It was one of those warm summer days when the deck was too hot to walk on in bare feet, and just windy enough that the rain clouds, which would have been very welcome, blew right past ignoring our drought.
It was a day for a garden supper based solely on the flavours of summer. Vegetables, garlic, herbs, good olive oil, a dense grain flavoured chewy loaf of bread, and a bottle of chilled white wine.
We rarely eat in courses these days as our busy three-year old bursts through meals in order to make up time for more truck playing. Today, however, the menu called for two distinct and simple courses to be lingered over in the warmth of the evening.
Swiss Chard Bruschetta
While this is called a bruschetta, it is really just a lightly sautéed swiss chard on garlic toast. Bruschetta can be made of many kinds of vegetables, even if the ubiquitous one of tomato and basil is everyone’s favourite. Tomatoes are not always in season, but bread, garlic, vegetables and olive oil are always soul satisfying.
- Heat a generous amount of olive oil and the season’s new garlic in a deep pot with a lid. Just as the garlic starts to sizzle, toss in an enormous bunch of swiss chard that has been washed and shook, but not spun dry. Season with salt and pepper, and a pinch of dried chili flakes.
- Toss thoroughly and clamp on the lid.
- After a minute or so, toss again and cover.
- Check in another minute or so and remove from the heat just as every leaf is wilted, but not so much so that the chard looses its integrity.
- Let cool slightly and toss with a generous amount of basil, and golden oregano
Pile onto well-toasted whole grain bread that has been rubbed with garlic, drizzled with good olive oil, and sprinkled with salt. Top with parmesan cheese.
If you wish to use the stems, and you should so as not to be wasteful, they will need to be chopped finely and sautéed for a few minutes before the leaves go into the pan. I saved mine for another purpose.
New Potatoes Stewed with Green Beans
Patience Gray, in her book Honey from A Weed, describes this dish as one that rural Italian Quarrymen ate as their evening meal in high summer, day after day, when the beans and potatoes were plentiful, A spartan dish made luxurious from the good olive oil they had to drizzle over it when it was served.
We have our own seasonally based experience of poverty that entrenched this forever in our summer repertoire. This occurred one year when our farm garden, ill-placed on the top of a dry hill, didn’t produce very much. We had been under prepared for our trip to our little farm-house anticipating there was more in the garden than there was. In fact there was little to eat but this dish for several days in a row as the garden produced only beans and potatoes. We didn’t complain and we didn’t feel hard done by. Today, even with the garden bursting, it was the perfect way to enjoy the season’s first fingerling potatoes, mineral and fudgey. Gorgeous.
- In a heavy pot with a lid, sautée two shallots, two cloves of garlic, and two or three twigs of rosemary finely chopped in a copious amount of olive oil.
- Tip over the washed vegetables and stir to coat with the oil. Season well with coarse sea salt and cracked pepper.
- Pour over 1/2 to 1 cup of water, add a bay leaf and clamp on the lid. Stir occasionally, but not so often to break apart the delicate potatoes.
- It should be nearing ready when the potatoes have absorbed all but 1/4 cup of water, which should be thickening at the bottom of the pot and fragrant. Don’t over-cook the potatoes. The beans should hold their integrity, but be quite soft. They will lose their vibrant green colour, but will have a deep good flavour.
Let cool to tepid, or as far as room temperature. Serve with a bit of the precious liquid from the bottom of the pot, drizzle with good olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.