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Let vegetables marinate for at least one hour.
5. Grill radicchio over a medium flame, turning often so each side blackens slightly and insides become tender, 10 to 12 minutes. At the same time, grill zucchini halves on both sides until golden and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a warm serving plate. (Alternatively, the radicchio and zucchini may also be broiled or baked at 400 degrees until golden, 6 to 10 minutes.)
6. Serve immediately, passing agliata sauce for diners to serve themselves.
•Adapted with permission from The Edible Italian Garden by Rosalind Creasy.
Pasta with Nettle Pesto and Blistered Snap Peas
One summer when we were kids, my sister leaped from the back patio of our cousins’ home and into a large patch of stinging nettles. I remember everyone shouting when she was already midair, “Stephy, no!” but it was too late. The memory has always served as a great reminder for me to wear gloves when handling nettles. Once blanched, nettles lose their sting and take on a mild flavor, rather like a robust, faintly nutty spinach. And they grow everywhere–they’re essentially a weed, making it easy to prepare this pesto with only some nuts and olive oil from the cupboard and a mess of nettles plucked from the backyard or a nearby park. To make this pasta gluten-free, try brown rice spaghetti noodles, which are my favorite.
12 ounces spaghetti
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces sugar snap peas, ends and strings removed
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
For Nettle Pesto
5 cups firmly packed fresh nettles, rinsed
1⁄3 cup chopped raw almonds
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions, being sure to keep pasta al dente. Reserve 1⁄2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.
2. To make pesto, bring a smaller pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch nettles for about 30 seconds. Remove and submerge in an ice water bath for about 1 minute. Drain thoroughly and lightly squeeze out excess water.
3. Combine nettles, almonds, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic and salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. If pesto is thick, add some reserved pasta water. Set aside.
4. Heat a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add peas and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes without disturbing, until shells have turned bright green and are blackened in spots. Flip pods and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Carefully toss pasta with nettle pesto and snap peas. Top with crumbled feta. Serve hot. Serves 4 to 6.
•Adapted with permission from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink