Thursday, January 5, 2023

Chard Rotolo

I’ve enjoyed all of the Ottolenghi cookbooks, and I was especially intrigued to see a few new ingredients appear in the book Flavor. The reason for these additions was Ixta Belfrage. She was a chef in the Ottolenghi test kitchen at the time, and now she has created a first cookbook of her own, Mezcla: Recipes to Excite. I received a review copy. Mezcla means mix or mixture in Spanish, and it perfectly describes her culinary influences. From the age of three, she grew up in Tuscany but often visited her mother’s family in Brazil. She also lived in Rio de Janeiro for a year. Her paternal grandparents lived outside of Mexico City near the volcano for which she was named. Last, her time working in the Ottolenghi kitchen left its mark as well. Exploring all of those places, and having connections to the foods of each locale led to her very personal style of cooking. The book is divided into two main parts: Everyday and Entertaining plus a chapter for sweets called The End. The Everyday recipes are quicker to prepare than those in the Entertaining chapter. There are clear fusion dishes like Cheesy Roasted Eggplant with Salsa Roja, which is like eggplant parmesan but with an ancho and habanero sauce, and Pappardelle with Chipotle Pancetta Sauce. And, there are flavor-packed dishes that might not fit into neat categories like Piri Piri Tofu over Crispy Orzo, Roasted Cabbage with Mango and Harissa Salsa, and Spicy Ginger Tomato and Sesame Dip. One idea that appears a few times in the book is an “aioli” of cooked onion. In one version, the onion is roasted with garlic before being pureed with olive oil, lemon, and cream. In another, onion is caramelized on the stovetop before being pureed with miso, mustard, milk, olive oil, and lemon. Both sound delicious as spreads for toast, toppings for beans, or to serve with eggs. First, I wanted to try the Chard Rotolo since it’s filled with an arugula paste, and my homegrown arugula was ready just in time. 

There are a few steps for putting this together, but each is simple enough. To begin, the arugula paste was made with lots of arugula, basil, a few anchovies, olive oil, lemon zest, and in place of mascarpone I used plant-based cream cheese. The ingredients were pulsed in a food processor until smooth. Next, water was boiled, chard leaves were briefly dunked in it to soften them. The stems were chopped and added to the arugula paste. I used dried lasagne sheets that I softened in hot water before using, but fresh lasagne sheets would have saved that step. A sheet of parchment paper was placed on the work surface, and layers were built on top. The chard leaves formed the base layer, lasagne sheets came next, then arugula paste was spread on the pasta sheets. The parchment paper made rolling the layers easier. The leaves were tucked into the ends, and the finished roll was lifted, still on the parchment, into a roasting pan. It was covered with foil and baked for 20 minutes before the foil was removed for another 8 minutes of baking. An easy sauce was made with tomato puree, butter, garlic, and oregano. I sliced the rotolo and placed pieces on top of the sauce in a serving dish. 

This recipe was fun to make and delivered on flavor, and the sliced roll was a nice presentation. The arugula paste with anchovies is an element to return to for various uses like spread into sandwiches or layered into traditional lasagne. As with everything in the book, there was adventure for your taste buds and cooking inspiration.

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