Wild Antipasti for an Italian Summer Theme Dinner (recipes for Marinated Yucca Blossoms and Milk Weed Bud Salad)
Galpal - Dinner party next week. Theme is summer in Italy. Amalfi coast. Girls night. You in?
Butter - Whaaa? Hells yeah!
Galpal - You are in charge of antipasto, and dress in Italian resort wear.
Butter - Gotcha, crazy-assed local forage turned antipasto, I'm all over that. But what is Italian resort wear? I think perhaps I should wear heavy black eyeliner, big white-rimmed sunglasses, and tease the hell out of my hair (this, from your friend Butter, who hasn't stood in front of a mirror and primped since she was about 15).
Galpal - Your idea of resort fashion is sort of hilarious, and sort of spot-on.
Butter - *grins* Ciao, Bella!
Fortunately, my girls know me, and are willing to humor me and my wild and experimental approach to cooking. I simply used what I had picked that day - yucca blossoms, milk weed buds, and wild garlic - and turned in them to what I imagined antipasti to be, sharp appetite-stimulators. The hostess, who has enjoyed actual summer dinner in Italy, told me that my antipasti were spot-on.
Marinated Yucca Blossoms
Yucca blossoms taste a bit like artichoke, which inspired this recipe. I used a jar of marinated artichokes in my Nettle Party Dip last week, and wish I had thought of marinated yucca flowers at the time, as they are equally delicious (yet wild and tasting of home).
Harvest pristine-looking yucca blossoms, those that have just opened, and are not-yet chewed up by bugs. Strip the petals from the yucca flowers, and blanch in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Spin dry in a salad spinner (alternately, pat dry).
Pack the parboiled yucca petals into a sterilized jar in layers, alternating with pinches of red chile flakes, whatever strong fresh herbs you have on hand (I used lavender and basil), and slivers of garlic (wild garlic, if possible).
In a bowl, combine olive oil and lemon juice* (3 parts to 1, eyeball the amount, it won't take much if you've packed the jar well with yucca petals), and a hefty pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the yucca petals. Stick a clean butter knife of chopstick into the jar, and dislodge as many air bubbles as possible. Top off with olive oil. Lid, and refrigerate. Let sit for at least a few days for the best flavor.
*the first time I made this dish, I used white wine vinegar, and strongly disliked the resulting muddy flavor
Milk Weed Bud Salad
milk weed buds*, using gloves (they are sticky little critters). Parboil the buds in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to remove milky sap, drain. Rinse with cold water. Spin dry in a salad spinner (alternately, pat dry).
In a small mason jar, make a basic vinaigrette, combining olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, mustard, and salt in proportions that please your palate (go ahead, stick your finger in to taste it, better yet, stick a piece of milk weed bud into the dressing, trust that your tongue will know how to adjust the seasoning - more salt, more lemon, more oil? you'll know, honestly, you will). Shake to emulsify.
Pour the dressing over the milk weed buds. Mix in pieces of salami and shavings of pecorino romano. Adjust salt. Serve chilled.
*Harvest mindfully, as these are an important habitat for creatures. But you always harvest with respect for the plants and larger environment, doncha?
Whoa, baby, gotta say that I'm a huge fan of this themed dinner party business. I mean, yeah, I cook for a crowd all the time, I go to parties. But this was different, this party utilized food as the jumping off point for a fantastic evening. We savored several courses, including pasta with pork ragu, lemon-trout, a simple rhubarb dessert, and sampled two different kinds of homemade limoncello. But we also bonded over good old 70's punk, and the dance remix of a Steely Dan song (what, you got a problem with Steely Dan?). And thanks to one guest who went to school with him, I will forever refer to the president as Barry the basketball player. Fun stuff, a celebration of a wonderful warm season to come.
So, a toast, to summertime!
I'm sharing this taste of summer with Real Food Wednesday.
This recipe is also appears on Punk Domestics!!!!!