domenica 7 aprile 2013

April Butterflies

Music by F. Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) 
Words by Rocco Pagliara (1857-1914)

Non senti tu ne l’aria
il profumo che spande Primavera?
Non senti tu ne l’anima
il suon de nova voce lusinghiera?
È l’April! È la stagion d’amore!
Deh! vieni, o mia gentil
su’ prati’n fiore!

Il piè trarrai fra mammole,
avrai su’l petto rose e cilestrine,
e le farfalle candide
t’aleggeranno intorno al nero crine.
È l’April! È la stagion d’amore!
Deh! vieni, o mia gentil
su’ prati’n fiore!
Do you not smell in the air
the perfume that Spring spreads?
Do you not hear in your soul
the sound of a new, enticing voice?
It's April! It's the season of love!
Come, sweetheart,
to the meadow in bloom!

Your foot will tread among violets,
you will wear roses and sky-blue flowers,
and the white butterflies
will hover around your black mane.
It's April! It's the season of love!
Come, sweetheart,
to the meadow in bloom!
Would it be possible to depict a spring poem not with paint but with food?  And would it be possible to do so without using greens, greens, and more greens?

This was the challenge that I placed before myself.

Unlike the round radicchio familiar in America (called Radicchio di Chioggia), Radicchio Rosso di Treviso is an oval shape, like a large Belgian endive.  It arrives in late winter — a magnificent sign that spring is coming!  Braising it in red wine creates a bittersweet flavor that goes very well with both the meat and the cheese.

Black mane
For an April meat, the choice was obvious: lamb.  White onions (yellows ones are harvested in summer), cut in strips and caramelized, represent the "black mane." To make the flavor even "blacker," the solution was also obvious: add mushrooms.  And what is the mushroom that heralds the spring?  In Europe, is it the marzuolo or dormiente (Hygrophorus marzuolus).  If the winter is mild, it can arrive as early as December or January.  I don't believe that this mushroom is grown in North America, so you'll have to make a substitution. 

Sky-blue flowers
Of blue foods, there are very few choices! But the pairing of blue cheese with ground meat makes a beautiful combination.  Add caramelized onions and you have a stupendous trio! (A hamburger with blue cheese and caramelized onions on top is practically haute cuisine, it's so delicious.)

I didn't want to add tomatoes to this recipe.  (With blue cheese they go badly, in my opinion.)  But the crushed red pepper gives a wonderful accent to all the ingredients. 

White butterflies
Alright, we'll have butterflies! (Farfalle are butterflies, even though on English packaging they are called "bowties", for whatever reason.)



1 lb farfalle (I use Poiatti)
extra-virgin olive oil (I use San Comaio)
½ head Radicchio Rosso di Treviso (or regular round radicchio), sliced in c. 6
7-8 oz. red wine (I used Nero d’Avola.  But it is important not to use Chianti, or another wine that's too dry. Otherwise, the radicchio will not be bittersweet but bitter-bitter!)
1 lb ground lamb
1 white onion (or, if unavailable, 1 small yellow onion), about 3" long, cut in strips
1 large garlic clove, whole
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced (You probably won't be able to find marzuoli or dormienti. But the dark flavor of baby bellas would be quite perfect. White button mushrooms would also be just fine.)
crushed red pepper
black pepper, freshly ground
100-150 g (roughly ¼ lb.) blue cheese, cut in little pieces (You can use any blue cheese you like, like Gorgonzola or one of the wonderful French cheeses.  But I used Danablu, which is out of this world.)
pecorino, freshly grated


Boil the farfalle in abundant salted water.
Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat a little oil, then add the garlic and crushed red pepper.  As soon as the garlic is golden (not brown), add the radicchio, and after very little time (30-60 seconds), add the wine, cover, immediately lower the flame (if it's an electric stove, shut off the burner completely), and stew for about 5 minutes.
In a Creuset or other heavy cast-iron pan, heat a little oil, then add the onions and brown them well.  At the midway point, add the mushrooms.  When the onions and mushrooms are nicely browned but not burnt, add the lamb and black pepper and stir constantly, until the meat loses its pink color.  As soon as the meat changes color, add the liquid from the radicchio, and with a wooden spoon gently scrape the brown goodness from the bottom of the pan.  Add the radicchio, cover, and on a very low flame (if electric, shut the heat), let all the flavors blend for 5 or 10 minutes.
A minute before straining the pasta, add the blue cheese to the pan and stir.  Stain the farfalle, add them to the pan, stir, and Happy Spring! Serve with pecorino at the table.


I have entered this recipe in the contest La Primavera nel Piatto ("Spring on the Plate"):
 photo 1contest_zps0c72c776.jpg

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