It’s basically mid-autumn, but thanks to the Mediterranean sun, we’re fortunate enough to be able to enjoy (and keep enjoying) the last of the summer crop. I’m milking the Tuscan soil for all it’s worth with my bi-weekly trips to the market, knowing that in a month or so the sun will be a distant memory replaced with the bitter cold freeze of yet another foreign country… and one that isn’t particularly known for its culinary expertise.
Italy… you have spoilt me!
As with most recipes that incorporate fresh ingredients, you need very little to make a tasty dish.
From the summer category, we have green beans. Now the trick to cooking green beans is to blanch them first, which basically is a fancy way of saying “throw them into boiling water for a bit, then take them out.” Though, I tend to skip the last step of the blanching process, which is to stop the cooking process by using an ice bath.
As for autumn, we have pumpkin. What could be more autumn than a sweet tasting, bright orange pumpkin? You can even save the seeds to roast and munch on*.
So let’s get started…
Summer: Spicy Green Beans with Garlic
- 4-5 handfuls of green beans
- 1 clove of garlic
- a pinch of chilli pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
Preparation time: 30 minutes
- Start by putting on a pot of water to boil. (You only need enough water to cover the green beans.) While the water heats up, wash the green beans and cut off the ends. You can tell if they are fresh by trying to snap them in half. They should be crisp and firm.
- Once the water is boiling, throw the green beans in for about 5 minutes. The longer you blanch them, the less time you spend cooking them in the pan later. However, you don’t want to over-boil them, thereby leaving you with mushy beans.
- Meanwhile, mince the garlic and chilli pepper and heat them in an oiled pan. After draining the green beans well, throw them into the heated oil. Make sure you have a lid handy to use as a shield as (residual) water and hot oil don’t mix.
- Cover until the oil calms down, then finish cooking with the lid off so you end up with crispy beans rather than soggy. Stir occasionally. Depending on how soft you like your green beans, they should be done within 10 minutes.
Autumn: Pumpkin Parmesan Pancakes
- 200g of pumpkin (chopped into 1cm cubes)
- 50g of chopped Grano Padano
- 1 egg
- half a glass of milk
- 150g of flour (use more if needed)
- 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- handful of chopped parsley
- a pinch of salt
- extra virgin olive oil
Preparation time: 30 minutes, Cooking time: 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the pan and pancakes)
- Heat your oven to about 180°C. Place your chopped pumpkin in a lined baking tray and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over them and sprinkle with salt. (For taste, a dash of thyme if you have it.) Roast the pumpkin until soft, then remove from the oven and let cool.
- Pour the flour (preferably sifted), breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl, make a well and crack an egg in it. Mix until the egg is combined with the dry ingredients. (Trick is to break the egg in the middle then keep incorporating flour from the sides until everything is evenly combined.) Little by little, add the milk. Your batter should look smooth and liquidy. If it’s too thick, add more milk. If it’s too runny, use more flour.
- Fold in the roasted pumpkin, Grano Padano and chopped parsley.
- In a hot, non-stick pan, scoop a bit of the batter in and let cook until you can easily lift the pancake from the pan without breaking it. Flip and cook the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up.
Buon appetito x 2
* Pumpkin seeds recipe: remove all residual bits of pumpkin flesh and cover in salt. Let the seeds dry naturally, which may take a few days. Then, whenever you happen to have your oven on, pop them in a baking tray and roast until slightly golden brown. Peel and eat the inner seed.