March 1998

Paris, France March 23, 1998 Well, not quite Paris just yet, but the coundown for Kim's marathon, which takes place in the French capital on Sunday April 5th, is definitely on. Kim's training has gone well, and in the last few weeks, she's completed three long 20 mile plus runs, and so feels as prepared as she can be for the big day. Not much we can do at this point except encourage her and keep her well fed in anticipation of the day. Fortunately, we are all pasta lovers, so carbo loading is not a hardship for any of us! Here are a couple of favourites which I myself enjoyed at about the same time last year in preparation for my cycle from Topsham to Venice.

Orecchiette with Broccoli

This recipe comes from Italy's Deep South, Apulia, the heel of the Italian boot, and source of some of the tastiest (and least known) foods in the country. More fertile and abundant than other impoverished southern regions, Apulia is the source of outstanding vegetables and a unique and undervalued vegetarian cuisine.
Orecchiette are small, handmade pasta shapes formed from hard durum wheat, water, a little salt, and nothing else. They are, I've always told the kids, actually boys' ears (well, they couldn't be girls' ears, could they. Too tough). In Apulia, this pasta might be enjoyed with cima di rape or turnip tops, but we find it delicious with broccoli, stewed slowly in olive oil with the addition of a little dried peperoncino to spice it up. Broccoli, incidentally, is considered one of the super-foods, a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables that is reputed to be a good protector against many forms of cancer. But we enjoy this pasta simply because it tastes so good.
Apulia, once the source only of high-alcohol bulk wines destined for blending, is now producing high-quality table wines that are outstanding value. Try this pasta dish with a bottle of Cosimo Taurino's deep, rich Salice Salentino.

1 lb broccoli

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

A generous dollop of extra virgin olive oil

A ladle or two of chicken or vegetable stock or broth

dried peperoncino or a fresh chopped chili pepper to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb orecchiette

Separate the flowerets of broccoli, and boil in salted water until just tender. Drain. Meanwhile, heat up a generous dollop of good extra virgin olive oil in a wok or frying pan, and saute the garlic gently. Add the drained broccoli, season with the peperoncino, salt and pepper, then turn the heat to low, and allow to stew slowly. The broccoli should break up and almost become a vegetable paste, mixed with the olive oil, garlic and peperoncino mixture. If the mix becomes too dry, then add a ladleful or two of chicken or vegetable stock. Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain, then add to the pan with the vegetable mixture. Turn flame to high, toss well, then serve immediately with more peperoncino added to taste.

Wine Suggestion The wines from Apulia rank with the most improved in the country and the region is now the source of both modern, fresh whites vinified using temperature controlled fermentation, as well as hefty, traditional reds from the underrated Negroamaro grape. Try this gutsy pasta dish with Cosimo Taurino's deep, liquoricey Salice Salentino.

Maccheroni coi ceci (Maccaroni with Chickpeas)

Pasta with chickpeas is an Italian classic that dates back probably to the Ancient Roman era. The key to this excellent and filling carbo feast is to cook down the chickpeas, then mash them with oil and garlic so that they make a tasty, rather grainy-in-texture sauce to coat the pasta. Delicious with a chilled tumbler of gutsy Frascati or Marino, as served in those dark, subterranean drinking dens of the Colli Albani outside of Rome.

1 lb thick, ribbed maccaroni

6 tablespoons olive oil

5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

2 fresh chilies seeded and chopped (or dried peperoncino to taste)

3 or 4 pieces of celery, chopped

2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 cups of coarse spring greens, cavolo nero, or kale, chopped into fairly small pieces

2-3 cups homemade chicken broth or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or wok, and saute the chopped garlic, chillies, and celery until soft. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and about a cup of the broth or stock and allow to simmer gently for about an hour. Add more stock as necessary to keep the mixture fairly liquid. When the chickpeas are nice and tender, mash coarsely (or blend coarsely in a food processor) ensuring that you keep the texture quite grainy. Add another cup of stock, and the greens, kale or cavolo nero and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the maccaroni until al dente. If the chickpea and cabbage mixture needs to be thinned, add a ladle or two of pasta water. When done, drain the pasta and add to the mixture, turn up the heat to fierce, and toss and mix well. Serve immediately, probably without parmesan cheese.

Wine Suggestion One of the best Frascati that you will find outside of Rome is Antonio Pulcini's Colle Gaio Cru from the Colli di Catone estate, a wine with outstanding depth of flavour and concentration. If you can get ahold of a bottle, Paola di Mauro's superb Colle Picchioni Rosso, made in nearby Marino, would also go well. Otherwise, try this robust pasta dish with a full-flavoured Trebbiano d'Abruzzo or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo if you prefer a red.

Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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