Eating Seasonally In ItalyFri 05 Oct 2012
Story by Jason & Ashley Bartner
We all gather around the stainless steel basin outside washing dirt from our hands, baskets filled with onions, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, chard, and zucchini at our feet waiting their turn under the cold water.
We have just returned from ‘shopping’ down in the garden for the class’ provisions, a ritual that begins most cooking classes here at our farm in Le Marche, Italy. As always, the gardener has written the menu, a four course feast. This is the beauty of eating seasonally; you develop an appreciation for the food you eat.
There is a connection with your food once you see it living & growing, in the ground or in the fields surrounding your home. Regardless of age, once in the garden, everyone is eager to explore - some discovering beautiful purple aubergine flowers for the first time, many never knowing what a potato plant looks like and picking squash blossoms for the pasta.
Getting Your Hands Dirty
Parents will swear their kids are picky eaters & don’t eat vegetables, but as we head back to the house you find them deep in the tomato bushes chomping on tomatoes straight off the vine! When you see it growing it becomes more than just an object in cellophane wrapper that’s on-sale this week - that is why getting your hands dirty is so important. After the garden, we stop at the chicken coop to collect eggs for the pasta & desserts.
We eat what we grow and enjoy showing guests that by using the freshest possible ingredients you can create simple dishes that are absolutely delicious.
The recipe we have included for Green Beans with Toasted Almonds is a great example of this philosophy. With beans, garlic, olive oil and almonds - you see all it takes is four simple ingredients to create a delicious side dish bursting with flavor. Our job as cooks is to let these ingredients shine, not muddy things up for the sake of being “chefy”.
We try to practice what we preach - becoming as eco-friendly and self-sufficient as possible while sharing top tips with our guests along the way. You can start small by saving & trading seeds, learning to jar and preserve, and you don’t need 2 hectares to do this, start off simply with a few pots on the windowsill or a strip of dirt in front of your house. Support your local farmers or join a CSA.
Guests return home not only with a handful of simple flavorful recipes but an appreciation of how important the quality of the ingredients you use are. If you eat the way nature intended – in season and locally - it will be delicious every time!
Our Italian friends & neighbors have taught by example, though simple dinners rich in flavor steeped in tradition. The flamboyant cookery shows and Michelin starred chefs might disagree with this point of view. Let them keep their stars, complicated sauces, foams, and towers of food with pointless
garnishes, I’ll be weeding the salad bed.
Sauteed Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
Green beans, runner beans, french beans or fagiolini - whatever you call them they are in-season on our farm! Here we pick them while they are still young & tender. This is a delicious, fast, simple and healthy way to devour these fantastic green veggies.
4 handfuls of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 cloves of garlic
A pinch of chili flakes
100 gram toasted almonds, chopped
Salt & pepper
• Blanch your beans in boiling salted water for 3-8 minutes depending on the size and thickness of beans or until half cooked.
• Drain and rinse under cold water.
• In a frying pan slowly heat 3-4 glugs of olive oil along with the garlic and chili flakes.
• When the garlic is nicely browned turn the heat up and add in the green beans and saute for a minute or two.
• Add quarter cup of water. Allow the water to evaporate fully cooking the beans for about 3 minutes.
• Season with salt & pepper.
• Toss in toasted almonds. (If you like you can add in a squeeze of lemon.)
(Leftovers: also delicious served cold.)
About the authors: Jason & Ashley Bartner own & operate La Tavola Marche, an organic farm, inn & cooking school in Le Marche, Italy. Leaving life in New York for the Italian countryside, they’ve never looked back! Jason, an Executive Chef from NYC now teaches & serves local seasonal dishes from the region using produce for their organic farm, hand-made pasta, home cured charcuterie & even homemade liquors.
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