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This week I’m eating: cavalo nero

We all know that we should try to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season. It’s cheaper, tastier, more sustainable, and probably better for you. And eating seasonally allows you to extend your smug superiority to unprecedented levels, which is always great.

But, I hear you ask, which fruits and vegetables are currently in season? Where do I find them? And now that I’ve got them, what do I do with them??

Fortunately for you, I’ve asked all these questions first, and I have pretty strong feelpinions on why you should make the effort to not eat tomatoes in the dead of winter.

Here I’ll be detailing a different seasonal fruit or vegetable every week, telling you what it is, where to look for it, and how I cooked it.

Please keep in mind that I am not a vegetarian, so some recipes may feature meat or fish. Please also keep in mind that I absolutely fucking love vegetables, so some recipes may not feature meat or fish.

This column will be published on Thursdays, to give you some time to think about it before your weekend shop. I buy my fruit and veg at the South Melbourne Market, but anything featured on here should be fairly available at your local Coles or Woolies (or wherever else you choose to shop).

Still interested? I hope so, because this week I’m starting with brassicas. Don’t hate, cabbage is great.

More specifically though, I’m starting with cavalo nero, because I ate some last night and it was excellent. Also, I am officially calling the end of winter, which means you have a limited time to get on this greatest of all brassicas.

Cavalo nero is a type of kale, and it is very popular in Tuscany, hence it is sometimes also called Tuscan cabbage or black kale. It’s great because when you cook it, it doesn’t go all wilty like spinach or silverbeet, but rather maintains an attractive dark green colour. You can eat it raw, you can put it in soups, you can braise it (with chickpeas is delicious), and you can fry it in a pan. The ways to eat it aren’t quite endless but they are numerous.

Its season is roughly April to September, and it’s a green vegetable you want to eat in the colder months: it tastes quite earthy and a little bitter, but in the good sharp way, not in the “what the hell just happened to my tongue” way.

So what should you do with it? For starters, don’t overthink it. As I alluded to earlier it is excellent with scrambled eggs: shred the cavalo nero leaves (discarding the stalky bit in the middle), put a little bit of butter or olive oil in a pan, fry over a low heat until it’s soft, crack a few eggs in, scramble. Salt. Pepper. Delicious. Bacon optional.

It’s also very good in minestrone if you want to sneak in a last one before the weather gets too warm. Just make up your favourite minestrone recipe and toss in some shredded cavalo nero in at the end.

Last night though I had it with mushrooms and rigatoni, and it was quite tasty so I’ll share my thought-process with you. This is also offensively easy and very quick, so a good midweek option. Serves 4.

400g rigatoni
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
10 Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 head of cavalo nero, leaves shredded, stalks removed
1 long red chilli (optional), thinly sliced
Pecorino Romano*, to taste
Chives, finely chopped, to taste
Salt, pepper

Bring a pot of boiling salted water to the boil, then put the rigatoni in. Cook until al dente.

While that’s happening, get a frying pan and heat up some olive oil and butter (leave the butter out if you’re particularly health conscious) and fry the garlic, chilli and mushrooms over a medium-low heat until the mushrooms are starting to soften. At this point, throw in your shredded cavalo nero and keep cooking (stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick) until everything is soft.

If you’ve timed this well, the pasta and cavalo nero/mushroom mix will finish cooking at the same time. Drain the pasta, then toss it with the cavalo nero mix. Season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir.

Ladle the pasta into bowls. Grate some Pecorino Romano onto it and throw some chives over the top. Eat it now, before it goes cold.

 

BONUS WINE NOTE: I had a 2009 Audrey Wilkinson Winemakers’ Selection semillon in the fridge for some reason, and when I saw it as I was getting something out of the fridge I thought, “Shit that would be really good with my dinner.” I was quite right, and you should drink semillon with this dish if you’re into that sort of thing.

*Pecorino Romano is an Italian sheep’s milk cheese, and the sheepiness of it balances really nicely with the earthiness of the cavalo nero and the mushrooms. If you don’t have any (I usually keep a wedge in the fridge at all times) you could use a nice parmesan instead.

Next week there will be pictures.

 

Image by Zarrion Walker via Creative Commons Licence

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