Thursday, July 21, 2011

bitter feast: bitter green ravioli and halibut in cartoccio

I'm not big on bitter. My Starbucks barista will attest to this. So when I saw all the recipes in the book that called for bitter greens, in my mind I was substituting spinach. I like spinach. It's easy to find. And it's not bitter.

But that seemed like a cop out. So I did the next-best thing, and I tried to make the bitter green dishes as close together as possible.

There was actually a logistical rationale behind that, too. I was growing the greens, and when they were ready, it was go-time on the dishes that called for them.

There are two dishes in the book that called for dandelion greens, and one that called for puntarella. The book gives a description of puntarella, but while I knew I had seen dandelion in every store I shop in, I'd never heard of puntarella. I plugged it in to the search on Johnny's Selected Seeds website, and got nothing. That concerned me. So then I Googled it, and learned that it is also known as "catalogna." So I searched Johnny's for catalogna, and they had that. So that became my default dandelion for all the dishes in the book.

Here is my puntarella early on (that's it on the left) …

And here it is at harvest time …

I knocked two of the dishes out on the same night. First the ravioli, which, in addition to the escarole and the dandelion I grew, required extra bitter from chard and sorrel. Here they are in a team picture:

The sorrel took me some time to find. No markets had it, so I ended up finding it at a nursery.

That's sorta like growing it, right?

Then, because that wasn't going to be bitter enough, I practically burned the greens during the saute step. At this point, I wasn't hopeful.

But I made the pasta, and sauced them with butter, and they were decent. Not my fave, but a decent dish.

I credit the butter, in large part.

The halibut was the dish that specifically called for puntarella. It amounted to a beautiful piece of fish wrapped up with some stock, wine, greens and grapefruit and baked.

A little bit of the puntarella goes on the paper ...

Then the fish and everything else ...

Then it gets wrapped and baked ...

And cut open to reveal cooked stuff ...

It's a dramatic presentation, with paper, and cutting, and steam. And again, it was good, but not a favorite. If I were doing it again, I might make it with spinach and orange and be happy. But I can be boring like that sometimes.

Up next: grilled quail, and the end of the bitter greens.

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