Friday, July 2, 2010

Orecchiette with Green Garlic and Swiss Chard

I leave for my trip to France/Spain/Italy today. I am ridiculously excited! You should be excited too because I have many posts on recipes/restaurants/wine scheduled while I travel. In fact I am so behind on posting that I have 3 posts per week scheduled for July!

When traveling to a different country (actually even when I travel domestically), I make an effort to visit to a local fruit and vegetable market. I am definitely looking forward to sampling the tastes and flavors of European food markets on my trip.

During my most recent trip to India, I visited the local market near my Uncle's house. The stalls were filled with mountains of fruits and vegetables- some exotic, some familiar- and crowds of people haggling over prices, while demanding the best quality of fresh, seasonal produce.

Produce stand near my Uncle's house in India

My favorite were the heaps of fruit from jaamfal or guava, chikoo or sapodilla, and, the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted, sitafal or custard apple. Sigh, just thinking about sitaful takes me away to paradise. And in the Summer you will find the famous, life-changing Alphonso mangoes and sheradi or sugarcane.

Custard apple, bottom row, left; Guava, to its right; Sapodilla, center row, far left

Visiting the fruit and vegetable market reminded me of the stark contrast between the food I grew up eating at home and the food served in Indian restaurants in the States. Most Indian restaurants serve heavy paneer dishes and vegetables in rich gravies like bhindi (okra), aloo (potato), or gobi (cauliflower).

Dinner at home consisted of a spicy vegetable dish, hot roti, aromatic dal, and rice. Back then it was difficult to find fresh Indian produce at the local Indian grocery store. Because my parents grew up eating fresh, seasonal vegetables in India, my mom decided to grow several varieties of Indian vegetables in our backyard in Houston. Family friends would often exchange home grown vegetables, so, as children, we were exposed to a range of Indian vegetables.

Of course today you can find almost any vegetable at Indian stores in places like Devon in Chicago, Jackson Heights in Queens, Edison, NJ, parts of the Bay area, and Hillcroft in Houston.

One vegetable my parents often spoke fondly of was lilu lasan or green garlic, a Winter treat in India. They would excitedly talk about green garlic chutney, parothas stuffed with green garlic, and dals revived by the addition of fragrant green garlic. Don't you just love food obsessed cultures?

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see gorgeous bunches of green garlic at the farmer's market. Green garlic looks like a scallion but has a large bulb at the bottom. It smells garlicky but is much milder than regular garlic. And you don't have to peel cloves!

Despite the long introduction about Indian food, I did not use the green garlic to make an Indian dish. Maybe next time! Inspired by a Food & Wine recipe, I made a green garlic and spring onion white wine sauce, sautéed swiss chard and arugula, stirred in mascarpone, and tossed it all with orecchiette. It was so delicious!

Orecchiette with Green Garlic and Swiss Chard (adapted from Food & Wine)
3/4 lb orecchiette pasta
1 bunch of green garlic bulbs, thinly sliced, about 1 1/2 cups
2 spring onions, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
5 oz bag of baby arugula
6 large Swiss chard leaves, stems and thick ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mascarpone
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the green garlic: trim away the leafy greens, keeping about 1" of the lower green. Trim away the root end and remove the outer layer of the bulb if needed. Thinly slice the green garlic.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot, add 2 tbsp salt and cook orecchiette until just before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.

In a medium sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped green garlic and spring onion, reduce heat to low, and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add white wine and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Puree in blender until smooth, adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in sauté pan until shimmery over medium high heat. Add arugula and Swiss chard. Increase heat to high and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add pasta, green garlic sauce, and reserved pasta cooking water. Toss and cook until sauce is thick, about 3 minutes. Stir in mascarpone. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.


  1. Have so much fun!! Can't wait to hear about it when you get back :-)

  2. AnonymousJuly 02, 2010

    *SOB* - will miss you.

    Remember in France to start off with "si vous plait" & then they are usually quite nice (such suckers for manners, really).


  3. Have an amazing trip! I can't wait to hear about the Italian food :)

  4. I hope you have an incredible trip. I loved seeing all that fresh produce at the farmer's vibrant. And your pasta dish looks great! I love chard and I'm always looking for new recipes!


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