Monday, 10 February 2014

Form Follows Flavor

Sformato di Taro, Cicoria & Pecorino Pepato
Baked Taro & Chicory with Peppered Pecorino

When we are speaking of things culinary, in Italy, the term "sformato" refers to something that has been filled into some kind of receptacle and usually baked, occasionally steamed, but always cooked into the shape and form of said receptacle. This could be a casserole or pudding, a pasta or rice dish, or something like this little cross-cultural dish that I came up with this evening. 

Whether you call them taro roots, satoimo, cocoyam or Japanese potatoes, these exotic little root vegetables are so lovely and mild and cook up so much quicker, softer and creamier than potatoes, that we really should be using them more often!
Combined with mildly bitter Southern Italian chicory, they were the perfect addition  that made this simple vegetable bake so delicious! Why be boring and always choose potatoes? And why not chicory instead of other greens? There IS no good reason! But there are lots of good reasons to give them a go!

Saying that chicory is slightly bitter is of course a generalization, because when it is as young and tender as this was this evening, it is only a very mild bitterness and a very pleasant one at that. And of course, we all know that bitter things are good for us... at least in Southern Italy and Sicily we do :-) Good for the heart and liver... and most of all- good for a delicious dinner!

As you can see, just one head of chicory, 3 taro roots, an egg, a couple of spoonfuls of bread crumbs and a small hunk of Pecorino cheese was all it took to make this delicious, vegetable bake. I kept things simple, I took it easy and I have to say I was thrilled with the result, as I am sure you will be too...

The first thing that needed to be done was to rinse the chicory and to cut it into small pieces- as you can see below. Next, the taro roots needed to be peeled... if you haven't prepared them before- be ready for how slippery and smooth they are once you have cut away that rough and "hairy" skin! Cut them in half and then cut the halves into slices, as below, then pop them into a saucepan together, with enough water to just cover them and a good pinch of salt. Bring them up to the boil and then allow them to simmer away for 15-20 minutes. And in the meantime, you can turn on the oven to get it warm and prepare the other few ingredients... 

One little task you need to take care of is lightly oiling your baking dish with a little olive oil and then sprinkling a few bread crumbs inside and shaking them around to coat the inside of the dish. These will help soak up any excess moisture, 
and allow the vegetable bake to be easily scooped out later.

Apart from that, there is precious little that needs doing! You can grate that hunk of Pecorino though... or obviously Parmesan, Grana or any other cheese you may prefer. This little hunk once grated, yielded 2-3 tablespoons and that was plenty.

After 15-20 minutes, the taro root was nice and tender- as was of course the chicory. I poured them into a colander and gently rinsed them off with cold water- both to remove a little of the "starchiness" from the taro, but also to quickly cool things down. As long as you do this gently- you will be fine ;-)

When the chicory and taro have drained and are nice and cool, add an egg into the mix and stir it in well. Then add a good tablespoon of grated cheese and 3-4 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Season with nutmeg and stir together carefully until the mixture is as firm as that which you see in the image below.

Now spoon the mixture into your baking dish and prepare a little topping out of the other couple of tablespoons of grated cheese mixed with 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the taro and chicory and then pop into a hot oven, at 300°F, for 25-30 minutes.

... and after 25-30 minutes, it will come out looking like THIS! Golden and crispy on top, creamy and light green and white down below and quite, quite delicious!

This would make a great side-dish but was also a yummy vegetarian supper for me this evening as it was... well, not quite! Inspired by the fact that the taro roots look so exotic (but actually aren't that exotic tasting at all!), I decided to add a touch of Asian flavor to this lovely mild and basically quite Southern Italian tasting dish- and did this with a light drizzle of both Hoisin and Sriracha chilli sauce... and oh boy was THAT ever a good idea!

So once again, as if by magic, a dish took shape right before my eyes from 2 such unlikely ingredients. Terrific! And by keeping the ingredients basic and few, the flavors were fresh and clean and the result was really, really nice... and what's not to like about that?!?!

I'll tell you what's not to like... NOTHING is not to like about that! It is yummy, healthy and delicious and if you can get your hands on taro roots wherever you may be I recommend you try them... You never know... you just might like them!

No comments:

Post a Comment