When Silver Pebble visited my studio on Sunday I gave her and Miss P2 a tour of the vegetable garden. It was hard to ignore the Tuscan Black Kale with leaves like blue-green ostrich plumes; she recommended that I try a River Café recipe and this morning I received an email with a link to the recipe. I know, it's one of those 'in' veg, you can't go into an book store or supermarket without seeing a certain much hyped chef peeping coyly through a bunch of Cavolo Nero. It's usually grown as an autumn and winter vegetable and some books say it's better harvested after the first frosts, but my packet of Italian seeds said sow any time from February through to July and harvest all year. Does Tuscany get much frost? Maybe. Anyway, I've been picking the beautiful green leaves for weeks now and think they're a great early summer addition to the vegetable garden. It's also very good for you: high in vitamins A, B and C, high levels of beta carotene as well as calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine and zinc.
A quick search in the kitchen cupboard found some slow dried trofie pasta, too little for two portions but just enough for my lunch. While the pasta was cooking I ran out to the veg garden and picked a handful of Cavolo Nero (and I must say they looked a lot healthier and more beautiful than the rather small and manky leaves on that book jacket). I called an under-gardener over and she obligingly removed a large caterpillar from one of the leaves.
I didn't follow the recipe exactly, neither did I measure out the oil. My version included a handful of freshly shelled peas (Victorian Purple Podded and Salmon Flowered) cooked with the cavolo nero leaves and garlic. A quick whizz in the food processer and the addition of a glug of olive oil transformed the ingredients into a vivid green sauce.
With the addition of a sprinkle of pine nuts, some cherry tomatoes (not grown by me) and some shavings of Manchego cheese (weekend party leftovers) this looked like a dish fit to be served at River Café or Moro or whichever lunchtime eatery is fashionable this week.
Before I sat down to lunch I snapped a quick photo . . .
. . . thank you Silver Pebble – well worth trying!